20 July 2022

Wheat Harvest, Almost

I had help driving the semi over to the wheat fields this morning. He drove while we off roaded. Before too long he’ll be driving for real, hauling the grain to the elevator. His sister was behind us in the combine. Other than getting the semi over where it could be loaded with wheat our job was to watch for traffic coming over the hills. The combine header is as wide as the road. Meeting vehicles is difficult. We need to slow them and warn him so he can get off the road as far as possible. Luckily we only met a couple of cars.

While my son steered I texted a friend along the way. Her kids met us on the road and road along. They could come ride in semis or in the combine and play in the wheat in the trailer once it started getting filled.

That was the plan at least.

Driving and talking I wasn’t paying as close of attention to the combine as I had been. There were no big hill and no traffic to worry about. Soon I looked back and there was no one there. We slowed to a crawl and waited. Eventually they caught up. My daughter came over the walky talky. They’d had a small break down. But they were going again.

We went around the corner and looked back to see they had stopped again. She came over the radio again, it was stopped, the break was set. It wasn’t moving. I set the breaks on the semi there in the middle of the road and we waited.

It wasn’t going. It wouldn’t be going any time soon. The kids and I went ahead in the semi and parked next to the wheat field we had just almost made it to. Then we started walking. It was almost a mile across the field and pasture. As we got close I got a phone call to say they, my husband and his father who had gotten there by then, were driving to a neighbors house to take the broken piece off of his combine. Borrowing the part needed to get the pully going to  release the parking break so they could get it out of the middle of the road to work on it for real.

Our daughter started walking across the pasture to meet us. Anything is more fun that working on machinery with grouchy guys who are mad about it having broken down. It was apparently enough to make her brave walking past the cows.

We were right there and all walked back towards the combine together. The kids played in the water hole under the bridge. We petted a cow. Hung out in the shade. It wasn’t the playdate we had planned but it was still fun.

There were a few pickups that went by. They had been polite and friendly. Talking to the guys as they worked. Offering condolences, because everyone understands how much that sucks. Then they went down into the ditch and around.

The guys had just gotten back from borrowing the part off the other combine when we looked up to see a semi coming down the road. It’s a big open stretch and you can see the combine blocking the road from a long ways off. There was no reason to worry. We watched him keep coming and keep coming without slowing. My husband was under or behind that combine in the middle of the road. The idiot in the semi was getting really close and still hadn’t slowed at all. I started running for the road. There was no way I could get between him and the combine, or get him to stop if a huge combine in the middle of the road wasn’t enough to do it, but I was going to try.

Finally he slammed on the breaks and skidded noisily to a halt. He sat there. It was a manure spreader, still a semi, technically. Three more came behind him. I didn’t really care if they hit him. So I stayed where I was in the pasture. The lot of them were together and sat there in the road. Apparently unable to figure out that the road was blocked.

I walked over, prepared to be friendly, let them know how they could get around since they didn’t seem to be able to figure it out on their own. With cigarette smoke billowing out the window I stepped up on the running board and said hey, sorry, combine is broke.

He was snarling and grouchy. Couldn’t we tow it out of the road?!?!

Nope. I’ve been saying that a lot lately, need to get to that story too. But for now, the break was stuck on. They’d have it fixed enough to get off the road in a little bit, or you could back up to the intersection just behind you and go around the block.

More snarling. They could sure drag it out of the road with that, he said gesturing vaguely behind him. I could only assume he meant the big payloader he had on a trailer behind the manure spreader he was very fittingly driving.

Nope, there it was again. We aren’t interested in ‘dragging’ it anywhere thank you. He was welcome to go around the block.

While I still stood there on the running board and his other manure filled buddies sitting in the road behind him, he threw it in gear as he got on the cb. I stepped back off the side and mentally flipped him off enthusiastically. The whole herd of swine started to back up.

Unfortunately about that time they got the combine going enough to limp it to the driveway that had been so tantalizingly close the whole time. The road was clear. The snarling yappy little creature who had chosen a carrier so incredibly suited to him was able to go forward. Heaven forbid he have to go a couple of miles out of his way. I hope they have fun spreading the manure that it was so terribly important for them to get to. Maybe like fish out of water they were suffocating with out poop to wallow in.

The combine sits there now. Out of the road in a neighbors hay field. Parts no where to be found. The wheat sits in the field, ready and waiting. The frustrated men had no trouble fiding other jobs that need done while they wait impenitently for the needed parts. We dropped the friends off. Maybe next time we can actually play in the wheat.

17 July 2022

Almost Wheat Harvest ’22

It’s almost time to start wheat harvest.
A couple of neighbors are going already. The small fields here at home are ready, the bigger fields farther afield are still green.
The kids spent all morning yesterday washing the combine. Their job was to get the hopper on top washed clean of corn, and get some places around the bottom. My husband took one look at it yesterday afternoon and was horrified. He started scrubbing on it this morning and said they may have managed to somehow make it worse than it already was 🤣
Oh well. They had fun and worked really hard, if nor effectively.
He washed for awhile this morning then I took over. It’s strangely satisfying and I’d happily work at it all day.
We parked on a grassy spot that’s heavily grazed by the horses. It will get watered. Then we’ll run the chickens over it to clean up the corn that is washed out. The goats have been happily eating on the corn under it too. Nothing is wasted.
The combine is very old, by combine standards. The meticulous care my husband takes of all things that are his and his brilliant mechanical mind have kept it running. Many times it has broken down and needed rebuilt mid harvest. Many parts are worn thin, very literally, from the tons of corn and wheat that have run through it.
The insides are intricate and fascinating. I spend the time as I hose them off looking in awe at the complicated workings. I can’t imagine what the newer ones must be like.
Washing the undersides results in water mixed with chaff and dirt splashing back in my face. Girls out washing cars in short shorts are sexy. Old fat ladies out washing combines, even in short shorts, not so much. My husband looked at me in horror when he stopped by to check on my process. He did offer to hose me off, so there’s that. All that washing required a shower before I came in for lunch.

 

25 June 2022

This picture is NOT our tractor.
I want to get that stated clearly first thing. It does belong to a neighbor of ours and the kids and I stopped and stared when we drove by it the other day.
But, ours came so close to this yesterday. That the tractor and baler didn’t go up in flames yesterday is totally and completely due to God’s hand in our lives.
I was driving home from dropping the kids off to spend some time with their grandparents. A long drive across a long and delightfully empty state. The phone rang. I answered happy to hear from my husband. Instead of the usual greeting he immediately wanted to know where I was and ordered me to stop where I was and wait.
A part had broken on the baler and the only one within a days drive was at a tractor dealer in a town just behind me. I was told to stay where I was and let them finish checking to make sure it was really there.
I waited while calls were made. The part was there. In the small town that I just happened to be next to. That was impressive enough alone. Instead of huge shipping bills and not getting the part for a couple of days, we squeezed in into the trunk and it was home that afternoon.
Once I got home and heard the whole story. It got even more amazing.
A belt had broke in the baler.
When they pulled into the yard to fix it, a roller was broken. The ends mushroomed, the roller itself was not quite red hot, but blue shiny and too hot to touch. They cleared everything way from it to allow it to cool without starting any fires and went to see if they could find missing parts in the last bale, to get them out and keep a bale from catching fire.
All hot metal parts were found. In the end nothing caught fire and the tractor and baler didn’t end up like this on of a neighbors of ours did last week.
Balers burn so easily. That ours not only didn’t, but that I just happened to be on the only town in the state with the needed part is purely and act of God.
God is good!
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15 April 2022

Doing It Myself, Or Not

Yes, it would be easier to do it myself Heaven knows it would be faster. The waiting is hard. Watching as expensive milk replacer gets sloshed around and spilled or nearly spilled has me gasping and holding my breath. I can’t stand to watch. Teeth clinched my husband and I both stand back and watch. Or better yet don’t watch, as the children prepare the milk to feed their bottle calves.

After helping and instructing on how and how much milk to mix, the preparation and most of the feeding is their responsibility. We watch them go slowly and struggle. If we didn’t it would never be replaced by smoothness and skill. Strength will be built in the difficulties, not in taking care of it for them.

We don’t over face them and are always there to help if really needed. They don’t usually want help. Pride in the ability to do the job and do it well is already setting in. That doesn’t mean they don’t need harried to get to get to work. They’re still children. Nothing wrong with that. They’ll grow up soon enough. I’ll enjoy their childishness while they’re children.

They aren’t strong enough to do everything themselves. They’re building strength though! It wont be long and those hard jobs will be easy for them.

Bottle calves are a perfect opportunity for training children!

14 February 2022

Oh Deer

If it’s not coyotes it’s deer. I’m always amazed when people think agriculture and wildlife somehow exist separately.
Coming home the other night I saw one of the big herds of deer running at us. I stopped and we watched them come at us. The car sitting there didn’t bother or slow them. It gave them a target if anything.
They ran in front of us and seemed to panic there, as we sat still. Right in front of us some stopped, some kept going, some went back and forth a few times then dove head first into the electric fence.
Groaning, knowing the damage they do and that the cows are in that field I sent my overly energetic son to survey the damage. He said the fence was gone. Hoping that just meant knocked out of the insulators we headed towards home.
Which is when the rest of the deer came back! I stopped, again. They ran at us in a panic and through the fence, again. In a different spot. One of them hung up a little. Got out a ways and did a flip. I’d have more sympathy if he had been running from something.
Knowing for sure the fence was gone there we hurried home. Trying to beat darkness, to gather supplies and get back out to repair the damage while we could still see a little.
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11 October 2021

Corn Harvest ’21

Although interrupted by a very nice rain in the middle of the first try and a fairly major combine break after the rain stopped and things dried out, corn harvest went very nicely. The corn stalks still had some green to them because there still hadn’t been a good freeze.

 

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23 July 2021

Wheat Harvest 2021

Harvest actually started quite awhile back. They got the wheat here around the buildings back around the 17th.

Then it was time to move the equipment over west to get started on the rest of it. With everything over there and ready to start my farmer husband drove the combine into the field, and right back out again.

Somehow between finishing the last field and moving to the next something had broken, something major. With some poking and prodding and cussing it was decided to head on into town. There was nothing that could be done there. At the tractor doctor, as my children call them, they found the problem and the nearest piece to fix it back in Iowa. We have a neighbor who is parting out a combine just like ours though so first an attempt was made to get the piece off of that one. It wasn’t happening though, the piece refused to come loose.

So the other part was ordered. Shipped overnight, hopefully, although we were all in doubt of anything ever actually arriving over night.

Somehow it actually did! They had it on and the combine going again by evening. It was back to work again much to everyone’s relief.

The time while the combine was broke was hot and dry. Now the weather is sticky wet with humidity and there have been a few rain showers coming through. No combining today but hopefully back to it tomorrow.

16 October 2020

A Fall Day

It was one of those fall days. The air was crisp and clear. Chilly but not cold with the sun shining in that brilliant golden way it does no  other time of year.

We left early for gymnastics, leaving my husband in the field with his combine. My daughter asked for doughnuts, who am I to tell her no. We ordered ahead and stopped on the way to pick them up. Then ate them on the way too the state park. We had good reason  for leaving early!

The children wanted to stop at the usual playground, or the unusual one. I had a goal in mind though. There was a picnic shelter, we had stopped near it to pick wild raspberries this summer. From the road you could see the trail wending up the hill. It didn’t look exciting from the road but we had never hiked there. Might as well give it a try.

Starting up the wide mowed trail the first thing we came to was a jack-o-lantern. Its face charred and black. Finding that out in a national forest surrounded by bone dry tender was horrifying. The ease with which a fire could have started was terrifying. Probably college kids out messing around? We walked on.

The kids fought the whole way up the hill. It was cold. They were tired. Why couldn’t we go back.

I was determined though and with a firm grasp of each child’s hand I drug them up the hill.

At the top the trail narrowed, then narrowed further as we walked. Then began to snake about through rocks forgotten as the rest of the hill wore away. Ungainly chunks of stone left bare and exposed. By now the children were happy.  Nothing pleases them more than cliffs falling away on both sides that they can try to throw themselves down. Up and around and down we twisted, finally coming back to the car. Laughing and happy by then to have been forced on the walk.

It was too late to have time for lunch before gymnastics though.

Oh well a lunch of the remaining doughnuts it was!

Back home again they wanted to settle in  in front of computers. Until I lured them back out with promises of combines and grain trailers.

A grain trailer full of corn is akin to a huge wonderful sandbox that could kill you. Shoes discarded at the bottom you have to scale the steep walls of the trailer, scramble over the top to find the safety within. Protected by those same fortress like walls play inside can be as wild and carefree as can be. Until the trailer gets full. Then the sides can be reached again. Bouncing must be constrained.

They frolicked until the trailer had to be hauled to the elevator and dumped. Then we took a break all squeezed into the combine together. With the children getting bigger we don’t fit as well as we used to.  It was warm and sheltered from the biting wind that wanted to be included in  the play in the trailer.

The children  finally began to wilt from  their long day. After a couple of rounds we headed back to the house. Who doesn’t deserve some computer time after a day that long? Tomorrow it may snow. Today we enjoyed fall.

 

 

 

 

 

14 September 2020

Hauling Hay

As my husband walked out the door to go spend the day planting wheat he just happened to mention in passing that if we wanted to we could come by later and check the cows over that way. We could even bring lunch! If we wanted to. Hint, hint 😉

I had planned to go check on Ghost and Blossom and Joker, plus all the others since I was there anyway, at some point this week. Might as well take him lunch while we were at it.

Shortly before lunch time he called again. Was there any chance we could bring the semi with the hay trailer when we came? Since we were coming anyway. There was a pickup there that we could use to go check the cows. Sure, what the heck. We were going anyway. Might as well get a load of hay out of the way.

We got to the hot dust field and enjoyed out picnic of sandwiches and melons fresh from the garden on the side of the seed truck.  The children wallowing in the dust as they enjoyed what little shade it offered. Then we got to loading the bales. It’s so dry this year. They had cut a field of alfalfa despite it  not being worth the effort. There were a few bales from there and some straw bales from the year before. As m father in law loaded it he was complaining about the bad shape the bales were in. Straw is slippery and doesn’t like too be confined to net wrap. I needed to keep an eye out for any bales falling off, he warned.

Leaving the field I sideswiped a corner post knocking the bales askew but luckily sparing the post. They didn’t fall off though and everything was set right with a bit of rearranging. Hopefully the trip home went better.

After loading we left the semi set and went to look at cows. My son was excited to show his sister how he could work the float to fill our water jug from the stock tank. The jug was empty so we were all looking forward to that. After a cold refreshing drink we walked down the draw.

The storm that destroyed Iowa in July came through here first. We didn’t get hit near as bad but the seventy mile per hour winds knocked down many of the huge old cottonwood trees. Now they lay in the dry creek bed, perfect for climbing. The children who love to climb their tree at home scampered over the arching tree trunks making me gasp and shut my eyes sometimes. They were not afraid though and nobody did fall to their deaths, or broken arms even.

Wore out from climbing we hiked back to the pickup, cast our eyes over the cow herd on the way. All the ones we usually notice stood out, Poppy, Ghost, Joker. The herd markers were there. In with a few more cow calf pairs counting the heifers isn’t as easy anymore. As long as the colorful ones were there we could assume everyone else was too.

Back at the field we waved goodbye to my husband leaving him any left overs from lunch to get him through until whenever he finished planting that night and headed home.

On the narrow dirt road we came upon a tractor speeding along, just barely slower than us. I hated to try to pass him. With the hay on the trailer takes up almost the whole road and I wasn’t going very fast. He pulled off to the side though and slowed. I had no choice. We hugged the grassy shoulder as tight as we could and I didn’t think we clipped him. We did leave him with lots of dust as we continued down the road.

Nearly home, far past the last intersection, I slowed even more to watch for the cows that have been coming and going freely from their poorly fenced pasture onto the road. When, inn the road ahead, there was something. Not a cow. Bigger even.

A round bale!

I had been warned to be careful of loosing my load and here instead was someone else’s bale. Lost dead center in the middle of the road!

In a car or pickup we could have easily squeezed around the edge. There were a couple of feet of road and a decent shoulder on one side. In a pickup and trailer I could have backed to the intersection only a quarter mile or so behind me. In a semi with a hay trailer I thought hard about the fence post I nearly took out earlier. Would the bale already there knock my bales off as I brushed past it? Would the trailer slip off the side of the road into the ditch if I got too far off the road?

If I tried to back with no way of seeing past the trailer how badly stuck could I get it in a ditch with a small misjudgement? Was there any possibility of the children being of assistance and not getting run over if I asked them to go back and guide me?

None of the options looked good. So laughing about the ridiculousness of the situation we found ourselves inn I called my husband. That’s what I do when life has handed me impossible options, call my husband and he will fix it. Somehow. He always does.

As I explained our predicament he laughed with me. He would get a hold of the neighbor. The one whose cows were walking through his mostly down fence to graze the road. whose hay field the bale was in front of. We could sit there parked in the middle of the road and wait.

But. No! As I looked back at the semi and trailer blocking what part of the road the bale didn’t, here came the tractor we had reluctantly passed! He had caught up with us. Now he was passing us, squeezing carefully between the bales and the ditch. He fit! Driving past me standing in the road, talking on the phone, past the children hanging out the windows watching the show. With never a wave or a smile he drove up to the bale. Was it his? Was this where he was driving to?
Wrong color tractor for the neighbor of the cows my husband assured me. This one was blue. Whether it was his or not he picked up the bale. I got in the semi, released the brake, and we followed him. He went slow, looking at the cow whose calf, still in the pasture she wasn’t in, got lined up to nurse through the fence. He looked around then found a driveway to the hay field. He slowly pulled inn and we passed him once again, grateful that he was there to clear our path.

Finally, home at last.

31 July 2020

Horseless Summer

Country kids grow up a little different than kids in town. I am forever grateful for our large backyard.

Right now that life isn’t so much about horses. They send their time standing out in their pasture, eating and fighting flies. We are busy hauling hay, working summer fallow, canning beans, freezing anything that looses it’s crisp when canned, working in the garden, and generally keeping busy.

As important as I think it is for the kids to work with us and learn the value of labor, we also do our bast to get out and enjoy the summer.

Hot days are much better spent in the shade or water than horseback though so we go to the lake or explore water holes out in the pasture. Soon enough they will be back in school and I will get to work horses again. Maybe even clean house! 🤣 Until then they will be happy with a bareback ride in from grazing the yard and petting noses over the fence. I will be happy that they are enjoying the horses, enjoyment doesn’t have to mean riding.