LEDGER, Mont. – The Montana seasons seem to be the most defined within the state’s Golden Triangle. Early spring shows shades of brown with just the faintest shoots of green. The fields grow and turn an emerald green in early summer, and by late summer the once green sea gives way to waves of amber grain.
Come early fall, the colors of the fields are almost monochromatic – golden straw seamlessly transitioning back into the dirt from which it came.
On Cassie Andrews’ farm, spring wheat harvest has been wrapped up, and although that is an incredible feeling, there isn’t much of an opportunity to celebrate because the life cycle of a farm continues to march on.
“It’s that time of year where I am kind of ready to be done, but Dad just comes up with odd jobs and I have to do them,” Cassie said with a chuckle.
On Friday, Sept. 10, Cassie’s job was to remove a pea auger from a new header her dad had purchased. The job was less than glamorous and all too frustrating, but it has to be done and Cassie appreciates that.
“Brett is filling a fertilizer truck at the moment, so I am stuck with the mechanic and cleaning jobs,” she said.
The only thing worse than doing cleaning and maintenance on equipment at the end of harvest season is having to do it at the beginning of harvest season when time is a bit more precious. The combine will need to be cleaned and gone through, as will Cassie’s other harvest equipment. The goal, of course, is to put everything away in tip-top shape so it can be pulled out next harvest and be ready to go.
In addition to cleaning and equipment maintenance, Cassie, her brother Brett, and their father Terry, are also beginning to shift their focus towards winter wheat seeding. Dry conditions thus far this year have left them with some concern.
Terry has always traditionally split his farm between spring and winter wheat in an effort to offset market risk. Nearly 2,000 acres of winter wheat are scheduled to be seeded this year, but as of Sept. 10, the family only had about 300 acres in the ground. The hang up, again, is the lack of moisture.
“We will have to see if it stays really dry,” Cassie said.
It’s quite the quandary to juggle. Do they run the risk and plant all their planned acres or do they wait and see if it rains and potentially plant a crop too late? What if it is a hard winter? What if it is not? All of these questions weigh heavy on the minds of producers this time of year. With an occupation whose income is based largely on the weather, experience and timing become key. As the next generation on the farm, both Cassie and her brother Brett feel lucky to discuss management moves under the guidance of their father’s vast experience.
While Terry weighs the odds and calculates what to do during a year like this, Cassie remains busy. She admits the days almost seem to run together into a post-harvest mash-up. There is equipment and seed to clean, pre-plant spray to apply, and general farmstead tiding that needs to be accomplished.
Old Man Winter is not far off, so now is the time to buckle down and get through the to-do list. Cassie and Mack have an extra incentive to wrap things up as their new baby girl will be arriving into this world in just a few short weeks.