Monday, October 28, 2013

#174. or, The Wedge

  The best way that I can describe it, is that it's like a wedge.

  The beginning of harvest is the wide side of the wedge. That's where I start, looking side to side, and there's all this potential, and vast array of jobs to do. But there's time and while there's always pressure, it's not an overwhelming pressure that threatens to crush you into the ground as you try to get everything done. Because the wedge is wide, and it offers you the flexibility to move from side to side and spread out you're duties where you best see fit.

  Moving along, one breakdown compounds into the next and as the sides of the wedge begin to narrow, certain jobs have to be set aside, as it becomes obvious there's not going to be enough time to get everything on that list completed.

  And as you drive yourself into the point of that wedge, with all the force you can muster, as things seem to fall apart around you, the motion of trying to achieve that goal becomes the only thing you can focus on. It's the only thing that matters. The thing that you set out to accomplish even before there was the hint of a wedge, because in the beginning, it was so wide you didn't even notice it was there.

  However, the jobs you cast aside don't just disappear, they're still there needing to be done, they've just slipped behind you, and you drag them along. Toward that point, that goal, and all that stuff behind you is now pushing you into the tip of that wedge, forcing you into a place, that while it was your objective all along, it's a position that's uncomfortable and heavy as the days left available to you become less and less. Everything is compounded. Little breakdowns are the end of the world because they keep you from your goal. Inconsequential things make you angry for no reason. And at night, you crawl into bed exhausted and dusty because you're too tired to wander through the shower, yet you can only sleep sporadically as thoughts of all those jobs you cast to the wayside come back to haunt your slumber when you try to shut off your brain for a handful of hours.

   I don't know if what I do is the insanity, and writing is the anchor, or writing is the insanity and what I do is the anchor? But I think, having a little insanity in my life is a good thing. Whatever it is, writing is one of the things that got put on hold while I raced to that wedge. I'm not apologizing for it, but I've missed it. My notebook, that had gotten crammed into a deep deep corner of my dusty backpack is ready to come out again and get filled with ideas, because  on Thursday night, I finished my harvest. Beyond the date I had set out for myself. Hell, I blew far far beyond that date. But I did finish, and while there's still plenty of things to be done, at least it feels like I've come out the other side of that wedge.

   Perhaps that wedge isn't really a wedge at all, but more of an hourglass, and over the next month or so, as I move away from that narrow point, and all the potential of the wide open view sinks in, I'll have the desire to do it all over again.

 .............because after all, there's always next year.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

#173, The End is Near!

  As I sit here, hunting and pecking this out, I have one field left to combine. That's not to say, by the time you read this I won't be done, because honestly, it's been pretty damned hard to find the time to write. Add to that, I've become so focused toward finally completing my harvest, any spark of inspiration or wit burning in my imagination has been temporarily snuffed out by lung-fulls of grain dust, sometime when I wasn't paying attention.

  Before you read the next paragraphs, I want you to know, I don't consider myself driven. In fact, I might even be leaning toward the lazy side. And while I've been combining my ass off at every available opportunity, I can't keep from thinking if I was a harder worker, I may be done by now. I'm just saying, a Sunday on the couch with my wife and a stack of movies is looking pretty damned attractive right now, even though the end of combining doesn't mean that's any closer.

  Anyways, the last three nights haven't gone so well. Thursday around midnight, the cab of my combine filled with the distinct smell of smoke. I spent a good half hour going over things but there was no sign of anything burning. I decided to continue, but before I finished the round, was shut down buy the sound of banging and clanging. Unless you're in the drum corps, banging and clanging are not good sounds. So I went home and tried to sleep with my memory filled with all of the images of combines burnt to a crisp, mid swath, that had flooded my twitter timeline over the last month.

  Friday night, at 4:00 am, (which I know is technically Saturday morning, but the days are all sort of running together here) as I was unloading canola, again with the banging and clanging. In the hopper tank of my combine, there is metal slide that helps distribute the grain evenly in the hopper. That broke loose, and was eaten up by the auger. So I got shut down again.

That doesn't belong in there.

  Last night, (Saturday) I was trying to clean up the last of my wheat, and it was trying to rain. I had so little left, and the more it drizzled, the more difficult it got to get the crop into the combine. Wet crop doesn't slide as well as it needs to, to get where it needs to go. You're not supposed to combine in the rain, and I probably looked like an idiot. Then half my lights went out, and the slip clutch fell apart.

  On the bright side, my combine didn't burn to the ground, and the Thursday banging and clanging wasn't such a difficult fix, so it didn't take too long to get going again. Friday night, 4;00 am banging and clanging, was easily fixed by cutting the slide out of the auger with the cutting torch, and everything still works without the slide, so not so bad either. Saturady night, I was able to patch the slip clutch back together enough to finish the field with the lights I had left, and even though the straw was getting quite damp and hard to get through, turned out the wheat was still dry. So that was good.

  When I eagerly began this harvest I remember the moon was full and bright in the sky. Now the moon is full again, and I'm eagerly anticipating the end of harvest. Granted, I lost a couple weeks in there, because of rain, but it's been a long-assed haul. I'm ready to be done. I have one field to go, and weather permitting, and if everything hangs together, I should finish on Monday. The light at the end of the tunnel is in sight, and I'm headed in that direction. Cross your fingers.

  ...........also, when you're combining between midnight and 4:00 am, majestic Mr. Owl likes to fly in and sit on the side of the truck and watch me combine. Apparently when I leave, he also likes to sit on the combine. I can tell by the nasty gift he left me on the deck plates in front of my door the next morning.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

#172. or, The Not so Pumpkin Spiced Latte

  My wife likes a little coffee in her creamer, enjoyed from a cup that holds about a third of the contents that our coffee pot will produce. And there's nothing wrong with that. I on the other hand, start my first cup with a splash of the hazelnut creamer we've been using, and gradually fade to black by my third cup. I tend to slam them hard and fast. Like when you try to burn through that tray of drinks you bought at last call at the social and now they're playing that last slow song before they turn on the lights and send you home, and you still have Forty dollars worth of booze in front of you. Because if my wife goes back for refills on that pail she's using for a coffee mug, I'll be done, and will have to wait for coffee time to continue my recharge.

  We tend to go through a bit of coffee.

  October, over the last few years, has brought on an inundation of an all new coffee phenomenon. The pumpkin spice latte.

  Now, my nose isn't all that sensitive. You'd think from the size of it, I could smell like a dog. That's to be able to smell as well as a dog can, not smell like the dog does, because I know there are days I come home from doing what I do, stinking worse than the dog. I believe my olfactory senses have been somewhat dulled by a perpetual onslaught of a combination of agricultural chemicals and cow shit.

  I can smell some, but not great. I've been tricked more than once, coming home to a house filled with the delightful aroma of what I'm certain is fresh baked cinnamon buns, only to discover an apple/nut/cinnamon scented candle burning. So, there is the association with smells connected to certain things in my memory.

  Pumpkin spice. It sounds wonderful. Like something you want to eat, but when I hear those words, I can feel my synapses trying, but firing off  blankly in my head. I want to associate it with something. I remember my childhood, and from carving pumpkins with my kids, the damp musty smell of pumpkin guts in a bucket beside the table. That's not it. I remember leaving the Jack-O-Lanterns my kids carved, sitting out a little too long because of their attachments to things created from their own hands, and having to scoop it off the side walk with a shovel because it had begun to liquefy. That's not it either.

  Usually I end up settling on pie.

  I don't do much baking. In fact, I don't really do any baking. But I have a suspicion that pumpkin pie is less about the pumpkin, and more about the elegant mix of spices and flavourings added to it. My Grandmother was a prolific vegetable grower, and coming from a time when you used every damned thing you could produce, she would trick me into eating cakes made from zucchini or beets, that I had no idea were vegetable based products. Until she told me, which I'm certain she got some sort of perverse pleasure from.

  Anyways, it's my suspicion that the pumpkin is like a blank canvas that conforms to whatever concoction of flavourings that you blend with it. And because it's the season of harvest and Halloween, and sitting wrapped up in a warm cozy blanket, reminiscing over the past summer, while you sip a warm beverage consisting of roasted beans, the major producers of coffee-to-go, have seen fit to play upon our nostalgic memories to sell more product. I've tried those beverages from two of those coffee-to-go companies, and have been left...........wanting. Not to mention  feeling somewhat misled by the advertising with pumpkins all over them, when they should probably have nutmeg and allspice and some other thing I can't put my finger on, rather than pumpkins.

  I can't really blame them, even though I didn't care for either pumpkin spice latte. They're advertising did, in fact, seduce me into buying their seasonal products, on two separate occasions. So they're moving a lot of coffee, to people who normally wouldn't spring for something like that. Plus, I'm certain there was fevered debate by a bunch of suits in a boardroom somewhere, whether or not to go with the pumpkin spice latte, or the roasted turkey, mashed potato and gravy cappuccino. I think they probably made the right choice.

  ............that being said, if I could come up with a coffee flavouring to make you subconsciously reminisce for colourful wrapping paper and bows, and decorated evergreens before Christmas, I could make a million.

I Don't Like Mondays Blog Hop

Friday, October 04, 2013

#171. or, Lift with your brain.....not your back

I have the answer to one of those burning questions that probably keeps you up at nights pondering, until you finally fall asleep at 5 in the morning, then snooze right through the alarm clock making you late getting your kids up and to school.

How heavy is the transmission and differential cover on a 2950 John Deere tractor?........

Freaking heavy enough, that if you try to lift the thing by yourself, you're probably going to taste yesterdays breakfast. That is of course assuming that your digestive tract works as poorly as mine does.

Back in the day, (because I'm old and get to use phrases like that now) I probably would have been able to pick that thing right off the floor and tuck it nicely in, right between the cab and the transmission where it needs to go. Most likely without a second thought. But, that also might be the reason why my joints snap and pop in the morning until I can get them thoroughly lubricated with coffee. It's also the reason why now the phrase, "lift with your legs, not your back", seems like much better advice than it did, say.....10 years ago.

When I was young. Young and invincible.

These days, I tend to do more of the heavy lifting with my brain, rather than the limited brawn I seem to have left. That's not meant to be a resounding endorsement of my intellectual wealth. Truth is, I'm not the smartest farmer on my block, and if I was, I probably would have made my million inventing something like vacuum cleaner slippers so you could just shuffle about sucking up dust bunnies. But I'm not a millionaire, so clearly, limited brain power to match my limited brawn.

I try to exercise my brain. That's partly what this is. An exercise that sends my brain off toward something other than crop planning, marketing, the direction I want to go to remain viable, and all of the varied things I need to get done in the limited window of reasonable weather we have left. The thing about exercise, is that some days, it's just easier to sit on the couch inhaling potato chips. But also, once you get off your ass and do it, exercise at some point magically transforms itself from a chore, into the thing that makes you feel good.

So that's how it is. I like this exercise, and even though I most likely won't even come close to the goal of reaching 200 posts by the end of the year I had set for myself, I'm still plugging away. Doing brain squats, if you will, to keep from becoming a bleary eyed, drooling mass, slouched in the corner in full mental shut-down. Hopefully, in 10 years or so, it won't be my brain, along with my body that cricks and pops when I try to get out of bed in the morning. And if I'm lucky, both will still work well enough together to be able to figure out a way to get the transmission and differential cover back onto a 2950 John Deere tractor with a combination of both brain and brawn, and still be able to bend over to tie my boots the next morning.

..........just in case you're wondering, coffee and toast with honey. And it tasted much better coming in from the outside than from inside up.