Enjoying those amber waves of grain

By Rick Houser – 

In the years when I was farming, farmers were still adhering to a pre-planned crop rotation that covered for most a six – plan. Since our farm on Fruit Ridge Road was one that was gently rolling, this was a great plan. We were only three miles from the Ohio River and the land was good land, but since the contours of the farm rolled quite a bit and the soil was made up of its fair share of clay, the farmer had to be very cautious on how he worked his land.
My Dad would spend a great amount of time deciding where to not plow in a field so that erosion would be reduced. He would plow in drain ways also to slow down the chances of erosion. You see, he was one of the farmers who learned that prevention of an item such as this was more than just a great friend to have. So after he picked the corn, he would disc the ground and drill it with wheat, calling it a cover crop. This was a major way of stopping erosion.
On our farm we would raise corn and follow it with wheat. In the early spring he would sow clover and some other grasses in the wheat so they got the chance to grow toprotect the wheat and that would be the third year of crop with hay that year and also the next.
In this day and time, there are basically two crops the farmer plants- soybeans and corn and just keep rotating them. But now with no till, a farmer can sow and harvest and drill in soybeans with no tilling them in. It is safe to say that the methods of farming have changed to a point of no comparison to the past ways I have explained. But there is one thing that hasn’t changed and when I see it I am continually in awe.
That is going past a field of wheat that has ripened to the point that it is golden in color. As I have said the land around here contours from slopes down to low spots and in some fields the land changes in height and tilt from one side of the field to the other as it is moving down a slope. I don’t think I really ever noticed just how much it changes until the wheat has reached the point where it has been referred to ‘as amber waves of grain.” When it has reached this point and a slight breeze blows over that field, you will see it and whether you realize it or not you will watch it in awe as that field comes to life and the wheat moves in the form of a dance that can’t be reproduced by any other plants as the wheat is showing you the “amber waves of grain”. To me I find it to be one of Mother Nature’s gifts to us that in most cases we just don’t understand what we are watching.
Sadly though in this part of the country wheat isn’t raised as it was when that cover crop was needed. There really isn’t much if any money to make from this crop. I know when I raised it I enjoyed the different steps it took to raise this crop. Also, I owned a hay baler and I would rake up the straw and bale it. I sold an awful lot of straw to either horse owners from the River Downs race track or to construction companies who were reseeding a lot of land.
When I said I liked all the aspects of raising this crop I was mostly speaking about when the combine would arrive at our farm. A combine was and still is the largest single piece of equipment that will roll over a farm in a year’s time. To watch one cross the wheat field from where the reel pulls the wheat back into the combine and you see all the dust that rolls from that behemoth of a machine, and you then see the grain flowing into a holding bin and the shafts being exited out the back into a wind row . To watch the combine in full motion is to see the definition of perfect coordination. Yes, it is easy for me to say I have always enjoyed the wheat harvesting season. It has always been a one huge effort and to put all the steps that the men used to have to do when they used a thresher (I am by no means am that old) is just one more instance that farmers know just what they are doing.
When I hear the song “America the Beautiful” and I hear the line about those amber waves of grain, my mind’s eye immediately goes to a scene of a combine crossing at the top of one of our fields with a breeze moving the wheat in a way that is so mesmerizing. me to feel the line is in that song because it is saying that the I think the next line in the song is from the purple mountains majesty to the sea. This is saying we are free people and we should appreciate this and these days I feel we should maybe appreciate it even a little more.
So whenever you see a field of wheat and maybe even get lucky enough to see it waving, you are seeing it in a free country and as a free person. My final thought is, “Isn’t it ironic that wheat becomes amber and is harvested right in the middle of a calendar year?” Better still this all takes place next to our nation’s birthday! Maybe that isn’t a coincidence at all but just a strong reminder. What do you think?
Rick Houser grew up on a farm near Moscow in Clermont County and loves to share stories about his youth and other topics. If wanting to read more of his stories he has two published book. : There are Place to Remember” and “memories ARE from the Heart: He can be reached at houser734@yahoo.com.