Sunday, August 12, 2012

Golden Summer Harvest

By Ruth A. Ringelstetter

For the most part, Joann and I are not summer people unless the summer is cooler than normal. One thing we do try to catch in the summer is the harvest of wheat.

Every day driving to and from work, I would check out the wheat fields waiting for the harvest to start. When the harvest started in July of 2007, we headed out early one morning to see if we could capture some wheat fields before the harvest was finished.

As we started down the highway, I told Joann to take the first right turn. Somehow, we both missed it, and as Joann was trying to find a spot to turn around, I looked at the map and said we could just take the next road.

What a wonderful mistake! Driving down this road, we found a lot of wheat fields and, in one spot, both sides of the road were golden with the ripe wheat. We had to stop and take quite a few photos of the wheat fields and some close-up photos of the wheat.

Then we continued on to look for more wheat fields and anything else we found worth a photograph.

Heading home in the afternoon, we decided to take the same road back. To our surprise, the field that was untouched in the morning was now in the process of being harvested.

Of course, we couldn’t help but stop to take more photos. The combine moved quickly across the field, and the colors of the bright green combine, golden wheat fields, bright blue sky, and white clouds was unbelievable.

Winter wheat has a long history in Wisconsin. In the mid-1800’s, Wisconsin was the lead state for growing wheat. Since crops were not rotated, the soil was soon depleted of nutrients and the yield fell sharply.

Around 1870, settlers coming from New York decided that the land would suit dairy farming, with which they had experience. This helped make Wisconsin the dairy state but, thankfully, wheat didn’t disappear totally from the Wisconsin landscape.

For many years, Joann and I did not notice wheat in the south central and southwest portions of Wisconsin. In recent years, we have noticed more and more wheat fields, which are rotated with corn and soybeans.

In 2008, we made another trip for the wheat harvest and found a field in the process of being harvested. It was early Sunday morning and the combine had been parked in the partially harvested field waiting for the harvest to continue.

We took the opportunity to take photos of the field and the combine. It was nice to be able to get so close to the machine. We didn’t have a combine on the farm growing up; we hired someone to come with their combine to harvest our oats.

The last several years we have missed the wheat harvest. Looking back at the pictures we captured in other years makes us want to be sure to not miss it next year.

This hasn’t been a good year for farmers in so many areas of the country, and our hearts go out to them. We so enjoy watching the farm fields from planting to harvest and hope they manage to pull through somehow to plant again next year.

Happy Shunpiking!


  1. Great story, Ruth! You wouldn't remember this and Joann may not either, but in the first couple of years on our farm in the Township of Bristol, Dad planted wheat until he built up the herd enough that he needed all the land for corn, oats and hay to feed the cattle (he planted sweet corn and peas in the early years too - Joann remembers the peas!). I remember Dad showing us how to hull out a few kernels of wheat to eat right from the field and I remember that it tasted good! I also remember what fun it was when the farmer with the big combine would come to harvest our wheat and oats. There was a lot of activity with the trucks hauling the grain from the fields and quite a few extra people around on the farm during the harvest. Thanks for the memories!

    1. Phyllis, thanks for reminding me about having our own fields of golden wheat when we were kids. You are correct -- I had forgotten that. But you stirred my memories and I now remember Dad showing us how to roll the stalk of wheat between our fingers to loosen the kernels. They were rather chewy and had kind of a nutty flavor to them. I, too, remember all the activity during the harvest with the extra men and trucks filled to the brim with freshly harvested grain. We used to climb on top of the pile of oats and try to catch the grasshoppers that always came along with the harvest. And, yes, I remember the peas. And someday I will have to tell that story. Thanks for sharing in the memories!