Harvest Chess

We are now past the midpoint of August. My harvest clock is ticking and I am starting to get restless (which explains my writing this at 4 a.m.). Typically it takes a bit more for me to become restless than my father who, after August 1st most years, will not go outside a 10-mile radius of our land and he starts re-sweeping out the bins he did in July! This year, however, the crops really are several weeks behind.


This year really has been an exceptionally wet one by our farming standards in south central Alberta. I am not one of those farmers who keeps record of total inches, crazy ratio of sunny to rainy days or such weather alchemy – but I am sick of the rain! Obviously everyone has their selfish reason to be sick of the rain; those reasons vary from ruined camping adventures with the family, to destroying a good pair of Italian leather shoes checking crops on the way to the office (ok, maybe that's just me).

A good rain on most years is just a reason to get all my real estate business in order prior to getting in the combine; however; this year it is more of a distracting stress wondering, when will I be getting in the combine? With lingering evidence of Canola blooms still in the field, and cereal crops still dead green, the farm boy instincts start playing harvest chess.

What is harvest chess? It is a game all farmers start playing about the 1st of August, whether they know it or not.  Harvest Chess begins with Analysis of the Board (all fields to be harvested).  In this year’s game the primary players I have put on the board include Swathers, High Clearance / Ariel Sprayers, and Combine with pick up and straight cut header. Of course if you’re a farmer, you know these players are not ready until they have been pulled out and sitting in the yard ready to go, just in case mother nature decides to call a Bullet Chess match (rarely seen with the exception of hail). Secondary players in this year’s game include grain dryers, drying fans, and hopper bins.
Now, what the first move this year will be, I am not sure yet. Mentally, though, I am playing the game already. There are definitely some simple moves in this game (ie. Canola will need to be swathed probably on an angle to account for potential wind). Timing for this move will definably be at the earliest opportunity to minimize the opportunity for frost (overnight checkmate)!

Barley and wheat, on the other hand, will take some tricky manoeuvrings to get to the bin with the highest possible quality. Mentally, I am keeping the slate clean for reactive play on these crops. This year I do see a mental combination of spraying, swathing and praying prepared. As this game progresses, I will document the moves in this blog and hope Caissa will be with me.