Saturday, August 20, 2011

Harvest - Day 6 - A Generation Lost

I was hoping to write a little more often than six days, but that is how it goes. Waiting for trucks, a minor breakdown, and a high school practice football game (Orange and Black game) have kept me in the field longer which has deprived me of sleep. Anyway, it is the weekend and no phone calls that are really demanding.
I finished up the first field Tuesday but haven’t had a chance to tally the final yield. If you are a Facebook friend you have seen some of the pictures I posted. It is definitely one of my favorite fields because of the view down the Clearwater River canyon, the route that Lewis and Clark took to the Pacific.
It took me Tuesday to Friday to finish up the second field (twice as large as the first) and I moved onto the third one. Wednesday brought the mechanic out in the morning to replace a couple of bushings for the straw walkers. We had it apart and at the shop so he could press them in. It is very crucial to get them seated properly.
But as I have been cutting I have been thinking about a generation that was lost this year. My great aunt, Henny Reil, passed away earlier this year at the age of 96. Looking at her house is not the same. Her husband and my grandparents farmed together in the 20’s and 30’s. Her mind was still sharp up to the end.
This will be the first harvest in my memory that there will not be 4 generations alive. The wealth of knowledge and history that is lost is immeasurable. I asked Henny earlier this year if she ever remembered a year this wet and she said no. We had a record amount of rain and I didn’t get any spring crops planted.
As I am sitting on my butt going around in circles, I have been wondering about farming and the future for my boys. What major changes will be made in my lifetime that will seem foreign? Will farmers be regulated out of business? Will they even be able to keep farming? These questions bother me because I don’t have the answer.
I think of the changes that happened in Henny’s lifetime like the move away from horse drawn equipment to mechanized farming. The change from steel wheels and tracks to ones made from rubber. Or to the extreme, the use of Unmanned Air Vehicles (UAVs) and auto steering to assist with farming.
Today, our lives are so dependent upon electricity of one form or another. I use it to light my shop, run my welder, grinders and drill press. Gone is the stationary motor and drive wheels on the wall to run shop equipment.
What would I do without my Android smart phone, Jawbone ear piece, yield monitor, or camera to help me during harvest? I can call about markets, talk to the service department, and take pictures of problems in the field. But are we better off for the advancements?
There are some in the U.S. and world, elitists that are trying to halt advances for agriculture and business. They would almost like to see us go back to riding horses. I mean, how does the EPA expect us to regulate dust on a job that requires us to work in dirt? Should we all go back to picking berries and eating pemmican?
No, I believe the advances made during the lifetime of my great aunt have made us better as people and a society. We are not only living longer, but we are living better. The American people don’t have to worry about food, it has always been there.
Why? It is because of the advancements of technology. I am thankful that I don’t have to farm with horses anymore; I deal with enough horse puckey as it is due to radicals and government regulations. Take care and keep it between the fences!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Harvest - Day 1

It is that time of year again (finally)….HARVEST!
Yesterday we put the water tank on the back of my pickup in case of fires,
did a few odds and ends, and moved equipment to the field. Put the header on the combine, set the fan, concave spacing and rotor speed and calibrated the yield monitor.
With the engine going full throttle I gently place the header into the wheat to start harvest. Wheat bunches up on the platform because the rust and grime isn’t worn off yet and cut up the hill to where we will park the equipment for this field.
I cut my circle, the bankout wagon is placed, and the disc is put into the ground to provide black dirt to park equipment on to reduce the threat of fire. I move the combine around to a straw free spot after dumping a full bulk tank load into the wagon.
Chris climbs into the wagon with a can for a sample and we head to town to get a moisture reading. At the elevator the moisture tests 10.5 and we are good to go for harvest (moisture needs to be 12 or less). We head back home to get the semi, service rig, and lunch boxes.
When I get to the field it starts to sprinkle. I climb into the cab, set up my cell booster and climb back out to put tarps on the truck, trailer, and wagon. It quits raining. I stand there with my brother and hired man looking at the root structure of the wheat that was worked up (basically killing time) and contemplate cutting or not. I get back on the combine (this is around 1:30) and it cuts beautifully.
The boys come out to the field (they were at a basketball clinic) and run wagon, Rhonda takes pictures, and our hired man drives the truck to the elevator. I am dumping into the wagon while watching a rabbit run at everyone because his home is now headed to the elevator. Yields aren’t bad, but I haven’t been able to calibrate the monitor with a weight.
Both Rhonda and Logan ride with me on the combine and Dillon leaves for football practice. We see a couple of deer and fill up the truck, trailer and wagons for tomorrow. We head for home after walking around the combine around 8 pm. The one paycheck that a farmer receives for his hard work, the investment, and worrying that has to last 365 days is finally here.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Harvest Almost Ready

Well it has been awhile since I have last posted in April. Farming is a busy occupation and when you throw kids in the mix, it is almost insane. I did not get any spring crop planted, the trees that blew down in November were cut up and taken to the mill, and we ended up with two cutting of alfalfa hay.

Today however we are nearing harvest. We have winter wheat to cut and this will be my shortest harvest in memory. I figure it will take around 8 days to cut our wheat baring any breakdowns.

My little brother Chris has been working on the farm full time and Dillon and Logan go back to school on the 24th.My hired men will be helping out again as well to drive truck and Rhonda will be cooking meals, taking care of the farm, and running the boys to registration and practices.

I am looking forward to harvest right now because there is an opportunity for Chris and Dillon to learn how to properly run a combine. Depending upon the weather I am sure they will get their chances.

Looking back on this year, it is almost a blessing that I did not plant any spring crops because we are already 2-3 weeks later than normal and the garbanzo beans look like they will be ready late September to early October.

Another reason I am thankful for not planting a spring crop is my Fellowship. I leave on October 14th for Argentina. Most of the meetings are in place, airline tickets are purchased, and hotels are reserved. As I get closer to my departing date I will give a better account of my meetings.

Back to harvest. The combine is as ready as we can make it, the semi is ready, and all the tractors and wagons are good to go. Water tanks and extinguishers are filled in case of fire, and tools are ready in case of breakdown. The Jawbone is connected to the Android and the Insight is ready to give me instant feedback.

Even though harvest is the most stressful time of the year, I am thankful that I am a farmer. What other occupation can a person have that allows them to see their family any time and to watch their kids grow right before their eyes. Even when they take time to pose from getting equipment ready or Bandit get into the groove.

To all of those that are harvesting, good luck and God Bless!