Friday, September 14, 2012

Pinto Bean Harvest

Dry pinto beans, ready for harvest.
Brent explaining pod width.
I suppose it's a good thing that I'm about 20 posts behind here - it means that Real Life is coming at me in such a heady, constant stream that it's all I can do to photograph it, let alone find a quiet moment to sit and type it all out with my constantly-filthy fingers.

So, the Pinto bean harvest has come and gone and the soybean harvest will finish tomorrow; corn harvest starts on Sunday. From what I hear, all these harvests are about two weeks ahead of the normal season. All the heat and drought has advanced things just a bit. It's good, I suppose, though there is fear that NoDak is at the beginning of a 4-year drought cycle and that has everyone nervous.

Anyway, a week or so ago, I get a text from Brent asking if I want to see the harvest. I do, I tell him, but I've got online work to do - editing, writing, tweets, invoicing and such, stuff I resent when it's a beautiful day and I can hear the tractors rumble all around me.

Jeff and Brent.
Just as I sent off the last invoice of the last project, there's a mighty knock at the trailer door and he's standing there with a massive grain truck behind him, running, of course. (Nobody ever turns off their vehicle here, it seems, unless they are going to bed.)

The 'teeth' of the combine.
"Ready to go?" Wisely, he ignored my excuses of 'work' and I was so grateful; it was like being rescued. Being forcibly extracted from the endless rabbit holes of the Internet and plopped into the dirty world of farming - it's quite the extreme changeover.

Beans going through the combine.
We went out to a field of beans, on our land, that his friend, Jeff, was helping with. Jeff owns some fancy tractor that is highly specialized, wildly expensive and super efficient in a bean harvest. That's another thing here, everybody shares machinery - it's too expensive for one person to own every thing you need to farm so it's all shared. Of course, Brent's reputation as a genius mechanic and all round nice guy helps quite a bit too.

Bean shells getting spit out the back, minus beans.
On a previous day, the bean rows have all been shoved into neat piles with another tractor. When I show up with my camera, those piles are now being harvested. Brent, ever the patient teacher, carefully explains the many ways they can tell when beans are ready for harvest. One is by color, when more of the field is pale yellow than green:

Adjacent field - still too much green.
He then picks up a few dry pods and flicks them. The beans go shooting out at me - meaning they are dry enough to easily be extracted from the pod. Another thing he checks is the hardness of the bean. There is even a moisture scale for this, something they can measure at the elevator. Of course, Brent is old school so he uses his teeth:

He also pointed out certain bean qualities that a farmer would like to avoid:
Beans on the left - too small, discolored.
Beans on the right - too big, prone to cracking.
At this point, I'm really starting to look at my food a little differently, it's become decidedly non-commercial. I loved Pinto beans before this but now that I understand their life cycle and they sit in my cupboard in a giant ziploc bag marked in Sharpie: "PINTO BEANS", I may love them even more. Tonight, I ate Pinto beans from last year's harvest - dee-lish, especially knowing that they were grown on our land.

Bean dump in the grain truck.
This late in the summer, I rarely buy anything at the market anymore - everything comes from my garden or someone else's garden, kitchen or cow. My breakfast lately has been Evelyn's homemade grape juice - which is one of the most exquisite liquids I've ever tasted - and home baked raisin bran muffins from Eldean:

Eldean, dropping off home-baked bread.

It's official: I'm spoiled.

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