Wednesday, August 10, 2016


Looking south over barren fields toward a smoke-filled Little Canyon
Two bucks forage in the weeds
Last year (2015), I so enjoyed watching the fields ripen. They were so green in the spring and then became whiter and whiter until they turned amber as harvest time approached. This year, the fields weren’t planted in the spring and the lack of growing activity was depressing. The only good thing about it was that we were at liberty to hike across the fields. And naturally, there's no harvest here this year.

Seeding by day and by night
But things have changed anyway. Farmer Kyle arrived last Thursday (August 4) and began seeding next year’s crop, which is rape. (It's hard to say that word, but that's what they call that crop.) I don’t recall that rape has ever been grown here, and I can hardly wait until next spring to watch the fluorescent fields ripen. I look forward to new photo ops.

Mike is in the hammock
The operation was not without problems. First they lost a shank off the implement, and they searched the fields until they found it. At 7:00 p.m., Kyle came to the door and said he had a flat tire and had to go to Nezperce for a replacement. Once the flat was fixed, he would begin to work again, he said. Did we mind if he worked into the night? I said no, it wouldn’t bother us. (And it didn’t.)

There! That looks much better.
Fields are harrowed after seeding
 He didn’t get started again until 8:30. Of course, it was dark and getting darker by that time. I was fascinated as I watched that huge machine, outfitted with big lights, crawl over the rolling fields of the south 80 in the dark. I do a lot of thinking about how life has changed here over the years, and I feel close to that history. When my grandfather started farming here 120 years ago, they seeded by hand and it took a crew of men days to complete the work. The workday began at daybreak and was over when the sun began to set. By the 1930s, automation (if you can call it that) was beginning to impact the process and cut the time. When my dad farmed here (1945-1965), the work still took days – not so many days but days nevertheless – to go round and round the fields. He, too, worked only in daylight. And today, here comes Farmer Kyle with his huge machine outfitted with lights and works into the night. I heard him leave about midnight, having completed the seeding on this farm in a matter of five or six hours. I think that’s awe-inspiring. 

And now that the fields are neatly worked, I feel so much better. I'm only sorry that brother Chuck wasn't here to see it. KW


Mike said...

I like to watch those farmers "work" in their climate controlled vehicles. lol

Kathy said...

Nephew L.J., a farmer's son, wrote the following:
"I just read your post about having “Rape” seeded by your house. Now, the good news, Elk LOVE rape in the winter!!!!!!!!! I have seen up to 100 head in a field at night. Might even have them bedding on the porch! On a positive note Rape is eatable when it’s small and tender. Old timers called it Hanover. I remember Dad picking some and we had it for dinner, was rather tasty!"

L.J.'s mother said they were "Hanover greens."

Farmer Kyle says rape grows to be seven feet tall. It's going to be a new experience for us -- whatever.

Chuck said...

Yes, I am sad that I wasn't there to watch the seeding. Rape has a cousin, canola, and I have harvested that with Clarence Mosman. It, too, grew to a height of over six feet. Deer could be seen bounding through the fields. When I mowed the fields, I would leave the stubble about three feet high, and very stiff. The tops would lay on top of the stems, and harvesting was really clean.

Kathy said...

Thanks, Chuck. Yes, Farmer Kyle told us that stubble would be left after harvest next year. Mike believes that's so important for bird cover and habitat. Despite the lack of stubble this year, we have seen a lot of quail and some Hungarian Partridge.

Hallie said...

Hmmm...this WILL be an interesting experiment. I guess it will keep us out of the fields, don't you think?