Friday, October 14, 2016

Harvest: Part Five

We made good progress on corn harvest but decided to put it on hold for awhile. We have just a few acres of corn left on Mom's farm, named for her since she bought the farm without any input from my Dad, because we don't have any place to store the shelled corn if we were to combine it. We are waiting for semi's to haul some out of the stuffed corn bins to make room for the last of it. We also have around 120 acres or so on our farthest north farm that we farm for someone else. We generally harvest it last to save them money by not having to dry the corn down so much and also it is our farthest haul to get it dried and stored into bins. It is much easier to haul it when you aren't having to drive by twenty other farmers also hauling grain down the same roads. When the traffic dies down, there will be plenty of time to haul the last of it home.

So we started on the soybean harvest. We have just as many acres of soybeans as corn but harvest it quite different. While the corn has been averaging anywhere from 220 to 250 bushels per acre, the soybeans are probably around 60 to 80 bushels to acre. Both are bumper crops for this area but with soybeans yielding around three times less than corn, you would think it makes the job easier. Nope. We hire a custom harvesting outfit to help out so we most of the time have three combines (ours plus two others) working in the field at a time, sometimes four. Me being the designated catch wagon has to drive around like crazy unloading all the combines on the go so they never have to stop and transfer the soybeans to waiting wagons. It is pretty intense much of the time and requires a lot of concentration to keep all the combines straight so I will know which one will require unloading next, which direction we can unload in since combines can only unload from one side which must be pointed away from crops, get there in time and put the grain in the correct wagons. With custom harvesters who get paid by the acre, they like to go when the going is good and will work late into the night. This means that I must also carry a visual map of the field (in my head) we are working on so that I can navigate in the darkness and surmise where the empty wagons were dropped so I can find them and remember which wagons are full or have some grain in them in case we need to haul them in before an impending rain.

I find that my brain has to be so focused, that I have a hard time shutting it off at night (or early morning) when the rest of my exhausted body drops into bed for a few hours of sleep before starting over again. My dreams are filled with running the catch cart in the dark and always being confused. Fortunately, we had a light rain that kept us out of the fields for a day and a half which allowed me time to recuperate and type this into the computer for you all. We probably covered 350 acres of soybeans out of the 1000+ we had in two days so with three combines, it moves fast. Hopefully we get another handful of days to get the rest of them in so we can switch back and finish the last of the corn and be done. I can't wait.


sage said...

I didn't realize corn was so much more productive than beans--but that's a lot of both.

Kelly said...

All this talk of grain bins, yields per acre, etc. really brings back memories. Do you book your crops ahead of time?

I know it will be a relief when you're through!

Bob said...

Wow, Ed, to be quite blunt, you're working your ass off, and taking time to give us a narrative! What a guy! Seriously, this is all really interesting and I appreciate your taking time to tell your blog friends about it. (Note to self: go visit Ed in Iowa and get a first-hand view of harvest time!)

Leigh said...

Looking at all the photos of your harvesting is mind boggling to me. Dan and I are on such a small scale, and yours is so huge!

Glad to hear your mom is doing well. That's a relief to know.

Ed said...

Sage - It is but normally soybeans are three to four times the price of corn so in the end, it works out to be an equal crop monetary wise with corn. There were a few years a handful ago when ethanol demands caused corn prices to double and triple which is why you heard of farmers getting rich overnight. However, that's all gone again and things are back to being normal.

Kelly - Well we do hire people to spray the crop ahead of time and in the case of soybeans, harvest them before they are even ready. But generally with either, you get helped when they are in the area. Custom harvesters definitely want to combine as many acres as possible without having to waste time on moving so they tend to stay in an area until it is depleted. If you want to wait and they are there, you may get your crops harvested sometime in November after they get done with everything else.

Bob - I have found that many people really don't understand how a modern farm works these days. I'm glad that I was able to write these during my day off on Sunday afternoons. I perhaps should do more about other aspects in the future.

Leigh - Well nationally, I think the average farm size these days is less than 500 acres. In Iowa, it is less than 400 acres. We have 2100 acres or so in crops and another several hundred acres in trees, ponds, or unfarmable places. I really don't know exactly how much. Although you weren't reading my blog back then, I think, I've written about why that is before. During the farm crisis of the 80's, my parents by luck ended up on the good side of it and were able to expand cheaply while most of their neighbors went bankrupt. Those farms that were owned by neighbors are now owned by my parents. The farm crisis is also why I never became a farmer and instead escaped off the farm. I still remember the hard times and tears growing up. Still the farm keeps calling and I have enjoyed going back this last month to spend some quality time.