A Year of Many “Firsts”
This month has flown by about as fast the next rain will flow down the ravines that have established themselves in my front yard. When looking back on past Octobers, there are a lot of similarities between past and present but also lots of differences. Some offered freezing temperatures throughout with a good shot of snow here and there. Others were either rainy or dry but also cold enough that I had to wear a coat.
This year was a mixture of everything. There was a seven day span at the start of the month where I ran the heater for two days, then shut it off for two days. The air conditioner ran for the day after and then we shut everything off again for another two days. Granted, I have a wife who is nearly 8 months along in her pregnancy and enjoys a comfortable temperature in the house, but temps that week ranged from 32 to 82 degrees.
This past year has been quite the wild ride. May, in particular, was about as exciting and event-filled as any month I’ve ever experienced. My wife (Ashley) graduated from UNMC’s nursing school on the first Friday, which happened to be the same day that we got to break the news to her family that we were expecting our first child in early December.
Both of my younger brothers had graduations of their own – one from high school and one from college. About four days after the college graduation, Ashley and I closed on our first home! Luckily, we were done planting our soybeans before the graduations and the house closing; otherwise, I would have had quite the upset father.
Now if we fast forward to Labor Day – because all that really happened this summer anyways was the fact that the sun came up, it was hot and then the sun went down again. Day after day, week after week. I guess on the farm we take a more literal translation to the term “Labor Day”, which nearly always means that it’s a day of labor. (Now that I have in-laws, it’s understandable to sneak away to the lake and do some camping every now and then). But this year’s Labor Day marked the first day of harvest for us. And the only reason we didn’t combine anything the week prior is because “We’ve never combined in August before and I’m not about to start right now,” per dad.
Harvest flew by pretty quickly. It seemed like we bounced back and forth from corn to beans and then back to corn nearly every week – only having to stop for a couple days because we didn’t have any corn dry enough to pick. The soybeans were dry enough all throughout September. The stems might have been green and there still may have been leaves on the plants, but the pods were dry and breaking open in many areas. This was due to the fact that we didn’t have enough moisture to create strong enough pods that held the beans inside of them.
We have lots of time to look back and talk about the 2012 harvest, which finished for us on October 8th and could have been the 6th, but dad and grandpa took that Sunday off to work at our church bazaar. Harvest wasn’t good this year when you take a look at the production we’ve had over the last five years, but it was better than we were expecting, given the fact that we almost went an entire crop year without a drop of rain. It takes a year like this to really appreciate the fruits of your labor. Do we want another year like this next year to REALLY appreciate the fruits of our labor? No, we’ve definitely appreciated enough this year!
To my family, especially my parents, harvest means happiness. It means food, clothing and gasoline. Farming is our life, it makes the money but it also makes the memories. Some of the memories good and some not so good, but with each memory comes multiple stories. And stories are what make us function. They make us laugh, smile and shake our heads. Sometimes it’s difficult to remember each harvest by the year, but it’s much easier when you paraphrase it with “Do you remember that harvest when Andy ran a tree branch into the bean head and spent a few hours trying to get it out with a hatchet and pliers?” Not my finest moment in the driver’s seat, but still an easier way to notch memories on your mental calendar.
Speaking of calendar, back to my beautiful and very pregnant wife. Like I mentioned earlier, this has been the year of excitement and unknowns. Adding to that theme, we have decided to be surprised at birth by the gender of our child. Waiting to find out the gender of your child is a lot like farming and waiting for harvest. I go into both situations excited, but yet very nervous because I don’t know what each situation is going to yield (pun intended). Although it might be the end of life for the bean stalk, it’s actually only the beginning of life for the beans. They’ll go on to feed livestock and people for a long time ahead. Granted, the anxiety and excitement for our child’s arrival is at a considerably higher level, but you can see how the two situations cross paths. Both situations have their fair share of highs, lows, bumps and bruises, but both also help celebrate the never ending cycle of life.
An early end to harvest this year couldn’t have been more perfect for our situation. I’ve grown up well aware of the fact that you don’t have kids and weddings during planting or harvesting – especially on Husker football Saturdays. Now that harvest has given me nearly two months between its end and our delivery in December, besides being a great husband, I’m learning how to be a carpenter, plumber, drywall hanger and amateur electrician. Menard’s loves me. I can only hope that the respect that I have for my family’s farming history and legacy gets passed down to my son or daughter like it was passed down to me. I, like my parents before me and my grandparents before them, take on the role of steward, not only to the land, but to the next generation.
I hope everyone has a healthy and happy remainder of the year, full of stories that make you laugh, smile and shake your head!