Harvest 2012 is “on hold”, once again, due to Mother Nature’s fickle attitude! We received over an inch of rain and the fields are wet again. So we will have a few days to regroup and hope for some sunshine and windy drying days.
There is always something to do, even “on hold”. We are continually checking lights on all our vehicles so we can be visible to others when working late into the night. In our rural area everyone is very aware of the slow moving equipment on the roads during harvest. We live on a busy state highway, though, so sometimes others are traveling through and not aware of how slowly some of the machines travel. We once had a corn planter rear ended just as it was turning into our driveway from the main highway. It was well lit with rear flashing lights and reflective decals. The person who ran into our planter was from out of town and said he saw the planter but didn’t realize how slowly it was moving. Luckily no one was hurt.
A few days ago, One of our less experienced employees let the grain holding bin run over and that was a small disaster. We have a series of grain augers. The grain (usually corn at our farm) is dumped into a hopper which has an augrr that leads to a holding bin. When the holding bin gets full, we stop feeding grain through the auger because there is no where for it to go. Unfortunately when things are busy, it’s easy to forget to check everything. The holding bin filled up, the auger then filled up, but the grain kept trying to move through the auger. Something had to give and it was the mechanism inside the auger. Repairs needed were not costly money-wise but time-wise because it takes awhile to remove the inner workings on the auger and either fix it or replace it and then put it all back together.
The holding bin leads into the grain dryer where measured amounts of corn are dried.. When the corn reaches a specified moisture level, it moves through another auger into the more permanent storage bin. You might think that this is the end. Corn picked, dried, and stored. But when in the storage bin it is continually monitored. There are fans that keep the grain cool and dry. There are sweeps inside the bin the stirs the grain so it doesn’t clump up and get hot spots from the moisture. Grain isn’t any good if it molds or spoils so its just as important to keep an eye on it as it is to harvest it.
We usually sell the grain in January or early in the year. This all depends on the prices. Many years we contract our grain for a certain price. But that’s a gamble because prices could rise or fall quickly. Many farmers watch the markets daily and play the same games as the guys you see on Wall Street. It’s a gamble. It can pay off or not.
When we get ready to sell the grain, we again have an unloading auger which brings the grain out of the bin back into a truck. Maybe the same truck that brought it there in the first place! Then we haul the truck load full of grain to the elevator or grain terminal. Times have changed since I first married my farmer. I used to haul with a truck pulling a gravity wagon or sometimes a tractor pulling 2 gravity wagons. This was time consuming because you could not haul as much as a semi trailer and you had to make more trips. Nowadays, most farmers have semi trailers and can haul larger quantities at a time.
When we are on hold, my husband also checks over the combine carefully, replacing anything that needs replaced. Belts, tines, chains….. preventive medicine, we call it. Better to fix it before it breaks than to break down on a lovely sunny day when harvest time is perfect. There are always oil filters to check, fuel filters, and air filters. Harvesting is dirty and dusty so we also have a portable generator that can be taken to the field or used at the farm to blow out the dust from the machine allowing it to operate more efficiently. Fuel lines, belts, and hydraulic hoses are checked daily and replaced as needed.
One good thing about being “on hold” is that my farmer and his crew can have some time to breathe and get a good nights sleep. Long hours in the field are sometimes necessary but we all know that lack of sleep is not good for any of us. So this weekend is a nice lazy weekend with some time to spend on the books and machinery maintenance and going out for a nice leisurely supper (not served on the tailgate!)