Fields of Gold – barley harvest, sunflower fields

June 27, 2011: One last bike ride before we leave Switzerland tomorrow morning. I set out early – it’s going to be another hot day. They’re forecasting over 30 degrees Celsius. Farmers are pleased. That’s good harvest weather. The first barley fields are already combined and most are waiting for the machine now. Next week they’ll start the first canola fields. (Most grain crops are winter crops here.)

Do sunflowers follow the sun? Not when their heads are heavy with seed. But they do all nod in the direction of the morning sun.

Do sunflowers follow the sun? Not when their heads are heavy with seed. But they do all nod in the direction of the morning sun.

     The harvest is somewhat early, due to the prolonged dry warm weather. I stop by the sugar beet field where I took the picture some weeks ago, of my hand all the way down the cracks. The cracks are still there, but filled at least two thirds now. I’m surprised at how resilient sugar beets are – their roots must go way down. Those big leaves gather every drop of moisture available.

It takes a hillside combine to tackle the small steep fields around Schleitheim. Felix Tenger combines barley.

It takes a hillside combine to tackle the small steep fields around Schleitheim. Felix Tenger combines barley.

     What a change in the corn! Two weeks ago I thought there wouldn’t be much corn this year. It sure liked that bit of rain we had. Most fields are now waist high or more. Some are looking pretty frazzled though – we had a hail storm go through parts of the country that did a fair bit of damage.
     Beni Gasser did a daring experiment – his neighbour Hans combined peas last week, and Beni cultivated and seeded corn for silaging. He was lucky – it did rain, hopefully enough to get a good germination. It will definitely be late, but he needs feed for his dairy cows. Hay will be in short supply this year.
     The Oekohay (gets subsidies for not being cut before June 15) finally got cut end of last week. It’s not the stuff to produce milk with… When I think of land prices here, the subsidies must be good to make up for poor quality, and this year poor quantity, hay.

Walter Russenberger finishes a barley field. It all seems a miniature picture of what we do in western Canada.

Walter Russenberger finishes a barley field. It all seems a miniature picture of what we do in western Canada.

     Golden rod, sky blue wild chicory, the last scarlet poppies amid other varieties I don’t know the names of bloom in the wild flower meadows. These, usually small patches at the edges of fields, never get cut. It looks a bit wild, with some of last year’s stalks still there, but that’s what it’s supposed to be. It’s a sanctuary for various birds and insects that need a safe place all year – and also heavily subsidized.
     And oh, the sunflower fields! Swiss farmers first started producing sunflowers as a crop in l994. Now the sunny fields light up the landscape. The oil content of sunflowers is 45 per cent. On the Swiss agri website, I read sunflowers are drought tolerant. Good – they’ll have done well this year!
     One last climb up into the cherry tree. Markus Stamm says the cherries bloomed during frost. So he’s surprised at the abundant harvest. Despite the fact that hardly any farmers around here spray their trees (they’re mostly just for domestic use) there’re no worms either this year. Believe me, we’re enjoying that to the max!
     So, goodbye Switzerland. It’s been great being here during the summer weeks. Canada, here we come!

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