This was a great week for harvesting grain and farmers were out in force across the countryside. Yesterday I saw a dozen combines in fields between Oslo, Minn., and East Grand Forks when I was reporting on a story, and on my way home after work to our farm near Larimore, I saw several more.
Three combines in a field was a common sight. They can really eat up a field quickly and we passed several with only straw and stubble left on them. Some of the fields already were being chisel-plowed. The efficiency of agriculture and the speed at which farmers can complete their work these days amazes me. They can do in a day what it took four or five to do when I was growing up on the farm.
One of the fun parts of being a reporter is the opportunity to get out of the office and talk to people. I had a great morning on Thursday when I got to ride in two combines while working on a harvest story for the Herald. One farmer was combining wheat and the other was combining barley. I rode a round with each of them and talked to them about this year’s crops.
Riding in the combine brings back a lot of memories of harvest at our house when I was growing up. I not ony rode in combines, but also on swathers and in grain trucks with my dad and brothers.
Harvest is the culmination of a season of hard work and I’m glad I got to be part of it growing up and that I still get a chance now and then to get a close-up look at it.
Stormy weather is forecast for yet another night. I hope the prediction isn’t accurate for a number of reasons. The primary one is that the ground is saturated. The bean and corn fields near our farm have water standing in the rows and the wheat has lodged in some spots.
I also hope it doesn’t rain for more selfish reasons: 1) I’m tired of being surrounded by mosquito-breeding ponds and want the water to dry up so me and my family can be outside witthout being attacked and bitten. 2.) I want to get a good night’s sleep. The crash of thunder and the sound of sheets of rain hitting the window awakened me at 3 a.m. today, and after I got up to make sure all of the windows were closed, I had trouble going back to sleep. 3.) I’d like to get the lawn mowed before it gets tall enough to bale. Although it’s only been a week since we last mowed, the lawn has grown several inches. It really should be mowed twice a week, but even if we had time to do that, we wouldn’t have been able to this week because it didn’t stop raining long enough. 4.) I want the basement floor to stay dry so I can wash clothes without sloshing through water.
Today I’m feeling the effect of lack of sleep. A quiet night and sunny Saturday would be the perfect remedy for that.
A few weeks ago the prospects of getting the fall crops out of the field looked dim. The majority of the corn and sunflowers and a good share of the beans and flax were still in the field and looked like they would remain there until spring.
Meantime, I had pretty much given up on getting our remaining fall chores done and figured I’d be fowarding them to my spring list.
November’s super weather, though, changed all of that. The warm, dry days have allowed farmers to get a good share of their crops out of the field. Farmers in my area of western Grand Forks County have finished up everything but corn, and the combines have been running long hours the past several days marching their way through those fields.
We’ve been able to get the chores on my list done, so we’re set for the winter.
The weather this month is another reminder of how important it is to trust that things will turn out OK, even when it doesn’t look like they possibly could. I have the greatest respect for farmers who deal with the unpredictably of the weather year after year. I admire their faith in the face of adversity and their perseverence to continue working in a profession that would give me ulcers.
I woke up early yesterday morning to find snow a few inches deep covering the ground and tree branches bent over by the weight of the heavy white stuff. The power was out so I fed the horses by flashlight. The lights came on shortly after I finished feeding them so at least I didn’t have to get dressed and make breakfast for my children in the dark.
My oldest son was ill so I stayed home with him and didn’t get off of the farm all day. I was surprised when I drove to work today that all of the snow had melted in Grand Forks. Our yard still had a couple of inches covering it when I left for work, but I assume it will be gone when I get home. The warm (relatively speaking) temperature and rain likely will melt it.
I hope so because I want to mow the lawns one last time this weekend. It’s supposed to be windy Saturday and Sunday which should dry up some of the soggy mess. It’s hard to get fall chores done when it’s constantly raining. I realize, though, that my complaints are minor compared to farmers trying to ge their beets, beans and corn out of the field. For their sakes I hope the weather turns around and we have a long dry spell before winter weather arrives for good.
Brian and I went on a bike ride last night and Maggie and Minnie, our yellow Labs, tagged along, sometimes behind, sometimes ahead of us. We left Rosebud, Ellen’s golden retriever, behind in the outdoor kennel because she hasn’t yet learned to stay by us when she’s off of the leash.
Traveling the gravel roads on bicycle is a great way to see the countryside and get a good look at the crops in our area. We rode by one of my mom’s wheat fields which had been sprayed to dry it down, by our neighbor who rents her land. We plan to bale straw off the field after it’s combined. It looks like the straw will be fairly heavy, but not too heavy. Last year the rows were so thick that Brian had to walk in front of the baler to spread out the straw so it would go through the machine. Each year we keep a couple of hundred bales to use for bedding for our horses and sell about that much.
The wheat wasn’t the only golden crop we saw. A sunflower field a few hundred yards beyond it has begun to bloom. The sunflowers are behind last year, so hopefully we’ll get some warm days this month so they will mature before it frosts. The corn fields we passed also need some hot days to ripen before maturity. The fields we passed finally were tasseling, but the ears are tiny. The edible beans, too, seem to be a few weeks behind and, while the foliage looks healthy, there wasn’t a blossom in sight. Most years farmers are cutting the beans by Labor Day
While we were looking at crops during our bike ride, Maggie and Minnie were exploring gopher and badger holes. They also found some stagnant water in a drainage ditch they were romping by and decided to take a swim. Both came out of the ditch dripping dirty, smelly water, so they stayed outside for quite awhile when they got home.
When we got back Rosebud also was wet. She stuck her head in the bucket of water that’s in her kennel and sprayed it all overself. At least it was (relatively) clean water.