High Plains Journal All Aboard Wheat Harvest


Author Archives: Z Crew

Tracy: Thank YOU!
Z Crew

Limon, CO – The final proso millet windrow was picked up and ingested by The Beast on Friday afternoon – which also coincidentally marked the first day of Fall. We can now close the books on the 2017 summer harvest. Before I go into more, I’d like to begin this post with saying thank you to all who have made it possible to share our story with you.
Z Crew
Before we got started with the millet harvest, Taylor, Callie and Eli made a trip to visit us. We had the opportunity to take a couple of days and go into the Colorado Rockies. (photo credit to Taylor Josoff Photography)


When putting something this large together, it takes so much more than just an idea. Someone has to put that idea into place and make sure it can be turned into a reality. This is the Z Crew’s ninth year of contributing to the All Aboard Wheat Harvest program. I was around when it was just an idea and Pete Weil did everything he could to make it a reality. It is now a reality, Pete, and one that so many love and appreciate (see what you did?)! There have been many people involved with this program since its inception and because this is only my second year of writing, I hesitate to start naming names. You know who you are and I want you to know how very much I appreciate your love and dedication to the program. Thank you for giving us an outlet to tell our stories…to educate others what it takes to get their food to their table.

Besides the idea and the people who make it happen, it takes money and that’s where our sponsors come in. Again, over the years, there have been various sponsors step up to the plate and make this all happen. Without you, you know it couldn’t and wouldn’t happen. Thank you to our 2017 sponsors! Some have given more than others but it takes everyone to make it happen. The sponsors who deserve the love and appreciation for making this all happen for harvest 2017 are:

John Deere
Oklahoma Baptist Homes for Children and the 10-Acre Challenge 
Unverferth and the UHarvest System
AgriPro and Syngenta
Brent Grain Carts
National Association of Wheat Growers
U.S. Wheat Associates
Colorado Wheat 
Colorado Farm Bureau
Nebraska Wheat
KFRM

I purposely left two businesses off the list because I wanted to give an extra special shout out to ITC Holdings and Kiowa County Media Center. Because of you, the Combine Cam continues to offer the All Aboard Wheat Harvest followers another segment of the harvest story – a live feed (when the cell service and weather cooperate). This summer was not a good one for the Combine Cam due to weather. Between the drought and hail, it was shut down way sooner than normal. It was a huge disappointment to me not being able to continue to provide the live feed as we have in the past but I guess it’s all a part of the 2017 harvest story…one like I’ve never seen before. Just like everything else with harvest, we can only HOPE for a better story in 2018! 

So, THANK YOU! To all of you. And to you, the reader. For seeing something that’s worth taking time out of your busy schedule to be a part of. For me, it’s just our job. I don’t see it through the eyes of someone outside looking in. I’ve often thought it would be interesting to take the view that you have and see for myself what it is that pulls you into our lifestyle. I know one thing (well maybe two), I feel blessed to be a part of this segment of agriculture and I wouldn’t change anything about how we’ve spent the last 35 years of our married life. I would have never dreamed my last summer of harvest with my parents and grandparents wouldn’t be my last!

I began this post informing you we picked up our last proso millet windrow the afternoon of 9/22. We had been going pretty much every day for the previous 18 days. Some days were longer than others. The mornings were sometimes a bit “dewy” and it would take most of the morning to dry off. Other days, we could get started about 9:30 or 10:00. The days are beginning to get shorter so most evenings ended about 7:00. Moisture was plentiful when the proso needed it during the growing season. That resulted in a better than average crop with heavy test weight. Our farmer family isn’t done with the millet harvest. We have been able to help them with just half of what they have laid down. But it’s time to head home for soybeans and corn. The rains moved in on Saturday (9/23) and we knew by the time the millet was dry enough to start being picked up again, it would be too late for us to help.
 
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This is what proso millet looks like prior to being swathed and laid into a windrow.
 
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Proso millet windrow.

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The view from the driver’s seat.
 


What’s next for the Z Crew? The plan is to clean the combine and maintenance on the trucks prior to making the first of two trips home. Our farmer family will continue their harvest of millet and corn without us. I just heard Jim tell someone he hopes to make the first trip mid to later part of this week and then he’s hoping to be back in the soybeans mid to later part of next week. 

Personally, this is always a difficult transition for me. Even though I am anxious to get home to be with the kids and grandkids again, it’s the change of what is currently “normal” and routine to a new “normal” and routine (even though it’s familiar) that is very difficult. I don’t think I can explain it to you in words that would make sense. When we picked up that last windrow and I dumped the last bin full of grain in the truck, I texted Tara of Mark Heil Harvesting. Of all people, I knew she would understand. And she didn’t let me down. Her reply was EXACTLY how I felt, “I’m sad for you. I understand completely how you feel. It’s a little bit of a relief but mostly just such a chilling, empty feeling to turn it off and climb down the ladder after the last dump and know you’re not coming out to run in the morning regardless of how nice the weather is. Doesn’t matter what the calendar or thermometer say — on that day, there’s a little winter on the inside.”  

YES! She nailed it!

Until next time…
Z Crew
Before we ever got started with the millet harvest, Taylor, Callie and Eli made a trip out to see us over the Labor Day weekend. Because we were unable to be in the field, we took the time to head to the Rockies. I promised Eli we would play in a stream and climb a mountain. Here he is with his Papa having a great time throwing rocks in the lake.
 
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Taylor and Callie being their silly selves – Cottonwood Pass, Colorado
.
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Playing in the magical river at the Great Sand Dunes National Park, Colorado. Sand and water…what more could a boy need? Maybe a dump truck or two.
 
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The last picture of the three amigos as we were making our way back to the trailer house. They would head home again early the next morning.
 
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Typical view through my window – nearly every day.

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There was a stretch of time where these clouds built up almost every night. It would shower just enough to prevent us from getting a good start the next morning. Made for a pretty picture, though!

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Looks like Jack found a space ship in the field! This is the base of one of the 190 wind turbines being built in the surrounding area of the fields we cut. Each base takes at least 30 truckloads of cement. After it’s set, the dirt will be replaced and it will look like this:

Z Crew
Lots of bolts to work with! I wonder if they ever have any issues with the holes of the tower lining up with them? The countryside will certainly look different next year!
  
Z Crew
At one point, there were three different farming actions taking place on this farm…swathing, harvesting and planting the 2018 wheat crop. This picture was taken on 9/11. Since then, the field has turned green with the HOPE of next year!

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Just one of the benefits of this job – a beautiful sunset to enjoy nearly every night!

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One morning before we headed to the field, I took a picture of my “garden” to show the girls. My two buckets of flowers were shining brightly this particular day!

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Jack and Jim looking pretty deep in thought! I’m guessing they were trying to figure out how the move to the next field was going to happen.

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Jim and The Pete…with Pikes Peak in the background.

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Pretty much my same position most days! Can you see Pikes Peak in the background?

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Yep, another one of those sunsets!

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The final sunset of Summer 2017. Sorta ready to shut the book on this adventure and think about 2018! I CAN’T WAIT TIL SPRING!

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

The Mattson Farms 2017 Harvest Scrapbook
Z Crew

Chester, Montana – 
It’s pretty quiet on the farm today…everyone is enjoying a well-deserved break in the action! The Mattson Farm’s 2017 harvest is in the books! We finished on Wednesday (8/16) afternoon at 3:08 pm. I know this because we had a “pool” set up with everyone’s guess. I was off by about six hours; I guessed 9 pm. 

This has been a great adventure! I haven’t been a part of a large crew since 1981. That was the last summer I was part of Hancock’s Custom Combining (my dad and grandpa). I thoroughly enjoyed all of the activity, the interaction of the larger crew and all the laughing! It gets a bit quiet when it’s just the two of us. The days seem to go much faster when there is chatter on the two-way and lots of movement in the field. And when we all gathered in the garage for the evening meal, it was fun getting to know everyone on a more personal level. I honestly feel like we’ve benefited from this experience way more than we could have ever thought possible. 

Thank you to the entire Mattson crew for making Jim and me feel so welcome! For giving us the opportunity to do something instead of nothing (because we had no acres of our own to cut). For the additions to our Christmas card list!! And…Jim never had to pick up a grease gun once!
(video credit Jim Zeorian)


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Last morning of the 2017 Mattson Farms harvest.

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Last morning of the 2017 Mattson Farms harvest.

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Mynhardt putting fuel in “my” combine.

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Jim looks pretty serious while dumping his last truckload.

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Let the celebration begin!

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The entire Mattson Farms 2017 crew (Ahmia, Kennedy and Gabe are missing).

So, because the crew is so much larger and because the only pictures I ever share are my own, I asked the crew to send me some of their favorite ones to share with you. I thought this would be a good opportunity to see something a little different than what I typically include in my updates.
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The orchestra leader, Vince. (photo credit Jim Zeorian)

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The day the kids from the city came to the farm to learn about harvest…and it rained. (photo credit Vince Mattson)

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Vince and Connor. (photo credit Vince Mattson)

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Vince and a few of the crew – Johnathan, Travis and Mynhardt. (photo credit Vince Mattson)

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(photo credit Travis Naillon)

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(photo credit Travis Naillon)

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(photo credit Megan Mattson Hedges)

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Morning huddle – Johnathan, Travis, Vince & Mynhardt (photo credit Megan Mattson Hedges)

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Eliza (photo credit Megan Mattson Hedges)

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Brody (photo credit Megan Mattson Hedges)

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Eliza and Brody riding with their mama (Megan). (photo credit Megan Mattson Hedges)

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(photo credit Koos)

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(photo credit Koos)

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In front of the “party bus”. Vince in front. Back left to right – Mynhardt, Travis, Koos and Johnathan. (photo credit Koos)


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Vince & Jim. (photo credit to Kerry Mattson)

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Kerry & Connor. (photo credit to Kerry Mattson)

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Kerry & Brie. (photo credit to Kerry Mattson)

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Janice and Connor. (photo credit to Kerry Mattson)

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Janice and Connor. (photo credit to Kerry Mattson)

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Evening chores – Johnathan and Mynhardt. (photo credit to Kerry Mattson)

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Kerry and Eliza. (photo credit to Kerry Mattson)

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Morning coffee – Jim and me. (photo credit to Kerry Mattson)

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Morning coffee with the truck drivers – Butch, Bill, Al and William. (photo credit to Kerry Mattson)

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(photo credit to Kerry Mattson)

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Connor  (photo credit to Kerry Mattson)


(video credit Jim Zeorian)

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

What makes a team (and I’m not talking football)?
Z Crew

Chester, Montana – Definition of team: “A group of people with different skills and different tasks, who work together on a common project, service, or goal, with a meshing of function and mutual support”.

The business of custom harvesting – or any harvesting – requires having a good team. If there is even one bad apple, it upsets the whole group. But, having a great team is one to celebrate and will be remembered for a long time!
Z Crew: Because it's what Harvesters do.
Ahmia with Brie and Connor (Picture credit Kerry Mattson)

I always told our girls, “There is no one job more important than another on this crew. It takes each and every one of us to get the job done”.  We each knew our job when it was time to pack, load, work and then pack, load, move and do it all over again.

Oftentimes, it feels like the members of the crew who are in the field are the most important ones…wrong! The one(s) providing the support of the team/crew should be viewed just as important (but is sometimes overlooked).

When a team is working together as a team should, it doesn’t function quite as well when one of the members is no longer part of the group. That’s how I felt last night when we came in from the field. I was again missing Ahmia this morning when it was time to make lunches. And I KNOW Kerry is missing her probably more than any of us.
Z Crew: Because it's what Harvesters do!
Ahmia (on the right) brought the kids to the field before she had to head for home.
 
Z Crew: Because it's what Harvesters do!
Kerry shed way less tears than I would have but I’m so bad with goodbyes. And I know my kids would agree with me!

I know how Kerry is feeling. When you become dependent on someone to pick up the slack and can depend on, the void is felt when they’re not there anymore.  Ahmia was hired to replace Kerry at home while she was in the combine and to help Brie and Connor (Vince and Kerry’s two kiddos). I mentioned her in my first post since arriving here at Mattson Farms. Ahmia also replaced Kennedy when she had to go back to college. Remember? They were tag-teaming the job.

When I first met Ahmia, I knew nothing about her. She was pretty quiet while she sat there ever so respectfully listening to the rest of the group as they gathered for the evening meal. I watched her watch everyone else. I also watched her jump in and do what needed to be done. I have always told my girls if there was any one thing I hoped I could teach them, it would be not to wait to be asked to do something. If you see something that needs to be done, just do it. Ahmia just did it.

One of the days that we had some time before going to the field, I visited with Ahmia. So smart, so respectful, so helpful, so responsible. “How old are you, Ahmia?” I asked. Her reply, “I’m 13. I’ll be in the 8th grade this year.” NO WAY!!! When I told Jim this, his reply was, “I think she’s fibbing. She’s got to be 18 or 19.” So when I was alone with Kerry, I asked her how old Ahmia was. She said, “13”.

What a kid she is! She took complete responsibility for the kids and all that was required with the job.  She babysat the kids all day. We would sometimes leave as early as 9:30 and not get home for 12 hours. In that time, not only did she take care of the kids, she woke up early and helped prepare 16 lunches, sometimes baked goodies for breakfast for the crew, prepared the evening meals (main dish was already done but she would also make a side dish and dessert), baked cookies, and even upon request – baked apple crisp. She can make better biscuits than I’ll EVER make.  When I had time to visit with her, Ahmia loved talking about her family, her grandma and how she enjoyed helping her uncle around the farm. She drives combine, tractor and just learned to drive a semi. I should remind you…she’s 13.

Over the past two weeks, Ahmia became one of the crew…one of the team. But she had to go home yesterday so she could begin doing what most 13 year olds do – attend school, volleyball practice and be with her friends.

And we miss her!

Someone once told me I put too much responsibility on my kids during the summer. My reply to them was, “How better could I teach them life lessons than by letting them experience life lessons?” I knew that when my girls were old enough to be on their own one day, they would be just fine. Ahmia will be just fine! And I know that young lady will do amazing things one day.

To you, Ahmia, I’d like to thank you for all your hard work, for always having a smile on your face, for jumping in and doing the job without having to be asked, for taking care of the rest of the team, for just being an amazing person! It was an honor to get to know you.  I hope you enjoy the 8th grade and have fun. I also hope we get to see you again one day.

And to Ahmia’s parents…thank you for raising such a responsible, awesome young woman!

A few pictures of what happened Monday (8/14). 
Z Crew: Because it's what Harvesters do!
Cutting chickpeas with the Sweet Grass Hills on the horizon.
 
Z Crew: Because it's what Harvesters do!
As I mentioned in my previous update, the chickpeas are very fragile and can split if too dry or if handled very often. One step in this game is eliminated and we go back to doing it the “old fashioned” way – the Z Crew way. There are no tractor/grain carts used in this process simply to eliminate one more transfer and one more auger.
 
Z Crew: Because it's what Harvesters do!
It just doesn’t look as beautiful on here as it did in real person!

Z Crew: Because it's what Harvesters do.
The #1 benefit of this job? The sunsets!

Z Crew: Because it's what Harvesters do!
Another field in the books!

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

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.

Tracy: And yet it’s all the same
Z Crew

Chester, Montana – It’s ALL different – the routine is different, the combines are different, the trucks are different and the scenery is different. And yet it’s all the same. 

The Mattson Farms harvest crew consists of five Gleaner combines, two tractors/grain carts and a whole slug of trucks. Four of the five combines are driven by women – Kerry, Megan, Tasha and me. Prior to our arrival, Janice (Carl’s wife) was in the combine I am now running. They have three young men from South Africa (Koos, Mynhardt and Johnathan) for the summer and the rest of the crew are men who have helped them with their harvest in past years (William, Bill, Al, Butch and Quanah). Gabe is a senior in college and is visiting the crew for a week. Travis is the mechanic (I refer to him as the Maytag Repair man) and this leaves Carl and Vince – the two in charge. There are 16 lunch boxes filled each morning.

Speaking of lunch boxes… do you know how much better a lunch prepared by hands other than yours tastes? I am so appreciative of the filled lunch box and a hot meal at the end of the day!

This reminds me of a couple more harvest hands to add to the list. Vince and Kerry live on the farm and have two children. Since Kerry is in a combine all day, they hire a babysitter for kids. Kennedy and Ahmia have tag-teamed this job. These two gals have been the ones preparing the evening meals – but not totally. Most of the meals are pre-made and in the freezer so all the girls (and kids) have to do is cook the main meal and prepare a side dish.

The only real complaint I have is the lack of cell service here. When we first pulled into the yard and realized there was NO SERVICE, I thought my life was going to end right then and there! How in the world would I be able to keep up with all that I’ve got going on? Seems it’s not as difficult as I first thought (and it’s even sort of nice)! However I do miss being able to call the kids once in a while – but have found out facetime works quite well.

I was concerned about running a combine that was different than what I was used to. I rode with Janice for most of the first morning to get the feel of the land and the machine. I was a little apprehensive at first but it seemed as the day grew longer, the more at ease I was feeling. I’ve already been asked by several, “How does the Gleaner compare to the New Holland”? There’s no comparison. The Gleaner is 20 years older than the New Holland. It’s the bells and whistles on the New Holland that I miss – and the fact that it can eat through the heavy crop much easier. So, I have had to change my attitude about cutting wheat – slow and steady!! But in all honesty, other than the age difference, they both do exactly what they’re supposed to do – cut grain.

The one thing I DO think about while sitting in the cab of the Gleaner is my old buddy, “The Beiner”. If Kevin Bein was alive today, I just know he’d be smiling from ear to ear knowing I was sitting in one of “his” machines. I have to wonder if he isn’t sitting next to me on the buddy seat. Darn, I miss talking to him!

We finished our fifth day of work on the Mattson Farm today – August 4th. Vince explained to me the drought line begins in Havre. From Havre east, severe drought; from Havre west, the crops fared much better. The further west you go, the better they are. We’re cutting winter wheat that will average 50 to 60+ bushels per acre. I was told the stand was so beautiful this spring and they were expecting better yields and then they got a late season freeze. So it could have been better but considering the year, I think they’re sitting pretty darn good! The quality is excellent…61-63 pounds and protein has been 13%-15%.

From tonight’s supper conversation, we should be done with the winter wheat tomorrow. What next? Either Durum or Chickpeas (garbanzo beans). Either one will be interesting to me since I’ve never had anything to do with either. So…stay tuned!

Z Crew: because it's what Harvesters do.
Our new location.
Z Crew: Because that's what Harvesters do!
We did have one rain day since we arrived. Jim and Koos are putting a steering wheel kit on the new auger.
Z Crew: Because it's what Harvesters do!
This thing is a monster and without the steering wheel addition, it was practically immovable.
Z Crew: Because it's what harvesters do.
The daily menu.
Z Crew: because it's what Harvesters do!
Tasha, Ahmia and Kerry preparing about a jillion sandwiches every day.
Z Crew: Because that's what Harvesters do!
The assembly line begins about 7:00 each morning. While the gals are busy putting these lunches together, I am in charge of water jugs and filling lemonade bottles. I’ve been taught how to create a refreshing mid-afternoon treat. Fill water or Gatorade bottles 2/3 full of lemonade and freeze overnight. The next morning, fill the bottle to the top with more lemonade. As the frozen lemonade melts, it creates a slush. Pretty good on a hot day!
Z Crew: because it's what Harvesters do.
Please don’t tell The Beast it’s been replaced for a little while. This ‘ole girl and I have become pretty good friends over the last couple of days.
Z Crew: Because that's what Harvesters do!
Partial line-up of trucks waiting to head to the field.
Z Crew: Because that's what Harvesters do!
Dang! These Montana wheat fields are big!
Z Crew: Because that's what Harvesters do!
The hills in the background are called the Sweet Grass Hills. The elevation of the highest point is 6,983 ft.
Z Crew: because it's what Harvesters do.
These hills in the field look like they’re no big deal – until you start climbing them. I had to put it in first gear to make it up and over. I honestly don’t know how the people cut wheat in the Palouse! They are a whole lot more brave than I am!
Z Crew: because it's what Harvesters do.
I am most impressed with the width of the swath we take compared to what I’m used to.  Five combines with 40 foot heads = 200 foot swaths. It’s quite amazing to watch big acres disappear so quickly.
Z Crew: because it's what Harvesters do.
This group is so organized but it doesn’t happen on its own. Carl’s son, Vince, is the orchestra leader. He’s in the tractor/grain cart shown in this picture all day long constantly on the two-way directing everyone’s next move – much like a symphony. I really am quite amazed how he keeps everyone moving in the right direction but I do feel sorry for how often he hears his name being called out.
Z Crew: because it's what Harvesters do.
Making the move to another field.
Z Crew: because it's what Harvesters do.
Vince and Travis working on a noise I was hearing in the machine.
Z Crew: because it's what Harvesters do.
I don’t know much about the unloading process since I’m in the combine all day. However, they’ve got it perfected! Jim said it’s pretty nice not having to get out of the truck to weigh at the scale or to dump. There is someone at each station keeping the flow moving. Above, William is the truck driver and Gabe is helping him get the truck dumped.
Z Crew: because it's what Harvesters do.
Awfully nice winter wheat!
Z Crew: Because that's what Harvesters do!
Tasha had to come to my rescue. My bin filled before I could get myself cut out of the line I was opening up. So, I had to follow her out of the cut.
Z Crew: Because that's what Harvesters do!
Finishing another field with the Sweet Grass Hills in the background.
Z Crew: Because that's what Harvesters do!
Action shot – while waiting for Tasha to get dumped. At one point, the grain carts couldn’t keep up and we had to wait for them in the field.
Z Crew: because it's what Harvesters do.
The end of another day!
Z Crew: because it's what Harvesters do.
The evening lineup.
Z Crew: because it's what Harvesters do.
No explanation required!
Z Crew: Because it's what Harvesters do!
Another day of work comes to an end.




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

Tracy: The road heading north
Z Crew

Chester, Montana – It took us almost three full days to get to Chester, and we were driving the speed limit most of the time! I think it was the late starts (and extended visiting) that probably had a lot to do with the time frame.

On Thursday, we didn’t leave Jamie’s house until well after noon. We had to get in a couple more baby snuggles before we headed north again. Then, we made it back to Chadron for the night. It was the craziest thing, though. As we made our way down the hill into town, it was completely dark. Apparently, the entire town of Chadron was without power due to a storm that had rolled through earlier. We set up camp in the Walmart parking lot, opened the windows of the trailer house and went to bed. It was all of like 9 p.m.  Continue Reading

Tracy: It’s a “whatever it takes” kind of harvest
Z Crew

Chester, Montana –  It was meant to be. That’s the only reason I can say all of this happened the way it did.

So often, we say the words…“keep the faith,” “God’s will,” “just let God have it,” etc. But how often do we recognize His hands at work? Pieces of the larger picture were falling into place well before we even realized what was happening.

We finished cutting in Chadron on Sunday, July 16. We spent the next couple of days cleaning equipment and parking it where it will stay until the move is made to Colorado for the millet harvest in September.

The plan was to go home from Chadron. Then, Jim said we would take the month of August and maybe do some things we can’t normally do – like go to the mountains for a few days or to Montana and see friends we haven’t seen for several years. It was difficult for me to think about being done with the wheat harvest, but it appeared there were no more acres for The Beast to consume. So, the plan Jim came up with sounded good to me. Continue Reading

Tracy: This just doesn’t feel right
Z Crew

Chadron, Nebraska – The last time we were in Chadron for the wheat harvest was 20 years ago. Our kiddos were much younger. I was pregnant with Callie, and the job I had at that time had nothing to do with spending time in the field (except to haul meals) or the combine. My job was so much different back then. I was in charge of kids, activities, food, laundry and being the “go-fer.”  Little did I know that just four short years later, plans would change. Man… what I wouldn’t give to be able to step back in time and relive one of those days. Those days seemed they would never end because of the needs of the kids, the husband and the hired man. When I see familiar sights in this town, I think back to those days. One of my favorite memories is attending the circus held under the big tent on the east side of town. We went with those same harvest friends (Krumbach Harvesting), whom shared their acres with us this year. They also have four children very close to the same age as our girls. I remember how excited they all were when the elephants made their grand entrance, and I’m certain there was cotton candy involved. Continue Reading

Tracy: My Harvest Top 10 List
Z Crew

Chadron, Nebraska – This came to me today as I was following Jim and The Beast to the field. YES! I said… field. It’s been quite the week. And when it began on Monday, I would have never guessed we would be making a move northward. It’s been an emotional roller coaster for me; and from what I hear, other harvesters are experiencing the same, crazy feeling.

We finished south of Wallace, Kansas late Monday afternoon. Once the last standing straw of wheat was cut, we decided that regardless of what happened next, the combine and header would have to be cleaned. Jim and I had talked a little about what we thought we would/should do next. We had no acres to move to so we had decided that we’d just clean the equipment up and see if we could park it at the New Holland dealership in Goodland until moving it to Colorado for the millet harvest in September. That’s what we thought when we laid our heads on our pillows Monday night.  Continue Reading

Tracy: Now what?
Z Crew

Garden City, Kansas – My oh my… the days certainly run into each other, and the weeks are gone before you know it! We left home four weeks ago this past Sunday (7/2). Seems like a whirlwind of events since we pulled away from the driveway as Taylor and Jenna were waving goodbye. 
Z Crew: Because it's what harvesters do!
Because it’s what harvesters do! (Photo credit: Nancy Eberts)
So, let’s have an update. 

Continue Reading