Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Farming Is Not For the Weak of Heart

Soybean Harvest

Farming is not for the weak hearted, that is for sure. After months of watching it rain, my parents were able to rush in a crop only to have parts of it drown in the following rain. So in-between rains, they replanted, only to have parts of those drown out. But as the summer wore on and the now redeeming rains continued to falls, the crops grew well and the grain prices continued to stay high. But then the economic crisis thing happened and the prices fell and fell and fell. Meanwhile, crucial things like dryer gas remained high. Large parts of fields were ready for harvest but rains and green crops that had been replanted a month after the main crop hampered efforts. Finally yesterday, my parents were able to begin soybean harvest, now almost a month later than normal.

We Abbey's were there for the event after first making a several hundred-mile detour to pick Brother Abbey from the airport. If you recall, Brother Abbey fell off a grain bin almost a year ago and in some miraculous fate of intervention, lived to tell about it albeit with a leg shattered in hundreds of pieces. After several surgeries, lots of metal, scores of screws, rehabilitation and the passage of time, he is walking and with only the slightest of limps, something I never thought I would see again.

Within minutes of arriving on the farm, Brother Abbey, his girlfriend, and my family, walked out to the fields to meet Mother and Father Abbey. We had a quick reunion and then got back to work for harvest does not wait. Mother and Mrs. Abbey went back inside to finish preparing a late night meal. Little Abbey and I rode with Father Abbey in the combine for an hour talking and watching an extremely fascinated Little Abbey, almost two years and five months old, absorb the harvest process. Finally as the sun was starting to dip into the horizon, Little Abbey and I walked back across the field to the farmhouse while Father Abbey and Brother Abbey continued to work into the approaching darkness.

Little Abbey played with Mother Abbey for a while and then because a Monday and a new workweek was coming quickly, we bid our goodbyes and drove home in the dark. I'm sure we were back home and almost in bed before the rest of my Abbey family were inside eating their supper. Such is the way of harvest for the next six weeks if dry weather prevails. But as the summer has gone, so has our fall and rain is forecasted for the next three days.

To sum all this up, there is a bountiful crop in the field that isn't worth very much due to the recent economic crisis. Harvest is a month later than normal meaning anxious farmers wanting to get their livelihood under a waterproof roof are harvesting it earlier and thus wetter than normal meaning drying bills for safe storage are through the roof, no pun intended. The Abbey's have farmed for generations and no this well so we do our best to secure it but make time for family. Yes, farming is not for the weak of heart.


sage said...

I bet Little Abbey was excited!

Have they harvested the corn yet? In eastern NC, they'd do the corn first (fearing a tropical storm) then soybeans, peanuts, etc. Up here, most seem to do soybeans, then corn. Do your parents have a sell contract before harvest or just wait and sell afterwards?

Ed Abbey said...

Sage - There are several reasons that I can think of. Soybeans mature and dry down faster and generally can be stored right from the field. Corn takes longer to mature and dry down. Harvesting soybeans now while the corn dries and thus doesn't take so much gas to dry down for storage just makes economical sense. Plus soybeans are a lot more sensitive to the environment. If they get heavy frosts or too dry, they can shatter during harvest and end up on the ground instead of the combine. My parents did contract their gas earlier in the year when it normally is cheaper so they lost out on that deal since gas in now cheaper. They also do sell some grain on contracts depending on the year but always keep some to sell in early spring or summer of next year when prices are usually higher.

R. Sherman said...

I wonder how many people actually contemplate what it takes to get food from field to stomach. I have a sneaking suspicion most have an idea that its throw some seed in ground in May, harvest it in September and lay in a hammock in between.


Good luck to your folks.


Ed Abbey said...

R. Sherman - I have the same sneaking suspicion.

Murf said...

I want to ride in a combine! Has it gotten so bad that he's charging for rides yet?

Don't you ever get tired of the fake names?

Ed Abbey said...

Murf - Not yet. I never tire of protecting my anonymity. I learned my lesson well thanks to Suzie whom I'm sure you remember.

geri said...

Farmers are heroes.

In the Philippines when farmlands from big landowners were redistributed by the government to small farmers most of them just sold off their share to factories, subdivisions etc because it was the easier way to earn money.

Beau said...

Great subject, and glad to read about sharing your family's harvest this year. Farmers around here are doing the same thing. It's hard to believe the range of prices we've seen with commodities and everything else this year.