Sunday, September 30, 2012

#117. or, My ride!

  I'm still working on getting the harvest in. I seems that I've shaken most of the bugs out of our new combine and things have been rolling along a little better over the last couple days.

  I still complain. I try not not to do that though. There's a lot of positive things going on. The fall has been exceptional. Yesterday, I took the back road through the countryside looking at fields and the golden leaves of fall, on our way into town.   Most of fields that were crops to be harvested, just short weeks ago, are now stubble. Some of those fields have already been cultivated in preparation for the winter.

  The promise and hope that went along with the planting at springtime has, for the most part,  run it's cycle. Crops that looked so promising over the summer, turned out to yield only a portion of what was expected. Too much rain, and too much heat, all at the wrong times stressed the crops and they didn't produce the seed that it looked like they would earlier on. The heat burned the plants and caused the seed to not develop properly and not make good weight.

  I didn't fail to notice that there were still a few fields to be harvested. That set me at ease a bit, considering that I've still got a bit of time left in the field complete our harvest. As much as it feel like I'm the last one still out there, it's good to know that there's others, like me, still plugging away.

  I think, or at least I'm pretty sure, that combining might be my favorite farm activity. It's hard for me to say right now. I know it's my favorite when I start the harvest. I also know that, when I turn off that key for the last time for the year, that feels pretty darned good as well. Right now, I'm somewhere in the middle of that.

  I've always liked combining. I'd ride with my dad on our old combine that now rusts to nothing, sitting in the bush. Eventually, I got to put my time in, driving it. It had no cab. I'd wear a handkerchief around my face, looking like some sort of harvest bandit, to keep from breathing in so much dust, but would still come home itching, snotting and hacking up gobs of grain dust. My dad taught me to weave back and forth in the evening to keep the header clear of the crop that would build up on the edge of the pick-up when it got damp. And that, if a wad of crop slowed the thrashing part of the combine down so much, that it threatened to plug it up, you could, if you were lucky, jump up and use your foot to help roll the exposed pulley, right beside the seat and help push that wad through. It's a wonder I never lost a leg.

  We eventually bought a different combine at an auction. It was bigger, had a cab, but still no heater. A cab is a nice thing to have on a combine. It probably adds years to the life of a farmer by preventing breathing in as much dust. But it's also a green house on a hot summer day if you have no air conditioning. This combine had a tank of water above the cab that a foam roller would rotate in and a fan would blow outside air through the damp roller and keep the cab cool. It worked well enough. Unless the field was too rough, then it would rain inside. On cold fall nights, I would use a radiant propane heater in the cab to keep warm. The cab wasn't so airtight that I had to worry about gassing myself with propane exhaust but I'm not sure why it never blew up from the open flame and the light mixture of dust in the air.

  There was another combine between that last one and the one we have now. As much as I've been complaining about it lately, this new combine is pretty nice. The most dust that I breathe is what I get from cleaning it off for the night. The cab is lightly pressurized so when you open the door, the dust stays out. If I can't find anything on the radio, I can plug my phone into it and listen to music off of that. Pretty much all of the adjustments are made from the seat on the fly so I can adjust to different conditions without stopping. The seat had about 800 adjustments on it to make you comfortable as you can be in a glass bubble, and everything adjusts to be as comfortable as you possibly can. I'd have to say, it's pretty luxurious.

...........I've still got the better part of a week left to go, but harvest is getting closer to being done. I haven't even really had time to slow down yet and breathe. Or try figure out what I'm going to do with the grain we have in the bins. I know that the seed guy has been hinting at what I might be interested in planting next spring. It never stops.

   I am submitting this post to Dude write this week. It's where guy bloggers come together to submit posts, that get voted on from Sunday to Tuesday evening to see whose was most popular. I encourage you to pop over and take a look at them and maybe come back and vote on your favorites. 
You can get there by clicking on THIS LINK.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

#116. or, What's the good news?

 I've been looking back over the last few posts and it occurs to me that I might be a tad negative. As much as, oh-woe-is-me, makes for a decent post, I think I need to make an effort to be a little bit more positive here.

  That being said, the alternator crapped out in my combine on Sunday. I called the after hours parts line at my dealership and had the fellow go in and get the alternator for me. (Which costs extra on Sunday.) My kid ran in and picked it up and when he showed up with it, it was the wrong one. So, I kept going with the one that was failing. All the while, feeling a bit like the astronauts on Apollo 13, trying to figure out what I could turn on and still have enough amps to actually run the computer that runs the combine. I had to turn off the A/C and the GPS! It was getting pretty old school. Until the pitman arm broke on the wobble box  and shut me down completely. That's the thing that makes the round and round motion of the belt and pulley into the back and forth motion of the knife that cuts the crop.

  That positive part is still coming.

  Monday morning, first thing, I run into the dealership to return the wrong alternator, get the right one, and pick up a new pitman arm. Turns out, that the alternator for my combine costs a Thousand dollars! Also, it's been replaced with a different Thousand dollar alternator that requires a four hundred dollar update kit to make it fit in the hole that the original one fit. BUT there is still ONE old style alternator in the city that will bolt right in. They also have my pitman arm there, (which costs $500.) so my parts lady sets it up so I can run in there and pick it all up. The city is an hour away, so it's after lunch when I get home and start putting everything back together.

  Now! Here's the positive part. I got my workout in!

  I started with the wobble box and that bitch weighs about 40 pounds so I got a little weight lifting in, struggling to get that thing into place. Also, my heart rate SOARED when, for a few seconds, it was looking like the last piece that was left to put on should have been put on in the first couple steps and I though everything would have to come back apart to put that one piece in. Luckily I was wrong and it indeed, did go on last.......but still? Raising your heart rate is good, right?

  Then I worked on the alternator which involves packing it up the back ladder into the engine compartment, up over the engine, through a trap door into a crawl space behind the engine. Then, you do an arm extension, holding the 10 pound alternator, past the radiator fan, bend your arm at an impossible angle and put the alternator onto the bracket. Back out of the crawl space, over the engine, into a different trap door, wiggle in past the rad hoses and put the long bolt into place to hold the bottom of the alternator. Then back to the first crawl space to install the upper bracket. Which for some reason doesn't fit. So I take it home to modify it.

  Once I got that all bolted in, I tried to put the belt on. Except it doesn't fit. The alternator, that bolts right in, has been beefed up at the lower bracket and won't tip far enough over. That's why the upper bracket wouldn't fit. Everything has to come back out, taken home, and have a bit of the bracket ground away to let it lean over to where it should be. Then back into the combine to be re-installed again.

  It took all day! I think I was up and down that ladder and back and forth over the engine about 400 times. I worked up a pretty good sweat. By supper time, I was rolling again.

  It's week 4 of the Pish Posh 8 Week Challenge. and I started it out with a full day workout, baby! So far so good!

   ..............except I can't help but feel that a gym membership might be somewhat more affordable that the $1500 it cost me to get my workout in?

Saturday, September 22, 2012

#115. or, The Pish Posh challenge week 3 (muffin tops & music)

  Holy Balls, it's been crazy hard for me to find some time to write a post lately!

  I've been running pretty hard with the harvest the last week or so. I haven't been around here much. I'm trying to keep up with my reading list, but aside from my occasional comment I'm almost absent here. Sorry for that, I'd like to do more writing and try to get better at if I could. Seems I have this crazy germ of an idea, slowly growing somewhere in the back of my mind, that I'd like to be some sort of writer. A better one. So who knows?

  Anyways, It's week 3 of The Pish Posh 8 Week challenge. If you remember my post from way last week, I spit and sputtered my way out of the starting gate and fell flat on my face. Then I got a lot of support and encouragement from Pish, as well as the others in the challenge and I told myself that I'd see big changes in week three.

  So.......were there big changes? OH YA Baby! Big changes. Thursday morning I got up, excited to see what the scale would tell me. I grabbed my phone to take a picture of the scale to document my progress. I gained THREE pounds! What the hell? GAINED three fricken pounds? It rather discouraged me and I didn't take the picture. So no monkey toes this week. Sorry.

  I wish I could be doing some exercise but the truth is, there just isn't time. If I'm not in the cab of my combine these days, I'm running off to town to get parts. When I get in at night, it's generally closer to midnight that not. I wake up in the morning with my eyes glued shut from grain dust, have coffee and breakfast, then do it all over. But I though I could do a little better on controlling my diet.

  I think I've been better at healthy choices. I've been eating a lot of fruits and vegetables. Every day my lunch includes a couple of tomatoes from the garden. I eat a sandwich, but it's on whole wheat bread packed full of grain and seedy things. And my snacks, which tide me over between meals, (and I don't snack a lot) are all granola, apples, and pistachios. I don't drink pop. I always have water. Occasionally, I'll have water with a squirt of Mio, but that has relatively nothing in it if the label is telling the truth. Obviously, I'm doing something wrong. I'm going to try smaller portions......any ideas?

  What's the only reasonable thing to do when you get disappointed by the scale? While I was in town for parts, I stopped and bought new pants. Seems my view of myself may be a little different than what I am actually blessed with. I started with 32X36 pants. Probably should have gotten the 36X32's. Opted for the 34X34's because I'm going to diet into them, and I'm also imagining myself taller that I really am.

  Week 3 of the challenge is about music playlists. The tunes that give you a little get up and go, when you think that your get up and go, got up and left. I have a playlist. I listen to it when I go to the indoor track in town in the winter. It seems that a lot of the swell people in this challenge are working toward doing a 5K marathon. I think I'm going to try that at some point, by myself, at the track, when I get back to running after my farming slows down a bit.

  So what's on my playlist?   Here's a few.

   Rember the name  by Fort Minor
   Faster by Matt Nathenson
   Drink in my Hand by Eric Church
   My Body by Young the Giant
   Magic Carpet Ride by Steppenwolf
   Cruise by Florida Georgia Line

  Here's a song that isn't on my track playlist, but it's the only combining song that I know about.

   If there's anything positive to take from week three, is that at 189 pounds, I'm back at a pound away from 190, which I said I'd never be at again. I've been close twice before and both times, it's been motivation to make big changes. Look out Week 4......I'm coming for you!


Thursday, September 13, 2012

#114. or, New used combines can screw with getting healthy

  You know how it's Christmas time and you've been wanting, and asking, and waiting for that certain thing for like.........forever. Then it finally shows up and you are all bummed because it turns out to be a bit of a let down from what you had built that thing up to be in your mind.

  Ya well, my new, used combine finally showed up on Monday evening just as the dealership was closing. You remember the combine right? The one that was lost for almost 5 days. Well, it came, and I was excited, and a little worried too, because I had only seen it over a few pictures and didn't really want to be on the hook for well over $100 000 for a giant green piece of shit. So I ran into town, to take a look at it. Luckily, the fellow that they have to go over the operation of new equipment with purchasers was there and we spent some time going over things.

   And I left, that evening, a little disappointed. And with a list, all be it a short list, of things I wasn't overly enthused with on my new, used combine. Granted, they had also trucked the combine from wherever it was hidden to our town through the rain that had been going on for most of Monday, so it did have a healthy layer of road film on it as well.

  That being said, my dealership has been working like crazy to shape her up to what I want a combine to look like. A good washing helped a lot to give it a bit of her shine back, and I'm sort of expecting to get my hands on it sometime Thursday. I'm itching to try it out. (If you've ever harvested grain, you might smile at that last sentence.)

because even new, used combines are AWESOME!

  It's week 2 of the Pish Posh 8 week Challenge. Week 1 didn't go as well as I had hoped. I sort of tripped, and stumbled my way out of the starting gate, then fell face first into the dirt.

  Needless to say, I've been stressing a little bit over the last week while I wait for this combine, and now while they're working on it. It also doesn't help that the weather is nicer and all of my neighbours are slowly getting back in their fields to do their harvest and I'm sitting here waiting. I've been trying to get onto some sort of diet schedule but that's all gone to hell. I've been in town every day this week and because it worked, have eaten out with my lovely wife. Which, while awesome, isn't exactly helping my waistline. YESH!

  So have I done anything good? I'm trying to get a handle on portion size and limit myself to one helping. I'm really trying hard to not have any beers in the evening. Other than on the weekend, which worked out well because my combine was missing through the weekend and beers WERE required! I'm also trying to drink more water as well.

  I'm calling week 1, flush. My mind is in the right place. Yesterday, I desperately wanted to stop and buy cookies but I resisted. So that's a good thing.

Week 2, monkey toe scale change.

    ...........Part of getting a new piece of equipment, is saying good-bye to an old one. I was cleaning out the cab of my old combine so they could pick it up the other day and I found an old, hairy, jelly bean under the seat and I ate it because I got all nostalgic and shit. That probably wasn't a good choice. It was green. I think it was originally green, so that was OK. Still though.......better choices, Ken.

Sunday, September 09, 2012

#113. or, ......and then we did a lot of driving for nothing

  Last week I traded my old combine in on a new one. It's not the new, new one. The one with new combine smell and plastic still on the seat. As much as I would dearly love to slide my pale farmer ass behind the wheel of that little beauty, it costs a third of a million dollars and that's somewhat out of my price range.  The one I can afford is the new, used one. It's somewhere around half the cost of the new, new one so I have to buy the new combine smell air freshener to mask the smell of old grain dust and be happy about financing another piece of equipment.

  Except, it's Sunday morning and I have yet to actually SEE my fricken new, used combine!

  During the summer, I made a mention to my salesman that I was interested in purchasing a new header for my old combine. That's the attachment on the front of my combine that allows me to cut the standing grain and combine it all in one process. The one I have is undersized and was not utilizing the combine that I have to it's fullest potential. The reason I approached my salesman in the summer to try to find me this, is because the closer we get to harvest, the less chance there is of anything being available. I wanted to avoid that. So, last week, and still no header, I talked to my salesman again and the header he's got for me is a complete PIECE. OF. SHIT!

  So, because I'm an easy sell, and like shiny new things, he convinces me what I really need is a brand new, used combine. Thursday morning, he called me to say the exact new, used combine, that would be perfect for me just became available. Like overnight! Now my dealership isn't JUST my dealership. It covers a good deal of the center of the province that I live in. There's a bunch of stores in towns and cities scattered about, so wherever you live, a tractor store isn't too far away. Each store generally has a couple salesmen. So it's not quite like going in to buy a new, used car off the lot. Any salesman can sell any piece of equipment from any of those dealerships at any time. Essentially, you could be sitting in the cab of a combine, trying to make the decision on whether or not to take on more debt load on this particular unit, while 200 miles away, 13 other  farmers are potentially signing the papers and buying it out from under you, without your knowledge, while you waffle. It SUCKS! I can't tell you how much I hate trying to make a deal this way.

  Anyways, Thursday morning, my salesman says we should go immediately to look at this combine before it gets sold. It's 2 hours away, so off we go. Along the way, we're still trying to find a new header, because now, with a bigger combine, my old one is REALLY undersized so I still need the header. The header which I originally wanted to buy, but got up-sold into a new combine instead. As we're passing a dealership along the way, he's talking on the speaker phone to another salesman about any headers available there, and my salesman mentions that we're headed to look at this combine. The guy on the other end of the line says it's not there! Apparently it's on a truck someplace headed to one of the two dealerships within easy driving distance of my home. It will be there by morning. So we turn around and go home.

  In the mean time, I pretty much have to commit to this unit, that I haven't seen yet, because "it's harvest season" and these units disappear rather quickly.

  Friday morning, my salesman calls and says I should meet him at this other dealership, near my home to look over the combine. I drive there, no combine. Well, that's not exactly true,the one that came overnight was the wrong one but a different salesman  has already sold this wrong combine. They make some phone calls, and it's determined that MY combine is on a different truck, somewhere on route to my dealership. It will be there Saturday morning. Again I drive home without seeing this combine I've bought.

  Saturday morning, I purposely waited a while to be sure they had time for my combine to arrive and get unloaded. I drive to town, NO FRICKEN COMBINE!!!

   It seems, someone has lost what is almost without question the largest piece of farm equipment that you can buy. How the hell does that happen? They tell me it should show up on Monday. This is turning into a complete nightmare. Without, of course the REE REE REE, shower curtain scene.

   ................if it doesn't show up on Monday, I'm going to look at red combines!

   I am submitting this post to Dude write this week. It's where guy bloggers come together to submit posts, that get voted on from Sunday to Tuesday evening to see whose was most popular. I encourage you to pop over and take a look at them and maybe come back and vote on three of your favorites. 
You can get there by clicking on THIS LINK.

Thursday, September 06, 2012

#112. or, I'm up for the challenge

 Remember a while back when I had to take that MRI? Turns out that I have a torn rotator cuff. As far as rotator cuff injuries are concerned, this one is pretty mild. I suppose it's the good rotator cuff injury? It isn't torn through so badly that it needs surgery to repair. In fact, they don't really want to do much about it at all. I'm booked for therapy. It's a 3 month waiting list. I think I'm in the second month now.

  The way to fix this is to strengthen the other two muscles of my rotator cuff that aren't torn so they do most of the work and allow the torn one to heal. It's supposed to take a year. If it's not better by then..........they'll look at it again.

  The doctor gave me a list of exercises I can do at home until they call me for therapy. That way, when they call me in, the physio therapist will be amazed at my progress toward healing and shoosh me away so I don't waste their time. My thought was to try to wrench my shoulder from it's socket just before I go so they actually know somethings wrong. (it can't hurt any worse?)

  But that's probably not the right thing to do. I need to fix this. I need do fix something else too. If you've followed me for any length of time, I threw myself, whole hearted into trying to fit into my suit of awesomeness for my sons graduation at the beginning of summer. And I made it too. But I wouldn't have made it into that suit if I hadn't been a part of the Pish Posh Get Fit Challenge. If fact, I did so well that I came in second in the voting at the end.

  And then  I celebrated. I celebrated by drinking beer.......... and caesars..........and mojitos..........and eating cookies..............ALL SUMMER!

  So now I'm fluffy again.

 Here's the good part! There's a whole new Pish Posh challenge!

                              The Pish Posh 8 Week Challenge

At the end of 8 weeks, I should just about be done with my harvest and fall field work. After that, my plan is to start going back to the track in town on a regular basis and by Christmas, be able to wear a bitchin new shirt and a spiffy vest. (which I'm planning on asking for , for Christmas. (I know, it's clothes! It may be the first time I've asked for clothes for Christmas.)  I plan to use these 8 weeks to get my diet back on track and get back to exercising on a regular basis. Then plow on into winter on my quest for the bitchin shirt & spiffy vest.

  So here's the goal for my 8 weeks. Get my weight to at minimum 179 pounds and get into a routine of some sort of exercise most every day. If I meet those goals, you may get a picture of me in a cape! or......inacape!

  Week 1, I'm going to try to get a handle on what I'm shovelling into my mouth. Cut the crap out and look at healthier options.

this morning, me and my monkey toes weighed 186 pounds
  Maybe, just maybe, if we can swing it, a tropical vacation might be in the cards if everything falls into place. If it does, I'm gonna look spectacular by the time it's ready to go. Of course I have to convince my wife first.

  .............I'm going to get a lot of brownie points if I can tear out that horrible linoleum under the scale and do some bathroom reno's as well. It's going to be a busy winter.

Tuesday, September 04, 2012

#111. or, A funny thing happened, and then I got published.

 So, here's some exciting news that I've been sitting on for that last few months. I'm in a book now. What's that? you didn't hear that? I'll tell you again. I HAVE STORIES IN A FREAKIN BOOK!

  This book!

  And because I'm completely inept, and am not sure if I've properly linked the picture to the page you need to go to find out all about it, this link will take you there.

  So, here's the poop. In the beginning of summer, a couple of my good friends Pish Posh and Gloria, from A Bozo's Abbozzo, came up with the idea to start up their own company to put out this book to highlight a handful of bloggers. For some reason, they decided that I was one of the bloggers that they would like to be in this book.

  (Alright, here's a little secret. My wife bought up this book as soon as it became available on her Kindle. I've read some of my way through and I feel like I'm a little out of my league here. There's a lot of talented writers in this book. It's quite humbling to be in the company of these people, and it was an honour to be asked to take part in this project. Thanks to everyone involved. Hope I didn't let you down.)

  Here's a list of everyone involved and links to their blogs.

Dogs on Drugs
Mayor Gia
Whoa! Susannah
Leanne Moffat
One Day I'll be That Guy
Brett Minor
Rusty Hartup
Working Dan
Six Fingered Monkey
Incoherent Ramblings of a Moose
Mike Young
Misty's Laws
Rev Biou
Creative Devolution
Pish Posh

  Anyways, This book is a compilation of  untold stories from a group of writers and artists that you should really get to know a little better. For now, it's only available on Kindle. Eventually, it will be out in other formats and possibly even in an actual book form. If you don't have a Kindle, you can download a free app onto your iphone,  ipad, or onto your PC. It's also so freakin affordable at $2.99, that it would be a shame not to pick up a copy of your own.

 You can go directly to Amazon by following this link. If you do, don't be afraid to go back and leave some positive feedback on the Amazon site. If this book does well, there will be a second volume, and that's pretty awesome too.

Saturday, September 01, 2012

#110. or, I'm swathing (or my GPS is better that your GPS)

 I'm swathing canola now. It's sort of the second to last, final step in the process that I began last spring when I planted seeds in the ground. The last thing I'll do is to combine the crops to separate the seeds and grains out of the plant. Except it isn't REALLY the last thing I do. I think I'll get into that in another post.

  Anyways, I was swathing the other day and checking my twitter and Kianwi, from over at simply she goes was asking about the process and whats involved in swathing. It hadn't really occurred to me that while I may be in a tractor (or swather in this instance) and be thinking that this job is mundane and uneventful, I should probably explain a little better exactly what I'm doing. That way when I pop up on some social media site somewhere and say I'm just doing this or that, you will know exactly what it is I'm doing and be immediately enthralled in my agricultural prowess. Or in the very least think.......meh?

because a visual aid will make this easier
That's our swather. Standing crop goes into the front and comes out the back in the neat and tidy row you see in the foreground. I suppose, if you weren't aware of the purpose of this piece of equipment it could be a little nightmarish.  That silvery thing in the front rotates round and round  and draws the standing crop into a row of knives moving back and forth, crazy fast, to snip off the plant, then bunches it up into that tidy row out the back. I move the round and round part, up and down to adjust for varying crop height as well as moving the entire front knife portion up and down as the land changes in front of me. Easy peesy.

 I think this particular piece of equipment might also prove useful during the zombie apocalypse.

  Now, you're probably thinking, but Ken, how can you drive this beastly piece of equipment, control the height of the knife for ground changes, adjust the reel for crop height, steer, AND pop into twitter or facebook to see what's going on? You must be an extremely talented, multitasking, social media savvy, manly man! DON'T THINK THAT! ............I'm only mildly talented.

  The thing is, if you go back to the picture here, you'll see a yellow and green thing just above the front window. That's part of my GPS. But this isn't quite the same as the GPS you have in your Ford so you don't get lost trying to find that garage sale. Mine doesn't actually show roads or take you anyplace. My GPS steers the tractor. If I'm doing something that requires going back and forth. (and I do A LOT of going back and forth!) I can set it so it will hold the machine in a line exactly the distance I require, one row over, row after row. So I don't steer. Except on the ends when I have to turn around to go back. You can get the GPS that will do that for you as well, but it costs a lot more.

  The idea behind this, is that it's way more efficient if you can put your machine exactly were it needs to be, each and every pass. Plus I can't begin to tell you how much less fatigued I am at the end of the day when I don't have to budget a percentage of my concentration on holding a line within 6 inches or so over the whole day. The added bonus to this, is that occasionally, when the crop is standing nicely and there is a long level patch of ground, I can pop into twitter and see what's going on.

  One last thing I want to point out here, is that the reel in front of you, goes round and round ALL day. It can get rather hypnotic and there are times when you have to struggle to not fall asleep from the rhythmic rotation in front of your face. Being less fatigued from the steering helps immensely in this regard.

  .................also, this is NOT a job you should try to do hung over. Watching that reel for about 15 minutes will make your stomach do nasty things. I'm just saying. I may or may not have had personal experience in this matter...........OK, I have, you'll blow chunks before you get to the end of the field.

I am submitting this post to Dude wtrite this week. It's where guy bloggers come together to submit posts, that get voted on from Sunday to Tuesday evening to see whose was most popular. I encourage you to pop over and take a look at them and maybe come back and vote on three of your favorites. 
You can get there by clicking on THIS LINK.