The harvest

Luckily fall has returned to the central United States after most of us endured a true shock to our systems with a very early cold snap that even included a pile of the white stuff and some bitterly cold winds.

Of course, most of us (definitely us!) were not prepared for winter, mentally, emotionally or especially outside where hoses were still strung up and connected and draft holes hadn’t been plugged. Some propane barrels may have been sitting empty over the summer and certainly few gardens or flower beds had been properly prepared for winter. Prepared or not, Mother Nature let us know that she was still in control of the weather and there wasn’t much we could do about it.

While it pales in comparison to the devastating hurricanes the East Coast is being pummeled with, an early taste of winter can be a pretty scary wake up call. We’ve all been there—that last college final or an unusually early flight that we jump out of bed in a complete panic because we hit that snooze button and now will have to race to make it on time. That’s about what the early snow did to us and certainly brought to light all of the things on the “to do” list that better get crossed off quick. Fortunately, we have been blessed with a reprieve from winter which is especially fortunate for our college student in Texas because if it wouldn’t have warmed up, I’d have packed my bags and headed south because that would be way more winter than I could handle!

Most of the rain and snow have dried up and the wind is gently blowing. The days are perfect for the harvest season and the beautiful, clear night skies are lit by the Hunter’s moon so the combines are rolling full swing in our area. It is not uncommon to see the lights of combines, tractors, wagons and trucks all during the night. There is a long string of trucks lined up at the elevator before it opens in the morning, ready to dump and head back for another load.

Of course there is also the movement of large, slow machinery on the roads that impatient people don’t understand and get frustrated with. The radio and television ads have been steady about harvest safety and taking the time to use extra caution when working with or passing farm equipment during this busy time. Hopefully their messages have not fallen on deaf ears and everyone can enjoy an accident-free harvest.

The bins are filling and elevators are busy with all of the spoils of the hard work, time, effort and investment the farmers put into the crops they raise. And most even seem optimistic that some of the new trade deals will mean that their crops may have more value than they had anticipated.

In addition to crops, the majority of the calves in this country are born in the spring so that means it’s weaning time. It has been common place in our area to see a gathering of pickups and trailers around a corral with either horses or 4-wheelers rounding up a herd of cattle. Some will be pre-conditioned while others will be weaned and fed or weaned and sold. That means there are plenty of bovine serenades to be heard if you are enjoying a fall drive with the windows down as calves and cows are put on opposite sides of the fence to figure out how to move forward each without the other.

Weaning time in our area also means a harvest of some edible delicacies commonly referred to as mountain oysters or cowboy caviar. The gathering of this crop in the fall is a little more difficult and requires a sharp knife, a steady hand, a couple strong arms and most likely a squeeze chute since they weren’t harvested in the spring when the calves were small. While they are much more work to get in the fall, you just can’t have a good “Testicle Festival” with those little things you get in the spring!

As we get a second chance to prepare for what we know is coming, let’s pull that last tomato for a BLT, smell those fall flowers one more time, haul the last load of grain, chain the gate on the calf pen, drain the hoses, shore up the drafts and let’s not forget to just sit down, relax a minute and enjoy this beautiful fall weather and thank our good Lord for the bountiful harvest.

Editor’s note: Trent Loos is a sixth generation United States farmer, host of the daily radio show, Loos Tales, and founder of Faces of Agriculture, a non-profit organization putting the human element back into the production of food. Get more information at, or email Trent at [email protected].