The harvest is on, and it’s almost finished

All it needed was for the weather to take up and the sun to shine with some intensity, for every combine in the country to roar into action. The harvest is on, and in our case, nearly finished. It has been all go for over a week. Tractors in and out the yard. Huge tips of corn. Delighted, and then furious hens and guinea fowl, as first they raided the tip ups and then found themselves banished to the hen run so they do not foul the grain.

Our old combine has behaved beautifully. Needed some new belts mid week to keep her running smoothly and regular doses of grease gun cartridges to ease her aching joints. But each day she has rattled into action, awoken from her long autumn, winter, spring sleep. Still about forty acres of wheat to go and then she can be tucked up safely for another year. Pessimistically plenty of time for a breakdown, but optimistically, not.

Not all the tackle has come through unscathed . A nasty clunk in the gear box of one tractor and rather ominous diagnostic work by a visiting mechanic has sounded the transfer bell. Currently this tractor is running the corn drier but a replacement is coming. Profits from the harvest already being spent.

Although most of the corn has stood up well to the ravages of wind and rain earlier on in the season, the yield is down as there has been insufficient sunshine to swell the ears of wheat. As yet I have not heard any national figures for harvest, but although our corn has come through disease free and is needing relatively little drying, weights are certainly lower than previous years.

But the pantry is full for the cows winter feed. Until John can see bins full of barley, silage clamp full, glistening black heaps of haylage bales and rows of golden green hay bundles, he cannot relax. The corn harvest is jam on the bread.

Already a contractor is booked to come to drill for next years crops. We are going back to rape for a couple of fields. The rotation will put some fertility back into the soil. The contractor has a new Sumo drill that does the job in one sweep. Discs at the front to cut the trash and stubble, legs that go under the soil to loosen and allow for drainage and coulters that go deep into the soil where the moisture is to plant the seed. All John will have to do is roll the seed in and make sure that enough slug pellets go on to kill off the thousands of voracious molluscs that can devastate a crop by eating it faster than it can grow.

Investigating less toxic baits such as metaldehyde, which can be harmful to domestic and wild animals, is leading farmers to look at iron phosphate based baits as an alternative slug control. Unfortunately stamping down hard on them is not a practical solution even with John’s size 12 boots.

Mrs Downs Diary