WHILE the ground has remained in far from first-class fettle, I don’t suppose we’ll have been alone in puddling in some wheat over the past few weeks.

I further suspect that desperation will have ensured that a fair bit of the crop will have been sown around the country whenever the weather has allowed access to the land.

But with bales still to be moved, straw still to be baled, tatties to be lifted and, in some cases, crops yet to be cut, rotations and cropping plans have been thrown into disarray around the country.

Late-sown wheat sometimes manages to give good yields. However, with a lack of rotational benefit, far from ideal seedbeds and the fact that a deal of the seed originally destined for planting might now end up remaining in the bag, there’s bound to be a reduction in wheat production levels in Scotland next year – and the obvious knock-on consequences for spring cropping.

But with the combine not yet tucked up for the winter, next year’s harvest seems a long way away.

On the days when even my sometimes overly optimistic assessment of ground conditions has judged it too wet to sow or even get the remaining bales lifted before they float away, the task of cleaning the combine up for her long hibernation period has been creeping up the agenda.

We’ve not been rushing this job, though – as it looks like it’s going to be quite a big one – and while I’m aware that those with some grain still to cut might be happy to be in this position, it’s not a job I’m viewing with any great relish.

We have been later at putting her to bed for the winter ourselves, but not since we gave up the thankless undertaking of growing beans. They are one of the few crops which have to resemble the early stages of a nuclear winter before they’re ripe – and would probably require the preceding inferno-like blast of heat to get them anything like dry enough to harvest at reasonable moisture.

So it’s been a bit of a revelation that the last crop cut this year – winter wheat – can leave the poor old girl in pretty much the same state as a bean crop which could often have been served up in the chip shop as mushy peas without anyone noticing the difference.

A 'normal year' stand of wheat usually leaves the innards of the combine polished and squeaky clean, as the tail-end of the harvest season tends to see ripe grain and dry straw rattle through the system, giving it a good clear out and putting a bit of a shine.

Not this year, though, with the last of the wheat coming in at over 25%. De-caking the grain tank and chipping the two-inch layer of the closest thing to an organic ceramic coating from the cross and unloading augers and the elevator paddles hasn’t been a barrel of chuckles.

And the same could be said of the contortions – which would stretch even the bendiest of yoga experts – which are required to get into some of the hard-to-reach places in order to rake out the quick-set mush which has coated anything which moves (and there's also several bits which no longer want to).

In case you’re wondering, the outside of this huge machine probably isn’t much better.

Normally, I’m as reluctant to let the combine spend the night out as I would be for a teenage daughter to do the same after the school dance (and if anyone thinks this will never happen, then they’ve got a shock coming).

Keeping her undercover usually means most of the built up dust, chaff, awns and straw can be blown off without too much trouble (I’m talking about the combine here, not the daughter!)

But, as the tail end of the season approached and the dual wheels became a fixture alongside the grab-it-while you can nature of a harvest taken between rain showers, the allure of taking both these and the header off to wheel her back to a shed soon wore thin. So the combine has had to endure a few nights outside, exposed to the elements.

On the plus side, I’d have to say that this has shown me that there isn’t much to worry about in the way of the germination capacity of the grain. For, wherever a few peas have collected on the combine, there is now a good, green braird growing.

In fact, I did find myself hoping that glyphosate wouldn’t be banned before I get a chance to take a knapsack sprayer’s worth of the stuff to the divots now growing in some of the more awkward-to-reach regions of the combine.

But I was somewhat sorry that I missed last week’s combine special in this paper as I have developed a strange image of the people who design combines.

For I’m sure that standing above the knowledgeable chaps who know all about engines and electrical systems, those who can work out the best ideas for the complicated hydraulic systems, the designers who make the most of the computer-aided setting and guidance systems as well as the brain-boxes who hone the actual working mechanics of the machine there is another layer of designers, to whom all the rest stand in awe.

For, once a combine – in all its graceful, functional elegance – stands ready to be tested and passed by the manufacturers, I firmly believe that they then call in the elite squad of designers to put in the finishing touches.

In my mind’s eye I see them turning up in chauffeur-driven cars, with flunkies to take the fur coats from around their shoulders as they peel them off before setting to work putting the finishing touches to these huge machines.

For this exclusive group consists of the guys who decide where all the entirely unnecessary nooks and crannies, the ledges, shelves and boley holes, the corners, cracks and crevices, the alcoves, cavities and recesses upon which grain, stour, straw, chaff, awns and dust gather.

And due to the thoroughness with which they do this job, they must be looked upon as the crème-de-la-crème in the world of combine design.

But now I’ve let off that bit of steam I can safely return to the compressor, chisel, wire brush and scraper …