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September 9, 2011

How We Do Things Series: Harvest

We have been so blessed to have perfect weather for combining this week! We have been able to get lots done and hope to continue to get lots done while the weather is nice.
I have been combining on and off since we started farming 18 years ago. Even though it's very busy, harvest is my favorite time of the year. It's a time where we get the crops safe in the bins and get to see the fruit of all the work that went into planting and caring for the crops. When the fields are combined we can breathe a sigh of relief as we don't have to be concerned of frost, disease, bugs, hail, wind, drought or too much rain. We know that the Lord gives and He takes away and even though He will always take care of us, it's hard to think that all our work could be gone in a flash

This year started off very challenging because we had lots and lots of rain making very hard to get the crops in. Mud bogging was the name of the game this year! But just when the crops were planted the weather changed and things started to dry. We were very thankful for that! Mark and I have always said that we would never complain about too much rain. At least when there is rain things still have a chance of growing compared to a drought!nbsp;
Even though we did have a fair bit of drowned out crop we are thankful for the yields we are getting, considering in spring we were wondering if we would even have a crop!

As much as I like to be out there in the action of the field I do miss being at home and being a homemaker. And as the season goes on, the kids miss us more and more too and eventually we end up with them all in the field with us! So to help with that this year I made a schedule.....yup.....another schedule! Every day the kids look at the chart and see who goes in Mom's combine, Dad's combine, with Jen in the grain cart, with Josh trucking and who stays home (they always have the option to stay home if they would rather). That way the girls who have to send meals out to the field know who's with who and what to pack where! Eventually everyone is rotated through the different "stations". Instead of scheduling by days of the week I did days 1-5 because farming/combining is not a Monday - Friday thing! So far this has worked out really well and I have enjoyed having different kids along each day. There is the odd day that kids jump in with Mark before we get them organized and then he has them for the day! Especially Josiah as he really love to hang out with his Daddy! He announces as soon as he's dressed each morning, "I'm going combining!".....even on Sunday :)

But this year I have a constant buddy....a buddy in training! 
Caleb is learning to drive the combine this year and he's doing a super, great job! As I like to do around here, I  am trying to work myself out of a job by training him! And hopefully next year he can take over for me! With all these boys coming up I figure my days in the field are nearly coming to an end! 

So here's a run down of how we do things:

In the morning, before we head out to the fields the guys grease, check over and fill fuel in the combines. Then one combine goes out to the field and takes a test of the grain to see if it is ready to combine. We bring it home, test it in the tester and then if it's dry we all start our engines and head out to the field. This could be before lunch or after lunch, depending on what the weather is like that day.

Everyday we have 5 main workers out in the field. 
Gramps (Mark's Dad) drives the Red Energizer Bunny (keeps going and going, when it isn't stopped that is!) Its a 1680 Case combine

Mark drives the Big Boy (9600 John Deere)

 Caleb & I drive the Lil Boy (9500 John Deere)

Jen drives the "Ford Tough" tractor pulling the grain cart

and Josh keeps very busy driving the semi (2001 Kenworth) and grain truck (1998 Ford).

When we get to the field we go up and down, up and down, up and down....I think you get the picture.....until the field is done! How long does it take to combine a field? Well that depends on how dry the straw is (the wetter it is, the slower we drive), how big the field is (average field would probably be around 150 acres), and if there are any breakdowns!

The combines, combine. Jen buzzes around and pick up the grain on the go. She empties the grain from the grain cart into the trucks and Josh dumps the grain into the bins. 

But not all the work is done on the field. The ones who stay at home (this year it's Megan, Kerri and Rebecca) have a very important role in all this! 

The home crew is also the go-fer-it. This is anything from getting parts from town, bringing needed items to the field (like diapers...hee hee!), transporting people, moving around vehicles and anything else that needs doin'!
And then of course there is all the household stuff that still needs to be done like taking care of kids, canning gardening produce, cleaning...yup, they are a busy bunch too!

But probably the #1 thing of the home crew is that they FEED US! Nothing worse than sitting in the field hungry with no food around! For lunch they make lunches and send them along with the crew. Lunches in the field are looked forward to by all the young-ins!  For supper the girls package it up divide it into boxes/coolers for hungry ones in each combine/ tractor and deliver it out to the field where everyone eats on the go. Josh often ends up on the yard so he gets fed there.

Some of the younger kids go home at supper time while the older ones get to stay until later on. They think it's a big treat to stay out in the field after supper. I think they feel all grown up working till after dark!

Our quitting time varies each night depending on the weather or the weather forecast, wetness of the straw and ability to keep eyes open! Quitting time can be anywhere from 10:00 or 11:00 pm till the wee hours of the morning. Once in awhile we even pull an all nighter....those are always great fun!!!!! Let me tell you from experience that there is not many times harder to stay awake then when you are driving a slightly vibrating combine, in the dark, going 2 miles an hour!!! Hand me the toothpicks please! My fear has always been that I would fall asleep and wake up combining someone else's field! It's never happened though :)

And when harvest is done, we are usually exhausted but thankful for the provisions God has granted us! 

And that's a very quick run down of our harvest season! Any questions?

Oh and BTW....to the question Sharon had about the bin video. "what is the square in the middle of the bin concrete?"  Sorry for taking so long to answer! The square is where we put something called "aeration". We cover the square with tin strips that have holes in them and on the outside of the bin there is a hole where we put a big fan that blows LOTS of air into the bin, under the tin strips and blows up through the holes into the grain. This gives us the ability to harvest the grain a bit wetter and helps it not to spoil. Not all of our bins have this, but it sure is handy! Thanks for your question!


Mrs. Stam said...

I know that this is hard work, but this post makes it look so easy :-)

Sharon said...

Thanks for answering the question about the bins. Very interesting.
I loved this post too. Your explanation is clear and the photos are amazing. This city girl has two more questions when you have time to answer them. :)
"Harvest, grain, straw" were all used in your post-- is it wheat? (Told you I was a city girl!)
How do you harvest without the tires rolling over the grain? The photos seemed to show the tires only on already harvested ground.

The Munck Family said...

Such team work...and what a blessing that is! Your not just getting a harvest on your crops, but your heaping up rewards for the fruits that are being produced in your children as well!

Love you guys!

Rose said...

How many acres do you have to combine in total? Must be many with having three combines on the go!

Mamma Sanford said...

I loved everything about this post. I grew up on a grain farm so everything rings so home for me. Now that I live in the city I miss harvest time very much. I too loved riding in the tractor or combine with Dad or taking meals out to the field with Mum.