Watching harvest nearing completion and tillage started almost as soon as the combines left the field, reminded me of something I wrote about 25 years ago while working up a field after harvest.
I called it “Nightwork.”
In the fall of the year when we run out of light
Farmers add to their day by working into the night.
It’s been another day under a sky of blue
And for all that’s done there is still much to do.
Reaching across the cab I now turn up the heat
And watch this day end from my tractor seat.
There is little left of the setting sun
As the day work has ended and night work begun.
From the cab all I see is the sun’s dull glow
And to my back the moon’s rising and hanging low.
I’m crossing this field as farmers have before.
But now I am accompanied by a diesel’s roar.
Gone are the days of a horse drawn plow
It’s a cab, and lights, and heater now.
I stop on the end to write these few lines
Then I hit the throttle and bury the tines.
I remember the farmers who now rest in the ground
And would like to join me for “just one round.”
They were my neighbors-Stanley, Curtis and Ray.
I saw them at coffee. They were part of my day.
Minutes have gone by and I look completely around
To see no division between sky and ground.
The horizon has disappeared with the setting sun
And in front of me sky and earth are now one.
The ground is rising and falling under me
And I’m a ship that sails night’s blackened sea.
For miles and miles I see dots of light
As yard lights turn on poking holes in the night.
And all around me are those the stars I see?
Or could they be the yard lights turned on
By the farmers gone on to keep me company.
I wrote this when most of us were planting 12 rows at a time and harvesting six.
Today, we’re planting 24 or more rows at a time and harvesting 12.
Equipment has doubled in size in 25 years, but the hours are still the same as farms have doubled in size.
The push to get the crop out of the field is as strong as ever and possibly even stronger.
Twenty-five years ago, I was trying to finish corn harvest by Thanksgiving, sometimes harvesting corn after the Thanksgiving meal.
Now there is a lot of machinery put away for the year by Thanksgiving with tillage and spring fertilizer done as well.
I believe yields have improved by 50 percent and more bushels are being harvested faster.
That is quite an achievement in 25 years.
So the long hours are still there and once the routine sets in, the mind starts to wander which is probably why this came into my head.
Since writing this, I wonder, “Where did that come from?”
Was I having an other-worldly experience or was there an exhaust leak in the cab and I was being overcome by diesel fumes?
I am sticking with the first one.
Rye is a Farm News staff writer and farmer from Hanlontown. Reach him by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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