Sunday, April 27, 2014

How to Till a Straight Row

I was out tilling for the first time of the season today. We use a large walk behind tractor with a 36 inch rototiller attachment.

She is a beauty, cobalt blue paint, 13 horsepower, live PTO and 3 speed transmission. It will till down full sized corn, virgin sod, small sapling trees, you name it, nothing can stop my tiller. Did you know that Ferrari made my tiller, yep she's an "import". Like Dave Ramsey says, "It is the Status Symbol of Choice" for Italian farmers. Funny thing is, it has a Honda engine. Well I'm not Italian, but it works good for Scandinavian farmers too.

I was making trenches for planting potatoes. Nope I didn't plant yet, even though Good Friday, the traditional day for planting potatoes, has come and gone. I got to thinking about how you get the tiller to make straight rows. Farmers pride ourselves on straight rows, especially when you are planting a crop. Because if you don't get the rows straight you have to look at crooked rows for a whole season. Plus if you get them too close together you can't till between them and the weeds take over.

I had a college age guy working for me a few years ago and he was the first of our hired farm workers that I had let run the tiller. He generally did OK, but there was a problem, he couldn't get the rows straight. Well I'm going to let you in on a secret that will change your life and help you get your rows straight.

My college age worker had two issues with not getting the rows straight.

  1. He thought you had to "wrestle" with the tilling machine to get it to do what you wanted. He typically had both handles firmly in a death grip. He was trying to make sure there was no deviation from the path no matter how small and insignificant. Well this is not the best way to  handle a machine like this. This type of tiller is well balanced and requires only minimal guidance. In fact it is designed so that you can stand off to the side and guide the tiller with just one hand.  The key insight here is to design a system for ease of use and then use the system the way it is intended. If you have good people on your team and good processes, then you should not have to manage them with a death grip.
  2. He didn't have a long term view. He was looking at the ground, his feet mainly. I have found to chart a straight path to most any goal you have to pick a long term reference point. When tilling you need to pick an immovable point at the far end of the field. This is typically a tree or post that is as close to your destination as possible. You look at the goal and walk toward the reference point. When my worker took this approach his rows were much straighter.
The moral of this story is create good systems and let them work for you. Keep your eye on the goal and your path will be straighter in life.

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