Sunday, October 10, 2010

The Sounds of Fall in Our Neighborhood

There are two sounds that define fall in the rural midwest: shotguns and combines. Listening to farm machinery is a year-round reality for us, but in the fall, combines are the implements of the hour. Our little acre is surrounded on four sides by farmland and like 95% of the cropland in the midwestern states (maybe it's 99%, I'm not sure of the exact percentage of tillable acres involved), we see two crops in rotation: corn and soybeans. This year, we had beans planted on three sides of us, west, north, and east.

The neighbors started harvesting beans on Wednesday this past week and they're wrapping up that part of their harvest today.  Bean harvesting involves the use of a blade attachment on the front of the combine that looks like a stern-powered steamboat paddlewheel and progresses very quickly. There's a lot less chaff to deal with than there is with corn. In addition beans dry much more rapidly than corn and the timing of the harvest is heavily dependent on the amount of moisture in the grain.

The corn harvest will get underway any day now. Corn is always the last crop to be harvested, but it might be delayed a little longer than usual this year in south central and southeast Minnesota due to the historic rainfall that occurred on September 22 and 23 (5" - 11" of rain in 24 hours, depending on the specific location). So far, the weather in October is ideal for harvesting, higher than average temperatures, zero precipitation, and virtually no wind. Usually, farmers play a cat-and-mouse game with the weather during corn harvest and when their backs are up against the wall (an impending snowstorm for example), they often run their combines late into the night. Sometimes they have the benefit of a full moon, but they've always got seriously intense floodlights on their machines. They might not have to use the full 24 hours this year, we'll see.

I believe I mentioned shotguns at the top. We're about half way through the bird hunting season. The dove hunt and the grouse hunt began in September. Waterfowl season (ducks and geese) started a couple of weeks ago and pheasant season starts next Saturday. What that means is that every Saturday and Sunday from September 1 until Thanksgiving, we get awakened by shotgun blasts that sometimes sound like they're no more than 100 yards away. Each volley is usually at least 6 rounds and the action starts whenever sunup occurs (right now it's 7: 20) and lasts until 10 or 11. After almost 20 years, it's just part of the rhythm of the seasons.

I don't know about turkey hunts except that you can shoot them sometime in the fall and the rest of the time you just have to be careful if they cross the road in front of you.

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