August is usually a time when you can catch up on some stuff that gets passed over. Maybe one last spray to clean up the barn lot, one more time to mow the roads before Labor Day, preparations for harvest, or my personal favorite -- sweeping grain bins.
Yeah, I’m sure you could hear the sarcasm coming through.
Fortunately, we have been able to take advantage of cooler weather and started sweeping some bins. It’s so busy earlier in the year, it is not uncommon for us to run the sweeps around the bins and leave the tedious broom and shovel work for later. Later has now come.
A dangerous job
‘Sweeping’ bins is inherently dangerous. As the open-sided auger rotates (or sweeps) around the bin, you have to be paying attention. There are plenty of opportunities to endanger yourself. It really should be a two-person job (one person supervising near the shut-off, the other watching the sweep). It is also one place where a mask has always been required. The last few years, I’ve even added earplugs to the wardrobe. A half empty auger loudly echoes in a mostly empty grain bin.
Usually, Dad or I take the sweep around the bin, and then when it has pulled all the grain in that it can, we bring in hand labor with shovels and brooms. We move the grain toward the center of the bin where it can be taken out when the unloading auger is turned back on. We will run the sweep again and the process is repeated until all the grain has been removed from the bin.
In some of the larger bins, it can take 3 or 4 times through this process. Sometimes when labor is sufficient, the job can be done in one trip (as in the picture). Grain is shoveled into the sweep as it circles the bin and the broom follows close behind.
Fortunately, we don’t have any IP (identity preserved) crops this year. IP crops make this job even more intensive as you basically have to have the bin ‘kernel clean.’ That means no grain left at all.
This is typical of a seed or specialty product. It is also true the first time you put non-GMO into a storage bin previously used for a GMO crop. Bins have to be clean when you start to ensure nothing left over can contaminate the new crop being stored.
Sometime after the bins are swept, but before harvest, the bins are sprayed with insecticide to kill any bugs that may live under the floor or in residue on the walls. This helps to ensure a quality product is delivered to market.
On the bright side, sweeping bins can be a good work-out. Every year I think: hey, I’ve worked up a good sweat today, maybe this will jumpstart my fitness plan. But then I’m so thirsty I go in the house and drink a quart of lemonade.