It’s done. Yes, last week I made the last pass in the last field of soybeans for this year’s harvest. It felt good – really good, and I was about six weeks ahead of last year. That means I won’t have to leave Thanksgiving dinner early to go to the field and harvest. Now maybe I can enjoy Thanksgiving and Christmas, but most importantly we put a bow on this long hard year.
The long year started with harvest last year. The weather would not let up and our machinery had trouble holding up to the tough conditions. I have felt like I was behind since last fall and never had a chance to get caught up. Being behind on harvest meant we were behind on putting cows out on stalks, which meant they stood in the lot eating hay we didn’t have for an extra month.
Following harvest came one of the worst winters I can remember, and it didn’t let up. I know I had it much better than many of you, and believe me, you have my sympathy. I lost as many calves and lambs last winter as I had the last four combined, and I know I was not alone. It seemed like we could never get away from cold, wet and mud. Not only that, but we burned through more hay we didn’t have, and it took its toll on man, beast and machine. I don’t think any of us came away unscathed. My back and hips still hurt at the thought of wearing Muck Boots and coveralls. We were slammed by a winter that was impossible to prepare for.
Then came spring and the rain. We had a small window to get the cows to grass or plant corn. Given my lack of hay and waist deep lots, I chose to get cows to grass. Then I watched it rain and rain some more, and it wasn’t until May that I got my corn planted. Even then, I felt fortunate because I know so many who never got their corn in the ground. The late corn planting pushed soybean planting back, and that got into hay season.
It was the hay season from, well never mind. It was bad, long and drawn out. I guess the silver lining is that we have plenty of hay this year, however poor the quality. If you had let me choose, I would have taken quantity over quality this year.
The hay season that started in June carried on until mid-September. I am pretty sure each morning from mid-July, every time the alarm went off in the morning I stepped on the clutch and waited for the next alarm to kick the bale out.
With all the delay in the normal ag calendar, I dreaded harvest. Last year’s harvest was beset by bad weather and breakdowns, so I assumed this year would be the same way. We got started later than I would have liked, but when we got going, we really got going. I think we had to stop one or two days twice for rain, but nothing like the past year. We had several good harvest days in a row and got into the groove. I finished the field on Halloween that I had been cutting on last year at Thanksgiving – one whole holiday ahead. That is a good thing.
The most miraculous thing (and I can say this now that I am done) is that my old, worn out combine came through the harvest with no breakdowns. I don’t know how much better it can get. The worst breakdown I had was a broken section on the sickle.
I was so snake bitten from last year that every time I heard a squeak or a groan, I developed a nervous tick. This is the very same combine that the shed collapsed on. It sat outside in the rainy weather after that. I guess all it needed was some tough love.
What does this all mean going into winter? Absolutely nothing. But it does make me feel better, and I can finally take a deep breath knowing that everything might be OK.
We still need to do a lot with the cows and build a lot of electric fence, but I have more confidence that we’ll get that done despite the weather than I did with harvest. Best of all, if we do get mired down, I have plenty of hay to get us through.
If it sounds like I am a little giddy, it is because I am. I am sure something will come up and I will be hopelessly behind again – probably next week. But for now – for one night anyway – I intend to bask in the glory.
Bean harvest is done, those words never sounded so good. Who knows – we might try this again next year.