It is finally harvest time. Like everything else this year, it is a month and a half late. Not only are the corn and soybeans ripening, but the sporadic rains are making things difficult as well. After the severity of the drought, no one is complaining about the rain we are getting, even though it is too late to make a difference on the crop yields. The grain yields are better this year than last, but we are a long ways from having bumper crops. The yields are about average if you’d compare them to a ten year harvest history. Because this is Kansas, and prone to droughts, we haven’t raised much corn. This corn harvest is the highest-yielding corn we’ve ever raised. We have never had 100 bushels of corn per acre on any more than one field before, but this year we have several fields that are yielding that. Caption (below): Rosanna’s brother, Kevin, tackles hay bales.
Outside of the weather delays, things are going pretty smoothly. Before the harvest starts, the boys always service the combines and trucks so that they hopefully won’t have equipment breakdowns when they are busy bringing in the crops. So far, we haven’t had anything major break down, but we won’t be congratulating ourselves until all the crops are brought in. There’s around 600 acres that need harvested as soon as possible, and our combines only average about 80 acres in a day. There are two combines this year, which is a good thing since the soybeans are ripening the same time as the corn. For ten years we have used Marvin’s old but faithful John Deere combine that could harvest seven rows at a time. This year Marvin upgraded to a John Deere that can harvest eight rows of grain in a sweep. That doesn’t sound like much of an improvement, but in a field it really adds up. Not only that, the new 9500 combine has a larger “holding tank” onboard , so we don’t have to stop as often to unload. The old grain truck is running smoothly since the boys replaced the engine last year, plus they have a semi to help with the grain trucking. This old Kenworth isn’t very pretty, but it’s a workhorse. The boys got this semi in exchange for cleaning out a neighbor’s shed. Wrangler, Marvin’s yellow Lab, loves riding in trucks. My brother Ivin boosted him up into the semi cab so that he could ride in to the grain elevator to empty the truck.
Everyone wants to be a part in the harvest, and the new combine has a roomy cab that accommodates riders more easily. Steven gave me a ride around the cornfield in the new combine. Combine cabs are really amazing. You are in a little glass cubicle eight feet off the ground. The floor-to- ceiling glass gives you a 300 degree view of the field. And it is an unusual sight, too. You get the birds- eye view down into the rows of ripened grains. The cutter bar, reels and augers are right at your feet outside the window which gives you a dizzying glimpse of the crops as they are clipped from their roots, then tumbled back into the combine to be sorted. The cab is nice for sight-seeing, but it does have some comfort draw-backs. The air conditioners are broke, and all that glass just acts like a greenhouse. Opening the door for fresh air doesn’t really work because the combine creates a lot of dust. Caption (below): Rosanna, far right, and her family at the Mother Earth News Fair in Lawrence, Kansas recently.
This year, harvest is even more enjoyable for our family as we have a new member to share it with. Marvin’s daughter Ava is two and a half years old and very enthused about farm life. Ava already likes tractors and farm equipment because it means she gets to be with her Daddy. But the combine harvester is her new favorite. Ava zeroes in on any toy or picture of a combine and her eyes light up. “Combine, combine!” she whispers. (Instead of shouting, Ava whispers when she’s excited, a switch her mother loves.) She has learned how to imitate a combine by crooking her elbows and moving her arms in a circular motion similar to the reel on a wheat and bean header. On a recent visit to our house, Ava spent half of her time gazing at Kevin’s toy tractor collection. While Ava dearly loves her little sister, and reading books with her mother, she also loves being outside with her daddy. And nearly everything her Daddy does at harvest is safe enough for a little two year old to tag along with. Little farmer that she is, she can already differentiate between the wheat, soybeans and corn crops. As much as is possible, the boys give Ava a ride in the combine. She plasters herself to the window for the best possible view of the header gobbling up the crop. She can ride for hours thus entertained. Marvin was nearly as excited as Ava when he let her out of the combine cab after her initiation ride for corn harvesting. “Now THIS is what farming is all about!” Marvin declared with satisfaction.
“What? The harvesting?” Dad asked.
“No, This:” Marvin replied pointing at his little daughter whose eyes were still wide with excitement. And he is correct. The number one reason farmers keep on farming is for the future. Farming is truly a futuristic occupation. Sure, there’s the satisfaction of a job well done and the inspiration of honest toil, but half of what a farmer does he will not see the returns of in his active lifetime. If there’s not a child, a family, or a community to share the fruits of your labor with, there is only half as much reason to keep up the hard work of farming. If you take the family out of the farm, there isn’t much of a farm left. We farm because we love it, but love is something that needs to be shared. Even a poor harvest is deemed successful if we have been able to see a child’s eyes light up in wonder, or introduce some new soul to the beauty of farming.