We did it. We finally finished combining corn on Wednesday night. We refilled the drying bin and several borrowed grain wagons from the neighbors. All the corn was harvested, and we sent the custom combine home till next year. What a relief. This harvest season has felt like a cross-country endurance race, and we have crossed the finish line. For the last two months, we have been in harvest mode from corn silage, to high moisture corn, to soybeans, to dry corn. In between those days were several changes in the weather which put a twist on the 2018 harvest season story. In 75 days, we have gone from sweltering highs in the 90’s to shivering lows in the single digits. The fields have been through both drought and flood conditions. Deep frozen muddy ruts around the silage bags remind us how quickly things changed.
    The sudden change in temperatures created a rather large winter garden ornament. The yard between the barn and my garden is a temporary thoroughfare for all tractors and equipment. It can look like a used equipment dealer’s lot as equipment is dropped off and tractors switch out to another piece of equipment for the next job. Mark had the disc hooked up to the big tractor. He was hoping to do some more work, so he backed the disc and tractor into the south end of my garden. He lowered the blades into the remnants of tomato stalks and straw mulch. I thought he left it there so he would remember to disc up my garden this fall. That idea suddenly went south.
    North winds slammed the door shut on any extra fall tillage. Ushering in the arctic air, the winds swept across the open harvested fields. The cold temperatures crusted the rough tops of soil as the frost penetrated downward. It seemed as if the ground was about to freeze overnight. During the day we were breaking down stalks as the disc rolled black sandy soil into new furrows creating snow catchers for the winter weather and sun catchers for the spring thaw. As the winds gathered speed, the temperatures plummeted. The soft crests of mud tracks around the yard started to firm up. As Mark brought the switch cows across the yard, he realized things were freezing quickly. He looked across the yard and saw the tractor and disc parked in my garden. Oops. He did not want to park the disc in the garden for the whole winter. By the end of milking, it was almost too late. The disc blades and ground had formed a solid bond. For the next half hour, Mark hauled buckets of hot water from the milk house to the garden. He poured the steaming water down the disc blades hoping the heat would penetrate to the frozen ground allowing the hydraulics to lift the disc. Grabbing a mallet, he pounded away trying to create a little wiggle room and loosen the grip the frozen ground had on the blades. The sound of the mallet connecting with the forged steel reverberated throughout the cold dark night. Finally the cold ground relinquished its grip on the blades, and he moved it to the winter storage spot behind the trees. Needless to say, my garden did not get tilled this fall nor did rest of the farm land. Oh well. We know what the first job next spring will be.
    The cold weather reminds us we need to keep moving as we scramble to pick things up before they become a part of the winter landscape. The mulched leaf piles windrowed in the yard need to be deposited around flower feds. Hoses to the back lot need to be thawed, drained and stored away. Curtains need to be lowered on livestock sheds. Finally, we need to finish packing away the harvest equipment till next year’s race.
    Looking back over the harvest race, the lengthy season was a welcomed pace. The way things stretched out created more time to get other jobs done. The warmer temperatures made it much nicer to power wash equipment. We were not always under pressure to get everything done at once. Through it all, we have remained relatively calm. We must be at an age where we are finally starting to recognize what we can control and to deal with just that. Or, we had a secret weapon.
    Our youngest son, Austin, has been with us since he graduated from college this spring. He was supposed to help us through the summer and fall rush before he pursued his career. His eagerness, energy and enthusiasm have been a buoy to us. Knowing he was able to take charge of projects provided us with a sense of relief. Things were getting done. He took over working with Bill to bring in the corn harvest. Austin was able to jump from tractor to tractor quicker than we have been able to in years. He kept up with empty grain wagons for Bill while we concentrated on milking chores. His extra set of hands helped to remove some of the pressures of the harvest season and allowed us to cross the finish line to year’s harvest in one piece.
    Natalie, Mark and his brother, Al, Schmitt farm together near Rice, Minn. They milk 100 registered Holsteins under the RALMA prefix. Their four children are great help around the farm and are pushing Natalie out of several jobs. Therefore she is thankful to have something else to do. For questions or comments please e-mail Natalie at mnschmitt@jetup.net.