This morning marked one week since I've finished my combining. There's still plenty to do around here as the ground freezes and the the winter makes it's eminent arrival. But getting that done was certainly a relief. I've mentioned before that while it's probably one of my favourite jobs that I do, it's almost certainly the most favourite job that I like to see get finished.
September was a remarkable month for combining. It seems that there is a shift of sorts happening because as a rule, October has historically been the the month that most of the harvesting took place around here. As it was, October turned out to be rather terrible in that regard this year. Whatever you didn't get done in September, had to be stolen from the field this October.
I cannot BEGIN to tell you the idiocy in trying to replace ones combine, the week prior to starting the harvest. I don't know whet the hell I was thinking. While the wheels started to turn on the combines of all my neighbours, I waited while they tried to find, then make the combine that I had bought ready to use. Then I had some breakdowns and just the whole process of shaking the bugs out of the thing and learning how to run this newer combine lost me the better part of a week. That's an extremely valuable week when it's time to harvest. But I thought it would be OK, because we'd have a good stretch in October and all would be well.
October was the shits!
I waited and waited to get back into the field. There was other jobs to do so it was busy, but what I really wanted was to be done with the harvest. It rained and drizzled and was miserable. Then, it began to look promising. And two weeks ago now, I started that big green beasty up and got back into the field. The first night, there was heavenly breeze and the conditions were extremely combiney. I was able to go until 5:30 in the morning. That whole week I didn't shut down before 1:00 in the morning.
But there were darkling shadows on the horizon. On Friday, it was supposed to snow. And turn cold. And that would be the end of it. Whatever didn't get combined would have to be left to be done in the spring. And that would suck! Like REALLY SUCK!
Friday morning, I had one field left to go, the clock was ticking. The fricken weather app on my phone said I had until noon before the rain would start, that would in turn become snow. So I fricken combined like I had never combined before.
I need to stop here and say that we also had hay out that needed to be baled. The help of some great neighbours, one who baled that hay, and one who had come earlier in the week with a combine and gave me a day, was the only reason that I was in the position of being able to be on the last field on the last possible day to combine for the year. I couldn't have done it without them. Thanks guys!
So.....I was combining like a bat out of hell, my son had gotten off work and spelled off our neighbour that had been baling. And for some unknown reason, the weather gods smiled on me. The rain held off. He finished the hay and showed up to bale the straw that was left behind as I combined. And somewhere around 11:30 PM, I finished. I would have liked to do some sort of freaky victory dance (because every time I dance, the result is freaky) but there was still 70 acres of straw that needed baling. And the snow was coming. And this was the last day. So I sent my son home with the combine, jumped into the baler tractor, and baled straw like I had never baled straw before! Until 7:30 in the fricken morning!
And as I finished off the last 4 or 5 rows, the snow slowly started to fall from the sky and I knew the all of those long hours and the time, and the fatigue, had been worth it because in a few hours, the ground would be a blanket of white. I went home and crawled into bed.
Except it didn't snow. Whatever fell as I finished off and drove home was all there was. It's been a week now and still no snow. Oh, it's been snowing. There's snow in the south, there's snow in the north, but no snow at home. I could have taken my time and finished the harvest at my leisure. Because these days, it takes me far longer to recover from a week of late nights than it did, even say, 5 years ago. When I look in the mirror, I look a little worse for wear. Tired, grizzled, and all leather faced. I can't help but wonder if there's some statistic, like how smoking each cigarette takes however many minutes off of the span of your life. How many years does each harvest takes off your life when it's all said and done?
But there's still plenty to do. It looks like we might not be able to finish getting everything cultivated unless we get some more warm days. There's manure to haul out, cows to bring home, fences to mend, bales to haul, equipment to repair, grain to market, calves to sell, it just goes on and on. I'm happy to be done combining though.
.............One other thing. When I said I combined like I had never combined before, I actually meant since last year. It seems to be the same thing every season.