All Aboard Harvest | Laura
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Laura

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.

Tribune/Sharon Springs, Kansas - We just finished our job here in the Greeley and Wallace County area. To give you some perspective, last year we started around July 5, and this year we ended the entire job on the 5th. It's interesting how seasons can vary so much from year to year.

This was part of the area affected by the late season blizzard I mentioned in an earlier blog post. Most of the wheat was laid flat beneath the snow. And who would have thought, after all it's been through this year, it would survive and be a respectable crop.

Test weights here were in the high 50s. Irrigated acres ranged widely between 50-80+ bushels per acre. I guessed the reduction in yield was due to freeze damage but was told they suspected it was 10 consecutive days of heat at the end that effected the yield.  The irrigated results were a bit of a disappointment and just another example of a farm that tried to do everything right and was dinged by natural forces out of their control.  Dryland (non irrigated) acres were in the 50 bushel per acre range. In some places, it was as good or better than the irrigated, which is unusual.

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]

Extreme Southeast Colorado - I have to admit. We entered my favorite part of the season as far as the travel route goes.  We are here on the High Plains. It's not that I don't like the other places we go. That's far from it. Each place has something unique and special to offer. It's just that this is HOME. The later part of my growing-up years happened here, as did some of my adult life. Ryan still has to hear about how he took me away from southwest Kansas when we got married, which I'm sure he really appreciates. My heart will always be where my family is, but the High Plains will always have a piece of my heart. In fact, I may be willing to move my heart back if anyone is willing to donate a nice little farmstead to my cause.

Enough gushing.

My Office - Throughout the last several weeks, there has been talk from the bloggers about a disease that has been affecting the wheat. I know our All Aboard readers are a diverse group, so I thought I'd offer a little "Wheat 101" mini lesson for those who may want some more details on what we're talking about. If that may be you, keep reading. If you're comfortable with all things wheat, you can skip this one and resume with the next post!

So what is wheat streak mosaic virus, and why is it such a problem? The reason it's a problem is because it can cause significant yield reduction and cannot be treated or cured. This virus is spread by a tiny insect called a wheat curl mite. You can see a picture of it here. There are wheat varieties that are resistant; but over time, the mites can adapt, and the variety may become susceptible. The best treatment is making sure volunteer wheat in your area is taken care of, or in other words, destroyed.

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."

Ellis and Rush County, Kansas - A few days ago I gave you an update for half the crew. Today I'll give you the other half.

This part of the crew had similar issues as the one further south. We fought several days of rain and/or humidity. The wheat never completely dried down and stayed in the 12-13 percent moisture range, so it was something to be watched the entire time they were cutting. This area had some hail and disease, and we had to abandon a couple fields because there just wasn't anything there. We saw yields anywhere from 0-55 bushels per acre.  

The elevator we hauled into was nice to work with and had great service. Let me explain. When I was out at the field, the first night they were really able to cut into the evening. I asked the question, "How late is the elevator staying open?" See, you don't harvest until the elevator closes. You take your trucks in to dump as late as they'll take you. Then you bring them back to the field and fill everything back up, so they're ready to unload first thing in the morning. And this allows you a bit more precious cutting time.

Southern Kansas - The weather was relatively uncooperative when the crew was in west central Oklahoma. They were constantly catching little showers that kept them out of the field or fighting humidity. For several days, that left very slim information to share, so things have been slow in the reporting department. But all of a sudden, harvest cut loose again, so I'm going to rush to get caught up!

The crew with Mark in Custer County, Oklahoma, saw yields ranging from the 30s to 50s. Test weights were average in the 58-60 pounds per bushel range. They finished in Oklahoma last Saturday night.

West central Oklahoma - As you've read the All Aboard Wheat Harvest blog, you have likely noticed the listing of some of our contributing sponsors in the side bar of the site page. One new to the line-up is this one:

[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="464"]Untitled 10-Acre Challenge[/caption]

"What is this challenge and who are they?" you may ask. Well, I had to enlighten myself as well, so let me share with you what I discovered. The 10-Acre Challenge is a call for those in agriculture to donate ten acres of their crop to the Oklahoma Baptist Homes for Children and challenge their friends to do the same.

Clay County, Texas - Journeying along the harvest trail in the summer is not exactly conducive to an elaborate vegetable garden though I admit I did plant a lonely cucumber and pumpkin plant for the kids in hopes it would catch just enough rain until we make it for our home stop. My lack of garden is probably why I love a good farmer's markets on the trail. Getting produce picked at the peak of freshness and the fun of the actual market is a win-win. So when I learned of a "pick your own strawberries" event at a patch not too far down the road, I knew we had to do it to give the kids at least a partial garden experience. To put it mildly, it was a hit as you'll see from the pictures below.