21 October 2022

Lost Shoes

After waiting all night, daylight had finally come. It was time to unload the semis.
Strangely the people working at the elevators want to go home at night. Between that and the worry about working lights on the semis, they have to stop hauling corn over night. After getting the trailers on hand full they were left parked for the night.
Now we could finally haul them in. And hopefully find the missing shoes.
We dug up chicken wire and were hoping no one would be waiting in line as we sifted for shoes and socks.
The same very nice kid was there again today. Kid as in a youngster somewhere in his twenties probably. Maybe thirty. Kids get older as I do. He wasn’t worried at all about finding the shoes. Even less about accidentally running socks through the augers and into the big grain elevators.
They get wrenches and even pry-bars through regularly he said. Those cause some damage, getting stuck in the augers or the conveyor belt. They’ll shut the whole elevator down. Socks are no big deal. Boots will catch for sure in the grate. Don’t worry about sifting through the chicken wire.
My husband and I crouched on the grate watching for shoes. Our son wouldn’t crawl under there but waited to grab them as we handed them out. Our daughter wouldn’t leave the truck. It’s hard to almost b a teenager and have to be embarrassed by everything. We waited, and waited, then waited some more. So much corn came out, could we have missed a boot somewhere? Then with a thump and a pile of grain, one pretty turquoise boot landed on the grate. Slowly all the others followed. From both compartments, no simple searching through one for us. That’s a long time crouched in the corn dust and chaff watching for shoes. Fifty seven some thousand pounds of corn, I checked the ticket. And six shoes buried in there.
We found them! And one sock tucked neatly in its boot. The partner never to be seen again. That poor lonely sock. Is it better to be the one survivor or to pass on with your friends and companions? Who knows what great adventures they will get up to. Eaten by a cow? Hung up for eternity in the grain bins? We can only imagine.
20 October 2022

Corn Harvest ’22

Corn harvest has begun. The weather is beautiful for it. Perfect for the children to get out and play in the grain trailers.
Perfect even for them to have friends over to play in the trailers with them. These things are always more fun with friends. For me especially because it means I don’t need to get in there with them. I had a chance to ride a few rounds in the combine with my husband.
A date!
When we got back to make the last dump the children were waving at us, just as they had done for every other load of corn.
I got out of the combine to let the extra children know their mom was here. Time to get out and head home.
That was when I got the news. One friends shoes were in the trailer!
Ok I could deal with that. We’d go digging, maybe we could find them. But that wasn’t all. Apparently everyone’s shoes were in the trailer! Under the load of corn we had just dumped.
Why hadn’t we stopped dumping corn? Couldn’t we see them waving at us?
Well, yes. We saw the waving. Just like we had seen all the other waving. Why didn’t you guys get the boots picked up instead of waving?
What was there to do but laugh? The boots were all well buried. There was no finding them under a full combine load of corn. We will figure out a way to sort them in the morning.
Boots are one thing. The socks add a whole ‘nother level of difficulty.
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.