Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Week Forty-One

Event:  Worked on a farm during Harvest

This weekend I drove to a small town in Nebraska to experience my first Harvest.  Population 630, this small town is the home of endless fields of corn, soybeans and alfalfa.  And boy, this city girl was in for a treat.

I knew it would be an adventure when my friend (who's husband's family lives on the farm) tried to give me directions.  She said she would text me with the steps on how to get there once I reached Omaha.  I figured that would be a good plan because surely it was just a couple of highway changes and I'd be there.  I received one text, then two, then three, then seven, then nine and finally, when the TWELVTH text came through saying "Good luck!" I knew I was in trouble.  Here's what some of the last few texts said:
-Go 15 miles on the highway and into town
-Turn right into town
-Go straight until you come to a 4-way stop at the end of town.  There's a mini-mart on your left.  Keep going.
-Follow the curvy road for 5 miles.  Look for signs with letters on them.  Turn left on "E" road.
-Go 1.25 miles on the gravel road.  At the top of the hill is a driveway.  Turn left by the big silver grain bins. 

Are you kidding me?  You might as well say, "turn left by the cows, turn right by the chickens and follow your nose in."  Boy was I corn-fused!  I knew I was in the right area though when I started seeing signs like the one that had an arrow on it that said, "Ballroom, Ball Fields and High School" this way.  God I love small towns.  I then came to an intersection where the Friday night High School football game was being played and I'm betting the entire town was there.  Next to the football field were grain bins.  I freaking love it.  A few wrong turns later, I found my final destination.  As I stepped out of the car I looked up at the magnificent sky and was overwhelmed with the bazillion stars that hung above me.  At about that same time my nose reminded me not to take in a deep breath of "fresh" air, as I found myself standing about 200 yards away from a hog barn.  "That's the smell of money" I was told.  As long as I'm not reminded that I'm eating the 'money' for breakfast, I'll be fine.

Shortly after I arrived the men came in from the field, ready to hit the town.  And this Dell was ready to meet her Farmer.  Hold on a second.  I just looked up "Farmer and the Dell" to make sure I spelled it right and I just learned that the stupid song says "Farmer IN the Dell."  Seriously, until this very moment I thought the song said, "The Farmer and the Dell" and by Dell I thought it meant lady farmer.  Holy cow manure I know absolutely nothing about farming.  I'm really glad I was telling cowboys all weekend that I'm the dell to their farmer.  Oh for shit's sake.  Farm 1, City Girl 0.

I put on my shit kickers and we were off.  You could say we went hog wild (yeah I said it).  We went down to the bar, conveniently called the Grain Bin, where it was like a scene out of Cheers.  Everyone knew everyone.  Except when I walked in it was like the record skipped.  Awkward pause, moment of silence, I quickly made friends with the bartender and we were all good.  A local even bought me a shot.  Another local came in, said hello to my group and ordered a 12-pack to go.  Huh?  That's right.  This bar also served as the town's liquor store.  I can't even take it!  On the way home we made an obligatory stop on the side of a gravel road to run across hay bails.  It's hard to run across hay bails to begin with, but you add the layer of total darkness (ok, and a little alcohol) and everything changes.  As I nervously took baby steps, the guys were running across them without a care in the world.  Silly cowboys. While I was being told to speed it up, one of the guys fell into a hole in the hay bail and found himself eating hay, while the other, attempting to catch up to us, didn't realize he was about to run out of hay bails and he quickly found himself eating dirt.  I daintily skipped along, then attempted to slide off a 7-foot hay bail only to get a bunch of hay splinters in my butt.  Super.

The next morning was controlled chaos.  Grandma was making eggs and coffee cake, the men were scurrying around getting ready, the women were chasing the children and I was putting on my make-up.  I literally have no idea what I'm doing.  We all quickly ate and before I knew it everyone was in a pick-up heading out to the farm.  Not sure what kind of danger to expect, I grabbed a bright orange hunting hat just to make sure no one Combined over me (at this point I have no idea what a Combine is) so when we stepped off the truck, I got a crash course lesson on Combines, Tractors, Grain Carts, Augers and Semi's. It was at this moment I was inspired to write a book entitled "The City Girl's Guide to Farming."  I could not believe how much I didn't know.  When I think of farming, I think of women dressed in jumpers and bonnets and men dressed in overalls riding a mule pulling a metal thingy that digs into the soil.  Oh wait, that's the Amish and they still do that.  At any rate, this was nothing like what I imagined.

The combine and the tractor have an air conditioned cab complete with music, a CB radio, cup holders and a flat screen.  Just kidding.  But seriously, they are high tech.  I learned a Combine sucks in the entire 9 foot corn stalk, stripping it of its stalk, silks, kernels and cob.  It shoots the kernels up to the attached grain cart and spits out the rest of the "trash" behind it.  The Tractor runs alongside the Combine so when the Combine's grain cart is full of kernels, an Auger swings out and shoots the kernels into the Tractor's Grain Cart.  When the Tractor gets full, its Auger swings out and shoots the kernels into the top of a semi.  When the semi is full you drive into town and a trap door opens at the bottom and the kernels are dumped into the floor of a grain bin.  Seriously.  Where have I been.

I spent the day riding shotgun in all of the aforementioned vehicles, only taking breaks to eat, potty and shovel corn.  And by that I mean grabbing a shovel (because sometimes the augers miss their target) scooping as many kernels as you can and tossing it into the top of a semi.  I wanted to prove I could do it, so I shoveled and tossed as hard as I could.  More than not my kernels crashed into the side of the semi as opposed to getting up and over the top, but I was trying.  In the end, I gave up and just sat in the pile of kernels doing snow angels and burying myself like I was at the beach.  I'm pretty sure they loved that.  Lucky for all of us, we got to take a break for lunch that featured fried chicken, home-made biscuits, veggies and a pumpkin dessert.  While enjoying this mouth watering meal I told Grandma this was about the best friend chicken I had ever had.  She responded by saying, "I just bought these chickens from Rita's farm - right down the road!"  I think I just threw up in my mouth a little.

When we finally stopped farming around 10:30 that night, five of us piled into a pick-up with a cooler of beer and we hit the streets.  Excuse me, we hit the roads.  Gravel ones.  For fun the locals sometimes grab a spotlight, a 12-pack and drive around looking for wild animals.  Thinking we would probably only see some cows and maybe a horse or two, we were speechless when we saw a raccoon in a tree, a skunk running down the road, two deer and a coyote!  I was freakin' Jack Hannah and this was Animal Planet!  It was awesome.  To wrap up the night we even saw a Grizzly Bear!  (ok, it was stuffed and mounted on a plaque but still). 

The next morning I overslept and woke up at 10:15.  I had to put Bengay on my shoulders, two band-aids around my finger, take an advil and a Claritin.  This Dell thing is harder than it looks.

Here's to corn.

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