Hi, my name is Travis Warkentin. I am so very excited to begin this position here at Grainews. I am a farmer and understand the weight of the material I will be responsible for covering. Farm machinery has always been important to me and I know it is to you as well. I hope to tackle not only the latest and greatest machines, but also get into aftermarket products and ideas that can optimize existing iron as well. Furthermore, I believe writing about fixing and fabricating at home and in the shop will be useful for most readers regardless of their farm size and mechanical aptitude.
If you want to find previous articles of mine or some of my past work as a writer, I can save you some time. Don’t bother looking, because it doesn’t exist. This is the first time I have written anything professionally other than maybe filling out a highway tractor service sheet for my previous employer. My work experience is in slinging grease and slipping wrenches in the shop. It’s in the field seeding wheat and planting soybeans. It is in trying not to burn the neighbour’s oats while spraying canola, and it is in taking those crops off the field every harvest season. Work that I’m sure sounds very familiar to most of you.
Landmark, Man., which sits on the eastern edge of the Red River Valley, is where my young family and I call home. It is where I have spent the last 12 years working on a grain farm and as a mechanic for my boss’ trucking company. It is where I have honed my skills fixing, designing and building. It is where I will hone my skills as a writer.
To start my new role at Grainews, I would like to share some of the shop projects I have worked on over the years, as well as some of the machinery on our farm, to give a little bit of context to who I am.
One of the larger projects I have worked on has been a water trailer setup to service the sprayer. I spent countless evening hours scrolling the internet to find ideas that I would implement into the build. There always seems to be endless options and navigating through them all can be quite daunting. Therefore, I decided to keep things as simple as possible on this build and upgrades could always be added later.
There are basically two options to choose from before starting a project like this. Would it be made from an existing tanker trailer, or would we add tanks to a flat deck trailer? After searching around for a while, we came up with a used flat deck lead from a Super-B. If I do recall correctly, the trailer was in great shape and hardly needed anything to pass safety.
I removed the fifth wheel and made a new deck to cover the entire rear end. I cut apart an old Morris cultivator for most of the steel I needed. After I made the deck frame, I dropped in structural slats used in the penning of hog barns. The strong plastic-coated expanded metal makes a great surface for working on. If you spill anything you can just wash it right down. I also used a similar product for the sides and doors for the chemical storage areas. The downside to using a recycled product like this is the ever-so-slight smell of hog barn that still persists, even after sandblasting and a few coats of paint.
The two-tier chemical storage area also uses steel from the cultivator as its main structural support. It can hold two totes of chemical on the bottom, and roughly 20 boxes on the top. Additionally, there is space to store spare parts and fuel for the pump.
A 3,500-gallon tank was purchased new and fastened on the back of the trailer. We had an existing 1,600-gallon tank that we used on the front. At first, the entire system was plumbed with two-inch hose as it matched up with our old system. About a year ago, we decided to upgrade it all to three-inch plumbing. The larger diameter hose and fittings on the trailer probably cut the sprayer fill time in half. A 6.5 horsepower three-inch pump moves the water throughout the system. A larger pump would further decrease fill times.
I have kept the plumbing design simple without a lot of direction changes in the flow of water. I wanted to keep water moving off the trailer as quickly as possible. Chemical can either be sucked out of totes or out of the induction tank when using the venturi. I also keep a chem pump on board as a backup. The induction tank has an agitation nozzle for filling with fresh water and dissolving and mixing chemicals. Inside the tank, I made a blade to pierce and drain jugs. I got the material from cutting up a stainless-steel fender off of a semi-truck. The blade also has a rinse hose attached to make jug cleaning easier. Eight feet of garden hose and a good nozzle plumbed into fresh water also make cleaning up easy.
The trailer has its own dedicated electrical system that has a solar charger hooked to a 12-volt battery, which powers the work lights and chem pump. The trailer can load the sprayer four times before a refill is needed. It has the capacity to hold enough chemical on board to complete the entire application of a single crop on our farm. The trailer has proved very useful in the past few years, boosting our efficiency by reducing our trips to a water source and to the yard to get chemical.
However, by far the biggest efficiency booster on the farm has been the addition of a seed tender, which has substantially cut down our air seeder and planter-fill time. Additionally, it has reduced the number of vehicles needed at the field. We used to take one tandem axle truck and two single axle trucks to service the air seeder. Now we only need to take one.
The tender unit is a Convey-All CST 3400 with three compartments to hold seed and two types of fertilizers. The unit so far has been pretty much flawless for four seasons now, with the only repair being a torn belt last year. Rear-mounted cameras on the conveyor take out a lot of the guess-work when backing up to the air seeder. Remote control gate openers and hydraulic conveyor functions make loading a one-man job.
The truck is a 2000-year model WG64 Volvo. The engine in the truck is perhaps a bit small, but the drivetrain has a low gearing and we haven’t had many problems making it off and onto fields. The truck previously served as a roll-off container truck in the waste industry, which was great because it already had a hydraulic pump and very hefty, triple-thick frame rails. However, all of those layers of frame also became a curse when we needed to drill holes into them when it was time to add the third drive axle.
We drilled most of the holes with our floor mount drill press. We lay the drill press across the frame of the truck horizontally, using the opposite side frame as a brace. We perfected this idea after the use of the hand drill became too much work.
The third drive axle was installed in front of the existing two. We purchased a used drive axle from a truck wrecker complete with the wheels and air suspension. We use a common air pressure regulator mounted in the cab to control the amount of air pumped into the air bags that provide suspension for the new axle. Normally, a levelling valve would be used to control air pressure in the airbags, but the existing suspension is an airless heavy-duty walking type. We couldn’t find a possible scenario where a levelling valve would work properly with the existing suspension. So far, the regulator system has worked well.
Two new and shorter drive shafts needed to be installed to replace the existing one between the hanger bearing and the original front drive axle. All three drive axles are lockable, which is great for pulling out of soft spots or uneven terrain. However, driving with all the axles locked makes it a little difficult to steer with all those drive tires wanting to push you straight forward.
The original hydraulic pump took power from the crankshaft and was mounted on the front of the motor. After that pump failed, we scrapped that system and a PTO pump was installed on the transmission. The PTO style has proved to be the better option as the pump only turns when it is needed and isn’t constantly following along with the engine.
Finally, I used rigid hydraulic line fastened to the side of the tender to complete the flow circuit between the pump and the seed tender’s valve block, which is located at the rear of the machine.
I had a lot of fun working on these projects and hope to do more in the future. There is a great deal of satisfaction regularly using a machine on the farm that is something of your own creation.
I would love to hear from all you readers out there about article topics you would like covered in Grainews. Nothing is off limits if it falls into the machinery, shop and technology categories. Also, if you have an interesting project on your farm, large or small, I would love to hear about it, and chances are we can get it into Grainews as well.