Tuesday, July 27, 2010

An Evening in the Swather

Most Sunday evenings we play softball, but one Sunday evening my husband wanted to get some oats and wheat cut so it would be ready the next morning for the crew to chop. I wasn't feeling particularly ambitious, so I thought sitting in the swather (also known as a windrower) would be just fine. Plus I had an ulterior motive--the evening light on the ranch is absolutely beautiful. And sure enough, I couldn't resist snapping a lot of photos. So this post is rather long. Just warning you.

We all loaded up into the swather. Desert Boy sat on Daddy's lap, I sat in the passenger seat, and Desert Girl stayed in her car seat on the floor. We weren't going more than ten miles an hour. I feel like this is where I should say something pithy, like The family that swathes together stays together. Ack, that just sounds dumb. Maybe you can come up with something better. My excuse is that it's pretty early in the morning and my mind isn't fully awake!

I want you to notice the size of the swather. It's huge, it takes up the whole road. Keep this in mind.

We went out past the alfalfa fields, with some good clouds in the background adding a little extra drama to the scene. It's especially nice to have clouds in summer, because they signify a little shade. Considering that we have sunshine about 363 days a year (really, there are usually only one or two days a year that I don't see any blue sky), we appreciate the clouds.

A little bit of the field had already been windrowed and then chopped, the yellow part my husband was walking on. There was still about half a pivot left to go.

Here are two rows done. The swather cuts the oats and wheat, then they need to dry for at least a few hours, then a chopper comes and cuts the grain into about one-inch long segments and blows it into a truck that runs alongside the chopper. The truck delivers the chopped forage to the silage machine (which is not the correct technical term, but it makes sense to me, so I'm going to use it), and that puts it into the long, white silage bags that keep everything nice and moist and keep out the oxygen so it can ferment. Yes, fermentation is part of the process. It's supposed to be, even though it sounds wrong. It helps break down the silage so it's more digestible to the cattle.

The swather is ready to charge the field. You can see that the light is getting better and better.

The textures of the field fascinated me, from the stiff, bristly recently cut grains, to the long stalks now lying on their sides, to the still-standing oats and wheat gently swaying in the breeze.

Here's Desert Girl. She watched for awhile and then fell asleep. The rumble of the swather was good at soothing her.

Desert Boy had fun steering. He said things like, "I'm a big boy. I can drive now."

To my surprise, we saw some sage grouse out in the field, picking up dropped grains in the area that had already been chopped. Sage grouse are getting rarer and rarer (despite that, the state still has hunts for them in some localities, go figure). We don't see them all that often, so it was a real treat.

My husband still wanted to do two more rows, but Desert Boy and I were ready to get out. Admittedly, the swather does get a little boring after awhile. And even though it's a huge machine, it seems small in such a large field.

Virga (rain that doesn't hit the ground) started coming out of the distant clouds, making them look a little more threatening.

Desert Boy went over to inspect the oats and wheat, which were taller than him. We had a little safety talk about never going into a field when a machine is running in it. He listened well and was eager to back away.

Here's a closeup of some of the oats. As the country goes from being more rural to more urban, more and more people forget where their food is coming from. My husband laments this fact a great deal.

The swather was making its way back around the half-pivot in the last rays of the day.

All done for now.

The swather gets to rest. It needed to rest. It was having trouble cutting and running the air conditioning at the same time (which I will now admit is also part of the reason Desert Boy and I wanted to get out--it was getting quite warm in the cab!).

Good night, field.

Good night, deer eating in the field.

And good night, skunks.


maucotel said...

Thank you for reminding us where our resources come from, we are grateful for them. And slightly jealous of the beauty that you get to enjoy out there!

The Incredible Woody said...

Wow! Beautiful shots!

Annette said...

What a fun series of photos! Looks like it was the perfect night to go out and take pictures. The lighting and clouds are awesome.

G. Robison said...

Heh. Skunks. Never thought about having skunks in Snake Valley, but there's no reason why they WOULDN'T live there.....

jhami said...

Very beautiful photos! The lighting was really cool!

Desert Survivor said...

I've corrected the post with regards to the silage--fermentation is the key process to make the chopped forage into silage. Thanks to my hubby for filling me in on the correct info!

Uncle Tom said...

Fermented silage! So that's why goes look so contented.

jendoop said...

Thanks for this post. One of my fondest memories of living with my grandparents is riding in the tractor. I miss those beautiful ranch nights in Utah.

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