Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Corn Harvest School - Part 2

So when I last left you we were leaving the field with the grain. There are a couple of options we have of what we can do with our grain. You can either take it to your own bins or you can take it to a grain elevator....ela-what....don't worry for those of you who have no idea what I am talking about I will explain what in the world a grain elevator is here in a little bit.

So lets get started.

Caleb and I did a lot of the trucking of the corn so this was our view most of the time.

Who's field we were in determined what we would do with the corn. Caleb's dad and grandpa both have bins to store it in so some of theirs would be put into the bins until we would get them filled.

To get the corn into the bins we would have to set the tractor and auger up. This isn't a process you want to do by your self, especially on big ol' bins like this one, cause it's really hard to see what you are doing from inside the tractor cab.

Usually someone gets up on top of the bin and gives directions to the tractor driver. I don't really enjoy doing this, not because of the height, but because I'm never sure where they want the auger to stop and and I am terrible ad giving hand signals.

Once the auger is in place it doesn't move till the bin is full. The semi has to pull straight in...it feels like you are gonna run straight into the bin when you are doing this.

To empty the semi you will roll open the bottom gate with the bar that is up on the left side of the photo.

The 10-wheeler is backed in...

...then you pull the back gate handle up. By pull I mean yank cause it usually doesn't want to come at first, and usually when you yank the handle up you do it hard and the gate then is open too much and corn is flying out of there. Then you gotta close it back some, but not too far....is like kinda like the way I cook you want enough but not too much...you want as much of the corn coming out as you can get, but if you get too much the auger can't take it away fast enough and it ends up making a mess and if it's not open enough then it takes a lot longer to empty the truck.

So once you get the gate open it's usually tied up with some baling wire so it doesn't move....cause seriously we don't want have to go through all that again!

You are also gradually raising the bed of the truck as the grain is falling out. This helps the truck unload faster.

Now if  we are not put the corn in our own bins we are taking it to the grain elevator. Now for those of you who have no idea what a "grain elevator" is well it's very simple.  It's a storage facility where farmers can take their grain and sell it or store it. In most rural communities they are referred to as just plain elevators. They got their name not because they look like an elevator you might see in a building but because of how they move the grain.

So when you first get there you have to weigh your truck in and then they also get a sample of the corn and test the moisture. If the corn is too wet they wont accept it cause it will spoil.

Once you have weighed in, if you are lucky you get to get straight on the pit and start dumping, but on the day I took this picture there was a bit of a line. There's Caleb over on the "pit" (the pit is where you unload into. instead of having something you have to move each time they have a pit area that the trucks can drive over.) under the tall skinny bin. Behind him you can see two more tucks, but I believe there were at least three and then me. So we had to just wait. 

Since we had such a great corn crop down here this year all the smaller grain elevators were full so a lot more people had to start trucking to the one we were going to because it had plenty of room. Instead of bins it had these open storage buildings....which is just some big sheds...you can somewhat see them in the two pictures above. They are huge! In some parts of the country where they don't have enough building or bin storage they will actually place the grain out side in a big pile.

Here's a picture of what a pit looks like.

Once you have emptied your truck you go back and get on the scales to weigh out. And simple math tells you that...

 the amount you weighed coming in - the amount you weight going out = the amount of grain you hauled.

So another quick run-though of how the elevator works you dump in the pit and from there the grain is moved with an auger, up to the top of the building / bin and then dropped in.

This is a picture of a smaller pit at the same elevator. You drive up where the yellow rails are and dump on the pit, then the grain is transported up the central large auger and them sent down one of the "legs" (the off shooting smaller tubes) into the bin or storage facility that is chosen.

So it's pretty simple, but just some funny terminology if you didn't grow up around it.

Generally speaking we went to the elevator that I showed you above. But one morning the DOT (Department of Transportation) was stopping a bunch of farmers and weighing them as they were going into the elevator. If they were over weight or their trucks weren't up to snuff them they would get a tick and these were hefty tickets. Caleb didn't want to chance getting a ticket in the semi cause it was easily overloaded, he took the back roads down to a smaller elevator that had some room.

This place had the smallest amount of storage and the fastest pits which didn't make much sense.

It didn't take very many trips of going there before the bins were full again and Caleb had to start going back to the other elevator. By this time the DOT had moved on and were stopping farmers at another elevator.

There ya go. That's what we do with our grain.

Next topic "Grain Carts"

This year we were without a grain cart for must of corn harvest. The problem with this is things just go a lot slower, because the combines have to stop cutting and drive over to the trucks to dump and when the trucks are off hauling grain then the combines have to just sit and wait.

One good thing about being extra dry during corn harvest was that since we were without the grain cart the trucks could actually drive out onto the fields and get closer to the combines.

Last year that wasn't the case...

(Corn Harvest '09)

The trucks never left the roads, cause if the did they weren't gonna make it too far.

(Corn Harvest '09)

This is also why 4-wheel drive is a must on our combines!

(Corn Harvest '09)

With it being extra muddy last year the grain cart was going all the time and made harvest go a lot faster.

Once we did get the grain cart back together and working, things went a lot faster out in the field.

One thing that you can do to make the life of the grain cart operator a lot easier is getting up on the back of the trailer or up on top of the truck and tell them when its getting full cause it's kinda hard for them to see and it's a lot easier for them to spill a bunch of corn on the ground when they can't see.

When we have the grain cart the combine rarely has to stop. Usually the combine operator will throw the auger out when he is ready and the grain cart tractor will pull the cart under the auger and try to maintain the same speed as he unloads on him.

Sometimes things don't work out just like they are suppose to and the grain comes out before the cart gets under there.

Once the cart is full it heads over to the truck and unloads.

And there ya have it, that's how corn works on the Phillips Farm. I have some fun pictures from when we were harvesting after dark that I will show you but I have some other things that I want to post about so it might be a while before I get to them.

Oh if ya'll have any questions about all the stuff I tried to explain feel free to ask them and I will see if I can't answer them...and if I don't know the answer I will get Caleb to answer them.

*Funny Fact: I miss-spelled the word 'elevator' evertime I wrote it in this blog post.....and that was a lot of times....that is why I am soo very thannkful for spell check!!




  1. Great pictures and explainations Janet!!! I love the last picture. Sky+corn+combine=beautiful. Although it would be amazingly beautiful if there were green equipment in your fields. lol :)

  2. Awesome pics. Okay, so, I've learned so much and it really fascinates me. I was telling Hubby about the cool moisture meter thing you posted about one time. He was telling me that a friend they grew up with owns some grain elevators and took in too wet corn one time, and it actually fermented and burned their place down.

    Where does your corn usually end up? Is it a feed corn for animals, or end up in corn syrup, or what?

    I wish we lived closer, my little guy would have LOVED watching all of that. Too cool!

  3. Awesome job explaining it all! And the pictures were a double added bonus. Glad your corn crop was good this year!

  4. A couple of years ago, Lance was hauling some corn, well we had our corn in a dump truck and he was dumping it off into a pit. He looked down into the pit and his sunglasses fell off his head into the pit. He thought he had lost them (they were just walmart sunglasses so no big loss, lol). Anyways, a couple days later somebody called him and said hey we found your sunglasses. They had went through the entire grain elevators, augers, whatever else is inside there, and were laying on top of a barge they were loading on the river. We thought that was crazy! They were only a little scratched up too! lol.

  5. I can't believe you're done with corn!! We haven't even started the combine up here yet. You get finished up with beans and come on up here for a visit...we might put ya to work though!

  6. Love the pictures! No one has started on corn yet around here (northcentral Ohio). Beans are goin out like crazy though. So glad you had a good harvest!

  7. Glad our DOT doesn't give out "TICK"s here! Sorry..had to say it. Our trucks seems to get overloaded a lot too.
    Great pictures!

  8. This is great. Great pictures and writing. My 10 year old is enjoying reading this with me. What happens to the corn now? This would also make a great childrens book.

  9. This is cool! I love doing ag education on my blog too! We don't do corn very often though, so I learned a lot!