In the Shop
As a farm machinery mechanic and writer, Dan brings a hands-on approach that only a pro can muster. Along with his In the Shop blog, Dan writes a column by the same name as well as the Shop Series for Farm Journal magazine. Always providing practical information, he is a master at tackling technical topics and making them easy for all of our readers to understand. He and his wife, Becky, live near Bouton, Iowa.
A Bit Grumpy
Sep 09, 2008
This is the second night I've toiled on stories at my keyboard with aching muscles and joints. Feverish. My lungs hurt when I breathe deep. Intermittent chills make my fingers dance off the keys every so often. And it's all my own fault.
Twenty-some years ago I cleaned out a bin of corn that was moldy at the bottom. Call it "dust flu" or "dust pneumonia," I spent two days in bed. Since then, every time I'm exposed to a certain type of corn dust/mold, I'm guaranteed a miserable evening and possibly a day away from work.
i don't know exactly what triggers the symptoms. Most moldy, dusty grains aren't a problem. But there's a certain whitish-gray, "dry" smelling dust that I've learned to be wary of. If a combine comes into the shop fresh from the field covered with that dust or gives off that smell, I've learned to endure the discomfort of wearing a dust mask. Otherwise...it's "fever city" that evening.
The culprit for this week's discomfort was a particularly filthy combine that came into the shop. The owner apparently isn't big on cleaning up his machine during harvest or before he stores it for the winter. By the time I scoop-shoveled the big piles of year-old corn stalks and leaves off the feederhouse and out of the engine compartment, and used an air hose to blow the smaller piles away, I could taste the familiar flavor in the back of my throat, and knew I was going to have an uncomfortable couple of days.
Yes, it's my own fault. I should have taken one look at that pig and put on a dust mask, then power-washed the entire machine with a steam cleaner. But I was trying to save time and get the machine finished as quickly as possible in the face of the fast-approaching harvest. So here I sit, in mid-chilllllllllll, trying to keep my fingers from convulsing against the keys, so I can confess my stupidity to you, and put out a warning to think twice when working on dirty equipment as you prepare for this year's harvest, or put that equipment away after you finish harvest.
Especially if you're susceptible to dust flu, dust pneumonia, or whatever they call this particular type of crud.