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A feverish harvest week

Harvest is a literal and figurative time of year for a farmer with extra stress

The harvest started in a fever. We bit into the soybeans the day before my parents were scheduled to move from the farmhouse they’ve lived in for more than 30 years to a new house in town. The movers were booked.

The soybeans were ready to harvest. The moisture was perfect, the sample was clean, and the combine was in tip-top shape. But this year, our attention was split.

We began on a Thursday. On Friday, the day the movers were scheduled, it rained. After that it’s all a blur.

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Farmer holding soybean

Day 1: Moving day

My wife and I were still in shock. That night would probably be our first in my childhood home. It took the movers about a full day to load the contents of their house on the farm and unload in town. This was impressive.

We pleaded with them to help us move a couple heavy things from our mobile home to the farmhouse before they called it a day. Our couch, bed, coffee table, and a few other items were carried over. We could spend the night!

Day 2: No time to rest

My in-laws arrived shortly after we said goodbye to our overnight guests. We worked all day moving our kitchen and the remainder of our living room over. At this point, my wife and I have not had a second to appreciate the fact that we now live here.

Day 3: Open Farm Day

I left the house at 7 a.m. that Sunday. It was Open Farm Day and Manitoba Pulse & Soybean Growers had a booth at the Bruce D. Campbell Farm and Food Discovery Centre in Glenlea, Man. This was a great experience. Families and couples and adults are able to visit a brochure full of farms that have opened their operations up to the public for a day, giving people who otherwise may not know about agriculture the opportunity to see it take place and talk to a farmer.

Children are fascinated by agriculture. They don’t yet know about pesticides, social license, nutrient runoff, genetically modified organisms. And I wasn’t about to tell them. We gave them each a bean-planting kit, and, from the looks on their faces, this was the best thing that has ever been given to them.

Day 4: The soybean harvest

At this point, our clothes, dressers, offices, jackets, boots, and my wife’s chickens are all still in the mobile home.

On this day we really started into our beans. If what we were seeing Monday morning was an accurate representation of the crop, these would be “some of the best soybeans this farm has ever grown.“

That evening, we pushed until the fever took me. It would be my last load, when I backed up to the conveyor, turned on the PTO, and stepped outside. I was struck with a chill that left my nearly paralyzed. I tried to summon the mind over matter technique, hoping that whatever this was just needed to willed away.

I was done for the day.

Day 5: Fever, one; farmer, zero

We still haven’t fully moved.

I spent the day lying on the couch watching the man my father recruited to help with the harvest drive the grain truck back and forth a few feet away from my living room window. I was too sick to help with harvest.

Day 6: The isolation strips

We still haven’t moved. I’m still sick.

My seed soybeans were ready for inspection, and I needed to mow the ditches surrounding my fields.

Tired, feverish and chilled, I put on long johns, jeans, insulated coveralls, and every other warm garment I could find and I set out on the 45-minute, open-cab pilgrimage to my land north of Morden, Man. This was a mistake. I got the strips mowed, but I swear it set my recovery back (I’m still sick).

Day 7 and 8: Manure made no difference

The heavy fever was gone, and I was back on the truck. We worked late and we worked hard.

On Day 8, we started in on my soys. The field is split into a 90-acre and a 20-acre section. This spring, I had manure injected on the 90. I was curious how yields would differ between the two sides.

They were exactly the same. Each side yielded mid to high-40s, which, I am very pleased with. Our area received well-timed rains in August, allowing the soybeans to ripen naturally. If we used our imaginations, the stand on the manure side was taller, but we’d both be reticent to submit that as our final observation.

We have yet to experience the full gravity of what has happened in the past week and half. It’ll hit us sometime. Until then, we’ve become used to visiting my parents in town. I’m not entirely sure what my siblings think. I’m sure it’s a complicated tangle of thoughts and feelings.

It rained over the weekend. Perhaps tonight we’ll spend together in our new house, just the two of us, under blankets, sipping lemon water. I’m still sick and my wife mentioned something about a sore throat this morning.

About the author

Columnist

Toban Dyck is a freelance writer and a new farmer on an old farm. Follow him on Twitter @tobandyck or email [email protected]

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