Monthly Archives: March 2010

Well, to pick up were I left off on the RFI situation and my truck………

(The following is my understanding of some science, based on what I have read and understand after talking to fellow hams.  It is in no way “scientific”, so expect a few mistakes in the explanation.) One of the most misunderstood concepts, at least for me before this exercise, is the difference between DC and RF ground.  I always thought a ground was a ground, you know (-) and that was that.  But DC or electricity travels better to ground on a round wire.  RF or radio frequency travels better on a flat surface.  The flat surface has more capacity and less resistance to carry the RF signal than does a round wire. 

So when we ground a vehicle or anything else for that matter, for RF, we want to use something “flat”.  The best of these is to use a braided wire.  Most hams talk about using the shield from RG-8.  And that is great; the problem is that I don’t have a lot of junk RG-8 lying around to strip out for use as grounding.  That being said, I buy the one half inch wide braided wire you can buy at Hamfest. 

(Side Bar:  For your Farmers who had yellow topped John Deere combines, this explains why back “in the day” when GPS first came to the farm for use on yield monitors,  that “we” used big flat piece of screen wire in the roof of the cab, above the air conditioner motor to kill the RFI interference when you turned your AC on high.  I made many a farm visit to help fix “bad” GPS units that worked in the drive way but quit working when they went to the field.  In the driveway, the AC was not on or on low, but in the field when it got hot, you kicked it up to high and lost your GPS signal.  That big piece of flat screen wire was a RF Ground! Never understood that until now. All I knew was that it worked and made me look like a genius!  ANOTHER NOTE:  Never had this problem with RED combines or tractors………AC motor in a different place?  Better grounding?  Don’t know, but if it had a yellow cab, you had problems. )

Note here the difference in price!  One was purchased a year ago at a Hamfest, 20 ft vs. the other, 10 ft,  this year………..

Most concur that your ground straps should be no more than 2 ft in length.  I have no problem with that.  They should be as short as possible.  That being said, every time you ground, you also create another “antenna” that is resonant at some frequency.  Like my window frame on the camper top (more later on this).  So it would appear to me that the game is to keep things going in circles!!!!   Ok, I don’t have a clue if that is true, but it sure seems like what we are doing!

Good connections at both ends of the ground are also important to provide both a DC and RF ground paths. That being said, I have read Hams who say crimping and soldering are mandatory and other who say that just tinning is sufficient.

Also, there seems to be little agreement on the use of “good quality” lugs and connectors as well as the use of washers, as in flat or stared, and even heat shrinking.  Some of what is said on the topic is just about as mind blowing as how far some Hams take things one way or the other…………I feel a lot of it is for appearance sake. 

OK, I am a farmer, if it works, appearance is optional!  So some got tinned, most got no washers and all got shot into place by the use of self tapping screws and the battery powered torque driver.   Would there be a big difference if I had went to the opposite extreme as outlined by some Hams and did the whole 9 yards?  Don’t know but I suspect I will get emails telling me one way or the other…………

Now with all of that said, and showing my stupidity on the topic, let me go even deeper into the hole I am digging myself!  The rear window of the camper top had me wondering just how a little piece of aluminum frame  holding a glass in can be such a cause of RFI.  Well the frame around the back window is a close to 82 inches.  The window glass is held in place by an additional 134 inches of aluminum.  Upon calculating this time and time again, I find that the window is a length that is a harmonic of the upper part of the 75 meter band. 

So it would appear that the window is picking up the RFI from the fuel tank and retransmitting it as an antenna.  Or that is my guess as an uneducated RFI sniffer and what little reading I have done on the net.  Bonding or grounding such a small piece of aluminum can drop one S unit out of the signal interference.  Add up all of those free floating “antennas” on you vehicle and you have a bunch of S units and a much larger mobile antenna farm than you thought! 

So to fix the problem I bonded the window frame, on both sides, to the truck bed, and the truck bed to the body frame.  You will note in the picture above that I used the down and dirty method of grounding/bonding.  Appearance optional!  BTW the copper pipe you see is my 2mtr J Pole that I carry as part of my Go Kit.  I might also  be placing it into something that will bond it to the frame as well in the near future. 

Next is to go about re-bonding the truck.  As noted in Part I, I had done some of that already but let it go when it didn’t seem to make a difference.  Two places that need it “redone” is the exhaust pipe and the doors. The tail pipe is one long antenna for any RFI that is generated out of the engine compartment.  Again, after hours of on-net research there are as many “right” ways to ground the exhaust pipe is there are makes of cars.  And one is apparently not enough.  Most say multiple straps are needed the length of the exhaust.  That will be a project for a rainy day!

Well there you have it, Part II completed, and I have yet to talk about Torroids or Ferrite yet.  So I will say 73 and to be continued in Part III.


The canola is growing, despite the weather’s best efforts to put it down for the count.  Yesterday as I made my way around the farm I noticed a couple of yellow spots in the fields and then saw one close to the end next to the road. 

Upon venturing out into the mud I found that the canloa was starting to bud and bloom.


Over all the color is good as well as the root system.

And the stems seem to be elongating and budding rather nicely.

Now, if the sun will shine and the wind will blow for the rest of the week, maybe we can get that nitrogen on!

Three unrelated events into one topic today:  Crop Insurance.  As I start to type this I realize that this might take a while.  I also realize that some of the visitors to this site won’t care.  I also realize that it might take, you that are interested, a while to see how all three of these events fit together.  Hang with me……….

First off, the issue of Farm Journal that I received in the mail on the 18th of March had an article on using Enterprise Units in place of Optional Units for crop insurance.  It was a pretty good article and may have been useful to many a farmer, if the editors or publishers had some fore-thought and put it in an issue that arrived prior the to crop insurance deadline on March 15. 

Then, event two, this weekend I got my issue of Prairie Farmer.  On the cover is a small block of comments by three individuals who are featured inside.  Emerson Nafziger, U of I crops and extension educator, makes the following comment:  “We have half a million acres of wheat that weren’t planted.  They’ll have to go to something, so I don’t think well see corn and bean acres go down this year.“  That folks is a comment for the “Big Red Truck File”.  Yea, half a million acres of non-planted wheat is going to get planted to “something”.  Want to bet to what?  Beans Emerson, that’s what, beans! 

No, it has nothing to do with the agronomics of beans vs. corn.  It has nothing to do with the possible returns right now on beans vs. corn.  It has everything to do with the possibility that those half million acres are prevented planting acres on crop insurance.  Corn is a “first crop” and you can’t follow a first crop (wheat) with a first crop and get your full insurance payment.  99% of farmers will take the “guarantee” of the crop insurance PP wheat and then plant beans, a second crop, and get full insurance coverage on that. 

Hang with me because we are going to tie this all together with #3. 

The third event is a conversation I had with a farmer friend who for anonymity purposes we will call Sam.  I don’t have any friends named Sam so were safe with that one.  I have a sister named Sam, but that’s another story for another day.  Anyway Sam doesn’t read this site, he is technology challenged so to speak, which might be part of the problem.

Back to Sam and our conversation.  Sam has a problem:  Sam doesn’t know much about crop insurance.  Part of Sam’s problem is his agent or I should say former agent.  See, Sam views crop insurance the wrong way.  Sam doesn’t see that crop insurance pays.  The result is that his agent, in my opinion, just sold Sam a policy based on cost and not benefits.  And Sam has never had the benefits, the pros and cons, the reasons why or why not, the what-ifs and if-nots and forward selling opportunities explained to him in a timely, concise, coherent and plain English manner that would allow him to understand that when crop insurance pays you the most, is when you don’t collect on it. 

You don’t buy home owners insurance and then pray for a fire so you can collect, do you?  In the same vain you don’t buy crop insurance and hope for a crop failure.  The insurance is a tool, a risk management tool, that allows you to market and conduct business on the farm knowing that if things end up in the tank, your going to get compensated for the loss.  NO, your not going to get rich, your not going to be as good off as if you had raised a crop, but your not going to go broke. 

The three events fit together here:  For some reason there are many, many people who believe that decisions for crop insurance on spring seeded crops are made between the 1st and 15th of March.   ?????  What the ……….?  Why can’t the crop insurance agents (in general), educators and media get it through their heads that they can do some meeting and planning with their clients, students and readers/listeners and potential customers prior to the deadline of 15 March? 

Mind boggling to me!. 

Why can’t they explain that your choice of insurance might influence your choice of second crop, if you can’t plant?   

Why can’t they explain all of this in plain English?

Why is it that coffee shop talk, most often by fellows who have no clue themselves, is viewed as the gospel on such a serious topic?

Because of a lack of communication, farmers either don’t buy crop insurance because it doesn’t pay; don’t buy the right coverage because they don’t understand the policies and programs of each type of insurance; or they listen to “Fred” at the 1000 acre club table at the coffee shop and report the corn as prevent planted and then plant beans because Fred told them he did that before.  (yea, happened last year………)

And in the not to distant past, I was “one of those guys” who was looking at what it paidNot anymore.  There is too much risk in the business.  There are too many unknowns.  Having a risk management plan and studying and analyzing that risk management tool is more important, in my opinion,  than choosing which corn hybrid, or how much N to use, or if you should trade iron or buy the next farm.  Without crop insurance, the right crop insurance, your one crop failure away from never having to worry about those other decisions ever again. 

Luckily I have a very good agent who communicates with me on a regular basis and we engage each other to make each other to think and study prior to March 15.  We play “what ifs” and “why not” and” how come” and “here’s why” and sometimes I am wrong and sometimes he is wrong, and we will think again and try it again.  And when we get done, I know what I have, why I have it, what it will or will not do for me and a peace of mind to go out and market and conduct the business of farming knowing that I have a safety net under me.

Just in case………….not in hope of.

Funny, funny stuff.  This is #3 & #4 out of 5 of this show……..


This picture is deceiving.  Yes the sun is shining, but it is cold, there is ice on top of the dogs water bucket and my rain gauge shows a good solid 3 inches from yesterday/last night.  Water was running off the fields into the roads just before dark last night. 

Side note, the canola in the background is about to catch up with the color of the wheat.  Now for some dry weather to get that last shot of N on…….

The canola has greened up and growing pretty aggressively right now.  Despite community rumors and talk to the contrary, its far from “dead”.  Its about time for the next shot of N which will require one of those swamp boats or air boat things you see in the glades with all the water we have………..

  About two years ago I spent the better part of a day installing two antenna mounts for Ham Stick HF antennas for mobile HF (high frequency, 10, 15, 17,  20, 40 and 75 meter bands) operation.  I spent a good deal of time trying to do it right, knowing that the better the job, the better my signals and better my reception. 

 Well to my amazement, I had good reception and good signals.  That is so long as I wasn’t mobile, the vehicle was running or the key was turned on.  If the motor was running I had all kinds of RFI (radio frequency interference) in the radio at S20+.  So I went through the obligatory grounding and trapping that is often recommended for HF installations.  And after another day of crawling around under the truck, I found that nothing I had done make anything better.  

 So for about a year I just let it go.  When I did operator HF from the truck, I did it stationary and again I would get good signal reports and reception.  It was during this time that several Ham buddies pointed out that there were “issues” with my Ford truck, particularly the fuel pump in producing RFI. 

 To further investigate this I made a “sniffer” out of a handled shortwave radio and with the truck running made my way around the vehicle to find where the bulk of the interference was coming from.  Three places stood out:  the gas tank, the door on my camper top and the engine compartment on the passenger’s side.  Of the three, the door on the camper top didn’t make any sense.  More on that later. 

 Fast forward to yesterday.  Over the last year I had been determined to find an fix the RFI in my truck.  So I have been collecting the “tools” I would need to make the fix.  I have also been reading up on the net on how to make the “fix” on my truck.  I have also been reading up on what other Hans have experienced in trying to fix this issue.  

 So today was “the day” and I went about removing the fuel tank from my truck to get to the fuel pump, cause #1 of my RFI.  This was no easy task to say the least.  It was tough.  but I got the tank out and then pulled out the fuel pump.  

 Using a combination of several on line reference to the problem I made up two separate toroid core and ferrite bean assemblies to suppress the RFI.  I first made twelve turns on the toroid core followed by six more turns in the ferrite beads.  These assemblies had to be placed as close to the pump as possible, so they had to go in the tank and be placed “in line” with the existing pump wiring, one on each lead.  As a final precaution I installed another ferrite bean over both leads just outside the tank.  Was this right?  How did I come up with this?  Well, again I used what others had tried and then did what hams are famous for, experimented to see what would happen! 

 How did I come up with this idea, well I borrowed from others experience and then made it up as I went along.  And to my surprise, it worked, somewhat!  The major noise went away on all bands except for the lower part of 75 meters.  There it is now about S5-6.  On the other bands it went way down to S2 or lower.  

 However I am now picking up the noise from the engine compartment, mostly spark plug or alternator noise.  I did ground the frame of the door on the camper top to the bed and that took out another S unit on all bands but 75.  The camper top door is a strange one in that the top is fiberglass but the frame around the rear door/window is aluminum.  With the sniffer it picks up a tremendous amount of noise all around the window.  This area is also right next to where the antennas run off the bumper.  See the top photo for a closer look.

 To be continued………..

Well we get to work outside for a day on Saturday, then the rains and cold came back and its inside again on Sunday and Monday.  Oh well.  I got out some equipment and got the kids to work with me and we got a bunch of stuff done.

Saturday Matthew washed out the engine compartment on the cat for me so that I could chase down a fuel line leak. 

Morgan and I were pulling the old foam marker off the ATV sprayer so that we could get ready for a new coat of paint on the booms. 

On Sunday the weather turned off cold(er) from Saturday and rained all day.  So I ended up smoking pork chops in the shed out of the elements.  The pork chop smoking was for Grandmas 90th birthday party and her return from the hospital.

Monday the shop sure smelled like BBQ!

I will find a way to fly the flag upside down on this site from now on.  If you don’t know what an upside down flag is, you had better look it up.


I wrote a short statement of philosophy on soil sampling for myself and some other consultants in Illinois a few years ago in hopes of changing the minds of some university and government bureaucrats.  It didn’t work, but I still think this holds true for me and some others who don’t subscribe to the “grid sample the world” mantra of the Land Grant University and the “sell fertilizer at any and all cost” retail industry here in Illinois. 

So here is my “thesis” with a few things thrown in for Ed Winkle’s questions…….

Robertson Philosophy on Soil Sampling

Each soil sample should represent a uniform soil area with similar past management. It is recommended that each sample represent 10 acres or less. Sampling areas should be determined by the soil type, soil color, topography, drainage, past management of the field, manure applications or presence of livestock, and productivity.  Maps of soil electrical conductivity (EC) and GPS yield maps can aid in distinguishing between field areas with contrasting soil properties or crop nutrient removal. 

Consultants should use field observations at the time of sampling to determine which local site factors should guide their sampling pattern within each field.  Soil survey maps, GPS yield maps, bare soil images and input from the farmer as to past land use (fence rows, pastures, building sites and old field divisions) can be used to create geo-referenced zone maps of these factors prior to soil sampling. This will help guide the consultants sample locations in combination with his or her field observations.  

Soil sample zones should be recorded via GPS or geo-referenced maps to insure location and repeatability of sampling.  This also aids in refining the sample zones as more information becomes available about the field or soil, and allows the zone to be used as part of a directed nutrient application (VRT) program. 

Soil sample probes should be taken to the depth of the furrow slice (6-7 inches) or modified based upon tillage practices or the lack of tillage (no till) for the farm.  Each sample should consist of between 10 and 15 cores with cores being collected in a zig zag method thought-out the sample zone.   Each core should be examined prior to placement into the sample bag to insure that it conforms to color, texture and depth for other samples in the management zone.  

Each soil sample should be air dried and all cores in the sample should be ground and thoroughly mixed prior to submission to the laboratory for analysis.  Doing so insures that each sample is truly a representation of the sample area.  

Soil samples should be collected on a regular sampling interval based upon crop rotation, fertilizer or manure applications, or tillage practices.  In many instances under high management it would be appropriate to sample fields every year.  Fields with high test levels or fields receiving manure should be tested every year.  In other cases sampling every two years under a corn-soybean rotation or under a bi-annual fertilizer application would be appropriate.  No more than three years should elapse between sampling intervals. 

Other random notes by GKR: 

1.  If your not going to GPS your sample locations, don’t even pull samples. Your waisting the farmers time. 

2.  If you not using or making GPS/geo-referenced maps, your waisting the farmers time and money.

3.  If you not doing VRT recommendations based on ECONOMICS but on just lbs. applied, then your waisting your farmers time and MONEY.  Whole field recommendations are appropate when there isnt that much varation to justify the extra cost of applicaiton. 

4.  If you can’t collect samples in good soil conditions then your waisting your time and the farmers money.

5.  Find a good lab that can provide you with good quality control, good turn-around time and give you the data set in a format you want, not what they want to do.

6.  Get rid of the paper.  Go electronic.  You can make recommendations, track history and do analysis so much easier in digital than analog.  Paper is still king when delivering your recommendaitons but poor for analysis.  Digital is king.

7.  If you can’t get your head around the ECONOMICS of your recommendations, but only on balancing the soil or applying some magical formula of inputs, your waisting your farmers MONEY.

But as Dennis Miller Says:  Then again, I could be wrong.


Here it is, Friday at 0755, that’s 7:55 am for you “civilians”. 

For all you at Civil Air Patrol National Headquarters and on CAP TALK, Mickeys big hand is on the 11 and the little hand is almost on the 8.  If you have a digital watch, its still flashing 12:00, so just take my word for it. 

It is nice to see the sun!

Yesterday when I was soil sampling I came across two fields of soybean stubble that were heaved.  I don’t mean just pushed a bit out of the soil, but pushed out of the soil several inches.  In some cases six inches of root was exposed.

At first I thought that the field had been cut high.  The farm I was on is operated by a couple of gentlemen who run their grain platform pretty close to the ground.  Matter of fact, they just about scalp the ground when they cut beans.  For some reason, the bean stubble in these two fields were heaved an incredible amount. 

I only had my cell phone to take pictures with but you can see that the roots are pushed up and out of the soil pretty good.  You can even see the nodule cases on some of the roots! 

The funny thing is that none of their other bean fields were heaved.  Not a one.  Which made me wonder if this was a particular variety or if it was a planting date issue or even maybe a harvest date issue.  I didn’t get a chance to ask but I will when I follow up in a few weeks. 

It was a interesting observation to say the least yesterday.  Wonder what I will find today!

I have had time to update my Cutting Board Portable radio setup.  If you followed this over at the other blog, you will know what I am talking about, if not then go here to catch up on what I was doing. 

In order to make the CBP more easily transported and to protect it, I purchased one of those aluminum briefcase type tool boxes from Menard’s to put it in.

The first problem was that the board was a bit  long, so I had to trim an inch and a quarter off one end. 

This made everything fit in the box very nicely.  It is a good fit, it doesn’t move around at all.  I used the supplied foam to hold everything in place when you close up the tool box and carry it by the handle.  Next step is to secure the additional cables and accessories in the top part of the box.

To be continued……..

It this woman doing crack?  I mean really, how brain dead is she?  Apparently 100%. 

The anti Ag Governor of Michigan. 

In a state where the auto industry is in the tank, she out and out blasts the people who feed America, Michigan farmers, by asking residents of her state to participate in the “Michigan Meat Out”.

And if that isn’t enough, she does it during National Agriculture Week. 

If you’re from Michigan, and you voted for this dough head.  Shame on you!

If your a farmer, I think her opponent in the next election deserves your support, both in $ and in your vote.  Send her packing. 

People like this don’t deserve to be in office. 

Matter of fact, put her butt on a bus for Canada…………….one way.

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