The stalks of corn that are now half green and half tan remind me that it is time to start chopping corn for silage. The last time we did this was over 20 years ago and no, I do not miss it.
It took 120 acres of corn to fill everything and a few times my uncle piled silage on the ground for an additional supply. During silo filling, it was hectic for a week or more.
My cousin from Minnesota came to help and he ran the chopper. My uncle unloaded the wagons and I was shuttle between the chopper and the silo with either a full or empty wagon behind me.
There was only one way to do this – three tractors, one on the blower and two with wagons, and the self-propelled chopper ran full throttle the whole time.
If the field was distant, when my uncle had emptied a wagon he would start out and we would meet somewhere between the chopper and the blower, stop and switch tractors with me returning the empty wagon to the field and him driving to unload the full wagon.
We had a John Deere 4020 on the blower and when pushed hard by unloading the wagon as fast as possible, it would rock in place as the torque from the power take off shaft tried to twist the tractor.
It was fun to watch, but to me, it was a warning that it was getting close to plugging the blower pipe.
Shearing a bolt on the PTO shaft while unloading always plugged the blower pipe or maybe it was the other way around.
A plugged blower pipe was one of many things that would stop us completely.
Three forage wagons meant 12 tires that could go flat anytime.
It was the forage wagons that were most troublesome when I think back.
They were new, sometime in the 1960s, and sat still most of the year except for those days of chopping. Then they were used hard.
Those forage wagons looked to me like the designer had started with a manure spreader, doubled its width and made it run backwards.
These forage wagons had the same problems as a manure spreader.
The chains located on the floor that brought the silage forward liked to break as did the mechanism for advancing the chain.
The manufacturer had thoughtfully made a place for the wagon to carry its own supply of shear pins near where the breaks occurred.
My uncle had built canopies across the tops of the wagons as a way to fill more of the back of the wagon.
The canopies added height to the wagon which meant that once filled, the wagons were overloaded until they reached the blower and started emptying themselves. That probably explains the broken chains.
The main advantage of silo filling was – it was a head start to corn harvest.
Getting those 120 acres of corn out of the way gave us an empty field to haul manure (there was a lot of that) and start fall tillage.
Chopping silage was also advantageous as a way to get the best usage from a field of corn that had not done well.
Chopping everything in the field meant that everything and anything that was a few inches above the ground got hauled in to the silo.
Weeds, all manners of bugs – from corn borers to lady bugs – along with stalks, husks and grain went into the chopper and hauled home to end up in the silo.
Over that week or more of time, we could really cover the ground as long as we were not broken down. I am still running on the memories, even after 20 years.
Rye is a Farm News staff writer and farmer from Hanlontown. Reach him by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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