24 Aug Brian: The new normal
Greenfield, Iowa–This morning I woke up in a queen-sized bed, the sun peeking through the blinds. It’s 10 a.m. and I groggily drag myself out of bed. Out the window all I see is green … green lawn, green corn, green soybeans and green alfalfa. It’s hazy and humid, the grass still soaking wet from overnight with fog in low-lying areas. I stumble my way to the kitchen and start a pot of coffee, the complete silence only broken by the loud ticking of the wall clock. I take a long, hot shower, losing track of time until I’m forced to quit … the hot water heater is empty. Coffee cup in hand, I stand at the patio door and look out across the pasture filled with cows. I see mail delivery just left a package at the front door.
While I’m sure this sounds like a typical Saturday morning to you but it’s been nearly 8 weeks since I experienced my day starting like this. Out on harvest trailer house life is comprised of a small bed, being woke by the diesel clatter of a semi parked exactly 5 feet away from your head, breakfast with 10 people around a table that seats four, and a 6-gallon hot water heater that provides a shower that’s entirely too short because you must share this coveted resource with others. The view out of the window is filled with 1-ton dually service trucks, and there is never any peace and quiet when you are separated from your roommates by 2-inch plywood walls that (poorly) attempt to provide personal space.
The new view out the window is very different from the past few months, complete with morning fog that settles in the low-lying pastures. There isn’t a wheat field in site and this is my new normal.
In 39 years we have never been home in July, and it just seems odd to be done with harvest. Our entire summer lasted about as long as last year’s South Dakota harvest all by itself, compressing an enormous amount of work in a very short timeframe. Having to bypass Nebraska because of South Dakota’s early harvest date and skipping North Dakota because of the severe drought didn’t help matters, but the crew is slowly adjusting to our new normal back on our own farms. The scenery is different, so green and filled with trees. Our houses seem so big after spending weeks in our aluminum square box summer homes. Small things you take for granted like dishwashers, Netflix and receiving mail every day suddenly seem pretty luxurious. Driving a car again after a summer spent piloting big trucks almost seems comical, fitting into tight parking spaces you forgot were even an option.
The work pace may be a little more leisure, but there is still plenty of tasks to do. Summer equipment is washed and put away, and the draper head has the feed belts removed for bearing replacements before next season.
Everyone has taken a little down time since our return home, a break that has been earned and a long time coming. There is still work to be done, but the sense of urgency is a little lower than usual. Adjusting to the high humidity is one of the hardest parts, and when paired with the blazing sun we have seen heat indexes of over 115 degrees in Iowa. Thankfully we have the ability to cancel afternoon activities and head inside when the heat becomes that oppressive, something that never happens when you are out harvesting.
The sun no longer sets behind amber waves of grain, but they take on their own type of beauty in a new way here in Iowa. Seeings cows outside the window is also a new sight every morning.
We are still experiencing pretty serious drought conditions in our area, but rains at key times during the growing season have made for a corn and soybean crop that looks phenomenal. That’s almost a hard thing to write after coming from South Dakota. It seems a little insulting to talk about your good crops knowing so many farmers in the country are in dire need of rain, something we saw first hand almost everywhere we cut this summer. Some corn is over 10 feet high now, and the soybeans are the tallest I’ve personally ever seen. It’s not an exaggeration to say when I walk through some bean fields the top leaves touch my nose. We are only a few rains away from a big harvest in Iowa, and we don’t take for granted how blessed we are compared to so many hit hard by drought this year.
Our crops here in Iowa look fantastic, and a few more rains could produce the biggest yield we have ever seen. The 10-foot corn is nearly as tall as buildings, and the occasional soybean plant touches my nose.
This extra time at home has also allowed for some special projects to get some attention. Cameron and Brenda have been putting the finishing touches on some basement construction, laying carpet and getting the four boys ready to go back to school soon. I’ve been preparing to fulfill my “need for speed” on the race track at local autocross events and car shows, and let’s not forget the rare chance to be home and attend the famous Iowa State Fair.
The Iowa State Fair is world-renowned, but we usually find ourselves still in South Dakota and unable to attend. Brian looks forward to racing through the cones at local track events and attending cars and coffee.
David has been planning for a new building to be constructed on his farmyard, moving dirt and making improvements to accommodate today’s larger equipment. Glen and Vernelle took this rare opportunity to go to North Pole, Alaska, in the summer to visit their three grandchildren and go camping in the the amazing Denali National Park. As expected heat indexes have been replaced by highs in the 40s and lows in the 30s, but that hasn’t kept the family from enjoying hiking in the mountains and and enjoying the amazing Alaskan scenery.
Glen and Vernelle have enjoyed visiting their three grandkids in North Pole, Alaska. Denali State Park has impressive views, and their son-in-law, Marlee, had this photo taken of him during a recent Alaskan hunting trip. Alaska is simply one of the most beautiful places on earth.
About the time we settle into this new routine it will change all over again. Silage chopping will begin soon, and the third cutting of alfalfa means the chance to stack some small square bales. We have to reconfigure the combine to thousands of corn and soybean acres that will be ready for harvest before we know it, and we’re excited to break in a new 1,300-bushel grain cart this fall. Soon the new normal will be the old normal, which may seem abnormal. But to be honest I’m ready for the daily harvesting routine to begin again. This is the normal I enjoy the most. Just me and the machine harvesting.
The entire crew will soon find themselves in pumpkin season, ditching the summer short sleeve shirts for hoodies and gloves. The new grain cart will get broke in with corn and soybean harvest just around the corner. Dexter the cat has been enjoying his time at home as well, but he makes writing these blogs sometimes interesting.
Brian Jones can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
All Aboard Wheat Harvest is sponsored by Case IH, Unverferth Manufacturing Co., Inc., BASF, Oklahoma Baptist Homes for Children, Gleaner, ITC, Westbred, Huskie, Western Equipment, US Custom Harvesters, and High Plains Journal.