Making Hay
Week of June 20th, 2004 | The weather was drying out.

Flame weeding corn.

Flame weeding corn.

Happy Father's Day! I celebrated my birthday on Wednesday. I am now 16 years old. The first thing I did was getting my intermediate driver's license. Now with my license, I can go fishing more often and do other things. Friday night, Mom, Dad, Jolene, and I went out for pizza in Charles City.

This past week, Dad and I finished planting soybeans, flamed corn, cultivated corn, and custom hired our hay to be baled. We had about 150 large rectangular bales made.

This is the first year that we flamed corn. A flamer is a field implement that exposes weeds at a temperature of 2000 degrees Fahrenheit. It sounds like a jet engine! This flamer burns LP gas. The flame explodes the cells in the weeds and within minutes, the weed starts decaying. Some corn burns too, but it usually grows out of it. Two thousand degrees can start a fire, but the weeds and corn only get flamed for a fraction of a second. The corn has a growing point that is protected by the outer leaves of the stalk.

Flamers can be a risk to use. We used the John Deere 4020 because it is worth about $10,000. If there was an accident and the tractor caught fire, it is much cheaper than to have a $50,000 tractor like the John Deere 7405 ruined. We have a fire extinguisher on the tractor just in case. We also carry welding gloves for making adjustments while we are using the flamer. The flamer has an emergency shut off valve near the operator.

The flamer kills weeds in the cornrow. After flaming, we use the cultivator to dig up weeds in between the cornrows. I also rotary hoed one field of soybeans this past week to break up the ground and pull small weeds.

A friend of ours borrowed this flamer over the weekend. When he brought the flamer back, he parked his tractor and the flamer on a flatbed trailer and pulled it to our farm with his pickup. Unfortunately, the tires on one side of the trailer locked up for an unknown reason. The trailer broke off of the pickup and landed upside down on the road next to the tractor and flamer upside down, too. The farmer sat in the pickup shocked and fortunately did not get hurt. The area fire department came out to spray the tractor, trailer, and flamer because of the fuel leaks. At least there was no fire. The tractor, a Minneapolis Moline 9000, was a complete loss. The front axle broke off, the engine block cracked, and many other pieces were bent and broken. The rear tires were still good, though. After the towing service tilted the tractor right side up, we saw the flamer. The LP gas tank was only scratched. Many valves were broken and bent. The frame (tool bar) was bent like an L. The fire department told us to let the tank leak overnight in an abandoned farmstead before unhitching it from the tractor. Next week, we will have to fix the flamer so it can be used again. The tractor will have to be replaced. The important thing is that nobody was injured or even killed. I'm thankful that the tank did not explode while the fire department and we were moving it.

Farm Fact: Killing weeds early are much easier than killing weeds when they are large in size. Weeds can take place of corn, which can reduce yields. Flaming is especially effective on small broadleaf weeds.

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