Farm Journal: harvest, long days (and nights)

The rye harvest is underway. Photo: Anne Riordan.

The rye harvest is underway. Photo: Anne Riordan.

This is part of a series of Farm Journals, farmers writing regularly about life on the farm, week to week, through the season. Anne Riordan is field manager at Cayuga Pure Organics outside of Ithaca. Read all her journal entries here.

July 16th

It has finally stopped raining!  So obviously, I am fully feeling a day late and a dollar short.  All of a sudden, the rye is ready to be harvested.  The oats are filling and golden and drooping… and more telltale, the weeds are pushing their way up through the stalks to remind me that the crop is nearly ready.  Which, in fact, is a bit odd… my oats are not usually ready this soon.  The beans I planted in the beginning of July (late!!!!  for those of you who know that June is the month to plant beans) are up and running!  They gained a half a foot and three leaves of growth within the first week, which is absolutely unheard of.  I am thanking the consistent 90 degree weather for that.   Beans LOVE warmth.

I also love warmth.  The warmer, the better!  (Much to the disbelief of everyone else on the farm, who is walking around in a constant state of melt-age). Here is my general day:  wake up early, slather on the sunscreen, go out to the field, do some work, go swimming, put on more sunscreen, more work, snack, do more work, go for another swim, work, snack more, more sunscreen, more work, more swimming…. bed.   And let’s not forget play with my dog. Well, there is more to that. But as a general outline in farm-related tasks, that’s about it.

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Bear at an undisclosed favorite swimming hole, the best kind. Photo: Anne Riordan.

Speaking of my dog, I promised I would introduce him and thus I will.  Bear is a one and half year old jet black super friendly very kid-oriented giant German Shepherd.  He comes with me everywhere. To each field (where he patiently sits and waits under the truck), to the bar (where he sits under the pool table), to Agway, to Advance Auto, to Napa, to Home Depot.  I tried to take him to the pet store once but unfortunately they keep treats on the floor…you can imagine how that went.  I am one of those parents everyone else doesn’t like. I keep endless amounts of pictures on hand to show everyone I meet, and I have a giant cheshire-cat grin while watching Bear do even the most mundane of things….like, for instance, eat breakfast, or sleep.

Back to farming though… this week is the beginning of harvest.  I cannot believe it's already started.  I've been vacuuming out big bins, and spreading diatomaceous earth (keeps the grain moths at check…while tearing small vicious holes in the lining of our lungs), and checking the bearings and grease fittings on the combine, cleaning out the bins and elevators and general preparation for the 140 acres of rye and oats I will be soon bringing back to the farm.

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The beans are up! Photo: Anne Riordan.

“Harvest” means the beginning of long(er) weeks … nights past eleven, with the lights on in the combine, the steady roar of the engine as we chomp through what feels like miles and miles of gently waving grain.    The whole farm bonds together during harvest. I’ve called Amy and Steven multiple times past midnight to beg for food and maybe a cold drink as I am sitting in the dark, trying to figure out what is going wrong with the unloading auger or perhaps calling Erick at 11pm to tell him a freak rainstorm just arrived out of nowhere, and he needs to find me a tarp as soon as possible. At moments like these, people always seem to answer their phone, a fact for which I am insanely grateful.

Usually, however, the phone’s not so useful. Yesterday, I took a tractor and an implement out about 7 miles away to do some quick fieldwork. I was expecting to be done in about half an hour, and would call my boss when I was done to come pick me up. In reality, the implement snapped in half, and my phone suddenly and mysteriously ceased to function. So… I walked!  Luckily, I got about half a mile down the road when the sweetest, kindest old couple picked me up.  I was so grateful that I didn’t have Bear. Having a dog when you’re stranded is inconvenient for multiple reasons, mostly because it looks like I’m out for a casual jaunt with my dog.  If you do know me and realize I wouldn’t be walking Bear in the middle of nowhere seven miles away from the farm, you usually come to the conclusion that you don’t have room for both me and him in the car. Especially if you have your own dog in the car.

So today’s task is that of fixing things. As is expected (it wouldn’t be ok if everything worked all day, every day), during my combining time yesterday, I busted a belt. Not only did I bust a belt but the busted belt picked up a giant rock and threw it in my side window, which, might I say, scared the living daylights out of me.  And since it was the belt that ran the cylinder of the combine, when the belt was gone, there was no reason for the cylinder to stop spinning even when the engine was off (at least I know my bearings are good, right?).

Barley in the grain auger. Photo: Anne Riordan.

Barley in the grain auger. Photo: Anne Riordan.

I turned off the engine and the noise of the spinning cylinder was still so loud I panicked. I thought something had gone so wrong that the engine wouldn’t shut off. Combined with that burning smell one gets when they shred a belt, and I just grabbed the fire extinguisher and ran outside and ran around the combine searching for the potential fire. I was terrified!

I just realized that the store I need to get my new belt from is an hour away, so I should probably get a move on.   Although truthfully I would much rather continue to expand on the peculiar beauty of farming instead of driving to Auburn.

Until next time…

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