High Plains Journal All Aboard Wheat Harvest
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Author Archives: Steph Osowski

Field Swamps 101
Steph Osowski

Grafton, ND – I kid you not, there are fields with ruts from one end to the other.  No matter where the combine drove, it left a rut-shaped tattoo. That is what 95 percent of the fields look like in Walsh County, North Dakota. Since we got our tracks put on last week, dad’s phone has been ringing off the hook with more wheat to cut and it’s been the best kind of scramble. 40 acres here and 60 acres there and maybe a quarter somewhere in there each day, all for different farmers in the area. The thing about tracks is that when roading the combine from place to place, the header must always be removed and thrown on the trailer. Also, the tracks only allow for a whopping speed of 15 mph even in the highest gear the combine has to offer. Good thing we have lots of practice loading combines on trailers!

If you’re driving a combine, you need to be extra careful where you go in order to stay on solid ground. If you’re driving grain cart, you need to make sure to unload the combine extra often to keep it as empty as possible. There is also a good chance you’ll be taking the long way to the trucks to steer clear of the ruts and getting stuck yourself. If you’re driving truck, you may need to park on the road in order to not get caught full in the field with no way to move. The wheat is of good quality so it’s well worth the hectic harvest. The protein is between 13 and 14 in content and test weights are in the 60s.

I feel like a bit of a broken record lately with my posts but we seem to be stuck in a weather pattern that is determined to complicate harvest as much as possible. This past weekend, it began raining around 11p.m. and continued to be rainy and cloudy until Tuesday morning. And, low and behold, there is rain in the forecast for Wednesday afternoon and on to the end of the week. Looks like the crops will get to have another swimming lesson before harvest will begin again.
Introducing the tracks.
Introducing… the tracks.
Making dust amongst the water.
Making dust amongst the water.
Grain cart action.
Grain cart action.
Ruts on ruts.
A field of ruts.
A wheat field or a puddle?
A wheat field or a wheat puddle?
It's unbelievable how much these tracks can go through.
It’s unbelievable how much these tracks can go through.
Dad and Farmer Lloyd, surveying the mess of a field.
Dad and Farmer Lloyd, surveying the mess of a field.
Side view.
Side view.
Farmer Lloyd yells at me "your camera is going to break" as he smiles for the camera. :)
Farmer Lloyd yells at me “your camera is going to break” as he cracks a smiles. 🙂
Peeking through.
Peeking through.
Crusing around the corner.
Cruising around the corner.

All Aboard Wheat Harvest™ is sponsored by High Plains Journal and New Holland Agriculture. You can contact Steph at stephanie@allaboardharvest.com.

Keep Calm and Harvest On
Steph Osowski

Grafton, ND – We were granted a whole week of harvest before Mother Nature reigned down on us again come the weekend. See what I did there? She reigned and she rained. It was the week of my birthday so that must be why it went so well, don’t you think (it was on the 25th of August)? We have been bouncing from one farmer to another either trying to find wheat that is ripe enough to cut or a field that is dry enough to drive around on. We have been harvesting for almost a month off and on and we have yet to completely finish up a farmer. The thing is everybody is very understanding because they know they aren’t alone — everyone in the area is struggling with the same issue.

Wanna know the hot commodity around here? Tracks. It would be a good year to own a couple sets to be able to rent out because it is becoming one of the only ways to achieve progress. Dad made some phone calls and found a set to rent. The guy we are renting from charges by the acre rather than by the month to rent the tracks, which will be much cheaper in the long run. With the rains the area received again last weekend (anywhere from one to four inches), we are glad we got them! Farmer Randy went and retrieved the tracks for us and while driving back to the farm with them through Grafton, he had many phone calls asking where he got the tracks and who they were going to because they would like to have a word with the recipient. Hopefully if it dries up in the next couple days, I can give you all an update on how they work for us!

I did mention it was going to be an intermittent harvest this season but I didn’t fully realize the truth of it until now. I can’t remember a time when we have ever been so behind with harvest. Dad mentioned the other day that it hasn’t been this wet around here since 1993 so makes sense why I don’t recall that year… I was two years old. I can add two never before experienced harvest experiences to my resume this year; being a part of one of the best wheat harvests the state of Kansas has ever seen and also, being a part of one of the wettest harvests Walsh County, ND has ever seen. All we can do at the end of the day is to keep calm and harvest on!

View from the grain cart.
View from the grain cart.
Little ball of fire.
Little ball of fire.
Wheat.
A hose came loose but, we caught it quickly! Still made quite a mess though.
A hose came loose but, we caught it quickly! Still managed to make quite a mess.
Little hydraulic spill.
Little hydraulic oil spill in the wheat field.
Dad and Peter getting some parts configured.
Dad and Peter getting some parts configured.
Dusk cutting.
Dusk cutting.
Couldn't get enough of this lighting...
Couldn’t get enough of this lighting…
Combine.
Combine.
Sunset.
Sunset love.
Like I said, couldn't get enough!
Like I said, couldn’t get enough!
CAPTURED.
CAPTURED.
Coming to the end for supper.
Brandon coming to the end for supper.
Chicken alfredo...YUM.
Homemade chicken alfredo… YUM. Birthday supper at its finest.
Tis the season for corn on the cob.
Tis’ the season for corn on the cob.
Okay, one more sunset shot.
Okay, one more sunset shot.
My birthday cake!!!
My birthday cake!!! Strawberry 🙂
Isn't it so pretty? It was absolutely delicious.
Isn’t it so pretty? It was absolutely delicious.
Mama bear.
Mama bear.
Mama bear and I.
Mama bear and I.
Peter and I.
“Peeta”, when pronounced in the South African accent.
Tracks!
Tracks! Photo credit goes to Brandon on this one. I stole it from his Instagram.
All Aboard Wheat Harvest™ is sponsored by High Plains Journal and New Holland Agriculture. You can contact Steph at stephanie@allaboardharvest.com.

Ruts on Ruts
Steph Osowski

Grafton, ND – They say you learn something new every day. Well, yesterday I learned that there is truly no shame in turning your rear-wheel assist on and leaving it on throughout the entire field. It’s better to be safe than sorry, right? That is the name of the game with these wet fields. We are all but tip-toeing through these fields and sometimes, even our tip-toes sink. The protein has remained between 14 and 15 for content so the farmers are being more lenient than usual with the moisture (rather than only cutting at 13 percent or lower, somewhere in the 14s works to ensure the wheat comes off the field). The kick they receive for having high protein more than makes up for it.

Yesterday, we field hopped. We would make a pass, take the sample to town and see if a second pass was possible. The first field has a 16.2 percent moisture reading so that was a no-go. The second field had a 17 percent moisture reading so our odds were decreasing rapidly. The third field we tried had a great moisture reading, 13 percent! The only problem was that the ground was as soft as a sponge and couldn’t hold the combine up for longer that 500 feet. We got so stuck that it took a tug with Farmer Brian’s four-wheel drive tractor plus another tug from our very own four-wheel drive Versatile that we had to fetch from our farm.

The final attempt at combine progress was me taking the unstuck combine 10-miles west to another farmer’s field, Farmer Lloyd. Half a pass later and I was on the verge of getting stuck. In the words of Dad, “We’ve banged our heads against the wall enough today, just park it.”

Bread Count – We no longer haul the grain for the farmers because they all have their own trucks, so I must discontinue the bread count. But we had a good run!

Quote of the Day“Suck it up buttercup, we are finishing this field.” (an attempt at giving the combine a pep talk)
Towing the rope.
Towing the rope.
To the frame.
Sunk to the frame.
Got a little lean.
Got a little lean to it.
And we're stuck again.
These photos are starting to look familiar, I can imagine.
4-wheel drive to the rescue.
4-wheel drive to the rescue!
Blowin' smoke.
Blowin’ smoke.
Dad and Farmer Brian.
Dad and Farmer Brian, discussing the situation at hand.
More ruts.
And some more ruts.
Checking out the wheat.
Checking out the wheat.
Green stubble.
Green stubble.
Almost my favorite part of the day!
Almost my favorite part of the day! Can you guess what it is?
Unloading on the go.
Unloading on the go.
Ahh yes, sunset love.
Ahh yes, sunset love.
There goes another day.
There goes another day.

All Aboard Wheat Harvest™ is sponsored by High Plains Journal and New Holland Agriculture. You can contact Steph at stephanie@allaboardharvest.com.

Long Time No Wheat
Steph Osowski

Grafton, ND – Usually when we get home, it’s a whirlwind of activities. We no soon drive through the city limits and we have farmers calling to see what place in cutting order their wheat fields fall into. I know I’ve repeatedly mentioned the rain but it is repeatedly falling and messing up our schedule so I’m left with no choice. All the rain our area has received has made and will continue to make harvest intermittent this season. Some farmers in the area have made so many ruts that they are waiting till it dries out to finish and if it doesn’t, pray their insurance agent is having a good day the day they tell them how much crop they will be forced to leave in the ground.

Protein content has been out of this world at 14.2 and the moisture has been about 13 to 14 percent the last couple days that we have been able to harvest. Our Farmer Brian told us that even if the moisture goes a little high, he wants us to cut it just to get it off (God bless bin dryers). We still got the combine stuck today (again) but we moved to another quarter a few miles away and were able to keep the wheels of all machines above ground and turning. Something so simple but something we have taken for granted the last couple weeks so, today was a good day.

Also, I remembered my camera today. Score!
I missed my camera.
.
Grain cart.
.
Here comes the service truck.
Here comes the service truck.
Dad fixing on the header.
Dad fixing on the header.
Back in the wheat.
.
End of the field action.
End of the field action.
Oh the pretty lighting.
Oh the pretty lighting.
The sun was my friend today.
The sun was my friend today.
Combine.
.
Dust! A rare sight these days.
Dust! A rare sight these days.
Spotted; Brandon having a combine date with his girlfriend.
Spotted; Brandon having a combine date with his girlfriend, Shawna.
Sun sets on the day.
Sun sets on the day.
Purple.
Purple.
Farmer Brian.
Farmer Brian, all smiles.
Dusk cutting.
Dusk cutting.
Riding shotgun in the grain cart.
Riding shotgun in the grain cart.
Never a bad time to wash windows.
Never a bad time to wash windows.

All Aboard Wheat Harvest™ is sponsored by High Plains Journal and New Holland Agriculture. You can contact Steph at stephanie@allaboardharvest.com.

Got the Itch
Steph Osowski

Grafton, ND – Something I was sure you were all wondering is, “when is Steph going to get her camera fixed?” Well, wonder no longer. My camera has been fixed and is back running better than ever. The next problem is now on me to remember to bring it with me. I’m too used to it being broken. That being said, this post still includes photos taken form my phone because I, of course, forgot to bring my camera to the field. 

Harvest is going to be on a very interesting timeline this season. With all the rain, the fields are an assortment of mud-holes and puddles of various shapes and sizes for the combines to maneuver around. The wheat on our harvest docket is still turning but we have slowly been able to start barley in the last week. Barley is all fun and games until the end of the day when you want to itch the skin off of your skeleton. We harvest for three farmers that work together (Farmer Randy, Farmer Wayne and Farmer Lee) and all the jokes and sarcasm that is shared over the radio would make anyone’s day.

To top it all off, we got some MORE rain and the weatherman says we will be receiving even more this evening. The ground is rejecting moisture of any kind at this stage so all we can do is pray for a wind and wait it out. And, you know, maybe get some fishing done in the meantime. We’ve had all sorts of time to get every piece of equipment washed and fix anything that might need fixing and even some things that didn’t need to be fixed but we fixed anyway, just because we had the time.
Barley.
Barley.
View from the grain cart.
View from the grain cart.
Stuck.
Stuck.
Real stuck.
Real stuck.
Right to the frame.
Right to the frame.
Peter and Farmer Lee checking out the damage.
Peter and Farmer Lee checking out the damage.
Where's the wheel?!
Where’s the wheel?!
Don :)
Don, Farmer Wayne’s dad.
Farmer Randy and Peter joking around.
Farmer Randy and Peter joking around.
Farmer Wayne trying out a stripper head.
Farmer Wayne trying out a stripper head.
Barley is itchy but at least it's pretty.
Barley is itchy but at least it’s pretty.
Unloading into Purple.
Unloading into Purple.
Farmer Lee.
Farmer Lee looking on as the grain cart unloads.

All Aboard Wheat Harvest™ is sponsored by High Plains Journal and New Holland Agriculture. You can contact Steph at stephanie@allaboardharvest.com.

Business Trips
Steph Osowski

Grafton, North Dakota—Life in Grafton is about as exciting as any rural North Dakota community can be, but that’s why you gotta love it, right? Small town livin’ is the best kind.

Harvest is peeking at us from around the corner but that is where it remains. We got about an inch of rain last night and it’s a gloomy day in the neighborhood today, so that certainly won’t dry anything up. Considering all the rainfall we have received, the crops are looking quite good and there has been talk that protein will range between 10 to 14 in content. We are in that weird in-between period of harvest where unlike our summer harvest, the next step isn’t crystal clear. Do we tear apart the combine and check what’s causing the rumbling in the rotors? Do we wait since the crop could be ready in the next couple days? Do we take a nap that lasts two days? I bet you can guess which one of those sounds the most appealing!

Last weekend, Peter and I took a business trip out to the western side of North Dakota. We passed out business cards and did the usual public relations-type activities to get the Osowski Ag name out there. Our mindset is that half of the crew will stay home and do barley/wheat harvest there and the other half will head to western North Dakota and pick up some wheat acres out there as well. Divide and conquer. So, if you know a guy, I would like to meet him. I have to admit, we worked during the day but did make a little time for fun while we were out west. The North Dakota State Fair was happening in Minot, North Dakota, and we stumbled across a couple tickets for the Jake Owen concert one night. As custom harvesters, this was an absolute treat since fair time is, well, harvest time.

Quote of the Day“Want to know one of the most helpless feelings in the world? When you’re driving and your toe itches INSIDE your boot.”
Passing out cards like it's going outta style.
Passing out cards like it’s going outta style.
Gorgeous countryside out here.
Gorgeous countryside out here.
Again, gorgeous countryside.
Again, gorgeous countryside.
The open road.
There’s something about an open road.
The wheat is about 10 days off in western ND.
The wheat is about a week to ten days off in western ND.
Literally stopped alongside the road to photograph some sunflowers.
Literally stopped alongside the road to photograph some sunflowers. Worth it.
So pretty.
So worth it.
Steph and Peter at the Jake Owen concert!
Steph and Peter at the Jake Owen concert at the North Dakota State Fair!
Home sweet home.
Home sweet home.

All Aboard Wheat Harvest™ is sponsored by High Plains Journal and New Holland Agriculture. You can contact Steph at stephanie@allaboardharvest.com.

We’re home… Now what?
Steph Osowski

Grafton, ND – The two worst turns of the entire harvest are the two that lead us back to the homestead. I can say, however, that we all made it back into the yard without tipping any equipment into the ditch.

Harvest is still about ten days off around home. Even though half the crew is heading to western ND to knock some wheat out, we still have about a week or more of downtime. What’s a harvest crew to do? Well, all the things we thought about doing but didn’t have time to do on the harvest trail such as; washing combines, washing headers, re-sickling headers and washing trucks/hopper bottom. Basically, we are making our entire fleet look pretty again.

When you want input on your product, what do you do? Send a representative out to the people that use it, that’s what! Mr. Igor Kuzmenko from New Holland, PA paid us a visit in our very hometown this afternoon. He asked us questions about the combines and what we thought could be improved and how New Holland could greater serve us in the future. We really enjoyed and, most of all, appreciated the visit!

Quote of the Day“And that was without a single drop of coffee.”

An Osowski Original – This original is a flashback from only one year ago on our trip back home. About 45-minutes from home, we hit some road construction that was so soft and narrow that we had to unload the combine right in the middle of the construction site to get the truck/trailer combination out of the hole we found ourselves in. We were asked by one of the construction interns, “Didn’t you check the website?” Of course I am perusing the Internet while pulling combine down the road… Not. And for the record, it wasn’t on the website nor were there signs until you were too far-gone. Oh, the memories.

On the border!
Made it back to the homeland!
Stopped in the cute little town of Kulm for lunch.
Stopped in the cute little town of Kulm, ND for lunch on our drive home.
Beautiful ND countryside.
Beautiful ND countryside.
The wheat is still a little green up here!
The wheat is still a little green up here at home and the Mother Nature-made ditch is proof of all the rain we received. Since May 27, the Grafton area has received 27 inches of rain.
Visited my daycare kiddos!
Visited my daycare kiddos!
Sunset on our first night home.
Sunset on our first night home.
Osowski Ag with Igor.
Osowski Ag Service posing with Igor.
Washing combines.
Washing combines.

Vices
Steph Osowski

Selby, ND – Osowski Ag Service is now homeward bound. I was recently sent a text that said, “Holy smokes! Have you guys ever been home this early?!” My response? Probably in a time far, far away, but none that I can recall. It is a safe bet that we will be home the first week in August or later, rarely earlier. Grafton can now be better known as the true land of 10,000 lakes given all the rain they continue to receive so I’m guessing by the outskirts of town, we will be swimming the duration of the way.

We’ve all got our thing we use to stay awake or at this point in the season, get slight withdrawals from if we don’t have said thing at our disposal. We’ve all got our vices. Mom’s, for instance, is Mountain Dew. She prefers it from a fountain but will accept cans or bottles. Dad has to have a thermos full of coffee. Peter can normally be seen holding a Red Bull with a side of Skittles, but Coca-Cola will work in the absence of Red Bull. Brandon has to have dill pickle sunflower seeds with a Coke. Last but not least, I am a big fan of Monster Rehab energy drinks (preferably the pink lemonade flavor). Traveling days call for multiples of all of the above.

The wheat we did while in Hemingford, Neb. did about 30 bushel for an average. The protein scrambled around from 7-10 in content. Around home, we are looking at 2-3 weeks before we start combining wheat but the barley could be ready within the week. The headers may need floaties, but we will do what we can!

(6 stops, 2 combines and…)
Bread Count – 6,549,191.88 loaves

Quote of the Day“Me and rattlesnakes are on a seek and destroy mission.”

Heading down into Farmer Steve's crater field.
Heading down into Farmer Steve’s crater field.
Waiting for a load.
Waiting for a load.
Pretty moon.
Pretty moon.
Cleaning off combines.
Cleaning off combines.
Gorgeous sunset.
Gorgeous sunset.
"Where the battle wasn't."
“Where the battle wasn’t…” One of the best town signs along the trail!

Six Million Loaves!
Steph Osowski

Hemingford, Neb. – I apologize for not posting on here for a few days but man, what a few days it has been. In my last post, I let you all know that we were leaving our beloved St. Francis to move on into Nebraska. We pulled into Big Springs on Friday, unloaded and started up right away. We struggled to find an elevator that was both open and had space for more wheat and ended up hauling to Frenchman’s in Chappell. The wheat did alright; about 35 bushels and had test weights at 60 pounds. We finished our 250-acre job on Saturday, loaded up and are now at our last stop on the harvest run – Hemingford, Neb. I told you we could kiss summer goodbye after our first stop. Where did the summer go?!

This area has not received the rains that western Kansas did and the crops are suffering because of it. Many farmers in the area have been baling their wheat rather than cutting it at all. Farmer Steve told me today that he wouldn’t have minded if his wheat would have gotten hailed out and we all know any farmer saying those words is the rarest of the rare. The wheat is doing about 25 bushels but the test weights are 61-62 pounds. Protein is a bit low, about 7.8 for content.

Last year we buried the combine in Farmer Steve’s field. Brandon was surveying the area the other day and found that his ruts were still there from this event. No surprise, really – it took two wreckers to undo that mishap. With the lack of rain this area has, we did not anticipate getting stuck to be a problem. How very wrong we were. While leaving the field last night with its last load of the night, the Peterbilt found itself to be flush with the ground. This morning, we found ourselves digging small trenches underneath the traps of the hopper bottom in order to fit an auger underneath to empty out the truck into Purple. Nothing like some excitement, right? I told Farmer Steve this field is cursed. Shout-out to the Phillips people for helping us out and loaning us some of your toys to get out of the hole we made.

Bread Count – 6,107,375.82 loaves

Quote of the Day“I couldn’t tell you what’s going on on the other side of the terrace.”

Some of our farmers from St. Francis! From left to right; Mitch, Randy and Spencer.
Some of our farmers from St. Francis! From left to right; Mitch, Randy and Spencer.
Dad and Farmer Randy.
Dad and Farmer Randy.
Loaded up.
Loaded up.
Group selfie before departure!
Group selfie before departure!
Farmer Clinton.
Farmer Clinton in Big Springs, Neb.
Lounging.
Lounging.
Unloading into Purple.
Unloading into Purple.
Combines.
.
Sunset on the service truck.
.
Enjoying the view.
Enjoying the view.
All in a line.
.
Quite the excitement.
Quite the excitement.
Holes for augers.
Trench for the auger to fit underneath the trap.
Thanks to the Trent for the help and bringing out his little toy!
Thanks to the Trent for the help and bringing out his little toy!
Unloading.
Getting unloaded so it can get unstuck!
Sunset on Purp.
Sunset on Purp.
Lovely.
Lovely.

All Aboard Wheat Harvest™ is sponsored by High Plains Journal and New Holland Agriculture. You can contact Steph at stephanie@allaboardharvest.com.

Later, Kansas
Steph Osowski

St. Francis, Kan. – It is always a sad day in the neighborhood when we leave St. Francis, but the time has come. Finishing up the last couple days has been a bit of a gamble when it comes to bringing trucks to town. The equity has two different locations in town and since the wheat is so spectacular, they’ve both filled up ahead of schedule. They were loading trucks to get wheat out but the full trucks were coming back just as often to put them right back at the top of the bins. The nice humans working in the scale-house kept telling us “this next load might be your last” so we knew we were trucking on thin ice.

While combining our last 80 acres, those words became a reality. We were told at both equity locations that we weren’t allowed to come back until the morning. It was only 4:30 p.m. and we only had 35 acres left. We began to go through the possibilities of where else we could haul to instead. It came down to adding 20 miles to the already 20-mile haul or driving 15 miles through solid road construction only to get in line behind 10 trucks to dump on the ground.

It was decided that I would go the route of road construction and “see how it goes,” as Dad put it. Let’s just say I would have rather not seen how it went. Two hours later, I returned to the field where both combines were loaded to complete bin capacity. However, the field was finished! Want to hear the best part? It rained 2 inches on that field last night so at least my little trucking adventure was not done in vain. All of our farmers in this area had a great crop (80-bushel average, 62 pound test weights) and we were able to pick up a few extra acres, bringing us to five farmers we had the pleasure to cut for around St. Francis.

I have to tell this little story as well because I can honestly say this is a harvest first. We had a farmer not only find us a neighbor to cut for but also told us that since we were right across the road from said neighbor’s field, we could move off his field to do his neighbor’s piece and then just move back onto his fields after. See, this is strange, irregular behavior because not wrongly so, farmers would rather have their wheat off yesterday come harvest time. People have such a way of surprising you.

See you up the road at our next stop—Big Springs, Nebraska!

Bread Count – 5,872,151.46 loaves

Quote of the Day“The best kind of prize is a surprise.”

Blue and cows.
Blue and cows.
On top of the hill.
On top of the hill.
Heading down a rather steep decline.
Heading down a rather steep decline.
Combine.
Combine.
B&W.
A combine in black and white.
The sun did some cool things this day.
The sun did some cool things this day.
Love the countryside out here.
Love the countryside out here.
Some long lines at Scoular in Idalia, CO.
Some long lines at Scoular in Idalia, Colorado.
The sun did some cool things this day.
The sun did some cool things this day too.
Combine photo bomb!
Combine photo bomb!
Sunset.
Sunset love.
Sunset.
Sunset.
Sunset.
Sunset.
Sunset.
Sunset.

All Aboard Wheat Harvest™ is sponsored by High Plains Journal and New Holland Agriculture. You can contact Steph at stephanie@allaboardharvest.com.