There are many ways people describe things happening slowly. We have all heard that waiting for something is like watching paint dry, grass to grow or water to boil. Expressions like; “a watched pot will never boil” describe how hard it is to wait for something. I have a new one to add to that, “it’s like watching the corn get dry enough to harvest” or “a watched field never dries down”.
I admit that I get a little anxious this time of the year as I watch the crops mature. Surely I am not the only one, in fact, I would bet this is a common malady amongst those of us who have a cropping affliction. Probably every road past a maturing corn field has a couple of ruts worn into the road from the farmer driving past once a (or even twice) day.
This time honored ritual of worrying the moisture out of the corn usually starts as soon as the pollination process is done. Soon we start pulling ears to see how they filled out, then we start watching as the kernels dent, the black line starts to appear and finally the leaves start to die. All of this is watched like it would not happen if we were not there to watch it.
The worst part of the wait is the final stretch as we watch the last of the green leaves turn brown. That is when the telltale signs start to appear. Are the ears turned down? Have the tops broken out of the plant? The ruts deepen along the fields as we look for the signs, any signs that harvest is almost here. I am pretty sure farmers this time of the year are worse than a five-year-old at five o’clock Christmas morning.
That brings us to where we are now. Harvest has been delayed by all of the rain we have received the past couple of weeks and that makes the waiting even worse. I stand by my statement that I will never complain about rain because as soon as you do, it will go away. However, a little dry weather right now and for the next 45 days or so would be greatly appreciated. In any case, the rain and associated humidity have not helped in the drying down of the corn crop.
The combine and trucks sit serviced and ready to pounce, but only when the time is right. Yesterday we took the first of what will be many coffee cans of corn to town. I joke every year that we are going to bring the crop to town, one coffee can at a time. This annual ritual starts the same way every year.
The first sample is hand shelled off of three or four carefully selected ears. As Dad and I shell them, he usually predicts the moisture by how it shells off the ear and how spongy the cob is. Most of the time we would not really have to take the grain in because he has accurately predicted that it is too wet. Next is the sample we cut with the combine and Dad again accurately predicts it is too wet by sticking his hand in the sample.
Finally, several days to a week after the first hand shelled sample, we nervously cut the first full load and take it to town. Often it is right on the border of acceptable and the following loads are nervously filled with a hand on the phone to stop the combine at a moment’s notice. That will be especially true this year with the below sea level prices and the fact that even the smallest of discounts will eat a rather large portion out of the final check.
It’s funny how this happens each year and we know it is going to happen each year and no matter how hard we try to be patient we can’t be. I guess there is too much riding on the crop and it is better than Christmas presents once you get to be an adult. Much like Christmas presents to a five-year-old, some of the fields are like getting that bb gun and some are like getting a package of underwear. It is exciting and you do want to get the work done before anything can happen to the crop. I am not sure whether it is the air coming off of the truck driving by the field or the fact the corn plants know they are being watched that causes it to dry down. Whether you are in grade school or a grizzled veteran farmer, waiting is hard. Now, is you will excuse me, I have some drive by crop watching to do.