It’s been 25 years or so since the last time we chopped silage but at this time of year, when the corn is between green and tan that I look at our fields and think that it is time to start silo-filling.
Beef cattle were another way for our farm to market our corn going back to the 1930s. Filling everything required 120 acres of corn and for about two weeks, we chopped, hauled, and filled for all we were worth.
When I moved here to help my uncle in the mid-1970s, the chopper was opertaed by a gas-powered Ford 390 truck engine. It was later traded in on a chopper with Caterpillar V8 diesel and a cab was an improvement for the operator.
My cousin ran the chopper, my uncle unloaded at the blower parked by the silo, and I was the shuttle going back and forth with either an empty or full wagon.
The only time we stopped was for a breakdown, usually when a forage wagon needed repair which was mostly due to a broken chain on the floor that moved the silage ahead or tire trouble.
The biggest chore was keeping three well-used forage wagons running. These wagons were used hard for about two weeks in the fall and a week in the summer for chopping hay, and then sat still, unused the rest of the year, probably outside.
Silo filling was a hectic time for man and machine.
That doesn’t count the preparation when silo unloaders were winched to the top of the structure, Harvestore breather bags were pulled up close to the roof to make room for the silage and blower pipe was put in place to the top of the silo.
Growing up, my dad chopped silage every fall and my early memories are of him pulling a chopper first with a John Deere R diesel and later a John Deere 830.
The pull-type chopper was replaced with a self-propelled chopper, gas powered, which was later replaced by that Caterpillar V8 diesel with a cab for comfort.
He had five cement stave silos he filled every fall and there were a few weekends I came home from college to help with silo-filling.
If you are noticing a lack of nostalgia or any sentimentality toward those weeks we filled silo, it is because I am neither nostalgic nor sentimental for those years.
For me, the best part of silo-filling was when it was done.
When the last of the cattle were sold and not replaced, there was a sense of relief that silo-filling was done.
So after 25 years of not hearing a chopper’s whine or a diesel’s roar either pulling a load or spinning the blower, I still don’t miss it.
Watching chopping silage from the safe distance of a road is as close as I want to get.
I never detected any sense of sadness from my dad or uncle either when silo-filling came to an end.
Harvesting corn as grain rather than silage simplified things greatly.
The pace was steady but not rushed. A combine and gravity boxes replaced the chopper and forage wagons and blower.
A person could even carry a thermos of coffee along and drink a cup while harvesting or unloading.
I see the monster choppers of today filling huge wagons, tandem axle trucks and even semis.
Like everything in farming, the size of the equipment is much larger, but the work load remains the same.
For the days and acres required to finish the job, they go for all they are worth.
I have the memories and that is enough.
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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