High Plains Journal All Aboard Wheat Harvest


Category Archives: Photos

Laura: Fire danger
Laura Haffner

Hardin, Montana – Things can get pretty dry in Montana in the summer. That doesn’t sound like that unusual because a lot of places get dry. However, it takes on a different meaning when you’re dealing with some of the desolate areas that make up the state. There aren’t always the square north/south or east/west roads every mile or so like you find in some parts of the plains. If lightning strikes, and a fire starts, it’s not always very easy to fight because of the very remote, and often rough terrain. Same can be true for a fire started by harvest equipment. The fields in the part of the world can be very large, I’m talking 1000+ acres. If a fire starts and blows through a field, the consequences can be devastating and extremely difficult to fight. Crews are often driven from the field for rain, but at this stop, the crews have been asked to shut down when the fire risk seems especially high, which is completely understandable.  There are disastrous fires currently burning in the state. Continue Reading

Laura: Montana
Laura Haffner

Hardin, Montana – For those of you who have been waiting for the Montana pictures, well, you’re in luck. They’re starting to trickle in. Montana usually seems to be a highlight for the crew and readers probably because it so unique environmentally. They don’t call it “Big Sky Country” for nothing! The report from Mark and the crew up in Montana is that they’re cutting in absolutely beautiful country. They’ve seen lots of deer and other various forms of wildlife. The harvest has been respectable too. At the first farm, they’ve seen yields mainly in the 40-60 range with spikes all the way up to 100 bushels per acre. Below are some photos they’ve sent in. Continue Reading

Laura: The middle of somewhere
Laura Haffner

Eastern Colorado – Due to a lack of urban centers, I’m guessing a lot of people would deem where we’re currently cutting the middle of nowhere. It is true we are miles and miles from the nearest village or town, but despite all that, “I” would say we’re in the middle of somewhere. That somewhere is beautiful. Brave little houses and farmsteads dot the landscape — those few still willing to take on the unpredictable windswept prairie. Signs of days gone by are here too. I see the abandoned one-room school house and the occasional forgotten skeleton of a house that was once a happy home. Who were these people that once inhabited these spots, and what became of them? Song birds flutter on the breeze. The swish-swish of wheat and grass can be heard, and in the words of Louis Lamar, “The wind, always the wind.” Cattle peacefully chew the grass. And the view… one can see for miles. 

It’s out here that there are few distractions. One can think out here, breathe out here, and just be. Sometimes I wonder how I got so lucky that I am to see these places that most rarely, if ever do. I have to think that a lot of the world’s problems could be overcome if we just took a little R&R on the prairie to clear the air in our souls and minds.  Continue Reading

Janel: What’s it going to be?
Janel Schemper

Pierre, South Dakota – We made the big trip from Western Nebraska up to the Pierre, South Dakota area, and there is definitely a big ole drought going on. I was told that there really hasn’t been any rain at home in Nebraska since May, and South Dakota looks to be the same way. I could see the drought results as I traveled across Kansas, Nebraska and South Dakota last week. Kansas looked alright, but as soon as I was in Nebraska I could see it. And it became worse as I traveled into South Dakota.

On the way up here we ran into road construction at Mission, South Dakota. There was a sign at Valentine, Nebraska that said road construction and width restriction 31 miles ahead. We asked around in Valentine; and everyone said they had seen lots of combines going north, and we could get through there. We got up to Mission, and there it was. There they were working on the main street that we travel, and our wide loads couldn’t fit through because of the cones. I wonder how many combines have just been hauled through there anyway. A local was nice enough to stop and tell us to turn around at the school, go back a mile and then head west on the gravel. Then at the dead end, go north up to Highway 18 and we would be back on the right track again to Highway 83 north. There was no detour route sign anywhere. For goodness sakes, why not? Continue Reading

Steph: Roars in the rotor
Steph Osowski

Bayard, Nebraska – Well, courtesy of AAWH, Anderson Harvesting will be heading back south a bit to Pine Bluffs, Wyoming to continue the wheat run. Farmer Lance awaits us our arrival and Farmer Don can sit back and relax, knowing his wheat is safe and sound in the bins of the elevator. He averaged about 35 bushels per acre with test weights between 62-65 pounds. Our next fields are right in the corner of Wyoming, Colorado and Nebraska. I’ve always wanted to be in three places at once, and I just might get my shot.

A fun fact — Farmer Don’s son brought his family out to spend some time in the field and experience harvest. The following day, his wife and kids went off to a family reunion and he stayed. Little did I know, it was his birthday! This became known to me after the fact. And I didn’t even get to wish him a “happy birthday,” but all he wanted to do was spend his birthday in a wheat field. That’s music to a harvester’s ears. Continue Reading

Janel: It was fun while it lasted
Janel Schemper

Western Nebraska – This year I was in Kansas longer than expected due to the evening rain showers. We couldn’t ever work really late like we needed to and put in our time because we’d get shut down by the rain most evenings. The weather really messed with us. 

Thankfully, my brother Jared and Uncle Lonny were able to harvest most all of our wheat jobs in Western Nebraska before we got there. We did still get to stop there and cut for a few days, which was great. Disappointingly, the wheat I cut didn’t yield well due to mosaic disease. The wheat looked decent from the road, but the mosaic disease really got to it this year. However, Western Nebraska has some of the most beautiful sunsets with such beautiful colors. I didn’t get to cut there long enough this year to enjoy them.  Continue Reading

Steph: Gummy worms
Steph Osowski

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. Continue Reading

Laura: Kansas Complete
Laura Haffner

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. Continue Reading

Janel: Harvest ups and downs
Janel Schemper

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.   Continue Reading

Laura: Nearly done with Kansas
Laura Haffner

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. Continue Reading