Combining

This photo is my Uncle Vernon Chandler’s older combine with his kids on their ranch up Monroe Creek, north of Weiser.  This combine  illustrates my families first combine, bought in 1942 — also a Case — pull type — and replaced with the 1948 machine. We used our Twenty Two Cat to pull it.  Other farmers did likewise, like the Mathews family.

This is a 1968 photo of me on my 1948 Case combine, which  replaced our old 1942 combine.  My dad used this combine for nearly 30 years.  With me are son, Mike, daughter Carla, and 2nd son, Steven, in my dad, Paul Chandler’s yard, on Butte Road.
There were only a few combines in all of Payette Valley during WWII (rationed by the war), so we combined over the years for nearly every farmer up and down Payette Valley and in Ontario, dividing up the work with Clair Remington, who had two older combines.

Payette Valley’s bottom land, and benches, makes interesting dew patterns. The irrigated land produces quite heavy dews.  Dew on either hay or grain means it gets “tough” and wet — meaning you can’t bale or combine.  If you bale green or wet hay, then it will “burn” in the bale or the stack — destroying the product, and perhaps starting a fire.  If you try to combine wet grain, it doesn’t thresh, and you lose too much.  And, may plug up the machine. The result–no baling or combining when dew begins to fall and until the morning heat drives the dew off.

However, up on the dry hills, there usually is no dew.  Dew is a function of water evaporating from the soil making the air humid. Dryland, desert, with no irrigation means it is too dry for dew. If the temperature (setting sun) lowers, then the “dew point” (% of water that air can hold) falls and dew falls.  But, out on the “new land” (BLM land or Black Canyon canal watered farms south of New Plymouth), or the bare hills up Big Willow, the dry hills do not have enough water to make the air humid so they have no dew.

Baling and Combining at peak busy times, we often used this phenomenon. We stopped when dew fell on the lower land, loaded up, and moved the equipment up to the dry land, and worked thru the night. Reversing the process for the following day down below.  So, if we could tolerate the long hours, then  we could keep the equipment going 24/7.  This was an escape hatch for us if we had too much equipment breakdown — and got too far behind our schedule.  Or, if there was simply too much to do, in our normal pattern.

“Broke down” is a very familiar term to anyone who operates equipment.  It is extremely common with all kinds of equipment, in many different industries.  Mechanical parts wear out, break, and one must stop, take things apart to get to the broken part, then go into the dealer/parts dealer, and buy a replacement, and put it on. This might happen daily.  It can ruin your schedule.

Farmers are not patient folk at harvest time.  Sudden squall lines/thunderstorms/heat storms can come thru with hailstones completely destroying any grain in its pathway.  If it should rain–seldom in Payette Valley–but almost always at least once per summer, then, depending upon the amount of rain, you might be down a couple of days — really bending one’s schedule.  Also if it rained, then wind might blow the grain over (lodging) making it difficult to combine, and picking up a lot of dirt as well.

With my baling clients, I developed a pattern where they planned within my schedule.  When I knew my schedule I would call them, telling them when to cut their hay. Then allowing time to dry and rake, I would be there to bale at the most opportune time.  This would make the hay premium quality.  If hay gets too dry, then the leaves fall off, and cows don’t like hay with no leaves — so they will simply root around it, and waste it.

Of course, times radically change the industries and the manner of putting up or getting in crops.  In Payette Valley we first saw hay put up via hay shocks. The mowed hay, raked via buck rakes two direction forming small piles (called shocks), then wagons coming thru hayfield, would have these shocks pitched onto them with pitch forks. The wagon took a load to the stack, where a Jackson Fork would hoist it piece by piece up onto the stack.

For a short time we used a “loader” that pulled a windrow up behind and onto the wagon — bypassing the old pitch method.

Next iteration was baling.

Next was field chopping the hay from windrows blowing it into wagons

Next was green fodder — cutting standing hay and chopping it directly into wagons — making it into silage.

Each iteration of the process would come about because we got newer equipment or tractors, or a new method was invented or enabled by newly designed or newly available equipment; or because the feeding end or marketing was radically changed demanding a different methodology.  Having said that, the over riding reason was efficiency/manpower — saving manpower!

Farming in Payette Valley simply evolves endlessly.  Early fruit crops evolved to dairy, evolved to row crop, or the crops themselves were different, or the irrigating methods changed, or farms got bigger.  Sometimes the methods would be re-invented as conditions changed.  For certain, life as a farmer must handle change. And, handle climate, political, mechanical, market, water availability. etc.  The only certainty is the uncertainty!

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