Sunday, January 25, 2015

Pickin' Cotton....A Little Differently

This was one of the posts I had planned to do back in the Fall. Back before Big Bertha, the red cotton picker, tried to kill my husband. For more info on that click here...We haven't been on speaking terms with Bertha since. Any who, I still wanted to share how she picked cotton, since it was very different than our usual method (right here).

Big Bertha was a Case IH625 Module Express Cotton Picker. This meant that as she was picking cotton, she was also making a cotton module in the picker basket.

Bertha came as a 6-row picker, but we are set up on 4-row, so two of her heads were removed.

A closer-up of the heads...

As the heads drive over the cotton stalks, columns of spindles, which are turning, grab the cotton. Plastic round doffers, doff, or remove the cotton from the spindles. The cotton is then blown up the pipes and into the picker basket behind the cab. (FYI: Water flows through moistener pads in the heads the entire picking time . Water helps the spindles grab the cotton better).
This is what the inside of the heads look like after it's been picking a while. You have to clean these out every so often with your hands. This was one of my many jobs during harvest. I didn't take this picture to share in this post, but saw it and thought it would help describe what I explained above. the picture from left to right...row of moistener pads (covered in wet goop in this picture), columns of spindles, and barely in the picture are the doffers.
You can see the cotton being blown into the basket in this video. That contraption going up and down is what makes this picker different than our others. As the cotton blows into the basket, augers turn to level out the cotton. They also pack the cotton. The point of this is to get as much cotton packed together as possible. Big Bertha could hold 6-7 bales of cotton (1 bale=490lbs).

Lance had monitors that let him know when the basket was full. There was also a video monitor, which showed inside the basket. When the picker was in reverse, it was a backup camera.

 I videoed the video monitor, heh.
Here's some videos of Big Bertha in action. She was huge compared to our normal cotton pickers. Some of you have probably wondered, why red? Well, Bertha may have been huge, but she still wasn't as huge or as heavy as the John Deere module building pickers. She could fit on our roads and in our fields around here.

She also could pick twice as fast as our regular pickers. She picked at a speedy 5 mph, while our older John Deere's were a pokey 2-3 mph.

So, we learned Big Bertha packed her own modules, but then what? If you remember my other cotton pickin' post or clicked the link above, when the regular pickers were full, they would have to drive to the module builder, dump the cotton into the builder, and it would have to be packed down. When it was ready, the module builder would be pulled forward, and a module would be left behind. Big Bertha eliminated all that. In this video, you can see a ramp coming down on the back...

The picker basket would then raise up and the module of cotton inside would be chained off. When it got to the end of the ramp, Lance would slowly pull forward and the module would be left in the field.
Tada! You still have to tarp it, but you saved a lot of labor/tractors in the fields by doing it this way. The modules made with a module builder and the other pickers are 32 ft long. These were half sized, at 16 ft. The module truck could carry two at a time when it needed to haul them to the gin.

This was our favorite sight during harvest. A completely harvested field, full of modules!

Saturday, January 17, 2015 January?? last post I promised I would catch up on my blogging! Here's my first catch up post! Halloween 2014!
Did I mention I was behind?? Sheesh....
 Can anyone tell who we are??  Here's a hint...."Who ya gonna call?" 
Yep, Ghostbusters! I know, the "official" Ghostbusters wore tan outfits. But when you can find blue coveralls for $5 at the thrift store, you just go with it. Every thing about this costume was from a thrift store, homemade, or from Lance's stash of Ghostbuster toys from the 80s! He had the "real deal."
  The "Proton Packs" are made out of spray painted boot boxes with lots of junk and wires attached to them. We had utility belts with Ghostbuster toys and even cb radios. Our suits (and proton packs) had labels I found online to print off. I made our name tags with black duct tape and red paint marker. Lance was Venkman, and I was Spengler, lol.
 And what would the Ghostbusters be without a Ghost? Yeah, Reed doesn't look happy here because we had to interrupt his nap to go to the Trunk or Treat. He had a ghost/sheet costume that I had made, but he called it a dress and wouldn't wear it. So, the shirt was a last minute thing. Toddlers, hmph.
 I mentioned we were going to Trunk or Treat....I turned my truck into the Ectoplasm Containment Unit! (You know, it holds all the ghosts they catch!) I spray painted cardboard, used duct tape, and printed off more labels. I used two touch lights on the top. (Green light is on when everything is good, Red light goes on-you better run! haha). Lance even had a Ghostbuster duffle bag I used to keep the candy in.
This is one of Lance's Ghostbuster toys. It's a ghost trap. When they catch a ghost, they keep it in this until they transfer it to the Ectoplasm Containment Unit (my truck, lol).
If you noticed the clear window in the ECU, (no, the real thing didn't have a window, but what's a Ghostbuster Trunk or Treat without ghosts??) there are ghosts inside! It was really hard to take a picture of, but looked awesome at night. I saved milk jugs, drew faces on them, and dropped a glow stick in them. It was awesome.

Friday, December 26, 2014

Merry Christmas!

Hope everyone had a great Christmas! Maybe I can catch up on my bloggin' soon!

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Cotton season goes out with a bang...

In my last post, I did say the next time I wrote it would be about our "new" cotton picker, "Big Bertha." Well, I'm writing about her alright. Just not exactly what I had in mind. was our last day of cotton picking. We probably had 10 acres left. I'm in the field tarping a cotton module and one of our farm hands looks across the field and says "Oh My God." Not what you want to hear. I come around the module and this is what I see...
Um, WHAT???
So, after just running around like a crazy person not knowing what to do, I'm about 5 seconds from jumping in an F250, a service truck, a bush hog tractor, whatever I can find to drive over there. (This was probably 100 yards away.) Lance calls and says he's alright, but he has to get off the phone to call 911.

While he's on the phone, we're still across the field watching, (cotton is very, very flammable, so there was nothing we could do to stop it anyways) and we start hearing explosions. The tires are exploding, fuel tank exploding, hydraulic oil tank exploding...Needless to say, Lance got called back and I hopped the next cotton picker ride over there (a non-burning cotton picker).  
 By the time I got over there, the fire department had arrived. They wet down the cotton field to keep it from catching on fire and put out the woods that were on fire. A firefighter was injured by exploding hydraulic oil while he was in the woods digging a fire break.
 All that was left to do was watch her burn. And ask Lance what happened...
 He was at the end of the cotton rows, turning around, about to start on some more rows, when he happened to look back over his shoulder and see flames. He never looks back because he has cameras and mirrors to use. Thank God he did. The flames were already up between the picker basket and the cab. He immediately stopped, turned off the fans (the fans work like a vacuum, blowing cotton from the picker heads and into the basket), and hit the emergency unload button.  
 The basket started raising to dump the cotton, but only ran for a few seconds and all the power shut off. (That is why the basket in the back is tilted at a weird angle. It raised a little and when the tires blew, the weight of the cotton in the basket made it tilt.) He tried to turn the machine back on, but nothing. He opened the cab door and immediately felt heat. He threw his bag of stuff out (he still lost some stuff), and stepped out of the cab. He said the flames under the platform he was on reminded him of looking down in a bbq grill. To get off the platform, he had to shut the door. When he shut the door, it singed hair off his right arm. He had to jump off the front of the heads (which were raised about 10 foot in the air) because the fire was all around the ladder. He bashed his leg on one of the snoots (gray things on the front), landed on his right side, and just rolled through the cotton. His only injures were singed hair, cuts, bruises, and 4 out of place ribs.
 The fire smoldered for days. Mostly cotton and tires. I went back a couple of days ago and took these pictures.
 Whats left of the cab...
 This had 4 bales of cotton in it (=2,000 lbs of cotton).
This used to be the motor.
 The blown out cab glass...
Aluminum melted out of one of the radiators...
The fire around the picker going towards the woods where the firefighter was injured...
In other words...we're very glad cotton pickin' season is over! Next year Lance will be wearing full fire fighter gear while

Monday, October 13, 2014

A little bit about harvest...

We're currently rained out of the fields right now, so I thought it was a good time for an update!
We've been picking cotton off and on for almost 3 weeks now. Not all of it was ready, but it is now! Which is probably why it's raining. We had a drought all summer, but when you need it to be dry, it rains!
I entered this picture in the county fair and won 2nd! woohoo!
Reed loves running up and down the cotton rows. And posing for pictures.
We are finished with corn harvest though.  This is a picture of some critter damage.
This was our first load of corn headed to the granary. We only had 20 acres, but it's nice to be able to say you're done with something, lol.
(This is a cell phone pic, so its a bit blurry). Reed and Wiggley like to occasionally go out and check on the peanuts. They are a month later than usual due to the drought. They should be getting plenty of water now. Hopefully we can start picking them soon.
And....introducing Big Bertha! She's our new cotton picker!
She makes her own module instead of having to dump the cotton out into a module builder and pack it. We've managed to use her one day. Then it rained. Of course. So, hopefully, my next post will be all about Big Bertha!

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Strawberry Swirl Cream Cheese Pound Cake

Strawberry Swirl Cream Cheese Pound Cake
1 1/2 cups butter, softened
3 cups sugar
1 (8-oz.) package cream cheese, softened
6 large eggs
3 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon lemon zest
2/3 cup strawberry glaze
Preheat oven to 350°. Beat butter at medium speed with a heavy-duty electric stand mixer until creamy. Gradually add sugar, beating at medium speed until light and fluffy. Add cream cheese, beating until creamy. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating just until blended after each addition. Scrape down the sides of the bowl.
Gradually add flour to butter mixture. Beat at low speed just until blended after each addition, stopping to scrape bowl as needed. Stir in the lemon zest, almond, and vanilla extracts. Pour one-third of batter into a greased and floured *10-inch 14 cup tube pan (about 2 2/3 cups batter). Dollop 8 rounded teaspoonfuls strawberry glaze over batter, and swirl with wooden skewer. Repeat procedure once, and top with remaining third of batter.
Bake at 350° for 1 hour to 1 hour and 10 minutes or until a long wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pan on a wire rack 10 to 15 minutes; remove from pan to wire rack, and cool completely (about 1 hour).
Strawberry Swirl
2 cups strawberries(about 1 lb), quartered
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon corn starch

Combine the water, strawberries, sugar, and lemon juice in a large saucepan on high heat. Stir and bring up to a boil.
After the mixture begins to boil, reduce the heat to medium low. Cook for 5-8 minutes, until the strawberries have completely broken down.  As the strawberries soften, use a wooden spoon or potato masher to break up the berries. (At this point you could strain the strawberries through a sieve for a smooth glaze, but I decided to leave the bits of strawberry in mine.)
Meanwhile, whisk the cornstarch with 3 tablespoons of water in a small bowl. Then, pour into the strawberries.
Increase heat to high, and continue to whisk the mixture until it thickens and the cornstarch becomes clear and loses it's cloudy appearance, approximately 3-5 minutes.
Remove  from heat, and pour into separate bowl to cool down. Use 3/4 a cup to swirl in the cake. Any leftovers are great served along with the cake.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Reed's 3rd Birthday!

I better get all these summer blogs out of the way before it gets harvest season!
So, July 31st Reed turned 3!
 Reed had a Mickey Mouse Clubhouse Party!
 I made these cute Mickey shirts for favors! I found the shirts on sale at Hobby Lobby, bought some black fabric spray paint with a coupon, traced a Mickey outline on some contact paper, stuck it to the shirt, and sprayed around it! Cheap, easy, and awesome!
 I put the shirts in red bags with round white stickers to look like Mickey's pants.
 What would a Mickey party be without Mickey shaped things? I cut out Mickey shaped watermelon, and used a melon baller to make round cantaloupe (no way were those gonna be Mickey shaped, haha!), both of which we grew in our garden!
 Mickey shaped cheese
Mickey shaped rice krispie treats with chocolate and white chocolate drizzled over it, sprinkled with mini M&Ms.

 Mickey shaped chicken nuggets! I was so excited to find these! Apparently you can only buy them at Costco. Thankfully, my father in law has a membership!
 We also had a taco bar with all the fixings!
 I make a big jug of strawberry lemonade for every party.
All the drinks went in a baby pool.

Mickey cupcakes! 
 The Mickey ears were Oreos!
 Reed loved it!
 He also loved his new gift from us!
 And the gifts from everyone else too!
 It was a fun day to just hang out with friends.
But what birthday party on the farm is complete without a ride on a tractor for all your friends?