Agriculture gets into your bloodstream the way any passion stirs your heart. You breathe it in and it somehow enriches, excites and sustains you. Daily contact with farming and livestock places you in a world unlike any other. It is one that offers an outdoor journey of the cycle of life, whether that be following the course of a sown seed from spring through fall harvest or wit-nessing the annual birthing of lambs.
It is an occupation held by those accustomed to dealing with the unexpected, comfortable with monotony, and skilled in analytical thinking. Farming is chock full of troubleshooting scenarios. It isn’t for the faint of heart. Those who embrace and live it do find that it surpasses being just a challenging and satisfying livelihood. It simply is life.
Harvest time is the perfect example of the elements of farming uniting to create a poetic scene in harmony with God’s intentions for sustenance. Every season is a humbling reminder that nature rules. By October, the rains, the temperatures, and the winds, have all played a part in whether Kansas crops will produce gainfully. The fields have been tended as much as humanly possible, and there comes a point at which farmers have to step back and wait for the culmination of their efforts to naturally take place. Once the grain reaches the level of dryness necessary for storage, the combines roll out and long days ensue.
This has been a year of strange weather patterns. There is variation on how well our fields have fared based upon the amount of water they received. Dry times took their toll on our crops just when they needed moisture the most. Those fields where we did not have irrigation are producing 50 percent less grain than the acres where pivots were running.
Three crops are simul-taneously being harvested at our farm — corn, soybeans, and grain sorghum (milo). Milo is not something we grow every year. It is a member of the grass family, and the starchy seeds are fed to livestock as an energy source, as is corn. The lack of moisture from the summer of 2012 through the spring of 2013 left our soil in drought-like condition. Milo grows well in hot, dry climates. It is also aesthetically pleasing with its terra cotta colored seed heads.
Though the days are long, harvest goes by quickly, as one field after another is turned to stubble. If you have never stopped to see a combine in action, consider doing so in the next couple of weeks. A lot of thought goes into the systematic flow of harvest. As one truck carries its load of grain to town, another is filling up in the field. The bin of a combine can carry 300 bushels of grain and is unloaded every 15 minutes. (An average size pickup box bed has a capacity of 30 bushels.)
Grain trucks swarm rural roads and highways these days. Combines are also moving from field to field via these roads. Please be cautious and patient if you get stuck behind a slower moving farm vehicle. Take a deep breath and a moment to soak in how lucky we are to live in a country blessed with productive land and full grain bins.
Mary Mertz is a member of River Creek Farms east of Manhattan. If you have farming questions, please use email@example.com.