After posting an image of the snout of a combine one reader said that she looked forward to seeing more of the machine. Although I can’t present a combine set to harvest a corn crop, I can show you what the business end of a working soy bean head looks like. I have already reported that the bean harvest began at Wayne’s over the weekend and it was there that I was able to capture these views of a John Deere 7720 Titan II. It has a turbocharged diesel engine that puts out 145 horsepower to drive the 20,000 pound machine. Although a combine is a pretty large and formidable piece of farm equipment, its principles of operation are straightforward. If you look closely at the first image, down at ground level, you will see the metal fingers of the cutter bar. Once the bean stalks are cut by the reciprocating blade, the crop is delivered to the auger by the sweeping motion of the reel. A rapidly moving belt then delivers the plants deep into the combine where they are threshed to separate the grain from the remainder. The former is stored in a bin, and off-loaded periodically, while the latter is discharged back onto the field. It all sounds pretty simple but to walk around a combine such as this is to be overwhelmed by an array of very heavy drive belts, pulleys, chains, sprockets, shafts, motors, hydraulic hoses, and cables. It always amazes me that the darn things actually work … and work, they do.

POSTSCRIPT: My good friend Maurice, at Duck? Starfish? But … 23? passed the following along for my appreciation. I responded that Joanna and I watched, and listened, smiled, laughed, and then smiled a bit more. Thanks Maurice.

10 thoughts on “Titan

  1. Have to agree with Mom on this one. Your images really do capture the farm lifestyle. The machinery is amazing in what it can do. So specific for this particular harvest. I’m guessing that if you own one you’d better know how to take care of it. Pretty sure there aren’t many places that repair these beasts! Looks like it was a beautiful day to get this work done. Today was a day to be inside … cold, wet and raw.

    • Farmers, by necessity, must learn all sorts of skills necessary to care for their equipment. I have always been much impressed and envious of their skill. You’d think that disassembling and trouble-shooting would be pretty easy … but the size of these machines, the weights involved, and their complexity make any sort of work, very difficult indeed. Under such circumstances none of my degrees is of any use and these folks think circles around me and know so much more. I marvel at their ability to do what they do. The kids who grow up in these families learn at an early age that you can’t rely on others to pull your ass out of the fire … you have to learn to do it yourself. It was very telling, a long time ago now, what Molly yelled when we were once having difficulties with a kitchen faucet … she commented, loud and clear, ‘Call somebody.’ The luxury of calling somebody, when your combine goes down on a Sunday afternoon, doesn’t exit. You have to set things right yourself … and these farmers do, because they have to, and they know it. It’s a whole different way of life … one that we have lived very close to for nearly two decades.

  2. Do you remember the song “Brand New Key” by Melanie Safka? Whenever I see a combine I am reminded by a very silly song, “Combine Harvester” by a British band called the Wurzels. It was popular for a bit here in NL around 40 years ago (for a few days). If you have not heard it just google “wurzels combine harvester” and the video will likely be the first hit. And I am using the word “hit” loosely I might add 🙂 On a more serious note, just yesterday I was pondering CRT TV screens and what marvelous inventions they were in their day – far more elegant in my opinion than LED which accomplish what they do through brute-force computing and not through a finely tuned interplay of particles, and their interactions with EM and E fields; in essence a thing of beauty. I have the same impression of the combine. It is a magnificent triumph of timing, torque, chopping and transport and tweaks my physics sensibilities in much the same way as does a modern day turbofan engine 🙂 I am surprised you did not comment on the physical beauty that is the working mechanism of the thing. I am impressed by how it manages to do so much, so efficiently, without getting royally bunged up every few meters of travel 🙂

    • Oh my … where in the heck did you find that? Joanna and I listened, smiled, laughed, and smiled some more. Sure, we remember ‘Brand New Key.’ Perhaps that’s why your ‘Combine Harvester’ struck such a chord. Thanks for passing it along, really. I think I’ll augment the original post with a YouTube link … just for fun. And, yes, I do marvel at how the things can put on hundreds of hours of very hard work and keep on ticking (with bits of preventative maintenance here and there). Thanks for providing a bit of levity this evening – much needed. D

  3. The top image is very interesting – as if the colors in the background, the green in particular, would be mirrored by the green machine. I also like the interplay of those different lines, the horizon, the “trails” of clouds, the borders of the already processed area, and of course the cutter/reel of the combine.

  4. I am not sure which is more impressive – the size and efficiency of the machinery or the ingenuity that created them. I think I have seen only a few spots around here where a piece of that size could function. That’s a lot of tamari out there.

    • Yeah … combines, like all pieces of farm machinery, are crazy things. Wonderful when they work and miserable when the don’t. So many moving parts (which move at such high speed and with little tolerance) and all interdependent. Keeping a machine like this in good, working, shape is quite an undertaking. Scale up the size and complexity … to something like a jet or a rocket engine, and I absolutely don’t know how those things manage to function. Perhaps my incredulity may be traced to the fact that I’m not an engineer.

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