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Published July 18, 2011, 10:03 PM

Texting while tractoring

TOWNER, N.D. — I’m starting to feel like I’m reaching full productivity here on the ranch now that I’ve got a smart phone buzzing and chiming in my pocket.

By: Ryan Taylor, Special to Agweek

TOWNER, N.D. — I’m starting to feel like I’m reaching full productivity here on the ranch now that I’ve got a smart phone buzzing and chiming in my pocket.

A lot of modern agriculture is about driving, and even in cattle ranching, or North Dakota ranching, you have to spend a lot of time hanging on to a steering wheel. Making hay, spraying invasive weeds, hauling salt and mineral to the cows — it all has you behind the wheel driving three to four miles an hour across the landscape for hours on end.

Now, with my smart phone and its full internet and email capabilities, I can do two or three things at once. The things I used to have to go back to the house to do now can be done while I’m doing other jobs that also needed doing.

It’s one thing to be gawking at your phone and typing text when you’re going a turtle’s speed across an endless sea of grass, and quite another to be one of those who think they should do it when they’re hurtling down a highway at 70 miles an hour on a road they’re sharing with others and their families. So I don’t advocate texting while driving, but texting while tractoring, in a field and not on road mind you, is changing the way I operate.

I’ve also seen some texting while on horseback, or, at the least, cell phone answering while riding horse across the open range if it’s within reach of a cell tower. But, an annoying ring tone on the wrong green broke colt is a good way to find yourself walking home and picking grass out of your ear.

High and low tech

I reckon there are lots of farmers with global positioning and auto steer technology who can really do a lot of web surfing and communicating while they’re out in the field. My smart phone finds its best utilization on my dumb equipment.

Now that I’m baling, I’m sure glad I didn’t spend several thousand dollars extra for my baler to have the super quick net wrap option. By using good old-fashioned twine to tie my bales, I’m allowed about 60 seconds to email someone from my phone while the bale is tying.

And sometimes I continue typing after I’ve kicked the bale out and I drive on to make the next bale. My distraction kind of helps the tractor weave back and forth to find each edge of the windrow to fill the baler, hopefully evenly.

Otherwise I pick up on the typing when its time to tie the next bale. I’m one of those guys who likes to use whole words and correct spelling, even when I’m typing with my thumbs. Old habit I guess. I still write “you” instead of “u,” and “are” instead of “r.” So sometimes it takes several bales to complete a dictionary perfect and grammatically correct outgoing message.

Staying connected

My old spraying rig and the terrain and leafy spurge I’m spraying doesn’t allow for straight lines, and that’s okay, because I’m doing important stuff such as monitoring Facebook on my phone to see who just did something really important on Farmville that had to be shared with everyone, or I’m checking the weather to see how stiff the breeze is or how soon it’s going to rain again.

And sometimes, when I can’t catch a signal from our distant cell tower, I just . . . pay attention to my work and my surroundings. Maybe the smartest thing I can do with the addictive smart phone is shut it off and put it away. Right after I respond to one last message.

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