I was talking to my daughter the other night about how she feels autumn in itself is her very favorite time of the year. This got me to thinking to when I was a boy on our family farm on Fruit Ridge. I was raised in the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s on that farm and recall how I remembered October. To me the months of September, October, and November, I have always thought of as harvest time. When the tobacco was all removed from the fields and hung in barns, this signaled the time to prepare for the harvest season. Our big task was to pick our corn and get it in the cribs for storage.
Dad planned his harvest by planting his crops as early as weather would allow. He hoped this would give him more favorable weather in the fall along with milder climate to work in and to operate the equipment in. This made the job a little more tolerable to the men and meant less stress on the equipment.
The harvest season is a special time of year. The feel of summer is still in the air yet the days end a little earlier and even though summer clothes still feel more than comfortable, a person can feel the season changing ever so slightly day by day. As September draws to a close the crops go from the common color of green to a dried brown signaling to the farmer that it is time to harvest. As the last items were removed from the gardens and orchards, we turned our attention to harvest.
We picked corn with a one row Wood Brothers’ corn picker. This was pretty much the standard piece of equipment for this job. There were a couple of farmers in the neighborhood who owned two row pickers. This was considered the newest state of the art item of that time. When given the chance I would sometimes linger by those farms and watch and marvel at modern technology. Wow! Twice the harvest in half the time. Would wonders never cease?
With the corn picker was a wagon attached to collect the corn and to hold the corn the wagon held a box bed. In those days Dad would drop pumpkin and squash seeds in the corn planter so that they would grow among the cornstalks. I guess he was multi-tasking. Before the field was picked it was my responsibility to walk through the rows and collect the squash and pumpkins and move them to a safe place until they could be loaded in the truck. Sometimes they would get overlooked as the fields were big and I was little. (My story and I’m sticking to it).
When the corn filled the box bed to a certain point a person would have to ride in the wagon and drag the ears back so more could fit. The plus of this job was you could look at all the land and trees around and since you were sitting higher in the air you had a more panoramic view of fall as it was happening. The down side was when that overlooked pumpkin or squash ended up going through the picker, mashing it to a pulp and sending it up the elevator and on the person in the wagon. Yuck! To this day I am pretty certain my Dad, who was driving the tractor, would see the mashed pulp on its way to the wagon and smiled as we were about to receive.
When all the corn was picked and cribbed, the corn fields were then disced and then we would sow wheat with a grain drill. A wheat crop sowed on the corn field was very important. There were two reasons for sowing winter wheat. The first was that it served as a cover crop. It took root and held the earth in place so it wouldn’t erode and our farm was rolling land and could erode easily. Erosion to a farmer is one of the most devastating losses that he could incur and the loss of valuable top soil could bankrupt him quickly.
Second, the wheat was ready for harvest the following year in early July and this gave the farmer some cash to help him to the cash crop in the winter. From the wheat came the grain and the fodder was baled into straw for bedding purposes. Wheat was more valuable than the average person ever realized. Drilling the wheat in the fields took place in November. By then the fall season had cooled much more and the days grew even shorter. Also by then the trees had lost most of their leaves and the awesome colors were nearly faded away. What I remember about that time was when in a field drilling wheat, it felt as though the world had expanded and I felt smaller and less significant..
In our conversation, my daughter commented on the big bright moons we see in the fall. I have always heard them referred to as Harvest moons. When the harvest time arrived a farmer had to work from day light to sunset. As I have said the days grew shorter faster and time was of the essence. So as the days wore on I would grow weary of the work I was performing but when night would arrive and I would be shutting down the equipment for the day, I would look up and gaze at that big old Harvest moon I don’t think I ever took for granted that it was up there. Also the sounds I could hear at day’s end were different than any other time in the day. I could hear the day coming to a rest and I could hear the night beginning. I know that sounds odd but it’s true. A person can feel and hear the change from day into night and that big moon was and is always in the center of it all.
I guess the fall months are designed to prepare us for winter months and as I have said in past writings I don’t like winter. However one should take time to marvel at all that takes place in the fall of the year. Spending many years working outside and away from city lights, I learned to marvel and be in awe of how God has laid out this world, its seasons, and all we receive from his grand design. All that is sowed is harvested under that big old Harvest moon.
The design is grand!
Rick Houser was raised on a farm near Moscow in Clermont County and likes to share stories about his youth and other topics. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.