How To Survive A Wet Harvest

By now you’ve likely got a good portion of your crop in the bin. If you’re lucky, it’s all in the bin. As I write this, Prairie farmers have been given a week of sunny days and everyone is busy harvesting. The forecast says nothing but sun for another week, but I have a hard time believing it will last for too long. It seems only a couple of weeks ago that every cloud that wandered over us dropped a half-inch of rain. The summer of 2010 can be summed up by the words of John R. Cash, “It looks like we’ve been blessed with a little more rain.”

No doubt the rains will return before our late wheat ripens so we’ll still be plugging away on the combine well into November. In our area, the fields are reasonably dry and we haven’t been stuck yet this fall, however I know some areas have had a lot more rain than us so I thought I would pass along a few thoughts about late, wet harvests.

CHOOSE YOUR ATTITUDE

Before we start on any project we must remember that attitude is the most important thing in your day. How you start and finish your day is based on your attitude. YOUR attitude. Not the weather, not how your machinery behaves or how your crop yields. Your attitude is the controlling factor. Rain at harvest does not make you grumpy; your attitude to the rain makes you grumpy.

When you start your day you are the one to decide if you want to be happy, sad, grumpy, miserable or depressed. Most people will want to be happy. Concentrate on the good things we do have, not the things we don’t have. My uncle always said that if you’ve got a roof over your head and three good meals a day what more do you need?

Let’s tackle the rest of this harvest with the right attitude. If you’re reading this article chances are you are looking at the grass from the green side (not from the roots). That’s one thing to be thankful for. If you’re farming, it’s likely because you want to be and consider it an enjoyable occupation. Be thankful for that. If you’ve got a cab on your combine, that’s something to be thankful for. If you’ve got a heater in that cab, well, you’re really lucky. You get the idea. Quit griping about things you don’t have, be happy for the good things you do have and enjoy harvest.

Side note No. 1: Two tired-looking farmwives meet at the store in the morning. One says to the other, “I woke up feeling really miserable today. Did you wake up grumpy this morning?” “No,” says the other, “It was raining so I let him sleep in.”

HARVESTING IN LESS-THANIDEAL CONDITIONS

Harvesting in the mud will be a challenge. We haven’t been stuck yet but the tow ropes are handy and we’re watching out for low spots. Some of the crops that were seeded before the big rains will be a challenge because all the low spots were seeded and they will be hidden by the grain now.

1) Make sure you have good tow ropes and you know where to hook on to your vehicles and implements to pull them out without destroying some vital part. If it looks sticky, keep your rubber boots handy. Soggy shoes do not make a happy farmer.

2) Make plans for tough or damp grain. Have you got aeration bins or access to a dryer? Can you sell it right away before it heats? Make sure to check the bins after they’re filled to see if the grain is heating. Does your grain need cleaning before you put it in long-term storage?

3) Do you need to hire custom combiners? It may cost extra money but if the crop is off and in the bin it’s better than sitting under the snow.

4) Be careful where you park your truck. It may drive into that low spot empty but if you fill it up will it drive out? If the weather turns wet make sure to park equipment on a hill and not in a slough.

5) Make sure to check your combine as it gets colder. Our old Massey Super 92 would build up two or three inches of damp dirt on our grain pan if we combined in freezing weather. We had to make a long stick with nails on it to loosen it up so it would blow out of the machine. Keep an eye on your machine in cold or damp weather to make sure all is well. Working in below-freezing weather adds a whole new set of challenges for harvesting.

SAFETY

Harvest is, unfortunately, a time when many people get hurt or injured. Everyone is trying to hurry. Be careful out there. Make sure you don’t mix chains and cables with tow ropes when pulling. Use either one or the other. I prefer tow ropes or straps because they don’t go flying when they break.

Don’t work yourself and others to death. Make sure everyone takes time for breaks and try to get enough sleep. Operator fatigue is a great cause of accidents. Stop for 10 minutes to enjoy the scenery while you have a cup of coffee. Go for a stroll to stretch your legs.

Shut off machines when repairing them or when clearing out plugged grain. The minute you take to shut it off may save your finger, your arm or your life. It would be tough to hold your kids or grandkids with only one arm.

Even if it’s wet watch out for fires. Keep the engine compartments clean and the exhaust systems tight. Make sure you have fire extinguishers and even a water truck on hand. If you do get a big fire, just call for help and stay back. Don’t burn yourself trying to save a machine.

Watch out for other people. The other night as I was going home, doing about 80 km/h, when a truck flew past a yield sign and crossed right in front of me. It was close enough for my headlights to light his truck up quite well. Don’t let other people’s mistakes ruin your day.

Side note No. 2: One year I was harvesting late and I looked over to the neighbour’s yard and saw an orange glow. I was getting a bit concerned and thinking about calling the fire department until I got a little closer and saw that it was the Christmas lights on his house. You know it’s a late harvest when that happens.

LESSONS LEARNED AND PLANNING

Nothing is more frustrating than having our well-laid plans go terribly wrong, however perhaps we should look at our expectations more closely and adjust our planning. It’s not the fault of the world if our plans don’t work out.

If we expect perfect weather and breakdown-free days for weeks on end — I’m sorry but I think we’ll be sadly disappointed. We should not expect things to go perfectly every day. Hope for the best but prepare for setbacks and breakdowns. Don’t let things get you down. Ten years from now most of the things that frustrate us today will seem trivial.

Not only have we been blessed with a bit more rain, but we’ve also been blessed with a few more weeds than normal. It seems just about every weed seed grew this year. With the wet weather a lot of spraying was delayed or missed entirely. When you’re wandering around the fields in your combine this fall you can be making plans about next year’s weed control.

With all this moisture we had this year it will likely be moist if not wet next spring too. How can we plan ahead to make the seeding in 2011 a bit easier? Perhaps mounting pontoons on your air seeder is a bit far fetched, but there are likely things that can be done to make it easier to seed in the next wet spring.

Our cash flow will likely be a bit tighter this year. How’s yours looking? Do you need to do a bit of a shuffle to make it through until next year? It’s best to call the bank earlier instead of the day they’re going to cut off your power and repossess your truck. It seems there’s a more positive attitude towards farming with bankers today so don’t be shy if trouble is looming.

Well, there’s my two cents’ worth. I feel better when I view farming as a 10-year cycle. In those 10 years we’ll have one great year, one terrible year and eight years that are somewhere in between, however even if this is going to be the terrible year I’m not going to let it ruin my enjoyment of harvest.

I hope you have a safe and enjoyable harvest as well.

RonSettlerisaneternaloptimistandthe farmingcommunityneedsmorepeoplelike him.HeandhiswifeSheilaandtheirsons BenandDanfarmandrunarepairand salvagebusinessatLuckyLake,Sask.

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Hope for the best but prepare for setbacks and

breakdowns

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