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.
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).
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.
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!
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.
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.
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!
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”.
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?
All Aboard Wheat Harvest™ is sponsored by High Plains Journal and John Deere. Tracy Zeorian can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.