Bus rides and harvest

(Journal stock photo.)

As I was outside with my kids waiting for them to catch their big yellow bus to begin another school year, I was reminded of how all of the back-to-school excitement is similar to the anticipation of fall on the farm.

Being that it’s a new school year, the kids are understandably excited to return to school. This has translated to them getting out to their bus stop with plenty of time to spare and ensures they don’t miss the bus and avoiding frantic, last-minute morning chaos.

As we get closer to the start of fall harvest, we are also getting out into the fields and testing the moisture of the corn with plenty of time to spare. While some might argue it’s still too early, just like with the kids, we want to make sure we experience a smooth transition into fall harvest with as little unnecessary chaos as possible.

In the days leading up to the first day of classes, our school district provided us with an estimate of when we should expect the bus to arrive. Although we had a good idea of when to expect the bus, we knew to be ready a little before the expected time while also understanding if it was later.

Just like the morning bus, we know fall harvest will get here. We’re not quite sure when exactly that will be; we just have to be ready to go when it’s time.

While waiting for their bus, I reminded my two children to be observant as they have the tools needed to identify the bus and know when it’s coming minutes before actually seeing it. If one listens, amid the morning sounds of feed trucks and cattle in the distance, the distinct sound of the bus bouncing down the gravel roads can be heard.

As adults, we too have tools to use to help determine when it’s time to harvest. While it might not be our sense of hearing, we do scout fields using our eyes to make observations while also picking and shelling ears of corn before testing for moisture. If we look, the distinct signs of a field that’s ready for harvest can be seen.

Once on the morning bus, I watched the silhouettes of my two little ones cautiously walk down the aisle before committing and settling into their seats for the duration of their morning ride. I know both my son and daughter prefer to sit up near the front of the bus to avoid negative results like getting car sick or getting themselves into trouble.

We will also be intentional in our field selections prior to committing the machines to a field as we want to make sure our decisions will not cause negative results like dockage once our grain is delivered to the elevator.

As the bus slowly moved forward, I scanned the bus windows to see if I could spot any other morning riders. With the sun rising behind the bus, it appeared my two were the first ones on. The saying “first ones on, last ones off” has been true given our location within the school district’s boundaries and bus route. Being first on and last off the bus can make for some long and tiring days for my little kiddos.

And just like the bus rides, fall harvest will also bring some exhausting days as expected. In either case, we know that at the end of these long days, whether we’re riding a school bus or driving a combine, we’ll all return and find comfort (and snacks) at home.

—Kim Baldwin is a McPherson County, Kansas, farmer and rancher who wrote this “Insight” column that was published by Kansas Farm Bureau.