Life of a Family Dairy Farm. Senior aged husband and wife. The good, bad and ugly of the business. We love it and will try to present an ongoing tale of what happens here. Meet some of our animals and characters born here. Enjoy!
As looking over the dark green fields of corn today after some more much needed rain it received last night, I am reminded of the many ways my family here at Bejosh has harvested our corn crops thru the years. Back before my teenage years we used a corn binder; the same machines you still see Amish farmers using even today. The only change is they now have a small elevator on the side of the machine that runs the bundles of corn the machine binds together up on to a horse drawn flat wagon following along beside.
The kicker in all of this that everyone must try to envision is like all horse drawn equipment of that time, it was ground driven, which simply means as the wheels turn while the horses draw the machine forward, it performed its work. A corn binder for instance, had a knife sliding back and forth which cut the corn off a few inches from the ground. Then via a gathering chain, pulled the stalks of corn into an area near the back of the machine, tying bunches together using what at the time we called corn string. That is why even today, people may hear me call baler twine corn string. The corn binder can be thought of as sort of a baler for corn, as both machines were trying to give the farmer easier ways to handle crops.
To finish up on the corn string, early balers used wire not the baler twine of today, which now even comes in plastic!
After running thru a field of corn with the binder dropping bundles (called shocks) of corn, we,d go thru the field picking them up and throwing them up onto a flat wagon to be taken down to the farm where the corn shocks would be run thru an insilage cutter; I can remember the brand name of that was Paypec. All of them back then were belt driven. Just like those old sawmills or steam engines you see at the county fair, where big pulleys and belts run a saw or water pump, only much smaller pulleys being more the size of a 5 gallon pail. Now this insilage cutter would chop the corn up and blow it into a silo.
This was all done in one process by having knives attached to arms of the wheel that blew the corn into the silo! If you could get the pulley on our tractor lines up square so the belt stayed on the worked fine…At first we had one small silo, 12′ in diameter about 20′ high, it had blown down at it’s original farm and the owner gave it to my father for cleaning it up so he could put a new concrete block silo up in it’s place. While it was here it only blew down once and got put back up; before we took it down and used the material to build a one-sloped shed roof over a feeder for heifers.
We always had more corn than that silo would hold so every year we made a snow-fence silo which on most yeas was only two rolls of snow-fence high, except for that good corn year we went four rolls high and ended up with a leaning tower of snow-fence…Next year we had a new 16′ x 32′ silo…
As I got into my early teen years we got our first chopper; a John Deere with a Wisconsin Four motor for power, not PTO running it off a tractor, but you did need a good heavy tractor to pull it around ’cause she was a beast! In more than one field we had two tractor hooked together chewing our way up and down hills! For wagons we had two wooden sided ones with tailgates that we lifted up into the air and propped up with a 2×4 and they had what was called false fronts, that via cables were connected to a large metal metal pipe in the back, and just like a ratchet wrench, run of a motor, the false front was to come back pushing the load of silage back to you. With potato hooks you could pull it onto the table… either chains or an auger… that you were working over that sent the silage into the blower and up the pipe into the silo!
Getting silage into a silo this way was backbreaking and dangerous. Thankfully, false front wagons gave way to self unloading wagons, sometimes called chuck wagons. As I became a full-fledged, we bought a chopper run by PTO (power take off) from a tractor. Until about the time I was 18 we owned several used choppers, some were what was called cut and throw, where the knives not only cut the corn up but also had to throw the chopped corn into the wagon. In these closer is better, so wear of the machine along with how dry or wet the crop, could make long days longer.
As the choppers came and went, the wagons kept adding up, starting with an all metal heavy brute alone with five others, many brands, some used chains, some augers to move the corn which was now dumped into a whole new kind of blower to send it into the silo. New blowers were much more compact. Normally had spinners to feed corn into a big wheel blowing it up into the silo. When the blower got set up right, they could make quick work of a 5 -7 ton load of silage into silos here at Bejosh of up to 70′ high.
By the time I was out of high school we had four silos, two 32′ high, one 50′ and one 70′ and I was the lucky stiff that got to climb up to fix what ever went wrong! At first it was a cool way to show off which became old in a hurry! After a short stint in college and starting full time on the farm is when we bought a new chopper.. a Gehl…that chopped tons of corn and hay (haylage) over the next several years, wearing out those self-unloading wagons along with several more used ones; bought used ones from other farmers as they started using dump wagons and trucks.
Another Gehl chopper and an old one for parts was added and this along with several chuck wagon rebuilds limped us until shortly after my Father’s death in 1988. At this time, I did corn in combination with others or sometimes hired it done for many years due to a combination of my kids being in college and also this was the time of one son have an accident in a chuck wagon.
In the late ’90’s Bejosh purchased a used JD 3970 chopper along with two dump wagon (hand built back in the ’60’s by an area farmer whose grandson worked for me occasionally! These two wagons are in the top 5 of best buys I’ve ever made!
Now with 38 acres of corn, Bejosh is down to that JD chopper and 2 dump wagons and one shuck wagon stored in the shed with 3 flat tires Three of the four silos are gone; torn down and moved to Amish country in Pa by Sam the Silo Man! The fourth I guess you could say, is here to make Bejosh look like a farm!!!
Seems odd I remember so vividly those early years with the corn binder… everything was hard but hands on and kinda’ simple. Then in your supposed productive years it is so fuzzy on what and when, until most time thru no fault of your own, you’vwe got to pull in the reins and slow up! Kinda sounds like life son’t it? Young, innocent, taking it all in… hurry up and go nowhere… then hope you figured out difference between wants and needs before it is too late!
Ironically, several of the machines are still located on our property, buried by a construction company getting gravel from our pit many years ago, in their supposed attempt to help us clean up ; maybe they did , keeping me from making them scrap iron before I realized theier true value! doesn’t the song go something like “On a warm summer’s eve with an excavator borrowed from someone…that daydream believer”!!