Trying out the new planter.

The drill is used for planting what’s called a “solid stand” – usually a grain. For corn and dry beans, we needed yet another new piece of equipment, a row crop planter.

planting sweet corn

As usual, this one also required a lot of attention before it got its first run around the field. A Deere 7200 6-row vacuum planter (purchased used, of course), it requires two hydraulic hook-ups. Unfortunately, the tractor we’re borrowing from my uncle Johnny for this purpose only has one place to hook up hydraulic hoses. So, my dad and our intrepid friend Butch figured out a way to make it work by adding all these black boxes and hoses:

working on hydraulics

(For the mechanically inclined: that’s a PTO-driven hydraulic pump, with a hydraulic fluid reservoir and a hydraulic oil cooler with an auxiliary fan.)

There was also a computer to hook up to it. Fancy, right? Each seed box (the yellow things on the back) have what’s called a “meter” at the bottom, with a changeable seed plate and a bunch of small adjustable controls. Below the meter is a tiny sensor that tracks whether seeds are moving through, and how fast. So when he’s planting, my dad can watch the computer monitor to see whether he’s planting at the right rate, when the seed is getting low, etc.

studying the computer
John watching the computer monitor while trying out the planter for the first time on sweet corn. It’s hard to watch the screen and drive a straight row at the same time! Fortunately there’s not much traffic on the field, so he just has to worry about how it will look after the crop comes up.

sweetcorn sprouts
Sweet corn sprouts. The planter worked!

It worked on the sweet corn, and we didn’t have to make too many upgrades and modifications before planting our four varieties of edible dry beans, and then soybeans.

planting beans

Shortly after this picture was taken during the bean-planting, however, the tractor (a Deere 4010) we were borrowing started having trouble. The battery kept dying, and then when we jumped it with the pickup truck, it sometimes wouldn’t throttle up enough to go. Finally we figured out that we were asking more of this beautifully-maintained 1964 tractor than it was designed to handle – both the fan and the computer were drawing down the battery, and the alternator couldn’t keep up. We unplugged those electronics and finished up as quickly as we could before the rain.

Now, two days and 2.9 inches of rain later, the calypso beans are starting to emerge!


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