Thursday, August 22, 2013

Harvest in the Palouse!

     It's harvest time all over the United States.  Harvest is an exciting time in every farming community.  It is the culmination of the farmer's entire year's work.  It is when he learns how well his or her plans and methods worked. It is when the farmer receives his paycheck, and hopefully he will have enough to pay his production expenses and be able to care for his family for the coming year.

A deer leaps across a ripened field of wheat.
Photo taken by Wade Lindquist at Bald Butte Ranch.

     Harvest is an intense time for farmers and their families.  There are long days of work.  There is not a minute for anything else - nothing else happens during harvest-time.  It's also a dangerous time for farmers; they're tired and stressed to the max.  They're frequently sleep deprived.  The weather may not cooperate; everything may be ruined by wind or rain coming at just the wrong time.  And, even though they may have maintained and repaired their machinery properly, they may still have equipment breakdowns, right in the middle of long harvest days.

Grain trucks ready to go.
Photo from Todd Strader, T & H Farms.

     For our farmers in the Palouse region of eastern Washington, harvest is one long event, beginning in late July and lasting through the middle of September.  They are just finishing harvesting their winter wheat which was planted last fall.  This includes soft white and hard red winter wheat.  They are harvesting their spring crops this week.  These includes the spring wheats - soft white, hard white and dark northern spring wheat.  Next to be harvested will be dry peas and dry lentils, finally followed by garbanzos.

Mark Richter combining wheat on St. John Farm.
The stalk and wheat head are pulled into the wide "header-bar" in the front of the combine.
Then the chaff (stalk and leaves) and wheat kernels are separated.
The chaff is spit out the back (that's the dust you see in the rear),
and the kernels are dumped into the big rectangular bin on top of the combine.

     Many farmers have just one combine, and harvest their own fields.  In other cases, they may share the work with other family members; their fathers, brothers, inlaws or their neighbors.  There may sometimes be more than one combine harvesting one field at a time.

Pumping the wheat kernels from the combine into the grain truck.
Note the two trucks behind, waiting to be filled.
 The wheat will be hauled to the grainery where it will
be sold for breads, pastries and noodles, all over the world!
     The schedule in most every case depends on the planting date and this season's weather.  In nearly every part of our country,  the rainfall is slightly different as one travels north to south.  Typically, the further north you go, the more precipitation you have. This is the case in the Palouse, so that means that the crop was planted earlier in the southern portion of the community, and so is harvested first.  Families and friends who are sharing the work of harvest work together to harvest the fields which "come off," or are ripened, first.

Three combines at work to bring in the harvest.
That's Todd Strader walking in his wheat field

Combines and tractors, all lined up for a
"Harvest is finally over" photo.
Taken on the Todd Strader Farm.
I think this is an especially beautiful picture, what with the sky and all.

    After a long, intense couple of months, the farmer has all his crops into the grainery.   Then he begins planning for next year!


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