High Plains Journal All Aboard Wheat Harvest


Are they peas or are they beans?
Z Crew

Chester, MT – After we finished cutting the winter wheat (8/5), we had several days of waiting for the next crop to dry enough to get started again. That was okay, though, because it was needed. It was needed because the combines needed changed over to cut chickpeas (garbanzo beans) and the truck boxes needed swept out and cleaned of all winter wheat.
Z Crew: because it's what Harvesters do!
The truck drivers cleaning the winter wheat from all of the boxes. Johnathon is in the box, Mynhardt and Jim and on the ground.
Z Crew: because it's what Harvesters do!
Four of the five combine drivers. The fifth one is a guy so we didn’t let him join us. 🙂 Left to right is Megan, Kerry, me and Tasha.

It was also decided on about the second day of wondering if anything would dry up enough to cut (the cool temps weren’t helping the situation) to send Jim to Cut Bank after truck parts which were needed to repair one of the fleet. So, I jumped in and rode along. Going after parts in this country means at least a couple hundred miles (or more) added to the pickup. Once we arrived in Cut Bank, we were told the parts they thought they had…they didn’t. A phone call was made to the boss and we were headed for Choteau (just a little further south). On our way through Conrad, we noticed the John Deere Harvest Support trailers were parked at the dealership. So, we pulled in to see our friends, Barney and Round Bale (and the rest of the crew).

Z Crew: because it's what Harvesters do!
The mountains were calling my name VERY loudly while driving to Choteau. I’m hoping before we have to leave this country, I can get a day or two over there just to satisfy my mountain craving!

We hadn’t been anywhere they had been all summer so it was a required stop to say hello to some familiar faces! The embroidered statement on their shirts let everyone know it was “Barney’s Final Tour”. I can only imagine how he’s feeling as the days of the 2017 wheat harvest keep clipping along at a quick pace.  Barney has been around the John Deere trailers forever and it just won’t be right without him there! Barney…you’ll always be a wheatie (this is a good thing) – even though you’ve never owned a combine of your own! It’ll be tough next spring as the trailers leave headquarters without you, but maybe Round Bale will let you tag along for a little while to help satisfy the harvest fix you’ll so desperately be needing. Believe me, I understand the pain of watching the crew leave without you. You’ve been an awesome friend and I will miss you but I’m awfully excited for you and your next chapter to begin.

Z Crew: because it's what Harvesters do!
Good to see these harvest support trailers along the harvest journey – regardless of what color they represent!

The Mattson Farms have been toying with the idea of upgrading their Gleaner combines to a newer model and maybe even a different color. Harvest is the perfect time to demo a newer machine and why not try as many colors as possible? The first machine to make it to the farmyard was the Deere. The combine drivers were all given an opportunity to “test drive” a machine that was 20 years newer than the ones they are currently driving. It was like watching your kids open their gifts on Christmas morning. They just couldn’t believe all the bells and whistles and how much more wheat could be consumed at a faster rate of speed. I had so much fun listening to them compare their new experience. This is one reason I honestly wish my Grandpa could also experience one of these new machines!

Z Crew: because it's what Harvesters do!
I stepped out of the pickup and couldn’t resist this picture. Those clouds…
Z Crew: because it's what Harvesters do!
This monster of an auger was the one Jim and Koos were adding the steering wheel kit to in a previous update. Ready and waiting for the arrival of the chickpeas.
Z Crew: because it's what Harvesters do!
This is what a chickpea (garbanzo bean) plant looks like prior to harvest.

While we were between crops, another color showed up in the yard…a red one. By the time it arrived, it was decided the Case combine would head for the durum field for a moisture test. The result was DRY so keep those wheels rolling! Turns were taken and comparisons made but all at once, the chickpeas were ready! This left Jim in the red machine cutting durum while the rest of us jumped in “our” combines and started cutting peas…or beans…or whatever you want to call them. At the end of the day, we headed in and left Jim in the durum by himself to finish. All the other combines were already set for chickpeas. If he didn’t finish with that machine, it would mean changes to one of the Gleaners again as they had already been cutting peas. He finished the field and stepped through the door of the trailer house about 1:00 a.m.

Z Crew: because it's what Harvesters do!
A single plant.

I was told the larger chickpeas would be used for salads and canned for grocery store shelves. The smaller peas would be used for hummus. Straight from the field, the peas are extremely hard. If they get too dry, the process of combining them can split them. It’s better to cut them with a higher percentage of moisture and then dried with air in the bin – if possible – to eliminate shattering. They’re really quite good straight from the field! I’ve never cut chickpeas or even seen them before. I find these different crops so very interesting.

Z Crew: because it's what Harvesters do!
Two pictures in one – the chickpea pod on the left prior to cracking open to expose the pea (or bean).
Z Crew: because it's what Harvesters do!
Chickpeas

The header is placed right on the ground and cuts as low as possible. The one concern around here is picking up rocks. The fields were rolled with a very heavy roller prior to being planted. This is done to smash the rocks into the soil to prevent them from being eaten by the machines.  So far, I’ve had one rock stop the center belt of the MacDon header. I watched one of the other combine drivers throw boulders from the cab of her machine this evening.  I really hope I can get through the rest of the acres without picking anything like those up!

Z Crew: because it's what Harvesters do!
Tasha and I had minor breakdowns at the same time last evening. Mine was broke before hers, though, and required a trip to Havre for parts which took forever. I accused Jim of stopping somewhere but he says he didn’t. I guess I have to believe him. 🙂
Z Crew: because it's what Harvesters do!
The mechanic’s (Travis) truck next to the Silver Bullet.
Z Crew: because it's what Harvesters do!
Thank goodness for good help (Vince and Jim) who know how to put things back together again! Tasha looks pretty relaxed in her combine.
Z Crew: because it's what Harvesters do!
Travis and Jim working on Tasha’s machine.

We’re waiting for the newer Gleaner to show up. I think the Gleaner tradition in this family runs pretty deep. I’m even a bit excited to see what changes have been made since I have gotten pretty familiarized with the Silver Bullet I now call “mine”.

Z Crew: because it's what Harvesters do!
Eli and his little “mini-me”. Their baby pictures are like looking at the very same kid! Jamie says Eli is obsessed with Ben and is torturing him all the time.

  

 
The routine is better known and I’m better acquainted with the people who make up the Mattson Farms crew. It’s a comfortable feeling…a good feeling. And once again, I have to believe God led us here for a reason. The mornings and evenings are beginning to feel like fall and I have to wonder (as I always do about this time)…where has the summer gone?

Z Crew: because it's what Harvesters do!
Another one of the many beautiful sunsets I get to witness…all because of this job we have! The hills in the distance are the Sweet Grass Hills.

All Aboard Wheat Harvest™ is sponsored by High Plains Journal and John Deere. Tracy Zeorian can be reached at zcrew@allaboardharvest.com.
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