Tom and I grew up in the Western Australian wheatbelt, and while we may have chosen an early sea-change, many friends remain on the land, cropping wheat, canola and lupins. Sitting ocean side in the tropics, these images of red dust, vast horizons and golden stubble may imbue romantic ideals and memories of farm life, but the reality of harvest is long days of sitting in a cab, machinery maintenance and break-downs, wheat dust and repetition. In a good year, the wheat pours into the chaser bin like granular gold. In a bad season, you hope to cover expenses and look forward to a cold beer at the coast when it's all over.
Changing the radio station and the occasional feed help break the monotony. Unless, like Tom found on his last tour of duty, you eat your entire lunch box in the first hour and then have nothing to look forward to until dinner time. If you're lucky, dinner is delivered to the harvester on a real plate with a knife and fork, or it could be a bag of take-away from the local pub.
These days the cabs are airconditioned and fitted with GPS steering systems that cross reference the header's position with multiple satellites to track and steer its path. Auto-steer ensures precision, with minimal overcut or undercut; the latter leaving lines of wheat "soldiers" standing in the paddock. Tut-tut.
As long as the moisture level in the grain is below a certain point, the boys will rip the crop off, and at night the head lights shine an orb into the dust, like being under murky water.
To our mates out there going round and round, cheers, and here's hoping you get it all in the bin before Christmas.