It’s January, and here on the Prairies of North East Montana, we’re having some typical January weather this week. Cold. And lots of it. Last night the thermometer said -24 F in the pickup on our way home from a day of basketball games in town. And that was without the wind chill.
That kind of cold requires extra effort to keep everything warm and working right. Cows get extra bedding, feed, water and wind break. Tractors and any other vehicle we might need to use get plugged in to make sure they’re ready to use when we need them. Generators are serviced and fueled, — because inevitably, cold weather means a power outage. The Farmer breaks out all of his cold weather gear. And in the house, it means stocking up on hot chocolate and running our grain stove
a little a lot more to help the furnace keep up.
The unwritten rule about brutally cold weather, is that you’ll find where the weaknesses are in any given piece of equipment. Usually that means we’re dealing with vehicles that won’t start, water tank pumps that freeze, gates that won’t swing because they’re frozen shut, … the list goes on. But this last week, we were reminded that peripheral equipment is getting an extra workout, and showing it’s weak points as well.
Remember that grain stove that I mentioned, and the
little bit of lots of extra use it’s been getting? That means more grain running through the stove, and that’s where the problem started. A few days ago, as I was working on year end book work, the auger motor on the stove started making a really loud noise.
I’ve learned enough over the years on the farm to know that any change in the noise level or vibration of any given motor is usually a bad thing, and that it’s best to shut it off right away and call for help. It would’ve been great if I had tapped into that little nugget of knowledge.
Instead, I sat in front of the stove, listening to the auger work harder and harder to spit grain into the burn box, contemplating whether this was normal or not, until eventually I heard a big bang. Then nothing. No auger sounds, no grain, and eventually, no warm air.
I’ll skip forward at this point, and spare you the details of my call of shame to the Farmer– who, you should know, was remarkably kind and chose not to point out that fixing the stove BEFORE the bang would have probably been far easier than after.
He tore the whole thing apart– amazing me yet again with his almost bizarre knowledge of anything with moving parts.
Couple quick points. That’s a bolt. A big one. (Ahem…uh, that’s not a bolt…it’s a nut. It’s even too cold to think straight. Huge thanks to a reader for pointing that out! And now you know why the Farmer calls in his parts list rather than depending on me to bring home the right thing!)
It’s not from the stove. It won’t burn in it either. And apparently, when it gets stuck in the auger, it wreaks havoc.
We’ll now be pouring it in slower, by smaller scoop fulls, to be able to detect foreign objects… like big bolts…that might jam up the auger.
How did the bolt get in the bucket of grain in the first place though? Quick farming review:
Wheat grows in the field, and we harvest the wheat with a combine,
From the combine, the wheat gets dumped into a grain cart,
and from the cart into a semi to be hauled to a bin. At the bin sight, the wheat falls out the bottom of the semi, into an auger that transports the seeds up and dumps them into the top of the bin.
Any one of those pieces of equipment that the wheat passes through– the combine, grain cart, semi truck, auger, and even the bin, has about 2 jillion bolts in it. That’s an approximate number, but you get the idea.
And as fate would have it, one of those bolts ended up in the bucket of grain that we scooped out of the bin to pour into our grain burning stove where on a cold January day, it stuck in the auger and proved 2 points.
- Any motor that starts making a funny noise should be shut off immediately
- Cold weather bring out the worst in any piece of equipment… and maybe the Farmers wife too!
I’ll see you
soon when the weather’s warmer on the Farm! -Shauna