I often think of farming as a complicated square dance. You have one main partner, but you have to dance with many others and you have to make the moves at just the right time or the dance falls apart. Tilling, fertilizing, planting, spraying, cultivating, harvesting, hauling. Repeat. You better not get your do si do mixed up with your allemande left!
Soybean and corn harvest in our area begins in September or October. Mother Nature dictates the exact dates and times. It has been a dry growing season for us here in Ohio, but we received more rainfall than many of our neighboring states and even other farmers in our same county. As is sometimes the case, the rain came later and now our fields are still pretty “soft” . Running equipment on soft or muddy ground makes it difficult to work the next season. Large tires and heavy machines can cause ruts that are not easily worked out in preparation for the next crop. It’s a waiting game …more like a waiting gamble. We know winter is coming soon and the longer we wait, the more the wind and rain can affect our crops still standing in the field.
Frost is a friend, for it kills the weeds that can tangle up in the combine and mix with the grain. Too many weeds in the grain can cause a lower price for our product. Moisture can be a friend or a foe. A little moisture gives a heavier weight to the grain and we are paid by weight, but too much moisture means higher drying costs.
There are always surprises and calamities. Last October a small undetected oil leak caused a fire and our combine was destroyed. In the middle of harvest, our busiest time of the year, we now needed to shop for a new combine. We were lucky to find a
new used combine; bigger and with more features. The combine we lost in the fire was ready to be replaced. (You just have to look on the bright side). The fields were wet and soft that season, too, and our smaller combine could just not get through the fields. Our new used combine came at just the right time.
It is not only harvest time on our farm, it is planting time for our winter wheat crop. As soon as a field of soybeans is harvested, we apply fertilizer (top-dressing) to the field and then use our no-till drill to inject the wheat seeds into the ground. It comes up… “makes a stand” and then lies over the winter and in the early spring begins to mature into a wheat crop that will be harvested in July. Here, again, a big gamble exists. Winter wheat loves a blanket of snow. But no ice, please. Mother Nature calls the shots again.
I have been involved in the harvest in different ways over the years. While I don’t often drive the tractor or combine, I have hauled many loads of grain to the grain terminal and I have always been the chief cook. It might seem like a minor role to play but keeping the men energized is pretty important because they put in some long hours. I have a pretty good system (after 41 years I have learned a couple of things) I have all kinds of containers and thermal food carriers to keep foot hot and/or cold, lots of thermoses for coffee. You need twice as many as you think you need because no one ever remembers to bring the thermoses back to the house. I know what foods work best for travel and I shop all summer long for easy snacks, bottled water, and things that are easy to eat on the tailgate of the truck. I am much better at the cooking role now that I am retired. For 35 years, I would rush home from work, get meals ready for the men, deliver (sometimes to several locations) then bring everything home and clean up. Prepare for school the next day. Make sure the kids had their homework done, get them ready for bed. Then there was laundry and housework. The only way to get through it all was to remember that it only last a few weeks and then things get back to normal.