This year’s harvest season has been placed on a rain delay. I hope it is just a temporary break. It seems we can’t put together at least four days of clear skies, sunshine and drying winds. Just as the rain puddles start to recede and we’re not slipping sideways with feed carts across the yard, another weather system barrels through leaving us to twiddle our thumbs as we wait to dry out again.
    You would think a rain delay would be a good thing, but like in baseball, it is just another way of killing time until you can get back to the action. As announcers rehash piles of stats and maybe play bits of a song to pass the time, farmers are left to find other things to do as well: Fix, grease and tighten chains on everything. Analyze options of which fields to take out first and how you’re going to get in and out of them. Make a list of all the things you would like to get done but will never complete. Slowing down, twiddling your thumbs and enjoying the reprieve in action doesn’t seem to cross anyone’s mind as an option to all the rushing chaos which will soon be our normal state of mind.
    Mark has been so anxious to be doing something that he hooked up the haybine and mowed down the dried sweet corn stalks in the garden. He wanted to clean up his view from the barn window. He was tired of looking at the dead corn. It kept reminding him of how quickly the corn is drying down and is ready to chop. But we are in a holding pattern until the rains have moved out of the forecast. The fields are holding too much moisture to be traveling down dirt roads without leaving deep ruts from stuck tractors and boxes. I would hate to create new jobs to add to the list of things that have to be done before it freezes.
    Since Mark has to be doing something, we went cruising on a Sunday afternoon in his dad’s old truck. Ralph bought a ‘52 black Ford pickup truck in 1954 to haul milk cans to town with a family of five kids and Mom tucked in every available space of the cab. Good thing they were all little. Over time, the truck became obsolete and too slow for a fast moving farmer. Ralph didn’t want to part with the truck, so he moved it to the weeds behind a shed. With teenage sons in the late ‘70s, the truck was resurrected and updated with shag carpeting stuck everywhere – the dash, the ceiling, the doors – to make it look cool. Then as quickly as it was brought back to life, it was returned to the weeds once again. When Ralph retired, he needed something to do. He couldn’t just twiddle his thumbs. He needed a project. He pulled the old truck out of the weeds once again, but this time he fixed her up right. Many summer days, the truck would be seen cruising around with Ralph and Mary Lou enjoying the cab to themselves as they checked out the crops and fall colors.
    As we head down the road for a Sunday afternoon drive, Mark settles in at 40 miles per hour, a speed which is just perfect to get somewhere but nowhere in particular and still enjoy the view. The view at 40 mph is so different than at 60-plus mph on the same road. We always seem to be running late and in a rush to get some place that we miss the simple beauty along the way. With the slower speed, your eyes have a chance to focus in on small things you missed before. You notice a small silo hidden behind a dilapidated barn. We figure today’s chopper boxes could fill it to the top in just three loads, but it was just the right size back in the day when it was new. At cruising speed you can enjoy the landscape of yards as you pass by noticing the different colors of mums and tinges of red in the maple leaves. With the slower speed and no radio, you lose yourself in thoughts as your head nods in sync with the breaks in the pavement. The only sounds heard are the purr of the engine and the rush of wind past the cab. I never realized how quiet our vehicles are today. Sound proofing and shock absorbers are great additions!
    As we slurp up the last of our root beer, we pull back into the yard. What a great slow and lazy Sunday afternoon. We haven’t done this in a long time and all it took was a rain delay in the harvest season. I know sitting around and twiddling your thumbs isn’t something you want to be doing, but it might be the thing you need to be doing to stay on track. There are really only a few things we have control over and the weather is not one of those things. The only thing we can control with the weather is how we deal with the events. If you’re in a rain delay, take it as an opportunity to get other things done and checked off the list because once the delay is over, the action in the field will pick up once again. Be safe out there!
    Natalie, Mark and his brother Al, farm together near Rice, Minn. They milk 100 registered Holsteins under the RALMA prefix. Their four children are grown up and all involved in agriculture with hopes of someone returning to the farm. For questions or comments, please e-mail Natalie at mnschmitt@jetup.net.