Seth Pascoe snowbines grain maize at -29C

In late February we finally succeeded in combining the grain maize. Out of the 53ha field, we probably salvaged 40ha.

What happened to the other 13ha you ask? Well sometime in January we had a ground blizzard and 110kph winds. This removed the snow which was blanketed across the neighbouring 53ha of winter wheat and deposited it as a rather large 1.5m drift across the west side of the maize field. Not conducive to combining, a snowbine harvester as featured on a recent edition of Top Gear would have been far more appropriate.

There we were on snow covered and frozen ground, combining in -29C. It was difficult to tell whether it was dust, snow, or both flying out the back of the combine. I reminded the contractor that at least he was getting additional utilisation from his machine, working outside the traditional two-month harvest period. He seemed less amused.

One challenge of an extreme winter climate is finding enough inside storage for farm equipment. Sod’s law dictates that the machine you require is always at the back of the shed. But sometimes there simply isn’t enough room and machinery has to be parked outside. Anything with an engine requires being plugged-in to stay warm. Consequently, I am forever running around hunting, borrowing and losing extension cords.

In our global economy, the ripples of far-flung events travel ridiculously far. Take the recent upset in Libya’s oil production. You’d think that the effects on this side of the Atlantic wouldn’t be quite as severe. On the contrary, oil immediately rocketed over the $100 a barrel mark and prices at the pump followed suit. With farm diesel prices rising daily, we decided to purchase, paying the equivalent of 51.6 p/litre. Ahead of the 2011 season, I’m already around 20% ahead of last season’s average price, equivalent to 41.5 p/litre.




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