Saturday, July 19, 2008


Harvest Continues

Sunday is a day of rest for our combiners, and so no wheat will be cut today. We are respectful of the need for a traditional Sunday, though it always causes us some stress; what if Monday is a day of rain and hail and we lose a crop that could have been cut? It has not been a problem thus far, but one never knows with unpredictable weather.

Yesterday was a hot day, but we took a tour of remaining fields to try to determine their condition. We ran into a patch that had been hit by hail and my uncle and cousin--scientist and computer programmer--did the counting and the mathematics required to determine what percentage of the field had been affected. My uncle already knew the average number of wheat berries in the average head of wheat. Then they took an average of affected heads in a row, keeping in mind how many stalks make up a "clump." It occurred to me that in another life, I would have taken this information to write up a tasty SAT question.

The tour of the wheat fields did yield some good news; look at the photo below in which we literally had to wade our way into the wheat. It has been many years since wheat grew this tall and this thick. In general, tall wheat is to be avoided because we want the "energy" of the plant to go into creating nice berries, rather than tall stalks. But in this patch of ground, the wheat was able to put her energy into absolutely everything: height, berries, 4 rows of kernals, ripeness. I hope to ride a combine through this to feel the blades struggle a bit to cut something so rich.

Tyler took this photo: big combine against an even bigger sky.

Machinery has made harvesting much easier. My biggest concern with farming is my complete lack of understanding when it comes to machinery. On off days, the men sit around repairing equipment.

Here, you can see a wheat truck dumping wheat to a pit, which is transferred by an auger to a grain bin.

Like I said, these machines are big. It is something to see the young kids (pretty much all boys) leap around trucks and ladders, already so nimble from a childhood spent around a jungle-gym of trucks and engines and wrenches.

I took a walk inside a bin before the wheat was dumped.

The bins must be airtight (or as close as possible). Some of our bins are reliable, though we used a different contractor for some of the bins, and these seem to be somewhat prone to leaks. Here, my cousin Paul sits on the doorway to a bin, fixing something, while his daughter, Katherine, watches.

It's like a cathedral inside. Behold, several thousand bushels of wheat.

Bins can be dangerous. The hazards of farming require a patient and even-tempered personality. Explosive people don't succeed as farmers.

We've been lucky enough to have Wolgemuth Custom Harvesters every year for some time now. They are careful, courteous and professional and we are always happy to work with them. Tyler took this photo of my cousin Paul consulting with Eric Wolgemuth.

Eric's truck is kitted out with every possible tool; he must be prepared for any kind of equipment failure and subsequent rescue mission. A few days earlier, a truck blew a tire and Eric was off to the rescue. During harvest, time is of the essence and interruptions are unwelcome.

Here is a bumper sticker on Eric's truck.

Someone asked me if I discuss politics with any of the farmers and I said that we do not. On certain basic matters--farming--we are all in agreement. Other matters--the election, foreign policy--are not brought up.

Farming is not easy, and yet we do take it for granted in the US that we will have plenty of food and that it will be affordable. Many of us are unaware of the struggles farmers face. Farmers know this. It is worthwhile for anyone to spend some time in a farm in the US to learn about the very real challenges that face farmers and to understand the things that make it eas(ier) or difficult. And, as I've said before, I think it is important to understand where your food comes from and what you are eating. I would hardly call myself a true-blue farmer, and yet I will say that I've spent enough time here to have some understanding of farming challenges and on farming related matters, I'm fully sympathetic. Farming doesn't happen if people do not work together. It is impossible to farm if you are not a person of faith; too much of farming is beyond human control.

Great photos - love the one with the hats and the angles. Tell Tyler he has talent - more important than looks.
I agree - great pictures. Two in particular remind me of one of my favorite paintings at the Cleveland Museum of Art: Gray and Gold by John Rogers Cox -- the color of the wheat is mesmerizing.
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