The wind pushes through the wheat like a large hand. Making it sway and bow against the brush. Meanwhile, the grain that awaits its harvest shakes in its protective shell.
Summer time on the farm is here. With that comes the harvest of wheat. Combines are getting blown out of dust accumulated over the winter. Farm kids are jumping with anticipation of their first ride this year. Our children are helping by organizing harvest meals in the freezer, to washing windows of vehicles, vacuuming, and handing a tool dad needs while doing pre-harvest maintenance on the equipment.
Time to walk the fields of gold more. The kids are struggling to tag behind while we roam through the area taking heads of the wheat into our hands. Showing our children how to rub the wheat in our hands to separate the grain from its head. Letting the wind help in dispersing the chaff and other debris that comes with it. Grain in hand is small and tan. Farm kids are waiting for Mom or Dad to chew their first bite of it. Too chewy, wait a few days. Hard as a pebble, let’s get the combine in here. I always have enjoyed the look on my children’s faces when checking the grain. It’s the same look I got when I was little, and my dad walked the fields with me. Will we be able to harvest the crop that we helped nurture for 9 months? Or, will we have to hurry up and wait?
The first taste of the kernels in your mouth is both exciting and interesting. As a child, I always liked the chewy side of it. Get enough in your mouth, and it was like gum. Dad use to stick the straw into the side of his mouth while we walked. Chewing it slightly.
When the grain is good to go, it can be an excitement of rushing things about. Calling up family and friends that are there to lend their time to help bring in the harvest. Chauffeuring the kids to where they need to go. Most the time the thrill of just seeing Grandma, and knowing that they get to spend time with her. Hugs goodbye and have a good day, are often. No tears. They know that as soon as we can get it cut, the faster we get done.
What is it like when we get to the first field? The first cut?
Starting up the sleepy engine of the combine, as she roars her big song. The honk of the horn to those waving from the windows. They will soon get their rides after we have moved safely to the field and set-up. The sway and slow buck of the combine as she makes her way down the road to a new season of harvest, while the blink of orange lights alert caution of big equipment is moving. The wind outside blowing hot air that seems to bake anything it touches. Good for wheat harvest, bad for anyone or anything to start a spark.
When we get to the field, we slow everything down. Get on the phone or radio, telling others to hold back. I’m going in. Pulling and pushing buttons to start her. She groans and shakes to life. Putting her head into the already waving wheat. First, slow. Making sure that everything looks and sounds as if it’s working the way it should. Cutting the wheat, the reel pushing the cut part into the header, going into the mouth of the combine to be separated from its shell. The first rain of grain in the tank behind my head is seen through a window. It’s tan and small, but a sign of our bounty that soon will-hopefully-plentiful. After working our way back and forth across the field, it’s time to unload on the grain cart. While still cutting the tractor and grain cart seem to dance with the combines across the field. Helping unload them on the go. The beauty of seeing the wheat grain come out of the combine and into the cart is something you can’t write down. It’s a river of future food. Soon the tractor and grain cart unload on the waiting trucks on the road. The trucks running, and every now and then puffing air out from their brakes on the trailer. When full the trucks get tarps put over the precious grain, sealed until it’s delivery to its destination. As the truck slowly pulls away, a plume of dust following behind, the combine and tractors keep on with their dance together.
Dusk has come, and so has food, kids, and laughter. Spending hours in the field it’s great to stretch your legs, get hugs from those tiny little arms. Food, oh the food. What is it about meals in the wheat field that make memories? With the machines in the background taking a rest as well. This is the time for family and friends. How they are intertwined with what we do. The talk of how things are going, and comparing them to years past. Grandpa and Grandma were reminiscing about when they were children and their experiences with wheat harvest. Oh, how things change, but really haven’t.
Rides. As a child, these machines are massive and loud. Understanding, in a way, of the dangers. The thrill of sitting right beside Mom or Dad as they work. My daughters hand laying gently on my thigh. Her way of being close but not in the way. My son getting trained in the tractor and grain cart. His legs just long enough to push the clutch, while pulling a little on the steering wheel to get the clutch all the way down.
His independence scares us sometimes, but with a little guidance in the right way, safe way, he will become ‘one of the team’ that helps bring in the bounty.
Kisses and hugs are being given as the sun sets to our most treasured gifts. They will get tucked into their beds safely by Grandma. A few pouty faces, but it doesn’t last long.
Sunsets at wheat harvest are something to be in awe. Sometimes Mother Nature can grumble with a threat of storms. Most of the time a stillness, while the purr of the machines is still dancing to their own song among the gold field. Lights aluminate among the areas on the equipment. Soon, there is a twinkle of the first stars above, then a twinkle of a field beyond yet to be cut. They are their own stars. Lightning bugs. Like a glow of diamonds at times. Flying up and down in the fields, and ditches beyond.
It gets late into the night. When most are snug into their beds. We’re still out working, along with those who are helping dump our grain at local elevators. These can be the loneliest of times, but also the times that you think the most.
When you finally get home after an 18 hour day (on average), you feel physically and mentally exhausted. You still take the time to go in and kiss your babes on their heads and watch them sleep in peace. We are doing this for them, you think. Their future, our future.