6 Stripping Shanks

On the sixth day of Christmas, the Dairy Man gave to me
6: Six stripping shanks

DSC04636

5: Fiiiiiiiive commodity baaaays
4: Four milking shells
3: Three shifts of milking
2: Two orange tractors
1: And a twinkly-light laden faux tree

Something about the word “shank” makes me feel cool and dangerous. Like a stocky gangbuster out in the prison yard. Or a villain in a James Bond movie. But though this apparatus looks like it could be a torture device from a Bond flick, it serves a more wholesome purpose on our dairy: to help prepare the soil for planting corn. After all, this is a family show.

You might remember that the Dairy Man changed our field prep practice this year from disking to strip-tilling. I promise it’s not as dirty as it sounds. The strip-tiller machine has six rows with six shanks to churn up the soil. DM hooks the machine to a tractor and drives up and down (and up and down and up and down) the fields, creating perfect rows for our little corn babies.

DSC04666

photo

Strip-tilling works for us because a lot of our fields are sandy and hilly. It helps to eliminate soil erosion by only churning up strips of soil (as opposed to the entire field) and leaving organic material behind. This gives the corn plants an existing root structure to grow into and keeps more nutrients in the soil.

DSC04677

So there you have it. Strip-tilling is thrilling stuff. And my apologies to the wayward Googlers; but trust me, stripping is far more interesting on a dairy.

Advertisements

Strip it Down, Paint the Town

The Dairy Man is one of my blog’s most avid readers. He also takes personal responsibility for the content.

In that vein, DM is appalled that I haven’t talked about corn planting yet. I was so busy thinking about friends and dreams—silly me—that I forgot to mention that we just wrapped up one of the biggest jobs of the year!

Consider me repentant. So. Let me proclaim this from the mountaintops. As of three weeks ago, OUR CORN IS IN!

For you city folk, this means that our yearly crop of cow food is well underway. Every inch of the green stuff will ultimately be harvested for corn silage in the fall.

Last year was my first planting season, but this year I was almost prepared for the craziness. For two long weeks, the Dairy Man started at 7 a.m. and ended at 11 p.m. He was delirious with sleep deprivation and was always covered in dust. I saw him at breakfast and through a bleary half-conscious fog when he climbed into bed. The lack of quality time with my friendly farmer directed my attention into other pursuits. I read a lot, got completely caught up with The Office, and took long walks with Jersey the dog. I changed my cooking criteria from “will this taste good?” to “will this reheat well?”

It was a lonely few weeks, but I’m not a newbie anymore. I knew it would end … eventually.

Believe it or not, this year’s planting palooza was even a little crazier than last year’s. Over the past 365 days, we’ve gone from 600 to 1,000 acres. (More bovine mouths to feed, dontcha know.)

This year, in order to speed up the way we prepare the soil, the Dairy Man went from disking to strip-tilling. My apologies to those who googled “strip teasing,” and found this post.

If you’re a farming greenhorn like me, you’ll need a definition of tilling before we talk about stripping. Tillage is the preparation of soil for planting. This process is implemented by machines agitating the dirt by digging, stirring, and overturning. Tillage dries out and turns the soil as well as creates an optimum seedbed for our corn babies.

The Dairy Man’s tractor even has a GPS system with auto-steer to create straight lines and parallel strips for the rows.

All corn rows are perfectly planted 30 inches apart. It certainly beats sitting out in the field with a yardstick, eh?

Last year we tilled our fields with a chisel plow and a disk. This year, we switched to strip-tilling.

The Dairy Man had three big reasons for the change.

  1. We have quite a bit of sandy and hilly ground. Strip-tilling helps to eliminate soil erosion (via wind or water) by only churning up strips or zones of soil, as opposed to the entire field. You can see the organic material left behind in the rows in the photo above.
  1. The ground holds more moisture because not all of the soil is turned over.
  1. It’s all about speed, baby. Strip-tilling is a one-pass system. Our chisel plow only tills 5 acres an hour (plus we still have to disk at 10 acres per hour). The strip-tiller tills 12 acres an hour. Boo-yah.

Based on the size, scope, and soil of our two dairies, strip-tilling was the obvious choice this year. Well … obvious for the farmers. Obviously. Between you, me, and the kitchen sink, I didn’t notice that the machinery looked a little different this year until the DM pointed it out. Whoops.

After the ground was tilled, the planter came through and spread its seed.

And there you have it. It would be terrible to let the excitement of stripping (again, my apologies to the wayward googlers) pass me by.

I expect to see 32,000,000 leafy corn stalks (32,000 seeds per acre x 1,000 acres) grow and mature in the coming weeks and months. The country is blooming and the Dairy Man couldn’t be happier.

As for me, I’m enjoying the brief reprieve before another round of haying. Oof. I’d better order some more books.