Saturday, July 27, 2013

Farm Bulletin: A Mechanical Meltdown

Farming, as contributor Anthony Boutard of Ayers Creek Farm, reminds us, is not all the gentle art of sowing seeds and waiting for them to break forth from the soil. Sometimes the whole harvest can come to a screeching halt when a mechanical part decides to have a meltdown.

High summer is the season of dust—the wind, the combines, the plows and traffic all keep the air well endowed. Even walking across the field sends up clouds. It penetrates the clothing and clogs the nasal passages. Every year, as the main berry season approaches, we order in three or four truckloads of crushed rock to dress the road from the field to the farm buildings. This fresh band of rock helps reduce the dust when we bring the berries to the packing room.

The new pump installed…Anthony would have preferred claret or lime, but gray is all they had.

Thursday we set up the 50 horsepower pump (top photo) in case we need to increase the humidity the field so as to prevent damage by ultra-violet radiation when the field temperature passes 90°F (32°C). It ran for a few minutes and then we got the dreaded ALARM 14 EARTH FAULT on the variable frequency drive, the pump's brain. The drives were programmed in Denmark so they use the British term for the ground. We battled this problem last year, but it was erratic and the resetting the computer worked. This time the gremlin settled in and resetting did not work.

We spent a couple of hours troubleshooting the problem with the electrician on the phone, connecting and disconnecting leads on the 430 volt system. It was not a temperamental drive or a bad cord, the motor was simply toast. Once again, Ernst Irrigation pulled through and we have new motor on the pump in less than 24 hours after diagnosing the problem. Credit also to our staff who know how to scramble when we need their help, making it easier for the technicians to carry out the swap.

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