All Aboard Harvest | High Plains Journal
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High Plains Journal

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. 

Bridgeport, Nebraska - Just as I was letting off the clutch at a stoplight in town, a motorcycle revved the ever living out of his motor and sped by me. I about had a heart attack -- hearing noises like that, all I could think was that I blew something somewhere on my truck. I mean, I am hauling 64 pound wheat, so anything is possible.

It is pretty rare to have two stops on the harvest run that are a mere 27.5 miles away from each other. Obvious reasons being that they are both likely ready at the same time; and as we all know, the wheat waits for nobody. But, contrary to the norm, we moved from Gurley to Bridgeport without missing a beat. Farmer Don has some pretty spectacular wheat with test weights anywhere from 62-65 pounds, 35-40 bushel, and protein peaked at 13 for content, but is consistently between 8-10. Harvest days are coming and going and definitely running together these past 10 days or so. This time of year just works that way. It's harvest autopilot, if you will. You just do because you know you need to do, and that's all there is to it.

Sheridan County, Kansas - It has been humid lately. And by humid, I mean western Kansas humid, not eastern Kansas humid. The day I was there it was downright sweltering with temperatures in the high 90s and almost no wind. Yes, it's not common out here to have little to no wind.

Out in that heat is where I met Stoney, a semi-retired farmer, whom wanted to come check out the "big harvest." It has been something on his to-do list for some time, and he drove 8 hours from the east to come watch. That is REAL desire to come watch harvest on a hot July day! Of course they have harvest east of us; but the fields are often smaller, and there isn't as much wheat in his area. The scale out west is just different. Here, the field sizes are often so much bigger, and they can hold a larger number of machines, larger headers, etc. It is a little humbling to think that someone would want to visit "US." In my mind, we just do what we do, but I guess it is no different than me going to see other sectors of agriculture, like the strawberry patch earlier in the season.  I think we as farmers and ranchers, of whatever type, typically have a great respect for the profession and enjoy seeing and learning what goes on in other areas different than out our own backdoor.

[caption id="" align="alignnone" width="1024"]Perspectives through the window. Photo by Steph Osowski[/caption]


Steph Osowski joins AAWH’s Sarah Moyer to discuss her important dots on a road map - her favorite harvest town, her hometown and Dodge City. She also provides an update on the "Cabover Alert" scores. Tune in to step into the field with Steph.

[audio mp3="http://hpj.hubris.net/allaboardwheatharvest/wp-content/uploads/sites/11/2017/07/AAWH-Podcast-02.mp3"][/audio]

Goodland, Kansas – We’ve been harvesting wheat every single day here on the Kansas/Colorado state line, which is great. However, we’ve been getting little rain showers almost every evening around 9 p.m. causing us to have to quit early most nights. These little rain showers usually just make a mess of the equipment. The dust and the chaff on the combines and blue headers get stuck on badly with the rain drops, and every morning we're kept busy blowing off the combines. And I get my biggest workout of the day in washing windows like crazy. Washing windows every single day gets old, but it is part of harvesting and the weather. 

When we see the storms showing up in the west, we almost always have a threat of hail. Disappointingly, we did have some hail out of one or two of the clouds. Harvesting wheat that's been hailed on and a few acres of wheat with mosaic disease takes all of the fun out of it. Both are definitely disastrous to the wheat crop. That’s just the way it is sometimes. We have had plenty of good wheat to cut though for the most part. The wheat yielded 60-80 bushels per acre. The test weights were 60-63 pounds, and the protein ran at mostly 10 but was 12-plus sometimes.  

Gurley, Nebraska - Harvest is all about the people. It's about the people you harvest for, the people who provide you with your fuel, the bar/grill in the small town that cooks you supper every night, and the people on the other harvest crews that you get to mingle with at the end of the night. The people are what make the harvest what is it... addictive and unforgettable.

Here in Gurley, the harvest spirit is tangible. The campground is loaded with harvest crew trailers, combine trailers, service trucks and semis. The best part is that we all know each other, so we are just one, big harvest family. Being a harvester is a very misunderstood profession. People just can't understand why we would want to load up our super expensive equipment on trailers, pack up a camper and haul it all across the country to cut wheat only to load it all back up in a week to do it again in a different town. It sounds crazy, and we all know it does.

Tribune/Sharon Springs, Kansas - On July 3, Mother Nature put on quite the show for us. We had just moved to our last field of the job. It looked like we may get some rain, but we didn't know if it would be a slight delay or shut us down completely. The crew gave it their best shot and stayed in the field until the rain drove them out. In the end the storm won. We ended up having to wait the majority of the next day for the moisture in the grain to drop to be able to cut.

For those of you who haven't witnessed a prairie storm or who just like weather, these photos are for you! They show the progression of how things went down. It was truly an amazing sight to watch it all unfold.  

[caption id="" align="alignnone" width="1024"]High Plains Harvesting (Photo Credit: Laura) The rain was still off in the distance and didn't look to be a very deep line. (Photo Credit: Laura Haffner)[/caption]

[caption id="attachment_14830" align="aligncenter" width="2048"] Photo by Janel Schemper[/caption]


Janel Schemper joins AAWH's Sarah Moyer to discuss growing-up, knowing she would one day be a custom harvester. They also add in a story about Miss Moo's start on the harvest trail and discuss Janel's favorite harvest foods. Tune in to step into the field with Janel.

[audio mp3="http://hpj.hubris.net/allaboardwheatharvest/wp-content/uploads/sites/11/2017/07/AAWH-Podcast-01.mp3"][/audio]

Dodge City, Kansas - I have found that I do some of my best thinking with a windshield in front of me. While I was over-the-road trucking this spring, I started to daydream about the different features a truck could have that would make life in a truck that much more enjoyable. Mind you, most of these things are pure imagination but it's certainly a place to start.

  1. A holographic barista that will prepare you any coffee drink known to man (bring on the espresso).
  2. Autopilot -- that's got to be close on the trucking horizon, don't you think?
  3. To go hand in hand with the autopilot, the driver's seat should swivel so the driver can easily move in, out and around the seat/cab.
  4. A little more about this seat... it should also have the capabilities of a high-end massage chair -- one that actually relaxes you and doesn't leave you in a bigger pile of knots than when you started.
  5. In the sleeper, there should be a button you press that slides the solid roof of the sleeper to one side to expose a starry night.
  6. A giant flat-screen TV that folds down from the roof between the main cab and sleeper. If there's autopilot, there's plenty of time to catch up with your Netflix-ing.
  7. Blow a tire? A motor? Maybe an alternator? No worries -- the truck will notify you when these things happen, slowly get you to safety and fix itself.
  8. An interactive motherboard that could do anything from teaching you a foreign language to reading you books (in different voices per character) to singing you a lullaby before bed, making the time over the road that much better.
  9. The ability to change colors anytime. Tuesday could be purple; but maybe by Friday you're feeling more adventurous, and you want it to be camouflage.
  10. Wheels that turn into propellers so the truck can go underwater. This serves absolutely no purpose -- just sounds super cool.

Goodland, Kansas - We’ve been busy harvesting wheat since May and will be busy for a few more weeks; but I am sorry to report that after we’re finished cutting wheat in Kansas, Colorado and Western Nebraska, we’re not sure what we’ll have to cut up north. South Dakota, North Dakota and Montana are in a severe drought and there are reports of no winter wheat at all and the spring wheat is going to be a really sorry crop this year due to the drought. Harvesters have to have income to make payments. If there is no income, payments are not made. Harvesters count on Montana and the Dakotas for big acres and yields to complete their summer wheat run. 

Custom harvesting is certainly a risky business to be in due to Mother Nature - no doubt about it. Mother Nature can be so good, but she can also be so bad. One bad harvest run can ruin a harvester’s business. This drought is seriously bad for us harvesters. We’re all stressed out just thinking about it. No joke, I even had a report of freeze damage in South Dakota on June 24th. Crazy, I know. Whatever wheat turns black is a result of the freeze damage, so you just have to wait and see what areas got hit. We'll know what we've got when we get up north later this month.