Thursday, July 19, 2018

Gathering In

It's easy to think of autumn as the harvest season but it's mid-summer and we're overlapping the harvesting of both hay and winter wheat.  We are somewhat behind on where we *could* be with the hay - we are still doing first cutting but have had great hay making weather and could have been done if we were a crew of ten people.  Being as it's just the two of us and we're in (ahem) advanced middle age Andy only cuts enough hay to fill five wagons - about 650 bales - at a time so we can get it unloaded and in the mow before the next batch is ready.  We are closing in on five thousand bales and put up the first half of the second to last field today.

It lies about a mile up the road so Andy takes the baler with one wagon and I follow with a second and then make trips to bring the rest while he bales.  The moms with lambs were way at the end of their pasture.  They have gotten very cosmopolitan and don't flinch when big machinery drives past.

The sun was high and the light is harsh at midday but the hay is mostly timothy and still very green although the picture doesn't show it well.

Fields that we don't use have been rented for several years to a neighboring farmer and last year he tried putting in winter wheat.  Other years he has raised both corn and soybeans.  Corn grows reasonably well on this hill ground if it's prepped correctly and the weather is right but he had a couple of bad years weather-wise and switched to soybeans.  That really didn't work out well.  The crop grew alright but just when he should have been starting to run the combine we got five inches of rain and you could barely walk across the fields let alone drive machinery across it.  That was a loss.  The winter wheat seems to be a success!

I think wheat is one of the prettiest crops when it reaches maturity - graceful and romantic in a bucolic sort of way.

Lovely, solid fields of grain ready for the combine.

And he'll have the other product of  a crop of wheat - the straw.  This will be baled and sold, so there's two products for the effort and expense to raise one crop.  (Although that means he has the expense of  another line of machinery, so it's not like the straw is totally free.  Ag economics is complicated and usually leaves you thinking 'Is that all we made??' when you go over the books.)  We're glad to see him have success after some years of dicey results.

When I brought the third wagon he was already emptying the combine hopper into the big trailer.  Later, his daughter, home for the summer from college, took over driving the combine.  He said it was a good place for her to practice as the fields were small, flat and dry.  She also manages a herd of beef cattle on their farm, doing everything from making breeding selections to arranging slaughter and cutting of selected animals for the on-farm store's meat case.  Nice to hear of a young adult being so involved with the family farm.  Whether she stays with it or not she will still have a better understanding of business and hard work than the great majority of her peers and that can only work to her advantage.

Granted, it's apples to oranges, but it was amazing how fast he had gobbled up so much of that field while Andy was still on the second hay wagon.

The moms and lambs were working their way back toward the barn harvesting grass as they went.  The lambs are growing well and and looking less like babies and more like teenagers. It won't be long before we address weaning.  I'm sure we could do it any time now, but at the moment there's no pressing reason to separate them.

We have an abundance of yellow swallowtail butterflies this year and they were also busy harvesting nectar from flowers.  There are two in this photo - there were three but one flitted off.

We are only in late July - still many crops to be harvested and gathered in for the winter.


  1. Such a pleasure to read through your blog and look at the wonderful pictures. You and your husband definitely have a hard job and I certainly admire you for all the work you do to keep the sheep beautiful and well-tended too.

  2. LOVE a field full of "amber waves of grain" - and the resulting straw is a blessing too (even though it adds to the cost).
    A friend just posted a photo of the "straw bales" that can be bought at Joann's craft stores - $12.99 for a 12" x 18" (or so) bale... Hubby always comments that he's in the wrong business!