It is once again that magic time of year when the row crops are harvested. For those of you have not experienced this I will try and describe this to you.
First lets talk about the equipment. Grain is now being hauled in semi-trucks and hopper bottom trailers. Most farms need one or two. Some larger farms need more. You need drivers for these trucks. There are lots of trucks occupying narrow rural roads. The trucks haul from the field to the elevator, for us that is approximately 12 miles away. These trucks need to be insured, maintained, fueled…etc. In addition, they need a place to be parked every night.
Now comes the grain cart. This is a large trailer pulled behind a large tractor. It can hold a semi load of grain at a time. It is used to haul and store grain between the combine and the semi-truck. It is large and heavy. This takes a 200 horsepower tractor to operate. When traveling on the road the sides and rear of the cart are huge blind spots. The combination is approximately 12 feet wide. It travels at a maximum speed of approximately 23 mph. This combination of equipment is MASSIVE. Imagine driving about half your house down the road. The interesting part is that the cart is most useful for unloading the combine while the combine is still moving. The combine passes and signals that he would like to unload. The cart pulls under the auger of the combine. The cart driver matches the speed of the combine and the combine unloads into the cart. Did I mention this is approximately the size of a half of a house? This is amazing to watch and an art to perform.
Next comes the combine. Remember the size of the grain cart? This is Just as big but a single self propelled unit.
The combine has a head on it that can reach up to 40 wide. The combine may be as wide as 16 feet without the head. The Machine is designed to operate in a field, they do not handle well on the roads. They are wide and tall and are the size of a half of a house.
When harvest is in full swing, there would be a minimum of 4 drivers to operate all the machinery. These drivers a busy a majority of the time the combine is running. A typical day can start at 6 am getting the combine ready. The truck drivers haul any loads from the previous day to the elevator. By 7 am the combine will be headed to the field to begin (if harvesting corn). The grain cart may still be full so it cannot leave until the first truck returns so it can be emptied. The first truck stops to empty the grain cart. The second truck heads to the field to take the first load off the combine. Once empty the grain cart heads to the field. The cart will begin taking grain from the combine and will not stop until the day is over. The cart brings the grain to the trucks and can fill the semi with one full load of the cart. The trucks will haul to the elevator trip after trip until the day is done. Most days end around 8 pm when all the trucks and cart are full and the elevator is closed. This process will repeat for days until something breaks, it rains, or we are done. This may take 2 months in a bad year.
The work is not all done by men. Several farms have the wives drive trucks and grain carts. Even if they are not in the field all these people have to eat. In addition they may have to run to town for parts or supplies. Not to mention the mountain of laundry this type of work creates.
So if your farmer friend doesn’t return your call, seems a little tired, forgets an appointment or just generally seems a little crazy, that’s because they are! Give them some room on the roads and little forgiveness.