Harvest time is pay day on the farm, so our family has many harvest memories that help honor the ancient ritual of bringing in the bounty.
Finishing harvest is always a good feeling, not only for a farmer, but also for his banker. Keeping your banker happy usually makes a farmer happy too. My Dad always told us growing up that he enjoyed planting and harvesting most, because you feel like you are getting something done.
When my grandfather operated a threshing crew in the 1940s, he and Grandma hosted a homemade wine and cheese party when local farmers came out to pay their threshing bills. They also had barn dances in the loft of our old barn, to celebrate as a neighborhood, the bounty of the earth.
The other day, as we finished soybean harvest and made ready to begin on corn, I thought about some of the memorable harvest rituals our family developed when I was young. Thirty years ago, when soybeans were not all that popular in our part of the world, we raised about 300 acres of them. Getting soybeans safely in the bin was a priority, and when we finished on soybeans, it was a big deal.
I can remember my mother making homemade pizza as our celebration supper on the evening after we finished harvesting soybeans. After soybeans were finished, it usually took at least a couple of days to empty all of the trucks and wagons, move augers and prepare the combine to begin on corn.
When I was young, we raised our share of corn as well. It seemed in those days that machinery breakdowns were part of our harvest rituals. Thanksgiving dinners were sometimes broken up by the need to repair the combine.
Breakdowns were difficult enough when we were farming with my brother and I, my Dad and a full time hired man. As I took over the farming operation after my Dad was diagnosed with severe bronchial asthma, I worked harvest mostly alone, with occasional help from Dad, friends and neighbors. Breakdowns were a much bigger problem then.
The first year after my Dad became ill and I farmed on my own, from planting to harvest, I was uncertain about my abilities to get everything in the bin before winter hit. I worked hard, day and night, in the combine, hauling grain, emptying the drying bin and moving grain. That year was particularly stressful, as I worried about my father and had doubts about my own farming capabilities.
I can recall finishing corn harvest in late November that year on a windy, cold night. As I pulled up to the truck to unload the last of the corn, I was filled up with emotion. I stepped down from the combine and knelt there in the dirt, thanking God for pulling me through. Things got easier, year after year, as I gained confidence and experience. But I’ll always remember that first year and how important finishing the harvest was to me.
Two years ago, on the first day of soybean harvest, my parents were in a tragic car accident that nearly killed them both. I went from combining soybeans in the afternoon, to spending the next several days running back and forth between two hospitals where they were being treated. That accident eventually killed my father several months later, so the day of the accident is a harvest time memory I would like to forget.
Harvest time probably brings forth memories in all of us who live and work the land. So, I encourage you to take a minute here and there this harvest season to recognize the good feelings you have of accomplishment for another crop season. And, don’t forget to be careful out there.
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