Wheat harvest ended Thursday for Krehbiel Farms.
It was late this year. First it was too dry, then too cold, and finally too wet. What came up, froze. What didn’t freeze, shriveled. What was left choked on the Johnson grass, bull nettles and sand burs fed by the late rains.
In other words, harvest was pretty normal.
Let’s not leave the wrong impression. Some of the yield’s were okay, especially on irrigated fields, and the rains that came too late to save the wheat were just right to give the peanuts and milo a good start and fill the farm ponds. To a large extent, that’s what farming is: growing as many plants and animals as soil and climate allow in the hope that something will pay out.
My eighty-three-year-old father and eighteen-year-old niece pretty much run the show as far as harvest is concerned. My father is the fidgety one, the one who can’t sit still when rain and high humidity keep the combines from running. He has to be doing something. He’s in his pickup, on the phone, declaring we’ll be able to cut by three this afternoon when he knows we won’t. He has been doing this his entire life and doesn’t know how to quit. He gets up at four or five in the morning, drives around to all the farms, looking for something to do or to have one of the hired men do.
He is eager to cut a series of small patches that he thinks can be knocked out quickly, but the cool moist air lingering behind the June rain keeps the moisture content of the grain far above the fourteen percent that is the maximum allowed. Grain harvested and stored when it is too moist mildews, turns moldy, invites insects. But my father keeps cutting samples, until he’s finished most of one field and decides going on is not worth the effort. The sand burs have taken over. Talk to somebody like Whole Foods, I say. Convince them sand burs are an organic health food, that they can be milled into a nutritious flour. Sand bur cakes. Yum.
My niece wants to run the farm some day and I believe she can do it. She is smart and self-assured and seems to have a feel for what she is doing. She watches and listens. Her father, my brother, was running things until the brain tumor. Like my father, my niece is on a mission. But not the same mission. Not exactly.