Wheat harvest was the highlight of the year for us when I was growing up on our family farm in Colorado forty years ago. My dad, uncle, two brothers and I worked hard all year to get ready for this two work week marathon in July. We generally hired and boarded extra harvest helpers as well. And once the wheat became ripe enough to cut, we would start early in the morning and harvest late into the night. When we finally got home we would wolf down a late dinner, take a quick shower and hop into bed.
Six or seven short hours later dad would wake us up to start all over again. After a light bite for breakfast we would head out to the fields to get our combines ready for a long day of harvesting. When we were harvesting at full strength we would be operating five combines and at least as many grain trucks. Each one of them would have to be fueled, greased, inspected and adjusted before we could begin harvesting. And by the time we had the equipment ready to go the dew would have evaporated and the wheat would be dry enough to start cutting once again.
Dad’s standard wheat harvest protocol expected mom to bring a hot lunch out to all of us harvesters wherever we were cutting wheat each day. That was quite the feat for mom as there were often up to ten hungry mouths to feed! Of course, those same ten men would expect a hot meal at the end of the day as well. So my two sisters either helped mom with meal preparation, laundry, or even operating a combine when needed!
Harvest was finished relatively quickly if the wheat was ripe and dry enough for us to cut, our equipment had few breakdowns, and we had few thunderstorms and rain showers (which caused the wheat to be too wet to combine and store.) Harvest could drag on for a month whenever cutting wheat had to come to a halt, for whatever reason(s).
Harvesting always had a sense of urgency due to the constant threat of severe thunderstorms. An entire field of wheat could be destroyed by hail within minutes. Or, a bolt of lightning could strike a field of ripened wheat and the resulting fire could easily wipe out the wheat crop and anything else in its way. Therefore, getting the wheat out of the field and into the bins in a timely manner was paramount.
While lots of things have stayed the same over the years, some things have changed. Now we operate two high capacity combines and we use just two semi-trucks. One thing certainly remains the same however, wheat harvest is still the highlight of our family farm’s year! After all, farmers work 52 weeks a year and only get paid for two of them!
Do you have some type of harvest? What’s the highlight of your year?