I’d love to claim that we time our farming activities by the moon’s cycles, but I can’t. It was, in all truthfulness, pure coincidence that Farmer Mark called us that evening to tell us he was moving the equipment over the next afternoon. And coincidence or not, that phone call caused the typical pre-harvest scramble that has become commonplace around here.
The first thing that needed to be done was set up the auger.
I was (un)lucky enough to be working by myself as we got started yesterday, and so got to climb up that little ladder you see on the right-hand side of the bin, up the roof to the very top, to take the bin’s cap off. Yikes! I’m not a huge fan of heights, and my knees quivered for about an hour afterward. Farmer Bill told me you get used to it after awhile. I hope so.
Next, we had to find some extra tractors. In the year and a half that I have been a farmer, it has become painfully obvious that one tractor is not enough for a farm like ours.
Big blue, she’s a beauty, and we’re super lucky that my dad put in an order for her before his accident, but she just can’t cover all the jobs that need to be done at the same time.
I have an acquaintance who is a new, start-up vegetable farmer. She really needs a tractor. One day, she commented how she couldn’t understand why one of the local farmers wouldn’t just give her one of theirs. “I mean, they’ve got all these tractors just sitting around doing nothing. They should share.”
That kind of naivety is common. In reality, all of those idle tractors have very important roles to play, depending on the time of year (not to mention they are worth thousands of dollars). At corn harvest, a farm like ours needs at least three tractors. One to run the auger that loads the corn into the corn bin, and two to haul grain wagons back and forth to be loaded/unloaded.
Our farm only has one tractor, hence the urgent phone calls Thursday night to neighbors and farmer friends to see who could be oh-so-generous enough to let us borrow their tractor for the next week. One kind neighbor lent us his old John Deere with dead, never-to-be-resurrected batteries that have to charged with jumper cables every time you want to start it. I do believe our thank-you payment to neighbor Mike will be new batteries for his tractor.
Farmer Bill is always extremely generous, and lets us borrow his loader tractor a lot. In fact, Farmer Bill says yes to most of our requests, although I do remember a stern “no!” from him a few years back when we lived in his rental house and wanted to raise chickens.
Next, I get on the horn to call all Irish Grove farm hands to duty. That’d be me, Marcel, Rob, and Matt. We immediately cancel all off-farm work schedules, and all planned outings. Today we’re missing the one Badger football game that we were going to make this season, which is a big bummer. (Go Badgers!)
I call the truckers to push, plead and cajole them into hauling my grain to the elevator. I need to push, plead and cajole because I’m one of about 30 farmers in the area jockeying for their services. As you might imagine, a little butt-kissing goes a long ways.
And finally, I scramble to find someone to watch my kids for the next week.
Usually, that means Grandma, although yesterday my sister Laura filled in, and my kids had a blast playing at her house.
Of course we need to haul the wagons to the corn field, put them in place, and wait for Farmer Mark to fill them up with corn.
Here’s Farmer Mark in his combine, although this picture was taken during the soybean harvest:
Here’s the auger hopper, waiting to be filled with some more corn:
And here’s two happy Irish Grove farm hands, Matt and Marcel:
Irish Grove is in full swing. You just gotta love harvest time on the farm.