From Where I Sit – Close But No Cigar

“If I never run a combine again I don’t think I’ll be too sad,” were my words to Roy a week or so ago. It’s been a good run but I think I could live without the pressure.

I’ve been running a combine for at least 25 years and frankly the thrill is gone. I used to enjoy the testosterone rush of operating a big, powerful, expensive machine. And running it well. But as we trained a neophyte the last two days of Harvest ’08 we got to recounting the horror stories of harvests and helpers past.

I’ve had my share of mishaps and done some boneheaded things when fatigue overtakes me. Call me crazy, but I don’t think human beings are supposed to work non-stop for days or weeks on end. After 12 hours behind the controls I’m practically hallucinating. Once out of the combine, everything seems both louder and quieter than normal. Driving a pickup truck home seems foreign. Walking seems strange and unsteady.

For the record, let me say It’s impossible to be a farmer and go through harvest and not believe in God. It’s very apparent very soon just how small and insignificant we are in the big picture. Without His blessings there would be no crop, no harvest, no livelihood, no life. There is no man-made substitute for the warm, sunny, windy days required to take the crop off, though grain dryers and aeration bins try their best.

There’s nothing like watching hawks swoop down and grab a snack (a.k.a. field mouse). There’s nothing quite like Alberta’s big sky, fall foliage, and gorgeous sunsets. I know we are blessed when both the equipment and the people keep on going despite advancing years and worn parts.

we’re not even big farmers. We only seed about 500 acres. Our two John Deeres are old but paid for. Should we be borrowing to buy a brand new one for the same price as a house in Edmonton or a newer (than ours) one for the price of a house in Andrew? Or how about a tandem grain trailer? That would take the grain hauling pressure off Roy.

We spent $25,000 a few months ago to enlarge and convert three old grain bins into hopper bins with aeration fans. No shovelling of grain required when you go to sell it. Plus you can take the crop off with less than perfect moisture levels. Where does it all end, especially when we should be slowing down and don’t have a child waiting in the wings to take this all over?

Throw in a full-time job in another community and you’ve got one tired mama. I’m not thrilled getting up before six, putting in a day’s work, driving 50 kilometres home, and then combining until 10 or 11 at night only to repeat it again the next day and the next for as long as it takes to get the crop off.

We worked like hell this weekend trying to beat a bad, rain-filled forecast and finish the final field of canola. When Roy laid his weary body down at three this morning there was half an hour of combining left. I got five and a half hours of sleep. Despite the blessings, That’s why if I never combine again, it’ll be okay, from where I sit.