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Harvest in a swamp: 'Taking it out by the teaspoon'Posted Tuesday, November 3, 2009, at 5:25 PM
Instead of Hurry Up and Wait at our farm this fall, it's been Hurry Up and Get Wet!
You'd think it would be fun to work a day and a half and then have two days "off," but like most things we think we want -- it's not so great once you actually get it.
In fact it's very stressful to know that your year's "salary" is waiting in the fields, becoming smaller everyday as the rains and the winds take their toll.
I heard the other day on the radio that it has been 40 years since U.S. farmers have been this late nationally getting their crops out. Hmm, I guess it's good to know we are all in the same boat (pardon the pun, but sometimes you gotta laugh to keep from crying).
I don't know about 40 years ago, but I do remember 1985 and 1986 were both late harvests.
One of those years I remember driving to Sweet Springs to see where Davis Creek had flooded, even closing down I-70 for a while. I also remember we had to wait until the ground was frozen to harvest soybeans.
My husband harvested on Christmas Eve, then we drove to my family Christmas party in Kansas City. He wasn't joking when he told my cousins he would still be harvesting, but the elevator closed down for Christmas. Both years I think we got done by the first of the year, but barely.
As a relatively new "farm wife" I remember hoping it wasn't always like those years -- it makes for a short winter and a cranky husband (and wife!).
And until the last two years, most harvests have been relatively normal, ending in October or early November.
My mother-in-law always said harvest was like "taking a teaspoon out at a time." I understand what she meant but believe she would have agreed, this year it seems like a quarter teaspoon at a time.
Despite the fact that combines have gotten bigger, faster and more efficient, there is still some things farmers can't control -- especially the weather.
In fact, the other day I was thinking about how maybe it would be better to not have our big machines -- perhaps, I thought, if we had horses, buggies and picked corn by hand then we could get our crops out.
Then I remembered some of the Century Farm stories I've written in the past few years. Horror stories of stuck wagons and using tin "sleds" to temporarily store the picked corn ears until you get to the side of the road where the wagon sat. Of course that meant throwing the crop for a second time -- by hand -- into the wagon before taking it to a corn crib to store.
So I guess it's "the more things change, the more they stay the same."
Like the old time farmers, we too, make adjustments to deal with muddy conditions.
When trucks can't get in the field (and often even when they can) we use grain carts to transfer our corn or soybeans from the combine to a truck parked on a solid surface. This year with wet conditions we are careful to put small loads on our carts, so they don't get stuck or cause too much damage to fields. And finding a solid surface is often a chore all in itself.
But the good news is, thanks to modern technology, we've got heated trucks, tractors and combines. So much for the good old days; I think I'll stay in the 21st Century.
Hey, there's a great big yellow UFO in the sky. Looks familiar ...
I think I feel another half day of work coming on!
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