Summer is no vacation on the farm

Most farmers don’t know what a summer vacation would be like. From early spring through summer and into late fall, there are what seems like a dozen and one things to do on the farm.

In fact, most weekends and holidays are not like those experienced by folks in town. Farm work has to go on regardless of the day. But folks in town think about weekends as times to get the yard work done, spend more time with the kids, play some golf or maybe take a short trip or go to the beach.

Depending on the time of the year, it seems like farmers are either busy or exceptionally busy! They have to adapt and learn how to do many different things. Until you eat, sleep and live with farming, not many people can understand how it becomes their main interest and their life.

When the weather breaks, fields have to be tilled and ready to put those seeds in the ground. And that has to be done when the weather allows or it may not get done. Quite often before the corn or soybeans are all planted, hay needs to be made. Pressure to get things done piles up.

Grass and hay crops keep right on growing. So do the weeds. Both need to be taken care off at the right time. To be of the highest quality, hay crops need to be harvested before they reach maturity. This year, because of the weather, that was not possible so there was a lot of over-ripe hay harvested.

Weeds need to be controlled when they are small and growing fast. That’s when just a small amount of the right weed killer will take care of them. Weeds not controlled can take a lot of moisture and plant nutrients away from the crop.

Seems like hay-making is hardly finished until it’s time to harvest wheat and oats. When the combine is finished rolling around the fields, the harvest of grain has to be either stored in the farm bins or hauled to market. That involves a serious marketing decision on the part of the farmer.

Next usually comes straw baling. Most grains are combined high to limit the amount of straw that has to go through the machine and avoid any rocks that might be in the field. So the grain stubble is mowed, raked and baled.

Farmers don’t like to leave straw lying out in the field to get wet. One good rain can ruin a lot of good straw. So they want to get it picked up.

Along the way, depending on the weather, some second crop hay might need to be made. More jobs that have to be done at the same time.

Fall comes along with all the pressure to get the soybeans and corn harvested before winter and snow sets in. Fall is always a hectic time on local farms because the year’s profit is standing out there in the fields.

If the farm family is going to take a vacation, and many of them want to if possible, they have to plan for winter months. That is not easy if there are children in school.

Some families find time to go to the county fair a day or two, especially if they have children in 4-H showing livestock. Or they might go to a livestock show someplace else.

Remember when you are enjoying your summer cookouts, one of your farmer neighbors is out there working hard to make sure you have plenty of food to put on your grill. They are doing what they enjoy doing, even if their lifestyle may be considerably different from yours.

Parker is retired from Ohio State University and an independent agricultural writer.