It happens every April, May and June, and again in September and October, if harvest lasts until November it really gets bad, that is my stress level goes out of sight. In Kansas, our peak work loads all seem to hit us at once, the prime week usually to plant corn is also the week we go to grass with our cattle, cutting alfalfa and planting soybeans comes hard on the heels of that, we are usually still trying to plant soybeans when the wheat harvest hits the end of June, and also hay. Harvest usually begins in September, the stress is low then. By October, harvest is in full swing, we are trying to plant wheat, and then bam, the week of October 15th it is time to gather cattle off of the rented grass. Although hail is not as likely now, just a tiny bit will thresh the soybeans out, so every forecast storm makes me nervous, such as the storm forecast for Wednesday. Our days are so much shorter now, and we still have these heavy dews each morning, this morning we had a fog that rolled out about 9, but rolled back in about 11, that is, it nearly rolled onto my farm, it got as far as the river, then rolled back, but a good friend of mine was enveloped not far away while I stood in the sunshine. I have asked a another friend to come with his combine to help me cut as soon as he can, my nerves are getting frayed with the frequent rains, so far we have not had any losses from our fall rains, but I hold my breath every day. While I do not enjoy paying someone to combine along side me, I figure it probably doesn't really cost that much, as there are plenty of things needing done after harvest is over before our truly nasty weather will hit hopefully not before January 1st(cutting soybeans runs about $20 an acre, fyi).
I cheated this fall on my rented grass and left the cattle on 10 days over what I was suppose to. Our heavy summer rains have left grass in most pastures that has seed heads as high as the top of my head. Moved 100 head from two pastures onto one farm I winter on yesterday, out of 100 2 head had to try to wreck the entire process. One rather evil black brockle faced cow decided to try to lead a charge back into the pasture, fortunately the others wouldn't have it, they realized the feed was much better on the other side of the road. When the cow turned to see nobody was following her, she shot back across the field, but turned the wrong direction and went charging up the road. I was in my trusty '81 Chevy pickup, my "cow rolling" pickup, a habit that would set DEFRA out to haul me off to jail. Cow rolling is exactly what it sounds like, you roll the cow, does wonders for their attitude. This cow however did not need to be rolled, she turned around and headed through the gate unscathed, taking with her the one calf that had stubbornly refused to follow the others and ran around the other side of an old barn.
Speaking of DEFRA, I doubt half of what we do in Kansas would comply with their regulations, it is only a matter of time before my cow rolling days come to an end. I reckon at some point I will have to employ a "cow psychologist" to come out and reason with the "convict" cows to get them to change their ways. One of the favorite cattle handling stories in these parts involved a farmer of Polish descent, his two sons, a Shorthorn bull, a Jeep, and a brand new Chevy pickup. Milo came down to this country from Nebraska, I don't know if we was born in Poland but he sure sounded like he was. He had a pig farm in Nebraska, decided he wanted a ranch so bought a nice 960 acre place southeast of town. When Milo was calm, you could understand him, but when he got excited his accent got worse, and he interspersed his English with some Polish. Milo and his two boys, Jim and Joe, set out one day to do a fairly simple task, move a Shorthorn bull from one pasture to another. Milo had a new pickup, and one of the boys had a Jeep. The idea usually is one leads the bull, and the other follows down the road. This bull was sort of a "counterfeit" to use my grandfathers terminology, and rather than try to run off, proceeded to completely wreck the Jeep, in fact if I recall the story correctly I believe he turned it over. When he had finished wrecking the Jeep, he started on the new Chevy pickup, pretty well demolishing it. When Milo would relate this story, by the time you got to the wrecking of the new pickup, he was swearing hard and fast in both Polish and English, and possibly one or two other languages, and it was at that point he would utter the only phrase that a Kansan could interpret...."and den, vee shot the no good zon-offa-bish"(sorry Isabel, I guess you can bleep that out). Yup, that is right, they waited until they had two vehicles destroyed, THEN they got out the 30.06 and shot the bull. That was an expensive day, to be sure.
That leads me farther away from harvest to a similar incident that happened in my own family. Grandpa was one of three boys, the first born in 1910, the last in 1913. Their dad didn't have a pickup, and he often checked pastures in the car, I think a Ford model T. My great granddads old bull gave it the same treatment Milo's Shorthorn gave his pickup. Granddad reckoned he was maybe 7 or 8 when this happened, he and his three brothers were with Great gramps. My great granddad had the temper most of my family is famous(or infamous) for, and drove what was left of the car to the house, fetched up his rifle, and they went charging back to the pasture. The bull came tearing across the pasture for the car, great granddad jumped out, according to my grandfather he and his brothers were screaming and crying "daddy daddy that bull is going to kill you". Well, that is not what happened, because "daddy" dropped that bull in his tracks. I wonder what DEFRA would have done to Milo and my great grandfather??
Anyway, alot of harvest stress in these parts is caused by cattle, not actual harvest. Since almost no one here raises only crops, all of us must tend to the cattle as well as harvest. I think it might be fair to say our cattle as a rule are not as well behaved as yours in the UK, especially those with a little "ear"(Brahman). But, I also think it fair to say that many of our farmers are not as well behaved as yours either.
Of course, breakdowns, rain, and a whole host of other things contribute to our harvest stress, just like in the UK. Very few of us in my community have enough storage for all of our crops(some have no storage at all), we haul alot of crop to our local elevator. They are nearly full, and having trouble getting grain moved out to a terminal, thus the people buying our grain are also getting into sort of a bad mood, as evidenced last night when I delivered my last load of soybeans for the day at 8pm. They were waiting for one more guy who was coming in at 9, and were not at all amused by my suggestion that if only they would work on Sunday afternoon, it wouldn't be so imperitive that we dump so late on Saturday night. Things only got worse after I left, the guy they were waiting on is one of my best friends, and they tried to dock his load 2% for dirt, even though the probe showed foreign matter at .1(because of flooding and needing to cut right down on the ground soybeans can carry alot of dirt). My understanding is this led to quite alot of hate and discontent.
So, we are stumbling along. The end is definitely in sight for us now. I think everyone I know is looking forward to folding the unloading auger in for the last time and pulling their combine into the shed for the winter. I think if we can have 10 more good days, harvest in my part of Kansas will be 95% completed.
I realize this has been a very rambling blog, I guess anyone still with me is either lacking for entertainment or genuinely interested in the happenings in the dead center of the continental USA, so I will throw out one more topic, one I frequently mention, fire. Maybe only one or two other times in my life have I seen such big grass, and now that it has frosted it has gone from tall, lush and green, to tall, dry, brown, and flammable. It is a very long time before we intentionally burn our pastures the end of March into April, and each day the grass becomes just a bit easier to burn. In our county alone we have miles and miles of grass, on a dry windy day just a spark, be it from a vehicle, electric fencer, welder, or arcing power lines can trigger a fire that can spread faster than you can get ahead of it, consuming all in its path. Once in a while you get a "fire bug" that is someone who drives through the countryside tossing out matches, the worst I remember was in the early '90s when someone drove about 30 miles setting 8-12 different fires. Thursday I listened to the pager while combining as 4 different crews in the south end of the county were paged out to fight a grass fire, I will have to keep the camera close at hand these next 5 months, because I am betting sooner or later we end up with a fire locally that will tie us up all day, and may be a record setter for us. I can only hope the fire doesn't consume anything of mine, and that we can get ahead of it before it takes out a house.