I could title this, “everything I need to know in life I learned in harvest,” but I don’t want to get ahead of myself.
I’m still kind of a newbie in the fields (I’m hoping I can keep saying that until I gain more tractor confidence), but here are some things I’ve learned so far:
- knobs & levers – There are SO many knobs and levers inside a tractor these days! My mom always says that the minute I get into a new vehicle I have to pull everything at least once. Well, that was NOT an option. There were yellow knobs, warning knobs, green levers, buttons, and all sorts of graphics … it’s like a live version of a video game (and I’m not very good at those). Here’s my trick – find the knobs I can touch (radio, throttle, speed, lights, seat adjustment, steering wheel, walkie talkie) and then push and pull like I know exactly what I’m doing.
- lingo – Yep. There is most definitely farmer lingo and even farmer-specific wit/humor. This makes me nervous. I’m such a communicator that I start sweating if someone gives directions I don’t understand. “Swing round the south side ‘n come up ’round the bend ‘n I’ll unload.” The south side of where? which bend? are we unloading while moving or stopped?
- walkie-talkie – This is where the lingo happens.
“Are you comin’ up over the hill?”
“What’re ya tryin’a say? I’m old?”
“Well, now that you mention it…”
and then there was
“Hey, did you finish up back there?”
“Well, yeah there wasn’t much there…”
“I just wanted to make sure you didn’t get lost”
“I’m not that old, now… careful.”
- direction – There’s no way around it. When we’re talking north road, south fence, and aiming east, I can’t fake it. I used to call roads longways and sideways when I was little and that just doesn’t cut it in the fields.
- on the go – If I get to do this I am both excited and nervous. It means I drive alongside the combine as it unloads the corn into my grain cart. It means I’ve got to stay the right distance (about 5 to 6 corn rows) away from the combine and the right speed (about 3.8). That’s a LOT of pressure, but I always feel accomplished if I don’t mess it up. It sure helps when you have a gracious boss.
- there’s no bathroom – Well, you get the picture.
- yard lights – When it gets dark (like it did last night), my partner taught me to look around the horizon at the yard lights from the different homesteads to get oriented to where I was in the field. That was some handy advice right about 7:00 pm.
- food – Bring it because you might be out there for 8, 9, or 10 hours. That’s right. Getting into that tractor is a COMMITMENT and you better bring your stores like you are hibernating or you’ll have to call in reinforcement to bring you survival rations and water (Yes, I did have to do that).
- a fifth grader could do it – Yep. Every time I get excited about conquering another challenge out there in the field I remind myself that a fifth grader can do what I’m doing… and probably offer better jokes! 🙂
- Eeyore syndrome – I can never tell if it’s a good field or a bad field, good/bad yield, and good/bad weather, because the voice on the other end of the walkie talkie always sounds on the sad side.
“So, are we getting a good yield in this field?”
“Well, it’s alright. Sure is dry today… this stuff is just so dry.”
“Oh, we’ve only got that patch there left.”
“No, there’s a whole other stretch ’round the back.”
And, of course, this is with (almost exactly) the tone you would expect if Eeyore himself was giving you the information. I’ve learned the farmer is just cryptic by nature… and that I should try to take note of important things (like beans should hit right at %13 moisture and that a combine head for corn is much different than for beans) and then just give my best Tigger to bounce the spirits up a bit.