Compared to the relative isolation we experienced while farming up north, we are really blessed to live now in a neighborhood that's made up mostly of farmers. Of the few neighbors we have who don't farm, most of them grew up on farms, so they don't get too excited if the road gets a little messy or there's a tractor driving around the field outside their house during the wee hours of the night.
We have come to rely on our neighbors for help with everything from spring field work to fall harvest and just about every farming activity in between. At time has their help been as remarkable as it was over the past couple weeks while we were making third crop hay, harvesting the oats and baling straw. From start to finish, no less than 22 friends, neighbors and family members pitched in or lent us their equipment so we could get everything done.
Our neighbor, Randy Kerfeld, swathed the 25 acres of oats on July 20. Glen started cutting third crop hay on July 26. Paul Beuning, another neighbor, mowed down several more acres before we decided to wait on the rest due to changes in the weather forecast. Paul finished mowing the last of the 82 acres of hay on Thursday.
Rain slowed the drying of both the oats and the hay. Finally, on July 30, we decided to bale and wrap the hay that was ready, rather than waiting to put it up dry. Our neighbor Dennis Ritter called to offer his help. After Glen checked the status of the tractor that runs the baler (it came down with water pump issues while we were cutting, so it was in the shop; we ended up renting a tractor from Tom at Greenwald Farm Center to finish mowing) and called Russ Herdering to see if he could wrap, Dennis started raking hay.
On the way home from the shop with the tractor, Glen lined up a second round baler so we could keep up with Russ's wrapping pace. Two minutes later, Randy called to say he and his dad, Erv, would be coming with the combine because the oats they started on that morning were too wet yet.
Soon after Glen got back with the tractor, his brother, Phil, started rolling up bales. Tim Kerfeld came with his baler a little while later. Glen took off to get gravity boxes for the oats from his dad, Vern (who also planted the oats for us), and our neighbors, Sam and Jane Salzl.
Russ came with the wrapper after lunch. Dennis came back with his tractor and wagon to help haul bales. Tim's dad, Art, offered to help haul bales and came back with another tractor and wagon. By then, Tim's son, Nicholas, was in the baler and Tim went back to get his younger son, Isaac, so he could watch the wrapper in action.
It was soon clear that we needed another skidloader on the field, so Tyler Engelmeyer, the neighbor boy who works for us, came and moved bales with Sam and Jane's skidloader.
Erv came a little later with the combine. Our neighbor, Urban Beuning, brought his gravity boxes over. Randy brought his gravity boxes, too, and helped our son, Dan, into the combine to ride along with Erv.
Erv had asked us a couple weeks ago if Dan wanted to ride along when we combined the oats. Glen replied by asking Erv if he knew what it was like to put a squirrel in a paper sack. Erv laughed and said he wasn't worried because the rider's seat in the combine had a seat belt. So, Dan spent the better part of the afternoon watching the combine eat the oats and telling Erv stories. At least that's what Dan said; I haven't got Erv's side of the story yet. Glen rode around with them and said Dan was so sleepy he could hardly keep his head up, but he refused to get out of the combine until Erv was done.
By two o'clock in the afternoon, our fields had reached three-ring circus status. There were two tractors and balers, two tractors and wagons, three skidloaders, a wrapper and a combine all operating on a little over 40 acres of land. It really was a sight to see. Glen was grinning from ear to ear and so was everyone else. I think it's safe to say that everyone had a lot of fun that afternoon. It reminded me of stories by grandfather told about the way they farmed in the past, with neighbors all helping each other to harvest crops, put up barns and tackle other big projects.
We got a lot of work done in a few short hours, but there was more work - and more help - yet to come.
Russ and Dennis came back after evening chores to finish wrapping the hay. They were done by 9:30 p.m., making this the first time we finished wrapping bales before midnight.
After Erv finished combining the oats, Urban hauled all the boxes down to his place and stored them overnight in his shed for us in case it rained. He hauled them all back up the next day when we put the oats in the bin. His wife, Arlene, watched the kids for a couple hours while I went to get thrower racks from Gene Blommel (Glen's uncle) for the straw. Paul came and baled straw while Glen baled the dry alfalfa. Unfortunately, they both had to quit that evening before they were done and then Mother Nature trumped the weatherman's forecast the next morning.
After everything dried out for the third time, the work started up again. Dennis came back to help haul bales off the field. Our neighbor, Brad Kapsner, offered his help, so he flipped the straw with Sam and Jane's merger and then helped Tyler and Glen unload a couple loads of straw. Glen's cousin, Rick Hellermann, who lives just down the road, came and filled a couple more racks that night. Rick's daughter, Abby, also helped out by watching the kids for a while.
Glen finished baling the straw the next day and Phil finished baling our goldfish-flavored hay the day after that. Paul hauled all the hay off the field for us. Sam and Jane's sons - Ben, Michael and Noah - helped unload the last of the straw and the load we had brought in from out west. Sam even threw bales for awhile.
What we expected to take a couple days ended up taking a couple weeks, but, thanks to our family members, friends and neighbors and all of their help, our hay is baled and put away, our oats are in the bin and the straw is up in the haymow.
If there was a Good Farm Neighborhood award, our neighborhood would certainly be deserving.
Sadie and her husband, Glen, milk 70 cows near Melrose, Minn. They have two children - Dan, 3, and Monika, 1. When she's not parenting or farming, she's writing for the Dairy Star. Sadie can be reached at gsfrericks@meltel.net.