Can you believe we’re already approaching harvest season? Some people imagine harvest as more of an autumn occurrence and they’re not wholly wrong. But crops like our winter wheat and spelt are ready to harvest as early as July.
So how do we tell if our winter wheat is ready to harvest? Nature is always good about giving us clues. Color can be an excellent indicator. In your garden at home, you know the tomato is ripe and ready to add to your homegrown salad when it turns red. Wheat is similar. When the fields start to turn gold, you know it’s getting close to harvest time. Unlike your garden-fresh tomatoes, though, wheat isn’t ready immediately after changing color. The wheat itself is still soft, not at all like what you might find at the store. It usually takes a couple weeks to dry out before we can harvest.
The actual preparations for harvest are extensive and similar to preparing for a road trip. For a road trip, you’re checking fluids, belts, tires and cleaning out the inevitable clutter that seems to accumulate in the day-to-day commute. This is exactly what Seth does with our harvesting equipment. as well as looking carefully for repairs which may have been missed when we put away the machine last fall.
We have two combines. One is stored in a lean-to which means it’s still partially exposed to the weather. The other is stored in what we call “the shed” but it’s more like a miniature warehouse. The shed door is (remove ‘about’) a few inches too short for our combine, however, so to store it inside we actually have to deflate the tires a bit to get it through. And even then it’s a tight fit. The belts on both combines are loosened during the winter to remove tension and extend their life. And clearing out the cabs usually involves evicting a few unwanted guests (in the form of mice) and cleaning up whatever mess they happened to leave during their stay. Similar inspections and preparations are made on the grain trucks and augers and rechecking any repairs were taken care of after last year’s harvest, so it’s more a matter of checking things over and making sure everything is ready to go.
Then there’s the matter of attaching the headers to the front of each of the combines. The headers are 24 feet and 30 feet wide are what make a combine look like what you’d expect. Thankfully they’re detachable otherwise we’d never get our combine in the shed. But it does take a little maneuvering to get them on.
The last preparation is probably the most obvious. The bins, where the grain and seed will be stored as they’re harvested, have also been cleaned out which includes sweeping and vacuuming and checking for cracks or leaks in the floor, sides and roof. This usually happens as the previous year’s harvest is sold throughout the year. The goal is to have all bins emptied and cleaned before harvest is ready to begin.
Despite the drought and a nasty hail storm, most of the crops, except for the peas, which were completely destroyed, will produce at least a fair harvest we hope.