Page 98: a fascinating visit to a wheat farm.
|A beautiful London Plane Tree (of the genus Platanus),
one of many in the caravan park. A deciduous tree,
it has a dense, lush foliage which provides good shade in summer (and a lot of mess in autumn).
|More of the trees in this very beautiful park on the banks of the Peel River.|
|An extremely interesting evening|
Pam has a very good friend, Roslyn, with whom she works.
Roslyn and her partner, Allan, have a 5,000 acre farm about fifty five
kilometres west of Tamworth as the crow flies. Not being crows we took
the road which doubled the distance flown by the crow.
Allan and Ros have no animals except chooks, dogs and Roslyn's horses.
Allan has elected to grow crops - mostly grains - instead of rearing sheep
or cattle. This choice was mainly dictated by the type of soil in that
region. Following several very hot days the current crop of wheat had
ripened unusually quickly and Allan was frantically harvesting it before
a change in the weather could spoil it. One severe thunderstorm could
wipe out all the remaining crop; one flash of lightning could set it ablaze.
Until it was safely in the silos nothing was certain.
|Two headers gathering in the wheat. If you look
carefully at the right header you can see the blue 'chase bin'
pulled by a yellow tractor running alongside the header. The header's discharge pipe is unloading grain from
its hopper into the blue bin even as it continues to harvest the wheat without slowing down.
|After the tour Ros took us to where two large trucks were
ferrying the wheat from the paddocks to a row of shiny new silos that Allan
had recently completed. A large trailer, coupled to a Mack prime mover,
was being filled from a temporary storage bin close to where the headers
I'm relating this in the sequence that I experienced it rather than the progress of the grain from paddock to silo. I hope it will fall into place. The photos are not necessarily in sequence however. For example, the sun had set in the picture above and below.
|An auger, powered by the tractor, lifts the harvested grain from the field storage bin and drops it into the Mack's trailer.|
|Ros asked me if I'd like to ride in the truck and watch the
driver, Mark, unload at the silos. She didn't have to ask twice!
The view from the Mack's cab was a bit obscured by a grill across the windscreen designed to deflect stones thrown up by other vehicles. I took the following picture before Mark set off. The other truck can be seen approaching after delivering its load to the silos.
|Looking through the Mack's stone guard across the flat plain to the distant hills.|
|The ride was quite bouncy due to the truck's 'air bag' suspension
which is designed to provide a smooth ride on bitumen. It couldn't seem
to come to terms with a bumpy dirt track across a huge paddock. When the
Mack began to bounce, Mark slowed down until it settled.
The Mack had eighteen forward gears which I gather are supplied via a nine-ratio gear box plus an arrangement to select a high and low ratio for each gear, thus giving eighteen separate ratios. Mark made it look quite easy to drive.
It was only a short trip to the silos where Mark drove up a ramp and stopped with the rear of the trailer above an underground hopper which was covered by a grid of bars. Mark opened a gate at the back of the trailer and grain began falling into the hopper. Beneath the hopper a continuous conveyer belt collected the grain and carried it up a vertical pipe and across the top of the silos. Each silo has an entrance valve which can be opened to allow the grain to drop in.
|The trailer parked ready to unload. The grain falls into the below-ground hopper and is carried up the pipe attached to the framework tower then across the top of the silos until it finds an open valve. It will then drop into that silo.|
|As the back of the trailer emptied, Mark raised the front
end to slide all the contents backwards towards the dump gate.
The pipe you can see dangling above the trailer is used to transfer grain from any silo to a truck for delivery. The same continuous belt, travelling back under the silos, picks up the grain draining from a silo and carries it beneath the delivery truck, up the pipe attached to the framework tower, and gravity feeds it down the pipe and into the trailer via an open valve.
|The silos with the feed pipe running across the
top. The spare outlet pipes are to feed a
second row of silos to be built alongside these, should the need arise.
|Above and below: With the front of the trailer raised, two axles at the back of the trailer found themselves off the ground.|
|Grain pouring into the hopper from the trailer's dump gate.|
|So bound up was I, watching the very clever grain
delivery system, that I didn't even notice
the view behind me as the shadows lengthened across the plain until Mark pointed it out.
|When we arrived back at the loading point the sun had set. Mark immediately began reloading.|
|We hadn't been back long when Allan drove his header over and offered to give me some driving instruction. (Passengers are not allowed to ride on the header for safely reasons but there's a spare seat so drivers can be given instruction. I sat in the spare seat.)|
|Allan returning through the wheat stubble to his header.|
Although the picture above looks bright and clear, the
light was fading fast by the time it was taken. From inside the moving
header I was unable to select a fast enough shutter speed to take a successful
picture which was very frustrating.
When the header's hopper was empty the driver would stop the discharge
auger and hinge the pipe back along the side of his machine. Or perhaps
the computer did it for him? These machines are very 'high tech' and the
computer monitors everything, reporting any problem to the driver.
In the meantime, Ros and Pam had arrived with a lovely picnic in the
back of the Prado which we made short work of by the lights of the header.
Ros had prepared chicken pieces, prawns, oysters, bread, fruit and Allan's
favourite cheesecake - it was his birthday.