High Plains Journal All Aboard Wheat Harvest


Soaking up the Moments
Z Crew

Manley, Nebraska – 
It really does feel like it was all just a dream. 

I believe when we’re in the moment, we just can’t fully absorb everything that is given to you at the time. I believe this is true with anything you’re doing, especially the moments that really mean a lot to you. Oh, don’t get me wrong…there’s A LOT of harvest that I would just as soon never have to remember again! But, for the most part, it’s what I love, it’s what I know, it’s what grew a strong family and EVERY. SINGLE. YEAR. I go through this same sort of “harvest letdown.” 

Things are beginning to feel back to normal for being “home, home.” We arrived at the farm Thursday, September 29, where Jim will spend the next six weeks (more or less). We unloaded the Beast and gathered our overnight bags and headed home. Jim got up the very next day, hooked up the header, changed a few things from wheat to soybeans and he was off. Back in the harvest field and in the harvest schedule. 

Not so much for me. I have spent the last week trying to acclimate to the real world and getting the trailer house unloaded, cleaned and ready to go in storage. This is where the struggle is real for me. Especially this year. It is even more difficult because Callie is gone. I keep thinking she’ll come through the door any second and it doesn’t happen. So, I try to focus on the job in front of me and keep going. This is where the summer harvest, the daily schedule and being on the road feels like a dream.  Thank goodness for this blog and all my pictures to prove to my brain that it DID happen. So, when the question comes out of everyone’s mouth, “How was your summer?”, I can look back and recall. And what do I tell them? Well, it sorta goes something like this…

It was an interesting summer! Before we left home, we didn’t have a starting point. However, God is good and “wheaties” are too! Because of a fellow custom harvester, we were able to land a job in Claude, Texas. We got there, set up and waited for about ten days before we got started. We found out the farmer we cut for was a really great guy and the town of Claude was just as nice. The crop was below average, due to drought and hail. If I remember, it averaged about 25-30 bushels per acre.
Z Crew: It's what you do when you're a harvester.
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Z Crew: This is what it looks like when you're cutting wheat.
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We moved to Garden City, Kan. and found some phenomenal yields! Who would have guessed you’d ever see 100+ bushels being harvested off of dry land? It was the most amazing crop our farmer had ever seen! The Garden City heat is like none other!! Whew!
Z Crew: Because it's what harvesters do.
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While we were still in Garden City, we found out the farmers we usually cut for at Matheson, CO didn’t feel they could justify hiring us, due to high input costs and the current struggling crop prices. Understandable, yet what do we do now? God is good and so are “wheaties!” Ryan and Casey Graham said we could help them with their job in the same area that we would be heading to had we not just lost the job. So, we headed towards Matheson and found different fields and different farmers for the next couple of weeks. As it turned out, we did end up helping our original farmers for the last couple days of their harvest. And, better yet, we were able to park the trailer house in the same location we were in a year ago – at the farm – which is where it would sit for the next 2 1/2 months. The wheat in eastern Colorado was also an amazing crop. One that left the farmers scrambling and wondering what to do for storage. If you were lucky, you got the loads to the elevator when they had SOME room. Most of the crop went into grain bins on the farm, in bags or in piles on the ground.
Z Crew: It's what harvesters do.
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We opted not to make the trip to Montana again this year. This breaks my heart. Another life lesson…always enjoy where you are at the moment and soak it all up because it may not ever be again. I wish I would have soaked it up a bit more. I never, ever, ever thought there would come a time that we wouldn’t be making that trek north. And every time I allow my mind to drift back to that country, it brings a tear to my eye. Seriously.

Instead, we did something new and different – we headed for the San Luis Valley to help Ryan and Casey again. What a wonderful experience! The two weeks we were there, we harvested barley. Most of this barley was cut for the MillerCoors facility located in Monte Vista. To be able to work surrounded by mountains was amazing – another one of those moments when you just couldn’t soak it all in or even take enough pictures! When the time came for the proso millet to be picked up back on the farm in eastern Colorado, we made that trip back over the pass for our final job on the road.
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The proso didn’t do as well as it did last year – I think it averaged closer to 33 bushels per acre. It was well into the mid 40’s or better last year. The number of acres that were allotted for the Beast were met and it was time to head home…not a moment too soon!

The weather played a huge part of the summer of 2016! It seemed like the rains came early and just never stopped. I know other harvesters were plagued by the same issue, so it wasn’t just us (although it felt like it was). I tried to keep the Combine Cam rolling as much as possible and yet it seemed like the rain had it shut off more. I’m hoping a few of you were able to check it out at least once this summer. And, I have a feeling if you didn’t, it will be there again next summer. Did you sit in the buddy seat with me at least once? Thank you, ITC Holdings Corp. and Kiowa County Media Center for making this amazing tool possible!!!
Z Crew: Because it's what harvesters do!
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This catches you up to where we’re at now. Jim and the Beast are busy as we speak. The farmer we help is very close to home (about 30 miles) and only needs the combine and driver. We have helped him for the past 25 years (or more) so he and his family have been a part of ours. We both have watched our kids grow, get married and now enjoying grandchildren. They’ve attended graduations and weddings – they’re family. 

The weather is, once again, messing with the process. The rains continue which makes Jim have to switch heads a little more often. If the ground is muddy, the draper comes off and the corn head gets put on – making the switch from soybeans to corn. If everything works, Jim should be done and have all the equipment in the shed for winter storage before Thanksgiving. 

As for me, I’m going to continue to get the trailer house ready for its winter nap, rid the flower gardens of the weeds and help Taylor get ready for a November 12 wedding. If you’re ever wondering what we’re up to, head on over to www.nebraskawheatie.com and see if I’ve taken a few extra minutes to write. Sometimes, writing down my words seems like a chore but once I get going, they seem to flow pretty easily…

Thank you for keeping up with our journey this summer! I had some really big shoes to fill when I agreed to take over this job from the girls. I hope you enjoyed my storytelling as much as I KNOW you enjoyed theirs! Thank you to High Plains Journal and ALL sponsors for making this possible! You’ve given me and the other correspondents the outlet to tell the rest of the world what it takes to get their food from the field to their table. We couldn’t do this without you!!! 

God bless you and if it’s His will, I’ll be telling my stories again next summer.
Z Crew: Because it's what harvesters do.
The final load.
Z Crew: Because it's what harvesters do.
Just enough wiggle room to get under – on our way “home, home.”
Z Crew: Because it's what harvesters do.
Babysitting Eli means going to the park and playing!
Z Crew: Because it's what harvesters do.
EM Homecoming – Callie relinquishing the crown.
Z Crew: Because it's what harvesters do.
Celebrating Callie’s 19th birthday with a campfire, hot dogs and s’mores.
Z Crew: Because it's what harvesters do.
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Z Crew: Because it's what harvesters do.
“16 plus 3” candles = 19
All Aboard Wheat Harvest™ is sponsored by High Plains Journal and New Holland Agriculture. The Z Crew can be reached at zcrew@allaboardharvest.com.
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9 Responses to Soaking up the Moments
Z Crew

  1. Thank you so much for your blog, video and all that. We are combining soybeans right now here in SW ontario. (canadian) Thanksgiving today!
    Happy Thanksgiving!

    • You’re welcome, Theo! I love what we do so it makes it pretty easy to tell the story! Best of luck to you with your harvest and Happy Thanksgiving a little late!

  2. Here in Alberta there is 30 to 40% of the crop to be harvested , mostly Canola ,time running out up north here we need a big time Chinook (shinuck) a large mass of warm air with huge winds out of the West. Time will tell.Can see by the pics you are still glad to be Home ,Home , neat look’n fire pit,sweet idea 16 + 3 !!! Can that work for us Grandparents ??!!!

  3. Thanks Tracy for sharing you summer adventures in the field. Only seen the cam on one time, but was glad to share the buddy seat with you for a few minutes. You all that blog for the High Plains Journal do a fantastic job relating the harvest life! We are in the middle of bean harvest ourselves, milo will be right behind it. Ttyl!

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