Where There’s Smoke

On a scale of everything is fine to the corn field is on fire

– how have you been?

We have been leasing most of our land to a neighboring farmer who plants conventionally grown corn and soy since we moved in. Technically two neighboring farmers because the first guy got out of farming after the 2019 growing season. The current guy has been ever so slowly encroaching on our yard. In 2020 and 2021 we didn’t really care because it meant less to mow for us; but this year we knew we were bringing the horses home, so we actually reclaimed not just the previous yard but some of the field itself. When they planted this spring we weren’t anywhere close to having our fence done (or started for that matter) so we put out stakes and markers to show where it was going to be. At one point during the initial planting process I sat in my kitchen and watched the farmer hit every single one of the markers with the end of whatever large piece of equipment he was using. They all bounced right back up again, being flexible driveway markers, but I had a vision of him doing that to the not so flexible fence and needless to say have been worried since then. Having the fence get taken out by a tractor and Leeloo and Juniper getting loose was not something we wanted to deal with so as harvest season drew nigh Nate and I were getting more and more anxious about how it was going to go.

Well, we were apparently right to be anxious but for the wrong reason. Most of the work Nate and I do is task based, not time or people based, so if needed we can take a break and deal with whatever happens to be going on; but of course the day they came to harvest the corn around the house both Nate and I had meetings that we could not miss. When they arrived I had about 45 minutes before my first meeting started and I only noticed their arrival because their first entrance into the field was right next to the fence, startling the ever-living daylights out of both Leeloo and Juniper and their minor panic attack drew my attention. However, after that first scare Leeloo just watched all the equipment vigilantly as they otherwise went about their business. Nate and I of course were still concerned about the fence itself so we kept taking turns at every possible break to go out and look to see where they were in the process and if we still had an intact fence.

For those of you unfamiliar with the corn harvesting process there are several pieces of equipment involved in the process. At one point the machine that the corn gets put into was full and went to unload and the other machine went along alone for a bit but then stopped and was hanging out.

And hanging out.

And then very quickly, far faster than normal, was hauling over to the edge of the field by the road where all the other equipment was. The driver got out and went to consult with someone on the ground, then we noticed the smoke.

There was kind of a lot; yet no one looked particularly panicked or was running over to our house, and then a police car pulled up. Unfortunately at this point I had to go back to my meeting and I thought I was going to die from the combined mix of anxiety (is our field on fire?!) and curiosity (what is happening?!).

Nate was able to sneak out at one point and came back to report that three more cop cars had shown up and a pickup truck from the fire department; but the smoke seemed to have stopped. He had tried to get Leeloo and Juniper to at least move closer to the house instead of being right in the midst of everything. But they got bored quickly and went back to the shelters (which are right up next to the corn field).

Then an Xcel Energy truck showed up.

That is when we took a closer look at the road itself and realized that something seemed to be missing. Namely one of the short power line poles. Oops.

Short powerline pole between the white building and the taller pole

Short pole is no longer there!

Apparently when the one machine came back to unload the corn, the driver just tapped the pole (his words when he was chatting with Nate a few days later) and it fell over. The smoke we saw was the live power line being unhappy. The full Xcel Energy crew showed up within a few hours to replace the pole and got everything back in order. We never lost power, not sure about the neighboring police station.

Thankfully the fence itself survived the entire process of harvesting and plowing and Leeloo and Juniper were relatively unruffled by the entire thing (other than that first panic). Which I expected from Leeloo, who is unusually brave for a horse, but was surprised Juniper did as well. Of course, now that the corn is gone we are very exposed and Leeloo has been on high alert for danger pretty much nonstop which has made her a total crab to everyone. I’m hoping she settles back down soon, but it’s another reminder that we really do need that third horse, who will hopefully help share the watching out duties so Leeloo can get some rest.