Rainy Days and After Dark - Why Don't Farmers Fieldwork in the Rain?
It's raining today so the harvest is on hold. Instead, William is cleaning rye for planting, moving around some equipment and probably working on a barn rebuild project that's in the works in our neighborhood.
I recently heard someone comment incredulously, "I didn't realize farmers don't do field work when it's raining!" We do sometimes see tractors out in the fields in the winter, but, no, farmers aren't typically working in the fields when it's raining or wet. It's rainy days or after dark that other projects get done!
This time of year harvest is on and moisture content rules. In the farming world where soybeans and corn play king and queen, soybeans dry first in the season. Farmers look to moisture content for beans to be in the 13% range. If the beans are too wet when they go to market, the farmer gets docked, and conversely, if moisture content is too low, the beans are light and the farmer loses out with less pay.
Not only is moisture in the beans important, but humidity also plays a roll. The shell of the bean has to be dry and brittle enough to easily travel through the combine and not gum it up. If the bean shell is too moist, the farmers declare, "The beans are too tough - too tough to combine!" and the bean harvest gets put on hold until the conditions are right. You may have noticed around here the bean harvest began about two weeks ago, got put on hold, but in the last couple of days, the farmers have been back in the bean fields. We had a window of dry weather with moisture content just right, but then many days of dewy humid mornings that caused the beans to get tough. If it's raining, you have the added problem of wet grain that could potentially mold.
Corn, on the other hand, gets combined at 15% moisture and can even be taken after it snows. Farmers look to take the corn when there is no visible green in the stalks and the moisture content is just right. We do sometimes get early snowstorms that shut down the harvest window temporarily, but if it gets cold and the ground freezes with snow dry enough to not gum up the combine, farmers can harvest corn in winter months. Unlike beans, farmers can combine corn in a little snow because the corncobs that contain the seed are higher up on the plant and not potentially lodged under snow. It's not uncommon to see corn harvested here in Wisconsin well into December...and occasionally January...and some farmers, a very rare breed, who lose the window, or time, harvest in early Spring. This is likely due to the fact that the farmer couldn't get into a dry field and had to wait until the rains passed and it got cold enough to bring the machinery to task. These little windows between rain and dry can be very elusive in both the Spring and Fall when farmers would like to access the fields.
Not only is wet grain a problem, but farmers avoid field work during rain because tractors are heavy. With substantial rain absorption into the ground, tractors compact the soil causing problems for planting and growing. Traveling saturated rows with a tractor is also where the expression, "Don't get yourself in a rut" comes from! Nobody wants to get stuck in one of those pesky indentations that, with a will of their own, hold you tightly to their interests and lead to a season of trouble. During and after a rainstorm fields can also become "greasy," meaning there is very poor traction should a farmer be working on a slope of any kind. Many farmers have stories to tell of wagons sliding off the hillside during a particularly greasy last minute effort to get the job done and out of the field.
Hay and straw are both tricky crops for a farmer to manage because of moisture. These crops need to be cut, raked and baled all without getting wet. You've heard the expression, "Make hay while the sun shines." Farmers will most certainly NOT be making hay when it rains, although most will say, "I cut hay, so you can bet it will rain!" Being a pessimist is part of the farm gig, for sure!
Of course, there are lots of farmers who may work in the rain; farmers who hand harvest don't mind a little spritz of water when taking in vegetables, fruit or fish, but in the land of John Deere and New Holland, those big machines stay out of the fields if it's wet.
Social Media & The Farm Store
Some of you may have noticed we disappeared from Facebook. The day Facebook went down, our accounts also went missing. I considered it a sign, and have decided to go Social Media free. I thought our Instagram account was missing as well, but a friend informed me that we are still there, although I have decided not to look for it. I will no longer be available via any social media outlet once I get that all figured out. You can, however, reach us through the Lake View Organic Farm website contact information.
We are selling out 2021 product and closing the Farm Store OCTOBER 31st. We will reopen in the Spring when the weather is nice again. Of course, for those of you who need oil, beef, eggs, straw, hay, grain (the things that do not come from the kitchen), please continue to make arrangements with William for farm pick up of those items. For those of you needing CBD, we will not offer mail order through the winter, so stock up in the next couple of weeks. We will not have new product until we reopen in the Spring.
I hope you are all enjoying these spectacular Fall colors, time with family and friends, and good health!
Sending love from the farm,