Harvest at Hof Batie was very different this year and not just because it is 2020. For the first time in our 35 years of marriage, we had things custom harvested.

This spring while settling up with our harvest partner of 14 years, he and Hubby decided it might be time to part ways. The harvest partner is getting close to retiring and feared the aging combine they’d been using might not make it through our combined acres without a major breakdown. Not wishing to endanger a long-time friendship, we each began making our own harvest plans shortly after the 2020 crop was in.

Over the summer, Hubby researched a variety of options for custom work and eventually found a crew from nearby Loomis to do our soybeans. He settled on a combine crew based in Kansas for the corn.

September is usually a crazy time as we scramble to get irrigation pipe picked up and field ends bladed and disked. With no combine, tractors or grain carts to prepare, Hubby and our full-time employee, aided by separate visits from both of our daughters, easily got the pipe picked up and put away and readied the grain bins to accept new corn.

Our grain auger was serviced and the dump pit cleaned and situated. We conferred with the head of the combine crew, and he agreed that on days we were taking corn to the elevator that we would run our semi, giving him three trucks to keep circulating from the field to the co-op dump site. This was a win-win for us as we got paid to truck, which comes off the final custom bill, and the combine crew kept rolling with fewer stops.

At the start, Hubby was at a bit of a loss on what to do. Sure, he had to go with the crew to each field and alert them to any hidden obstacles such as pivot stops, irrigation risers, etc. He also had to be sure each truck driver had the appropriate RFID card for a particular field, as our elevator uses a computerized system associated with the cards to appropriately credit loads and splits from each producer’s field.

I was also at a crossroads because normally I’m in a grain cart or working at the dump pit. No work for me there this year. No runs for parts, either. I got called to help one morning and that was for about three minutes to go step on the brake of our straight truck to be sure it was working. That was only because they got caught in lines at the elevator. So we hauled our old Peterbilt out of the weeds, charged it up and hooked up the pup trailer to get a fourth truck in the rotation.

Most evenings Hubby was in between 8 and 9 p.m. — a far cry from the regular 10 to 11 p.m. end to the day. He didn’t have to service the combine at night or tear some piece of equipment apart while someone ran for parts the next morning.

Of course, there are always some glitches and breakdowns in any harvest, and we were not immune. We have one field where there are underground springs that keep the south end a constant bog. Hubby had warned the grain cart drivers not to go through that area with a full load. But somehow Frankie missed the memo (actually we later found out he was watching a baseball playoff game on his phone) and plowed right into the muck. Two hours later, he admitted he had learned his lesson to listen — and watch — more closely.

The extended dry spell also helped speed this harvest along. But the sunny days can’t last forever, and by last Thursday we were three fields and roughly two days away from finishing when we caught the first drizzle in weeks.

That old familiar anxious feeling of “will we make it or will we get dumped on?” came back. Thankfully with a big push on Friday and an early start Saturday, the last truck was dumped and parked by 7 p.m. The grain bins were closed up tight with fans blowing.

We got about 2 inches of snow Sunday night, but we know the combines will roll soon, as there still is a lot of corn to be harvested. For those still in the fields, keep your thinking caps on and stay safe. There is light at the end of this 2020 tunnel, and we want you all to come out of it in one piece so we can shoo this year out the other end.

Barb Bierman Batie can be reached at editorial@midwestmessenger.com.  

Barb is a freelance journalist who grew up near Battle Creek, Nebraska, and now farms row crops with her Platte Valley Farmer, Don Batie, northeast of Lexington. She can be reached at editorial@midwestmessenger.com.