All Aboard Harvest | aawh
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Dodge City, Kansas - A little over a week ago, I received a Facebook message request. I hit "accept" to get a look at what this perfect stranger had to say. In the message, this gal explained to me that her and her husband both grew up on farms in Oklahoma, but they had made their home in the Philippines for thirty-five years now. She continued on to say her husband never missed a High Plains Journal issue and that he particularly loved the All Aboard Wheat Harvest program. How cool is it that? This program is so widely renowned.

We chitchatted about how harvest was going, and she then mentioned to me that there was one particular photo that her husband loved. The only thing was this; he had only seen it in black and white, and he had always wanted to see it in color. I asked her to send me a "photo of the photo," and I would see what I could do in terms of hunting it down in my picture archives.

Southeast Colorado - It is time for our annual marital exchange post, this one regarding field directions. Last year it involved GPS. This time it was good old-fashioned verbal conversation. It went something like this, or at least this is how I remember it. The account may or may not be slightly exaggerated for effect, but I think it's closer than not to what happened.

Me: "I'm going south on that highway you said. Where do I need to turn?"

Ryan: "It's about x* miles south. Go until you get to the big bin, and go another x miles south. Then you'll go east to the dead end. You'll see us. Can't miss us."

Dodge City, Kansas - There are two cup holders in the combine. I jumped in for a few rounds and put my lemonade-flavored Monster Rehab next to John's filled-to-the-brim Yeti coffee cup. Combining along, I hit a plethora of bumpy spots in the field, a typical occupational hazard. I go to take a sip of my drink and got a sip of half coffee/half lemonade Monster. I don't recommend the combination. Here's to you, bumpy Kansas wheat fields.

DISCLAIMER: It will never be just "a few rounds." That's the trick phrase a harvester will use to get you to switch places for whatever reason.

Before that story was given the opportunity to occur, we did incur some rainy days that were filled with wrenches and combine rehab. That's the thing about harvest -- time is of the essence.

Claude, Texas - Thoughts of how I was going to write this blog post have been swirling in my head for several days.

Harvest 2017 is still very young. Most of the custom harvesters were on the road and in the fields by the end of May – just barely a month ago. However, before we even left home, we began to see a glimpse of what we might be up against. The three major variables that I am thinking about are low wheat acres (smallest on record since 1919), low commodity prices and the weather.
[caption id="" align="alignnone" width="1024"]Z Crew: Because it's what harvesters do! To me, there's nothing prettier than a cut wheat field.[/caption]

Dodge City, Kansas - Would you believe I have been a part of the AAWH family for six years now, and I have never even been to the homeland of High Plains Journal? Unreal, but that is no longer the case. I drove into town on Wyatt Earp Boulevard and took a quick look around and knew right away I would get along just fine around here. I could live here. We will be harvesting here for the indecipherable future as it decided to rain on our harvest parade last night (06/21), so I'm hoping to rub elbows with some of the HPJ staff. I also plan on doing quite the exposé on the town in an upcoming post as it is a definite harvest classic. We did get into the wheat a bit, and it's beautiful -- 50-60 bushels per acre with a 58 pound test weight. There's nothing like wheat harvest in Kansas.

I wish I had an internal trip meter. I should have pushed this spring to keep track of the miles I put on myself. Scratch that -- should have started it last winter, because then it would include my international travels. The more I think about it, the further my curiosity for this goes. Just imagine 26 years of Midwestern travels via the harvest run plus all the trucker adventures, various road trips with friends and international travels. My trip meter would probably be broken by now.

Dodge City, Kansas - I love this time of year. I get to use my blue Shelbourne Reynolds header for wheat harvest at two of our stops here in Kansas.  A stripper header is annoyingly expensive but is fun to run. I love blue header time.   When I began harvesting with a Shelbourne Reynolds header 5-plus years ago, I was not happy about it. I just kept thinking about the added machinery expense and operation cost. The custom harvesting business has big risks and having another header to harvest wheat seemed so silly to me. Also, the government doesn’t have a program to insure our costs. There is no government program for the custom harvesting business. Also, learning to operate “another” piece of machinery just seemed ridiculous. However, my attitude changed very quickly, and it’s a super header to operate. My combine never runs out of horsepower having a blue header in front of it. There are many advantages with using a blue header, but I’ll discuss more at another time. It's a whole different concept.

Ellis County, Kansas- We are just wrapping up our cutting here on the eastern edge of northwest Kansas. Like so many of our jobs this season, it has also been a mixed bag of yields thanks to angry weather. It's estimated that over three-fourths of this farmer's wheat was damaged, and some quite severely, by hail. One of the highest yielding fields had 20 percent hail damage but still made around 60 bushels per acre. We've seen yield ranging from 20-60 bushels per acre and test weights hovering around 60 pounds per bushel. That's one of the heartbreaking things about agriculture. We farmers try to do all the right things for our operations and may or may not see a positive return on that investment.   

Last night we had the pleasure of meeting wheat harvest enthusiast Dale and his wife Darlene. They are just beginning what I will call their annual "Tour de Wheat Harvest." Yesterday had been a crazy day of logistics and planning as we are wrapping up and anticipating our next move(s). In addition, the tractor decided it had enough of harvest and quit on the road. Not only were we dealing with a frustrating situation, but also potentially dangerous as night was approaching.

Pratt, Kansas - I love the Kansas wheat harvest and for so many reasons! Wheat harvest in Kansas feels like sweet summertime to me. I have so many harvesting memories in the Wheat State. Kansas is one of my favorite places to be and to harvest wheat. Honestly, the White House should be in western Kansas. Everyone here just loves President Donald Trump, or at least that’s all I hear. It’s so peaceful and beautiful out here. All of the people I know from Kansas are just genuinely friendly and really good people, and some are my favorites in the world. Yes, western Kansas is the place to be especially at wheat harvest time. Everywhere you look, it’s all golden. 

We’ve been harvesting full blast the past few days here in the Pratt, Kansas area, and it feels good. The wheat has been yielding well. The ground conditions have been dry and the humidity during the day has been under 50 percent, which means the wheat is drying and the cutting conditions are on point. We have been on the edge of a couple of storms lately, but we haven’t had much rain. So luckily, we just keep cutting wheat.