Welcome to the July installment of my Month-By-Month blog series. Here is a recap of the previous months: January was about the books, February was about networking, March was about preparing for the upcoming farming season, April was about planting, May was about finishing planting and starting spraying, and June was about the unpredictability of farming.
July is when we prepare for harvest. The start date for harvest depends on many factors: when we planted the crop, the weather throughout the growing season (particularly in the spring because of germination), the soil conditions of the land, and ultimately the moisture level of the crop.
You test the moisture level by taking a sample of the crop and putting it in a moisture tester. If the moisture is to high, the grain could turn to mush in the combine or become to hot when put into storage, thus spoil. We like to harvest our summer crops at 13-14 moisture.
|This tester tells us the percent of moisture in the grain.|
We plant both winter wheat and barley, both of which are considered summer crops because they are the first to ripen and harvest. We are never sure which one of the two will be ready first, and which field. Usually we estimate for mid-to-late July start date.
After taking a small sample of one of our barley fields on July 22, it was determined that the moisture level was too high. However, the combining conditions for the winter wheat were perfect - tall standing plants, dry field conditions, and perfect moisture storage levels. Harvest for 2015 officially started on July 23 with winter wheat.
|Winter wheat that is ready for harvest.|
While harvesting summer crops, we don't start combining until around 11am as it works better for the machinery to not have the morning dew on the plants. Then we work all throughout the hot afternoon until dark (or in my case until I have to pick up the boys from daycare). Thank goodness for tractors with air conditioning and farm boys that like tractor rides.
|We drive grain cart better than we do at taking selfies.|
We finished combining the last winter wheat field on July 28, and started the next day on barley after moving all of the various pieces of equipment to the field: two combines, one tractor and grain cart, two semi tractors and trailers, and usually a pick-up or two. This shuffling of equipment happens every time we complete a field. Sometimes the fields are adjacent to each other, sometimes not (20 miles at 14 mph is not fast - you better enjoy the view).
|I spy a crop duster plane ahead of the grain cart.|
Barley harvest was completed on August 1, with a little clean up over the next couple of days on parts of the field that were not quite ready. If anyone ever asks me what my favorite crop is I will tell you it is barley, but any crop that is harvested is a good thing!
|Barley and blue skies for days.|