To sum up harvest: As I cut the wheat, I grew.
Here’s the piece I wrote for the most recent Havre Daily News Hi-Line Farm and Ranch.
Last harvest I cooked, occasionally moved vehicles and kept tabs on our then infant. None of it felt important or useful. The abrupt exit from being in the middle of everything and having a purpose as a reporter felt like being banished to the kitchen.
I don’t take the lifestyle change for granted and feel guilty for even wanting to complain. I mean, I did ask for it when we moved back to the farm last June so we could have more time as a family. I’m sure many women would love to have the same opportunity.
The truth is: I’m not a good farmwife. I get frustrated by the required flexibility, I’m a terrible housekeeper, I never seem to make enough food, and I’m perpetually mad at myself for getting upset over so many trivial things.
You just have to show up, my husband told me about helping in the field. So this year I offered. And offered. And offered. And threw a temper tantrum about feeling dismissed then was asked if I wanted to learn how to drive combine. And darn it if I didn’t say yes, despite having a toddler to take care of and harvest help staying in our basement.
By Day Two I wanted to throw a second tantrum to get back to the kitchen but squelched the urge. I was already embarrassed by my first outburst demanding to be taken seriously. I’d never make it to the field again if I didn’t grit through it this time.
I had forgotten how relentless harvest is. When combines aren’t rolling, it’s because you’re fixing something.
Progress was slow the first day as we shuffled and fine-tuned equipment to set the stage for a smooth harvest. When the other truck drivers were busy helping organize equipment, I took a full tandem truck to the auger and learning to drive a combine was history.
It was like picking up where I left off – I drove tandem four summers ago and hadn’t since. However, it took me a while to adjust to the semi truck (just ask the grain bin I hit with the trailer).
Despite many humbling missteps, learning the ropes invigorated me. The hardest part was keeping up with all the little things that I’ve felt chaffed by doing the past year because I felt they were unimportant.
Make lunches. Mop the floor. Plan your daughter’s birthday party and get mad at your husband for not planning yours even though he’ll still be cutting. Then get mad at him for planning one the day before you planned your daughter’s. Line up a babysitter then figure out what to do when she cancels. Mow the grass so the rattlesnakes don’t move in to eat all the mice that have made themselves at home since we’ve disappeared to the field.
Thankfully, it turned out that driving a truck made me dispensable at times; some days they didn’t need me at all. I was able to come in with the supper wagon most nights, allowing me time with our daughter before putting her to bed and then tackling (part of) the list of chores.
A few nights, though, I was out until everyone else.
On the third-in-a-row of such nights a friend who stayed with us for a few days said she hoped I wasn’t offended she had done some laundry and cleaned the house. There was a time I would have been, but this time I almost cried with relief.
I still prefer fieldwork, but I now see how everything works together. It’s all important, and it’s all valued, especially by me.