Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Power and Peril

    I always enjoy a visit to Empire Farm Days the first week in August each year. I plan my visit so I can walk up each street of this exhibition and stop at any venue that sparks my interest.  By noon I will have seen about half of the displays and by mid afternoon I will complete my rounds.   Then it will be time to watch some of the field demonstrations.
     As an engineer, I am always examining the mechanisms of the various machines and speculating on the manufacturing processes.   Obviously there are a multitude of processes that include  welding, forging, casting, milling and so on.   One can always ask the question,  How do they do that?
    What struck me this year was the consistently enormous size of many of the machines on display.  The monster sizes tend to be the tractors, combines, and forage harvesters.    Also added to that list would be a specialized liquid manure spreader and large square and round hay balers.    With all the power available, there is a need for tools of equally gigantic size.   That means one will find 6 or more bottom plows and 24 foot or more tillers and rollers.   A far cry from my days on the farm in the 1940's and 50's.
    So we have seen a huge growth in the size of the machinery and the power units associated with them.  Change that has made farming more of a corporate activity than a way of life.  Although some small equipment is still made, it is difficult for a small farmer to compete with large land holdings and dairy herds.    Beyond the power issue, What do the small and large holdings have in common?   Now I get to the issue of peril.
   Farming is a hazardous occupation.   Tractors roll over,  machinery operators can be caught up in the machines and often children are inadvertently injured by their proximity to hazards and their curiosity.   Unfortunately even at the Empire Farm Days the peril of agriculture was tragically emphasized this year when a youngster was injured in a hoof trimming machine.   It is heartening at this time that although his injuries were sever, he seems to be in recovery.  We all hope and pray his recovery will be complete.
    One may ask if there is progress in making farming a safer occupation.  The answer in my opinion is a qualified yes.   All the machines I examined during this years visit had excellent shielding of gears, belts, sprockets and shafts.   All tractors had rollover protective structures.   Panic bars and emergency stops were prominent.  However, with all the mechanical elements for safety in place there are still hazards that related to operator error and bystander peril.   Also, although new machines adhere to higher standards of safe design, there are still thousands of agricultural tractors still in service without roll over protective structures.   Thankfully there is a program to retrofit these tractors supported by the State of New York and operated by the New York Center for Agricultural Medicine and Health out of the Mary Bassett Hospital in Cooperstown, NY.  Each year I make it a point to stop by their display to get the latest stats on retrofitting.  
    In conclusion, I consider myself fortunate to have survived the hazards of farming as a lad and to have reached geezer status.
Making Firewood the Easy Way

Liquid Manure Applicator- Nozzles Front, Rear and Sides

Forage Harvester

Six Bottom Plow

Round Bale Wrapping Machine
470 Horsepower - Probably $500,000 

Monday, August 4, 2014

An Alaska Cruise

   Only a few days back from an Alaska Cruise.  Still adjusting to time change and in de-tox from massive amounts of food.  Our first cruise and it was a dandy.  First class all the way except for the air flights.   However, even the flights were all on time and hassle free.  A relatively small ship of 685 passengers with a crew of over 400.  
   The food was outstanding, the company was delightful and on board entertainment was first class with a new show every night with a live band.
Upon arrival at Seattle we were transported to the ship by a witty tour bus operator and soon settle into our state room.  Cozy but quite functional with a substantial window view of the surroundings.   After an almost immediate safety drill we were free to fully explore the ship.   Several first class restaurants and cafe and other food service locations were available.   Eleven decks gave us a plethora of viewing sites.  Pool, hot tub, putting green, ping pong and shuffle board for diversions.   And a magnificent library stocked with the latest bestsellers.   Afternoon tea the order of the day a 4:00PM.
   From Seattle we sailed to Ketchikan, Alaska our first port.   Ketchikan is an island with about 10,000 residents near the Tongass National Forest.   Fishing and lumbering dominate the economy along with tourism.  Our tour in Ketchikan included a Lumberjack Show on the pier and a native culture visit to a long house and totem pole park.   Learned about the indigenous culture of the Tclingit peoples.  Nancy even got to dance with them in a ceremonial dance with a native costume.   The visit also included a demonstration by the totem pole master carvers.
     From Ketchikan we sailed up into the Tracy Arm and on up to the Sawyer Glacier.   The Arm is a relatively narrow channel with the water near the glacier colored by the glacial melt.  Steep mountains bracketed the channel with awesome views of streams and valleys reaching to the waters edge.  (On board ship we had a lecture each day pertinent to the our sighting of whales, the fisheries and geology of the area.  Superb quality for the presentations.)
    After the glacier we head south to Wrangell, Alaska as the second port of call.  During the sailings we enjoyed socializing at the dinners and lunches.  Many of the cruisers were members of university alumni groups as we were included in the forty or so Cornell Alumni hosted by Terry Hahn of the Cornell Alumni support organization.  Terry and Cornell provided a wonderful evening reception with champagne, goodies and pictures.   We also had a group dinner one evening with singing of Evening Song and the Cornell Alma Mater.     During our Wrangell visit on an island with about 2000 residents we walked the town a bit and visited further indigenous sites and a museum.  More totem poles and visit to a beach with petroglyphs from 2000 to 10,000 years old.
     From Wrangell, Alaska we cruised further south in the inner channel to Prince Rupert, British Columbia for our visit to Canada.  Prince Rupert is a beautiful city on an island as well.  We were greeted as we left the ship by the Mayor flanked by two lovely Canadian Mountie women in splendid dress red.  Our Prince Rupert stop included another indigenous culture museum visit and a stroll through a beautiful seaside memorial park.
Pilot Boat Leaving Ship After Transfer

Lumberjack Show -Ketchikan, Alaska

Nancy, Raven Dancer

Sawyer Glacier in Tracy Arm, Alaska

Cornell Flag, Center

Totem Park, Prince Rupert, B.C.

Mayor, Mounties and Friends, Prince Rupert. B.C.

Regatta Ship in Background of Memorial Park, Prince Rupert, B.C.
    With an evening departure from Prince Rupert we moved into the outer channel out to sea fro our run to Seattle.  On the open sea for the first time we encountered enough of a sea to have significant motion of the ship.   Both an up and down and rolling motion.   Need to have some sea legs.  After a night day and night of sailing we arrive in Seattle to disembark from a glorious journey.
  In retrospect, it is hard to capture all the feelings and experiences of the journey in a narrative.   For us it was wonderful first cruise experience.  Who knows we might do something like this again.   Of course it will have to be during the off ski season!