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It's not that easy

From the Farm

August 17, 2012
By Kerry Hoffman , The Journal

I knew it had been a while since I last had to help with making corn silage, but I offered my assistance anyway. I really didn't have a choice; both Joey and Russell wanted to stay at the fair.

My nephew Brad, on the other hand, is convinced it's been too long since I helped with silage. Let's just say it too me a while to get back into the groove.

First, I should mention that this is the earliest we have ever been in the field. Steve looked at our silage chopping records and in 1997; we started harvesting silage August 15. We smothered that record by four days.

Article Photos

Kerry Hoffman

We didn't chop all the silage we need to feed our cows for one year. We only harvested the areas of the fields that were drought stressed, due to the obvious fact that there would be a lot less moisture in those plants. We also

chopped some fairly green corn as well in an effort to obtain the correct moisture level for storing it in an upright silo, which is approximately 60 percent moisture.

By the time we started chopping in a field north of our house, it looked like a blind person was driving the chopper. I can assure you that Brad is not blind. With his chopper you can drive any which way you please in a field of corn, you don't need to follow the row pattern. In order to mix the different plants, he was going all over the field.

As I said in the beginning, it has been a long time since I have had to drive a tractor pulling a silage wagon along side the moving chopper.

If I recall correctly, I used to rock at this task. I was certain I was able to keep up with the chopper better than some of the other guys hauling loads from the field to the farm.

Believe me; if I am telling myself that I was awesome at keeping pace with a chopper, moving approximately 4 mph, without running into it, I was good at the job.

I am usually fairly critical of myself.

I really stunk this year on my first load. I didn't hit the chopper, but I sure had a heck of a time getting the speed correct.

Steve, being the sweetheart that he is, thought it would be nice to let me use our new tractor with the cab, stereo and, most importantly, air conditioning.

The problem with his good intentions was this: I have driven that tractor exactly one time and that was around the sales lot the day we were deciding if we wanted to purchase it.

That was way back in October or November of last year.

I can't remember what I did yesterday with out thinking about it. How am I supposed to remember how to drive a tractor 11 months after the original lesson?

Steve told me to, " drive in five."

I thought he meant fifth gear.

The problem with that is there is absolutely no number five anywhere on that tractor's display. I could only find a number four when shifting. The radio has a number five on its display, but I am certain the radio has nothing to do with speed.

Maybe he meant 5 mph. I could find that number on the display, but I was going way to fast for Brad.

Every time I looked over my shoulder, he was giving me the universal slow-down signal. You know the one. You place your hand out, palm down, and pump it up and down. I suppose if I had been any worse he would have given me the stop signal that involves dragging one's finger across one's throat.

At one point, while he was giving me the gesture to slow down, I was using my cell phone.

I put the phone down and would finish the next time Brad stopped because I was moving so fast. He just stops chopping when I am driving too fast and lets me keep going until I realize he's not next to me.

I was trying to text Zack, "Switch tractors."

Brad sent me a message about "not texting and driving because it's dangerous."

Smarty pants.

By the time we finished chopping, I was quite proficient at keeping up. That's a good thing, because I know I have to help out again in a few weeks when we start all over.

For questions, or comments, e-mail me at



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