It was going so well.
We were far enough in to harvest season that we had forgotten what day we were on. Long enough that we were all comfortable with our jobs and everything was running smoothly. My husband Matt and I had been married long enough that I was becoming accustomed to the fields — where to drive, where not to, when to bring the grain cart, when not to, etc.
Then it happened. When things are going smoothly, you’re just waiting for the shoe to drop. Well it did. Except it wasn’t a shoe. It was a fully loaded grain cart. Matt had just filled me up, and I was headed to the truck. I thought I gave myself plenty of clearance around the ditch, but close enough to it so I didn’t get in the wet spot on the other side. Turns out I avoided the wet spot on the other side, but found an old trench on the ditch side. I turned into a magician — almost the entire grain cart tire disappeared! Matt wasn’t impressed with my newfound magician skills.
Harvest is a stressful time on our farm; tempers sometimes have a tendency to flare when things like this happen. Matt is really good about it, and I’m trying to get better, but nasty words rarely make the situation better … and often make it much worse.
Matt is amazing at solving problems. He rarely wastes time berating me for doing something like this; he just gets to work solving the problem. I love this about him.
We had our biggest tractor on the grain cart and our next biggest tractor wasn’t interested in pulling or pushing the cart out of the hole. So we put the auger out, and I filled the tractor scoop and hauled bucket by tractor bucket to the truck until we were able to get it out. It took time. There’s a nice dent on the grain cart for a reminder, but life and harvest moved on without much more incidence. During the winter, we got around to finding the tile line that had been laid there years before, but wasn’t working so I should be in the clear for this next year, I hope.
Matt and I work together with his family. Matt is busy all year. He always has something going, but we all know the absolute “go times” on the farm, and harvest is one of them. As we head into that season, I thought I would share the things we do to make sure not only our equipment is properly maintained, but also our marriage.
#1. Proper Preparation
Matt spends weeks going through all the equipment prior to harvest. He fixes things that were wrong from last season. He improves and upgrades the things that need done. He greases everything and does a test run on everything to make sure it’s ready. Then he waits for the crops to dry down.
Our marriage goes through a similar process. We talk through things that worked/didn’t work last year. We go on quality date nights away from the farm prior to harvest, because we all know we aren’t leaving once harvest starts. We get the house ready for a season where it’s not going to get much attention. Then we wait.
#2. Harvest Maintenance
When it’s go time, it’s time to go all in. We work long hours. He spends the early mornings while the dew is still on, greasing, fueling, unloading the last loads of the night, etc. to ensure the day goes smoothly. I spend those early mornings checking the cows and packing our lunches/supper.
Our date nights turn in to date days from separate cabs. This is when we are spending zero time in the same space. We put effort in to texting each other favorite lines from songs we hear on the radio. We flirt from combine to grain cart cabs through dirty windows. I put jokes in his lunch box. We try to laugh and smile.
Harvest is one of his favorite times of the year. It’s the culmination of so much work and effort. He loves the long days. He loves running the combine. He loves figuring out where all the grain is going to go. He loves this time. He loves that I’m there to work alongside him. He knows my love language is words of affirmation and puts extra effort in to fill my love tank during harvest. He will text me when I do something extraordinary.
In general, we try to not survive harvest but thrive though it. We use it as an opportunity to get out of our “normal” routine and spice things up. It’s not perfect. There’s hurt feelings. There’s anger toward each other. There’s stress. But generally, it’s an exciting time of year for us.
#3. Post Harvest Inspection
When the last rows are picked, the last of the loads stored and the equipment is back in the shed. Matt goes through the things that worked, things that didn’t and things that need fixed on all the equipment. Then he breathes.
The same goes for our marriage. We go through the things that worked, things that didn’t, things that need fixed and go on a celebratory date night.
Farmers/ranchers so often move from one busy season right in to the next without celebrating what we did. Celebrate! You did it! Appreciate what you and your crew accomplished! You’re feeding the world — take some time to feed your relationships now.
Kelsey Pagel is a Kansas farmer. She grew up on a cow/calf and row crop operation and married into another. Kelsey and her Forever (Matt) farm and ranch with his family where they are living their dream and loving most of the moments.