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