Kim Baldwin, McPherson County farmer
It’s wheat harvest time in central Kansas! I always know harvest will arrive, but it also always seems to sneak up on me. This year it seems to have snuck up a bit more than usual as we are still catching up from dealing with our wicked weather from a month ago.
We are still replanting fields damaged by hail or flooded by rain. Our days leading up to this year’s harvest have included the regular preparation for summer and harvest, as well as a lot of unanticipated extras.
Extra time has been needed in the fields replanting, spraying and cultivating while also dealing with insurance claims, adjustors, contractors, windshield repairs, dent repairs and a roofing crew. There’s definitely been a lot of those unexpected extras this year leading up to summer harvest.
Thankfully, we have wonderful helpers who have been able to assist with the needed annual tasks that must be done prior to and during harvest. From preparing irrigation, laying pipe, servicing the tractors, trucks and combines, helping with irrigation repairs, cutting wheat and delivering the grain, we have a great group of people helping us.
I realized a few days ago this is the first year in a very long time that I do not have a personal helper of my own this summer. Normally I would have a teenage girl helping me with the kids and household chores during the summer months. I called these helpers my “right-hand gals” because the job wasn’t just babysitting.
In the past, I’d be able to leave the kids with my helper when I’d need to quickly drive out to a field to shuttle equipment or crew members to another location. Sometimes I would need to drive to another town to get machine parts. It was wonderful to have a helper who I could leave in charge of the house and kids to be able to complete all the necessary and unscheduled tasks associated with summer and harvest.
My helper’s main role was to keep the day moving forward whether I was at home with the kids or not. At times, the job would require prepping food or baking cookies for our harvest crew. Sometimes it entailed loading and unloading the dishwasher or the laundry. Sometimes it meant reading books to the kids, making sure they were put down for their scheduled naps or lifeguarding when the kids would take an afternoon dip in our stock tank pool.
Having a “right-hand gal” helped keep the kids rested and on a schedule. Summer on the farm and wheat harvest is incredibly exciting to participate in, but it’s also tiring for everyone involved. Between the hot, dry winds constantly blowing, and the long days and nights of work, it’s understandable why adults might — on occasion — get cranky. I’m sure one can imagine how the intense harvest schedule would affect a child if not properly rested!
But as in all of life, this year I am reminded that seasons continually change, and my right-hand gals are grown and gone. My son has transitioned to helping more on the farm this summer. He’s now shadowing his daddy and grandpa, helping the men service machines by handing them tools, riding in the combine and helping with irrigation. I no longer fill a sippy cup and strap him into his car seat. Instead, he fills his own water jug daily and is doing his part helping with summer tasks on the farm under the supervision of some pretty patient people.
My daughter is now another little helper. She’s transitioned to helping with laundry and baking cookies with her grandma. Now, whenever I have to jump in a vehicle to complete a pressing task, my little assistant is usually with me. Most of the time she’s happy to tag along as long as she has a book or two with her. But sometimes when the day gets tough, the immediate playing of a requested soundtrack and the promise of a frozen drink or popsicle usually helps.
Yes, I’ve always been aware and thankful for the wonderful help we have especially during the summer months. This year, I have become acutely more aware of the blessing of helpers — both big and small.
“Insight” is a weekly column published by Kansas Farm Bureau, the state’s largest farm organization whose mission is to strengthen agriculture and the lives of Kansans through advocacy, education and service.