Karen Schwaller

There can often be kind of a love/hate relationship going between the farm family and the harvest season.

Kind of like what goes on between husbands and wives during that arduous and elbow-deep paper-flying tax preparation season … even without the profanities which sometimes find their way to the home office in the process.

The long hours of harvest offset the anticipation of what is always hoped to be the biggest crop yet. Machinery breakdowns at critical times make farmers anxious; but when combine heads swallow up the year’s work, there’s something to be said about the satisfaction which comes from seeing a field completely gleaned and moved from the field into storage.

There are many perks observed between the first field of the harvest being opened up and the last load of the year going to the bin.

Breathtaking sunsets would have to be among those perks that only serve to distract a person so much they could forget why they are out there to see it in the first place. More than once I’m sure it was the reason for an S.O.S. call on the radio from my husband to tell me to get over a row or two because I was too close to the combine.

It’s the one time of year when I understand why the male of the species finds beauty so distracting. Though I can’t say I’ve ever had to tell my husband he was driving too close to me…

When you participate in the harvest you get to see the world from a higher vantage point. For us short people, it’s a glimpse into the world of thinner air and for once, looking down at people … who can also now see our double chins without trying too hard.

I always find the irony in it when I’m following the combine in the field, and it appears to move along slowly and methodically. But on the side of the combine are small gears that you can see running fervently — like they’re on a serious mission to keep that combine going. It reminds me of ducks: looking calm above the water, but padding like crazy underneath. I also think it’s how farmers look that time of year—calm on the outside, but calculating like crazy profits and losses for the year, and hoping it’s good news for the banker and the bottom line.

Eating lunch in the field is a special event all its own. A neighbor lady of ours told me just this past fall, “Everything tastes better when it’s eaten in a tractor cab.” I had not thought of it that way before; and maybe it’s just a woman’s perspective. It gives me insight as to why young children are always finding their way into the farmer’s nosebag. There’s just something about finding some kind of treasure in there to eat while spending time in the combine cab.

Not having to cook supper is another perk for the woman of the house who also gets more fresh air and exercise than normal as she helps with the harvest. In our operation, when it’s time to think about supper for our crew, it’s my job to abandon the grain cart and leave it to someone else while I scamper to the nearest town to pick up something for everyone. I could complain that I always have to be the one to run after supper for everyone; but I don’t do it because those trips to town also afford me a chance to answer Mother Nature’s call like civilized people do. I need to be careful what I wish for…

And after riding high in the tractor cab all day, I feel like I’m riding a skateboard to town as I drive along in the pickup.

The days start early and are long. But in retrospect, they go by quickly. It’s kind of exciting for most of the day, but by 8:00 at night I’m usually ‘over it’ and just want to go home. I might have another two or three hours before that happens, though.

It’s amazing to watch the landscape change as the harvest goes along. Not just from our fields being done, but from the work all farmers are accomplishing. The fields are bare, you can see for miles, and it creates the canvas for the coming winterscape. All that’s left to come are the cows quietly grazing, round bales dotting the fields, and then the snow.

Most of all, the harvest is a feeling of being part of something much larger than ourselves … something we could not do if it were left solely to human hands.

Perhaps it’s a good thing God’s not ‘over it’ by 8:00 at night, like I am.

Karen Schwaller brings “Table Talk” to The Land from her home near Milford, Iowa. She can be reached at kschwaller@evertek.net.

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