27 May Brian: Recess is over
Greenfield, Iowa—Remember when you were back in middle school? Class seemed to drag on forever, and you struggled to maintain your attention because all you could think about was one thing … recess. You spent hours sitting in anticipation, counting down the minutes to play time. Recess finally came, but you struggled to enjoy it because you dreaded knowing it was going to end soon. You always had one eye on the clock, counting down the minutes until recess was over and it was back to studying.
The winter months serve as recess for a custom harvester. The fields are harvested, all the machinery is tucked away, and it’s the first time in a long time when your day doesn’t start with pumping diesel and DEF. No longer confined to a cab for most of the day, it’s a chance to roam around the house … the one that has more than four rooms and doesn’t have wheels attached.
Fall harvest is a season of anticipation, the final task before our recess begins. By the end of November I find myself squirming in my combine seat like a little child counting down the minutes to play time. Harvesting corn and soybeans went well this year on our farm, even if the yields were not what we were hoping for. Like in so much of the Midwest summer rains were elusive here, and the extremely dry conditions were tough on the crops. A large rain came just in time to save the soybeans, but the corn was too far along to significantly benefit. Fewer bushels means fewer truck loads, faster ground speeds and in generally just a faster harvest overall. The bright side is we didn’t have to fight mud or snow to finish fall, and that means winter recess begins a little sooner and lasts a little longer.
If the weather is nice you got to go outdoors and play in school, but for most harvesters the weather during our time off is not so nice. Winter is kind of like the school yard bully, the one that hogs the ball and spoils all the fun. Despite the cold and snow there are still cows to feed every day, and the gloomy weather makes you think about those hot summer days in the wheat fields. I decided to make an escape from Iowa’s icy tundra in February and made a trip to Puerto Rico to visit some of my best friends from college. The island heat and humidity hit me the second I step off the plane, just as if I opened up the combine door in Kansas. It’s amazing how my brain somehow ties almost everything to a harvest memory, however I don’t remember Kansas having sandy beaches and palm trees. The weather may be similar to harvest time, but island time certainly is a lot less stressful.
Sadly, vacation and recess never seem to follow the laws of physics. It’s as if time is accelerated, like you warp into a different dimension. Without warning, winter recess is over and spring field work is upon us. Green grass means soon the cattle will be turned out to pasture and hay making will begin. The crew has been busy in the field doing tillage work, applying fertilizer and the planter has started putting seed in the ground.
Soon the combines will be rolling in the fields of Oklahoma under the blazing summer sun, leaving us all to wonder … how can our recess be over already? Well, it is, and the rush to prepare to leave has arrived. When you were in school going back to class after playtime almost seemed like a punishment, but for me it’s almost like a reward. Yes, I enjoy taking a break from harvest, but it’s never far from my mind … even when I’m on vacation. I’ve been missing the coordinated dance of the grain cart and combine unloading on the go, the parade of trucks headed to the elevator, and those amazing sunsets with a wheat field as the backdrop. I guess you could say winter recess is over and summer break is about to begin. And by summer break I mean the busiest time of the year … wheat harvest.
Brian Jones can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org