It was on Sunday evening about 8:00 pm when another crop year ended as the last corn left the wagon, disappeared into the auger, and went in the bin. The full moon had just risen less than an hour earlier and the temperature was cool enough a jacket felt good, but not so cold that gloves were needed.
All the hubbub of the past weeks came to an end. Once the wagon was empty, the diesel engines stopped, lights were turned off, and the only sound was the howl from the aeration fan on the bin. The abruptness of it was almost a shock to realize it was over. There was no way to raise our average yield or the total amount harvested. It was all in the bin. All the fields were empty.
It was a year to the day since my son fell from a bin and has since recovered. This year there were no trips to the emergency room, no tractors with a silent engine hauled in to see how bad the damage was, and no trips by the fire department to extinguish a bin on fire. That all happened last year.
This year will be remembered for a dry July and rainy August. It resulted in the best soybean crop ever and a corn crop that, while very good, was headed for outstanding until the rain stopped in July.
As one crop year is ending, another is beginning with seed purchases for next spring. In the days since harvest ended, tillage has been done and fields have been prepared for next spring. The tractor with the overhauled engine has enough hours on it the break in oil has been changed and it is running nicely.
As if to let us know the crop year was over, it snowed the next Friday covering everything in white. We were put on notice that if we have something that is not done yet, we are running out of time. Maybe it will get done, maybe it will not and we will have to wait until next spring.
Now is the time for planning. What worked better than expected? What was disappointing? What new idea should be included for next year? What needs to be repaired? What needs to be replaced? What can make it another year?
We give respect to the things we depend on. The sun that ends winter and warms the soil can become a drought. The rain that sustains and encourages the crop can become a flood. Winds that warm or cool can also destroy. The markets that go up also go down. Borrowed money that keeps us afloat can also drown us.
There are things that are more important than we give them credit for, things like smiles from good friends, waves from our neighbors, and the companionship of a faithful dog. Farming can be a solitary occupation but nobody farms alone.
These are all ingredients of a recipe, a recipe for a way of life. It is a way of life that can demand much, but can give much in return. But this is true of any occupation. A teacher, lawyer, carpenter or truck driver can say the same about their career.
Crop years are like fingerprints, no two are a like. Even though we have done this many times before as one crop year ends and another begins, it seems like we are starting all over. It may be old but it still seems new.