harvest 2013

combining Far Blackley

Harvest has started and for once, we’ve started with the wheat because the oilseed rape is late this year due to the pigeon damage earlier in the year.

sweeping the grainstore

The grain store was swept out, the tractor and trailers checked over and the weather forecast consulted even more frequently than usual. Last week Bill did a few “farmer’s bite” tests on the wheat, where you take a head of wheat and rub it between your hands to thresh it out, blow away the chaff and then bite on a grain to discover how hard it is. While the grain is soft then it’s not ready but as soon as it’s hard to the bite then it’s time to do a more scientific moisture test to see if it’s dry enough to combine.

On Sunday afternoon it was decided that the wheat was ready to harvest here at Slamseys Farm and the contractors arrived to start the 2013 harvest. The combine first cuts around the outside of the field enough times to make a headland to turn on and then works methodically across the field. When the tank on the combine reaches 90% capacity, the flashing light signals the tractor driver to pull up alongside the combine as the spout comes out and the grain is unloaded from the combine into the trailers. The wheat is then tipped into a big heap in our grain store and from there will be loaded into lorries to be taken to the central grain store of the co-operative where it’s weighed and tested. If necessary the wheat will be dried and then stored in optimum conditions until it’s sold.

The contractors have now moved with their combine to another farmer and will return next week (we hope) to cut the oilseed rape and wheat on our outlying land.

Harvest is the culmination of the past year’s work and it’s always a fraught time, especially as we can’t control the weather that can make or break harvest, so it’s good to have part of the crop already cut and stored. As farmers, our job is done and the wheat passes down the line for others to process – the grain store, millers, bakers and food manufacturers of all sizes and then to the shops and markets for everyone to buy. It’s a good feeling to be part of the team that feeds the country, even if the UK is only 62% self sufficient. Do you realise that if all our home produced food was put into store on 1st January, then today is the day we’d run out? Scary.

19 thoughts on “harvest 2013

  1. Loved reading this Anne! I didn’t know about the farmer’s bite test – in fact I ddn’t know that moisture levels in the wheat have to be at a certain level in order to use a combine harvester. Fascinating! Fingers crossed for the weather to hold until harvest is complete – for Slamseys and all British farms keeping our larders from becoming bare! E x

  2. Pleased you have at least some of this year’s harvest in the shed Anne. Well imagine it’s a testing time for all, watching the sky, something we all seem to do in primary production.
    Your statistic is very interesting, wish I could find the same information for us.

    1. I suspect you are far more self sufficient than the UK. Our local supermarket is selling Dutch cucumbers when our season is at its height and doubtless lots of other produce too. Seems like madness to me but the profit line is king.

  3. Good morning Anne, well done on another success harvest! Although we don’t have crops it is a bit like us shearing our sheep…the culmination of the previous years work. Your grain store looks super clean! It looks dustier on your property than I expected it to be. Very interesting post!

  4. I think over here in Australia we could be almost totally self sufficient in our food production – however due to trade agreements we end up importing ridiculous things – oranges from South America whilst our citrus orchards go unpicked, tinned tomatoes from Italy when we have a glut. Most ridiculous is the recent news reports of “fresh baked ” bread sold in our Coles Supermarket which turns out to be imported from Ireland!

  5. This post brought back memories of spending time on my grandfathers farm as a child. Having grown up in town, one would expect I would know nothing about the bite test… but I did! Although it was locked away in my memory somewhere only to be jogged free today. Good to hear you are well into getting your harvest done and can rest easy soon.

    Enjoyed this post tremendously, thank you!

  6. Anne, I found it interesting that you have contractors do the harvest. What happens if everyone wants then on the same day, or worse, it rains on the day you have booked them?

    1. Interesting question Glenda. The contractors we use for harvesting also sow our crops and the crops for other farmers that they harvest for and sowing is scheduled so that (we hope) the crops ripen in some sort of order too. Sometimes the sun is shining, the crop is ready and we just have to wait while they harvest someone else’s crop which can be frustrating. However they have a far bigger combine than we could justify buying, so they make up the lost time by harvesting far more than we could manage in a day

      1. Hi Anne, it is interesting. I think, in Australia, everyone harvests their own – it is something I never thought about – now I need to know 🙂 . I am going to check with my nephew, he is a farmer.

  7. Hope the harvest is going well! We harvest wheat in December so we can never go away over Christmas. Quentin is always on tenter hooks about the weather. On a good day the combines will work late into the night to get as much done as possible, because everything stops if it rains. Stressful times!

  8. Well done Anne – must be a huge relief to get to this point. Fingers crossed for favourable weather conditions for the next part! Fascinating statistics for the UK. My Husband seems to think we are 100% self sufficient here in Australia in terms of food supply which is why it is so irritating to see the cheaper-produced fruit etc from overseas in our supermarkets while we export our stuff…I could go on and on and on 🙂 Have a lovely weekend. Mel x

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