October 17th, 2005

Farmer Ho

I spent yesterday afternoon making sure that xnolenx will be able to eat. In other words, I was out harvesting soybeans. ;)

yourcarsucks's family owns some farmland as well as farms other land down in Shelby County. He had been trying to get me down there to experience some farm stuff for a few years now but the scheduling just hadn't been working out--especially with me working at the restaurant on weekends until this year. Lissa had been able to go in the past, but yesterday I finally made it down myself.

We met up with his aunt, uncle, and cousin as they were just finishing up one field and getting ready to head on to the next. So we helped them move some equipment down the road. I drove the venerable farm truck, "Old Green." It's a 1979 Ford F250 that feels and drives a lot like my family's 1978 Ford LTD we used to have. The steering wheel and dash layout and trim work were near perfect matches. The feel of the steering was also very similar. However, the manual transmission and the hauling setup were definitely much more truck-like than the old LTD. ;)
"Old Green"

1979 Ford F250

Heath, Lissa, and I hopped into one of the combines where he took us on a little tour through at least the harvesting aspect of farming. It's actually pretty high tech stuff these days. The main actions boil down to something akin to driving a really huge riding lawnmower up and down the field. Of course the scale of everything is greatly enlarged taking 20 foot swaths rather than 20 inch swaths. The machine does all the intricate work of extracting the beans from the plants, storing the harvest, and ejecting everything else out the back. It's really quite remarkable. Heath even mentioned that enormous commercial farms even have equipment that's twice as large that basically run on auto-pilot using GPS. The farmer can practically sit back and watch TV and just be on hand to take care of problems that might arise. Pretty neat.
"running beans"

a combine makes its way through the field harvesting beans

"running beans"

a combine comes in from the field to unload its harvest

unloading unloading

a combine unloads to prepare to return to the field

Anyway, I can't say much more about the total farm experience, but this part at least was actually quite peaceful. The cab of the combine is well insulated from the noise outside. You can hear all the machinery working, but it's a very tolerable volumes that we could easily have a conversation over. The cab is also air conditioned and/or heated, so it's quite comfortable. Of course for a machine that costs about as much as my house I guess you'd expect all the modern conveniences. ;)

I took the wheel for a couple of passes. It's kind of interesting how much you can really feel the difference between 2.3 mph and 2.5 mph. :P And for whatever reason, it really doesn't seem all that slow. Depending on conditions, it's possible to harvest at around double that speed. We had it up as high as 7 mph just driving, but I think it's capable of more since we were only in low gear. However, the front wheel drive/rear wheel steer combination might make drifting a little tough. ;)
driving a combine driving a combine

I'm driving a combine...definitely not something you see everyday!

Heath drives a combine Heath drives a combine

He looks right at home, doesn't he?

Heath drives a combine Heath drives a combine

After a few hours that seemed to pass quite quickly we headed out. We drove by the grain elevators where many trucks were waiting in a line to drop off their loads (as Heath's cousin had done earlier in the day). We looked a huge pile of harvested corn kernels. The scale was such that it could be described as a giant corn pyramid. Heath mentioned that we might make a return trip in a few weeks to harvest some corn ourselves.

It was definitely a different experience for me. I'm definitely a city boy and the "self proclaimed great indoorsman," but I can see the attraction in that profession. And by golly, what would we all do without our farmers?
front view of combine front view of combine

"Death awaits you all with big, pointy teeth!"