Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Meandering Thoughts on the Prairie: Harvest

It's August in Montana. Translation: it's forest fire and harvest season here in the wild west. Thankfully, due to large precipitation loads in the mountains this year, the fires are not at full rage. We can smell smoke some mornings, but nothing clouds the view to the west, yet.

Harvest, none-the-less, is in full swing. Winter wheat fields, swathed and combined night and day, are just strips of golden stubble. Spring wheat is releasing its last shades of green, and vegetables are piled high at farmers markets. Huckleberries, cherries, raspberries, blackberries, and empty Ball jars crowd household counter tops.

Grain harvesting signals the "frenzy". Under threat of a looming end to summer, children kick into high gear, quickly completing all their summer wish lists. Parents pile up school supplies and look at their summer wish lists that will probably roll over to next year with a sigh. Hornets and horse flies seem to bite and sting with regularity, geese begin to gather, and the blue jays are back for some seeds. Creeks begin to dry up, reservoirs drain their last nourishment into fields of second-cutting hay, and houseflies seem to come out of every surface.

Even under midnight "dry" lightning storms, the ground air thick with chaff like fog, custom cutters move quickly in line to save the grain from moisture. The scene is spectacular: big, bold strobe lights in the black sky over tiny little lights moving through the fields. Everywhere, the smell of hot wheat fills the air.

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