Early fall harvest

Jerry Apps
The sight of a red maple leaf brings back memories.

It’s only a red maple leaf, but seeing it brings back so many memories. When the first maple leaves began turning from green to red and yellow, farm work turned from summer activities to fall work. We had already harvested at least one cutting of hay and had filled the hay mows in the dairy barn to full and overflowing. We had cut the oat crop and the threshing crew came by the farm in mid-August to thresh the grain and refill the bins in the granary with oats.

Now, in September, with cooler evenings, and shorter days, we looked to the first harvest of fall — silo filling. Everyday Pa would walk the rows of our 20-acre cornfield, checking an ear here and there, looking for what he called corn in the “milk stage.” By this he meant, when poking a corn kernel, a milk-like substance appeared. When he was satisfied that the corn was ready, he hitched our trusty team of horses, Frank and Charlie, to the one-row corn binder. Soon rows of green, heavy, corn bundles appeared on the ground.

Pa phoned Ross Caves, who did custom silo filling, that our corn was cut and asked when he could come to the farm. In a day or two, he did. Pa summoned the neighbors, the same ones who helped with threshing. By night time, the silo was filled with corn cut into little pieces. It would immediately begin fermenting, and by late October and early November, it was ready to feed to the ever-hungry cows.

THE OLD TIMER SAYS: Fall, such a wonderful time to be alive.

Jerry Apps, born and raised on a Wisconsin farm, is Professor Emeritus at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the author of more than 35 books, many of them on rural history and country life. For further information about Jerry's writing and TV work go to www.jerryapps.com