The past couple of weeks have been wet in the area, keeping most people out of the fields. There were only a few days suitable to get out there and get anything accomplished. The wet conditions allowed us to take an extended weekend to drive down to Chapel Hill, Tennessee, and back for my cousin’s wedding.
This weekend, I accompanied a friend into Chicago to cheer some of our other friends on as they ran the Chicago Marathon. Approximately 1,750 miles of field watching along Interstates 39, 57, 24, 90 and 88. On the trip south, we left behind flooded fields and closed roads due to flooding and spent the weekend in an area plagued with drought. Not much was happening in the fields we could see from the interstate, but a few were trying to harvest soybeans between Champaign and Effingham. On the trip to Chicago this weekend, I didn’t see much happening along I-90 on the way into the city, but we brought I-88 and I-39 home and there were a number of combines running in soybeans in the DeKalb area and if the dust flying was any indication, it should have been good running.
Thankfully, we had a much lower total rainfall than was predicted late this past week and missed the hard-freeze temperatures. There have been a couple light-frost mornings, but missing that hard freeze was a blessing to give late-planted corn more time to black layer and drying-down time. It seems to be go-time for harvest in the area. Today, a lot of choppers and combines started hitting the fields hard. I’ve chatted with friends and heard corn yields of 120 to 240 bushels with moistures of 21% to 27% and soybean yields of 40 to 80 bushels and 13% to 16% moisture. It will be interesting to see where it all shakes out at the end of harvest.
It would be great if we could get at least a couple weeks of Indian summer to get rid of the flooding and dry up the fields for an easier harvest. Those wanting to put out winter wheat and cover crops would appreciate warm weather to get crops off and seeding done so it germinates and grows before a hard freeze. Those with alfalfa will have to decide if they try a final cutting, or leave it go for the year. After the winter kill we had around here this past winter, I imagine more will consider foregoing that final cutting for more cover to protect it from the harsh weather over winter.
The 2019 growing season is shaping up to be a marathon season. I observed parallels between the runners on Sunday in Chicago and farmers across the Midwest. I saw the excited photos friends shared as they were in the corrals waiting for their wave to start. It was much like the excitement farmers have when we can finally hit the fields after a long, cold winter to prep the soil and plant our crops. We chose to stand along the final hill to cheer and encourage our friends along with the other runners to reach that finish line. The runners turn from Michigan Avenue, which is predominately flat, on to Roosevelt Street — aka Mt Roosevelt — which is uphill and cross a bridge before they turn into Grant Park and cross the finish line.
Runners exhibited a gamut of emotions on that final hill. They had made it 25.5 miles and had about half a mile left. Some were smiling, waving and high-fiving the crowd of onlookers. Others had their ear buds in and were in the zone, focused on that finish line, seemingly oblivious to the world around them. There was a large segment of the runners that were struggling. Walking, in pain from cramps, the look of doubt on their faces, feeling almost defeated as they fought to put one foot in front of the other to get up that hill and to the finish line.
One of my friends sent me the best text and made the whole trip and freezing in the cold Chicago winds worthwhile. He told me his legs were feeling like jelly. I could see the grimace on his face. Then I yelled his name and we made eye contact. I smiled big at him and told him I knew he could it. He told me that gave him the final push he needed to keep running all the way to the finish. We are rounding that same corner in the 2019 growing season. Harvest is already proving to be an uphill battle to the finish line, just like the marathon was on Sunday for those runners. Be patient, be safe and keep putting one foot in front of the other. We will cross that harvest finish line, even if it’s not the in the time we hoped for.