All Aboard Harvest | Jada: Our somewhat typical day, tough wheat and what we eat
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Jada: Our somewhat typical day, tough wheat and what we eat

Jada: Our somewhat typical day, tough wheat and what we eat

Two combines in Kiowa, Kan.

Two of our combines harvesting in Hazelton, Kan.

When harvesting is in full swing, our days are not your typical 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. days. Like mentioned previously, the weather plays a major role in our day. We begin cutting when the wheat is dry enough to harvest and cut until our trucks are full, or until the wheat gets tough — whichever happens first.

Arriving from Sharon, Kan.

Mark coming back to the field after dumping a truck in Sharon, Kan.

In the morning, we begin our day by servicing our combines. We grease the combines, wash windows, fuel the combines up, clean the cabs of the combines and trucks and do any major servicing that has to be done. Once the elevator is open our drivers dump our semis so they are empty and ready to go when we begin harvesting.

Dumping grain cart

Euan dumping on a truck with the grain cart. Our Kinze grain cart holds 1050 bushels and has a scale which helps us make sure we are not overloaded when hauling to the elevator.

At dinner time, I usually bring the food out to the field between 6 p.m. and 7 p.m. In order to keep our combines running, we take turns eating. My dad and I usually eat before we come out to the field so we can be ready to switch with the combine operators while they eat. Everyone swaps spots until we are all back in our original place to work. This is a way to continue to work efficiently, but offers the crew a break at the same time. Our crew is cross trained to operate all our equipment, which helps keep everything organized.

Tough Wheat — how do we figure it out?!

Cutting in Kiowa, Kan.
Charles running his combine in wheat averaging at 40 to 60 bushels per acre.

At night, if you are outside, you can smell the wheat getting tough. A good way to determine if the wheat is tough is to see if there is morning or evening dew on the ground. The dew makes the straw wet. You cannot cut when the straw is tough because the knives on the header do not cut the wheat as well as it should. If the wheat looks wet when it is running through the header, the tough wheat does not feed through the machine very well. In addition, the chaff spreader, which evenly spreads the straw on the ground after it is fed through the combine, does not spread well. We cannot cut in these conditions and must wait for the wheat to get dry again. The wettest we can cut wheat is 14 percent moisture. If we are over 14 percent moisture, the farmer gets dockages on his grain ticket. We have to quit before this happens.

What do we eat and when?

Crew trailer

Our 1957 Spartan camper has a full kitchen we use to cook our evening meals in.

Every harvesting operation does things differently when it comes to feeding their crew. When my parents started harvesting, my mother would cook breakfast, lunch and dinner for the crew. Things are a little different today. We have breakfast food, such as cereal, on hand for those who wish to eat it. For lunch, we make up snack bags for the crew in advance. The bags usually include pudding or fruit, chips and something sweet. In the morning, our crew makes their sandwiches, puts them in a snack bag, and places the bag in their cooler. It is a system that works well because everyone can decide what is on their sandwich. If they don’t like mayo, or butter, then they don’t have to use it on their sandwich. To get a break from the sandwiches we sometimes bring something different for the crew to eat for lunch, such as lunch specials from restaurants, brats, hotdogs, or something else easy to make.

Switching drivers
Roly switching off with Robert so he can eat. We keep the combines running by switching with each other while we eat. 

 

The evening is when we serve our big meal. We like to do it at night, because it starts to cool down and everyone’s appetites return with the cooler weather. We serve a meal that includes the main dish, a salad and/or dessert, and a vegetable or fruit. We like to keep it a fully balanced meal.  

<Leon and Robert eating

Leon and Robert get out of the heat to eat their evening meal which included tacos with homeade tortillas we bought in Olney, Texas. At 6:30 p.m. last night, it was still 100 degrees out according to the thermometer in my pickup.

Since we have 12 mouths to feed, our favorite place to stock up on the essentials is Sam’s Club. We also go to the local grocery store and Wal-Mart. My mother and I coordinate with each other to do the cooking. Sometimes we take turns and sometimes we cook together. It just depends on the day and our schedules.

Perry cutting
Perry running the combine for Leon while he eats. The trucks wait to be dumped on and make yet another trip to the elevator.

 

We always cook in the crew trailer, which was recently converted from my parent’s trailer to the crew’s trailer. We like to cook in our 1957 Spartan because it has 3 air conditioners and the front of the camper still has a full kitchen unlike our other campers. We have a full size oven, two full size refrigerators, a freezer stocked with beef since we raise our own beef, and all the kitchen utensils we need to perform our culinary tasks. Since it takes a lot of organization to cook for so many people, we always plan our menu a week in advance to make sure we have everything we need. To stay on top of this task, we cook ahead so we don’t get behind. For instance, today we are having cake for dessert so I made it yesterday.

Jada Bulgin can be reached at jada@allaboardharvest.com. All Aboard 2009 Wheat Harvest is sponsored by High Plains Journal and DuPont Crop Protection.

4 Comments
  • GS
    Posted at 17:21h, 19 June

    I am enjoying your post. Thank you for doing it. We have a small farm/ranch in central Kansas (wheat is not ready yet). We are going to be cutting a neighbor’s wheat this year. We have not "custom" harvested for some time. I was wondering what you guys are charging this year in general?

    Thanks in advance.
    GS

  • Grandma Kay Wolfenden
    Posted at 03:21h, 20 June

    Thank you Jada for all the information you presented. Very interesting and it has

    answered so many questions that I had. I am really enjoying my trip with you.

    Blessings, Grandma Kay

  • Dan McGrew
    Posted at 12:59h, 20 June

    Hello Jada,
    Is that SPARTAN, the aircraft frame "silver bullet" design created by J. Paul Getty’s Spartan Aircraft at Tulsa?
    Getty started building his to provide better living for his drilling and production crews in undeveloped regions, including parts of the U.S.
    Back then, there were no choppers for high speed shift transit, so crews had to live at the site, rather than spend four to 24 hours driving in and out.
    I have long suspected the AIRSTREAM trailers are the ongoing SPARTAN MANOR.
    Can’t help but suspect your SPARTAN is one of the MANORS from Tulsa.
    Can you include a photo of the exterior and give us an idea of the biography of what may well be the oldest crew member?
    You are doing a great job with your reportage.
    May want to consider talking with HPJ about a Jada/Jenna book, including short chapters written by each of the crew members.
    For the modern big-city types, your reports would be a revelation.

  • Matt Durham
    Posted at 14:49h, 20 June

    Agree with Dan McGrew about the book. Listening HPJ? As my late dad used to say…. Yer doin’ a jam-up job….Keep it up!!