Wednesday, March 03, 2010
Now, Ain't That Cute?
At the intersection of US75 and US82 in Sherman, TX - hanging a right headed west. I'd been following this truck trying to get a decent pic of this little devil. It is a DeutzAllis F3 combine fitted with a three row corn head. It's set up as a test plot harvester. Test plots are tiny (compared to quarter, half section and section plots we have out here) bits of ground that researchers use to grow and test new varieties of grain. Everything is measured to a "t." Planting is a highly calibrated affair so seed counts can be recorded. Plant populations are counted, thus giving germination data. Usually test plots have several different varieties under study.
When it comes to harvesting the grain, just any combine won't do. One of the newer high capacity machines would eat the whole thing up and spit it out without much control over grain data quality. The machines must be thoroughly cleaned before harvesting a particular variety, then cleaned again before cutting an alternate strain. They're set up differently as well. A "normal" machine might "toss over" lighter kernels, but these little devils have to capture it all. If you grow a variety that shrivels badly, you need to know exactly how bad it is. The test plot machines usually have some sort of vacuum arrangement beneath the shoe (the section under the machine that shakes back and forth to help sift grain from the straw and debris). If you look to the right side - you can make out the vacuum tube rising up to dump into the grain bin. The upper terminus is just about lined up with the two lower braces on the spot mirror bracket on the machine's right side - or the left in the pic. When I passed this guy, I could see the box mounted to the side that contained the vacuum assembly - wish I could have gotten a pic, but driving kinda got in the way. At any rate, they're set up to capture everything, where a normal harvesting machine isn't.
Now, I'm sure combines of this size are considered normal in a lot of areas in this country, but out here, they're like kittens or puppies. They're just so small with some features somewhat distorted compared to what we're used to. Their mere size is a major disadvantage - I doubt this pup could dump into a semi pulling a hopper bottom.
If the F is a pup, this would be a Big Dog. I have no idea what the model number of this Deere is, but that is a twelve row corn head out front. It would take four Fs to match this Hound, and I'd bet this Big Dog would outcut all of the little farts. Less labor, less fuel, less maintenance, less repairs - well, you get the idea. Just another example of economy of scale, which Farmer Frank covered quite well at his place.
This picture illustrates the problem with the older combines dumping into modern trucks. The sides of a hopper bottom semi trailer are about head level with the combine operator. The combine would have to be driven onto a ramp or the truck into a trench to unload. That is a Gleaner (precursor to the DeutzAllis brand) Model A. Don't get me wrong - in their day, these were serious machines that harvested a lot of acres for a lot of years. Just not many acres in a day compared to the modern variety. This one even has a top to shield the operator from the sun - lots also had fabric "buggy style" folding tops. My Dad had a JD55 that even had a cab. No A/C or heat, but it did have a blower. That was the epitome of comfort, and the guys Dad cut with that had open platforms were jealous. Yes, seriously, they were. Radios? Power steering? Not so much. Machines like this are why most older farmers are deaf, too. If you'd had a radio mounted somewhere, you couldn't have heard it. Besides, one wanted to be able to listen and pick out irregular sounds from the cacophony of sheer noise . An experienced operator could tell when a bearing was going out, or some other catastrophe. You could feel it in your butt, too - the seats didn't isolate vibration, so a different vibe in yer keister could diagnose a problem. So, no earbuds and media players - or Grandpa would probably kick your hiney when you started the field on fire from a burning bearing you missed 'cause ya couldn't hear it.
These cute machines have been obsolete for quite a while, too. Twenty odd years ago, the custom harvester for whom I hauled grain helped a neighbor of mine finish his harvest. He had a Model A and he'd just started on his quarter of ground. Near retirement, and actually living in Texas - he just wanted to wind harvest up and go home - everyone else was done or about finished. By himself, it wasn't gonna happen, at least for a several days. So, he hired my boss. Ronnie had finished his local obligations, he wasn't ready to head north yet, and was free to pick up some extra acres if he could.
We pulled in with four N7 Gleaners - then the largest rotary "Silver Seeders" made - with thirty foot headers, and went to work. He kept cutting - thinking he was helping out. When the field was whittled down a bit, he was just in the way. Our combines cut far faster than he could, and we were constantly catching up to him - cutting around the slower machine. He finally pulled out and parked it, realizing he was impeding progress. It was certainly illustrative of how times had changed - and that was twenty years ago.
That little F3 might be obsolete, too small and so on, but I'm still a gearhead, so I'd still like to run the cute little sucker. It would be fun to fire 'er up and go a round or two. All day? Not so much. A couple rounds would do just fine, thank you very much. That goes for the old Model A as well. Running one of those older machines is very much a tactile and aural experience. But, like I said, not all day long. Short trips down memory lane are much more apropos.
Edit: I guess I can't see -I had ID'd the corn head as a two row, and Farmer Frank pointed out it was actually a three row. Which, of course, it is. Some days it doesn't pay to gnaw through the straps....
Posted by Jeffro at 9:04 AM