High Plains Journal All Aboard Wheat Harvest


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Tracy: Thank YOU!
Z Crew

Limon, CO – The final proso millet windrow was picked up and ingested by The Beast on Friday afternoon – which also coincidentally marked the first day of Fall. We can now close the books on the 2017 summer harvest. Before I go into more, I’d like to begin this post with saying thank you to all who have made it possible to share our story with you.
Z Crew
Before we got started with the millet harvest, Taylor, Callie and Eli made a trip to visit us. We had the opportunity to take a couple of days and go into the Colorado Rockies. (photo credit to Taylor Josoff Photography)


When putting something this large together, it takes so much more than just an idea. Someone has to put that idea into place and make sure it can be turned into a reality. This is the Z Crew’s ninth year of contributing to the All Aboard Wheat Harvest program. I was around when it was just an idea and Pete Weil did everything he could to make it a reality. It is now a reality, Pete, and one that so many love and appreciate (see what you did?)! There have been many people involved with this program since its inception and because this is only my second year of writing, I hesitate to start naming names. You know who you are and I want you to know how very much I appreciate your love and dedication to the program. Thank you for giving us an outlet to tell our stories…to educate others what it takes to get their food to their table.

Besides the idea and the people who make it happen, it takes money and that’s where our sponsors come in. Again, over the years, there have been various sponsors step up to the plate and make this all happen. Without you, you know it couldn’t and wouldn’t happen. Thank you to our 2017 sponsors! Some have given more than others but it takes everyone to make it happen. The sponsors who deserve the love and appreciation for making this all happen for harvest 2017 are:

John Deere
Oklahoma Baptist Homes for Children and the 10-Acre Challenge 
Unverferth and the UHarvest System
AgriPro and Syngenta
Brent Grain Carts
National Association of Wheat Growers
U.S. Wheat Associates
Colorado Wheat 
Colorado Farm Bureau
Nebraska Wheat
KFRM

I purposely left two businesses off the list because I wanted to give an extra special shout out to ITC Holdings and Kiowa County Media Center. Because of you, the Combine Cam continues to offer the All Aboard Wheat Harvest followers another segment of the harvest story – a live feed (when the cell service and weather cooperate). This summer was not a good one for the Combine Cam due to weather. Between the drought and hail, it was shut down way sooner than normal. It was a huge disappointment to me not being able to continue to provide the live feed as we have in the past but I guess it’s all a part of the 2017 harvest story…one like I’ve never seen before. Just like everything else with harvest, we can only HOPE for a better story in 2018! 

So, THANK YOU! To all of you. And to you, the reader. For seeing something that’s worth taking time out of your busy schedule to be a part of. For me, it’s just our job. I don’t see it through the eyes of someone outside looking in. I’ve often thought it would be interesting to take the view that you have and see for myself what it is that pulls you into our lifestyle. I know one thing (well maybe two), I feel blessed to be a part of this segment of agriculture and I wouldn’t change anything about how we’ve spent the last 35 years of our married life. I would have never dreamed my last summer of harvest with my parents and grandparents wouldn’t be my last!

I began this post informing you we picked up our last proso millet windrow the afternoon of 9/22. We had been going pretty much every day for the previous 18 days. Some days were longer than others. The mornings were sometimes a bit “dewy” and it would take most of the morning to dry off. Other days, we could get started about 9:30 or 10:00. The days are beginning to get shorter so most evenings ended about 7:00. Moisture was plentiful when the proso needed it during the growing season. That resulted in a better than average crop with heavy test weight. Our farmer family isn’t done with the millet harvest. We have been able to help them with just half of what they have laid down. But it’s time to head home for soybeans and corn. The rains moved in on Saturday (9/23) and we knew by the time the millet was dry enough to start being picked up again, it would be too late for us to help.
 
Z Crew
This is what proso millet looks like prior to being swathed and laid into a windrow.
 
Z Crew
Proso millet windrow.

Z Crew
The view from the driver’s seat.
 


What’s next for the Z Crew? The plan is to clean the combine and maintenance on the trucks prior to making the first of two trips home. Our farmer family will continue their harvest of millet and corn without us. I just heard Jim tell someone he hopes to make the first trip mid to later part of this week and then he’s hoping to be back in the soybeans mid to later part of next week. 

Personally, this is always a difficult transition for me. Even though I am anxious to get home to be with the kids and grandkids again, it’s the change of what is currently “normal” and routine to a new “normal” and routine (even though it’s familiar) that is very difficult. I don’t think I can explain it to you in words that would make sense. When we picked up that last windrow and I dumped the last bin full of grain in the truck, I texted Tara of Mark Heil Harvesting. Of all people, I knew she would understand. And she didn’t let me down. Her reply was EXACTLY how I felt, “I’m sad for you. I understand completely how you feel. It’s a little bit of a relief but mostly just such a chilling, empty feeling to turn it off and climb down the ladder after the last dump and know you’re not coming out to run in the morning regardless of how nice the weather is. Doesn’t matter what the calendar or thermometer say — on that day, there’s a little winter on the inside.”  

YES! She nailed it!

Until next time…
Z Crew
Before we ever got started with the millet harvest, Taylor, Callie and Eli made a trip out to see us over the Labor Day weekend. Because we were unable to be in the field, we took the time to head to the Rockies. I promised Eli we would play in a stream and climb a mountain. Here he is with his Papa having a great time throwing rocks in the lake.
 
Z Crew
Taylor and Callie being their silly selves – Cottonwood Pass, Colorado
.
Z Crew
Playing in the magical river at the Great Sand Dunes National Park, Colorado. Sand and water…what more could a boy need? Maybe a dump truck or two.
 
Z Crew
The last picture of the three amigos as we were making our way back to the trailer house. They would head home again early the next morning.
 
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Typical view through my window – nearly every day.

Z Crew
There was a stretch of time where these clouds built up almost every night. It would shower just enough to prevent us from getting a good start the next morning. Made for a pretty picture, though!

Z Crew
Looks like Jack found a space ship in the field! This is the base of one of the 190 wind turbines being built in the surrounding area of the fields we cut. Each base takes at least 30 truckloads of cement. After it’s set, the dirt will be replaced and it will look like this:

Z Crew
Lots of bolts to work with! I wonder if they ever have any issues with the holes of the tower lining up with them? The countryside will certainly look different next year!
  
Z Crew
At one point, there were three different farming actions taking place on this farm…swathing, harvesting and planting the 2018 wheat crop. This picture was taken on 9/11. Since then, the field has turned green with the HOPE of next year!

Z Crew
Just one of the benefits of this job – a beautiful sunset to enjoy nearly every night!

Z Crew
One morning before we headed to the field, I took a picture of my “garden” to show the girls. My two buckets of flowers were shining brightly this particular day!

Z Crew
Jack and Jim looking pretty deep in thought! I’m guessing they were trying to figure out how the move to the next field was going to happen.

Z Crew
Jim and The Pete…with Pikes Peak in the background.

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Pretty much my same position most days! Can you see Pikes Peak in the background?

Z Crew
Yep, another one of those sunsets!

Z Crew
The final sunset of Summer 2017. Sorta ready to shut the book on this adventure and think about 2018! I CAN’T WAIT TIL SPRING!

All Aboard Wheat Harvest™ is sponsored by High Plains Journal and
John DeereTracy Zeorian can be reached at zcrew@allaboardharvest.com.

Steph: There’s no place like harvest
Steph Osowski

Grafton, ND – Upon leaving Colorado after my Harvest Support adventure left, the Graham Family that I became familiar with (and let me tell you, to know them is to love them) came to bid farewell to me and Monte. The three Graham kids were asking all sorts of questions and the one that stuck out the most was when little Chase exclaims, “I won’t ever see you again!” My heart broke a little because it was so adorable but my response was simple. “Oh yes you will — we’re harvesters!”

The Harvest Support truck finished up the season the last week of August and I’ve been back home ever since. It’s amazing how long a person can be gone from home and it somehow feels like you never left. It is also amazing how dirty my apartment got without anyone actually living in it for months but that’s another story.

Harvest around here is without a doubt in full swing. Wheat is pretty well taken care of so now the transition to fall crops has begun. Between daycare, nannying and hauling potatoes for the harvest, I’ve been anything but idle. Sugar beet harvest will begin first week in October and that’s basically considered a holiday in this area. I kid you not, people use their vacation time from their “day jobs” to come haul beets for local farmers. I even have a friend from college coming up from  Minnesota to get in on the action. It’s a kind of a big deal.

What a roller coaster year, huh? To be honest, nothing surprises me anymore. Growing up a harvester, there’s one thing for certain and that is — nothing is certain. Always expect the unexpected. In fact, expect it with a smile. To me, there’s nothing better than the unexpected because that’s truly when we grow as human beings. Staying in the comfort zone gets you nowhere. High Plains Journal continues to be awesome from year to year, providing me with this program to tell you harvester tales and my gratitude only grows from year to year. A big ol’ thanks also goes to John Deere, Syngenta, Unverferth and the Oklahoma Baptist Homes for Children. You’ll never truly know how appreciative us corespondents are for your support to our livelihood! There’s no place like harvest.

You might be asking yourself, “where in the world will Steph go next?” Well, I’ll be heading to South Africa again this winter and scheduled a couple solo trips on my way home (Abu Dhabi, UAE and Nice, France). Once you get the travel bug, it demands serious attention. And as recently discovered, more and more attention each year. I read somewhere that you weren’t born to just work, pay bills and die. Kind of a harsh way to put it but, I plan to have many stories for the rocking chair when I grow old.

Until next year — I wish everyone a prosperous fall harvest and a safe and toasty winter. Happy harvest!

Quote of the Day – “Why’d you break it? Grandpa wants to work.”

Stuff Harvesters Do –
Naturally gravitate towards other harvesters. In a crowd, at a restaurant, attending a concert… anywhere.

Cabover Alert FINAL:
C&K Harvesting – 115
Anderson Harvesting – 131.5
MacDon Harvest Support – 73

Rainbow captured on the way out of Colorado.
Rainbow captured on the way out of Colorado.
Repping the HarvestHer brand!
Repping the HarvestHer brand!
Unloading the potatoes out of the the live-bottom truck I'm driving for Lone Wolf Farms.
Unloading the potatoes out of the the live-bottom truck I’m driving for Lone Wolf Farms out of Minto, ND.
At the warehouse where all the trucks unload.
At the warehouse where all the trucks unload.
Conveying their way into the warehoue.
Conveying their way into the warehouse.
Sunrising on the day.
Sunrising on the day.
Heart shaped potato!
Heart shaped potato! See, carbs really are love.
Mounds and mounds of taters.
Mounds and mounds of taters.
Lone Wolf Farms; est. 1938. 4000 total acres that vary between potatoes, sugar beets, wheat and soybeans. Classic family farm ran by 2 brothers (Chris, Josh) their dad (Keith) and grandfather (Dean). The fave color is, of course, "red like the potatoes."
Lone Wolf Farms; est. 1938. 4000 total acres that vary between potatoes, sugar beets, wheat and soybeans. Classic family farm ran by 2 brothers (Chris, Josh) their dad (Keith) and grandfather (Dean). Their fave color is, of course, “red like the potatoes.”
Potatoes is all about moving parts.
Potatoes is all about moving parts.
Trucker selfie in my HarvestHer shirt.
Trucker selfie in my HarvestHer shirt.
Sunrise.
Sunrise.
Nanny life. That face he made was PRICELESS.
Nanny life. That face he made was PRICELESS.
Had to include a couple favorites from the wheat run.
Had to include a couple favorites from the wheat run.
Happy harvest!
Happy harvest!

All Aboard Wheat Harvest is sponsored by High Plains Journal and John Deere. You can contact Steph at stephanie@allaboardharvest.com.

Steph: Change of scenery (again)
Steph Osowski

Monte Vista, CO – Harvest is unpredictable. If you’ve heard it once, you’ve heard it a thousand times over from each individual correspondent. This year has brought around many changes for individual harvesters and crews alike and in the spirit of that, another change has occurred in my usually predictable summer schedule.

Given the amount of acres burned up in western ND, the acres promised ended up not being the acres given. Having a full crew with less acres than you bargained for is a difficult situation to be in. Right as all this was happening, there was an opportunity for me to join the New Holland Harvest Support team for the duration of harvest. 

So, here I am, from harvest crew member to Harvest Support member, from campground to Holiday Inn. Monte and I got to the San Luis Valley in Colorado just a couple days ago and have been making field visits to the Graham’s who live and harvest in this area. Barley harvest will be in full swing come the weekend but some progress has been made, slow as it may be. This area is unbelievably beautiful — I find myself gawking at my surroundings frequently in a day and being grateful for the opportunity to be in the location as well as the position I’m in. What a summer, huh?

Quote of the Day – “Did the combine always rumble like that or can I only hear it now since I got my new hearing aids?”

Stuff Harvesters Do – Consider beef jerky its own food group.
Grain cart selfie!
Grain cart selfies! Chase, myself and Casey.
The background is to die for.
The background is to die for.
Way too cool.
Way too cool.
The Rockies.
The Rockies.
Monte of Harvest Support, likely giving some combine advice to the Graham girls.
Monte of Harvest Support, likely giving some combine advice to a couple of the Graham girls.
Shelby to my right, Chase at my hip. These kids are great! Just mising Haedyn.
Shelby to my right, Chase at my hip. These kids are great! Just missing Haedyn, who is behind the camera taking the photo. Some true harvest kids right here.
Chase riding with his mama, Casey, in the grain cart.
Chase riding with his mama, Casey, in the grain cart.
That face though... ha ha!
That face though… ha ha!
Blowing dust.
Blowing barley dust in every which way.
Love all the wildflowers growing in all the ditches.
Love all the wildflowers growing EVERYWHERE.
Unloading on Casey in the grain cart.
Unloading on Casey in the grain cart.
Chase reminds me SO much of my brother when he was little.
Chase reminds me SO much of my brother when he was little.
Trucks all lined up (with a gorgeous mountain backdrop to boot).
Trucks all lined up (with a gorgeous mountain backdrop to boot).
Dave and his epic mustache.
Dave and his epic mustache.
All Aboard Wheat Harvest is sponsored by High Plains Journal and John Deere. You can contact Steph at stephanie@allaboardharvest.com.

Steph: Anti-habitual
Steph Osowski

Mandan, ND – My mom got asked by my neighbor when I’m coming home. He also asked if the reason I’m never home is because I work for the FBI. My only hope is that her answer was, “that’s classified.”

This topic is something that has probably been brought up by everyone I know so I feel the need to touch on it. Not just for me but for harvesters everywhere. And also, for anyone who spends time on the road for work. I’ve been asked the same questions umpteen times, year after year; When are you coming home? How long will you be gone? Don’t you miss home? As an economics major, the answer to 99.9 percent of economic questions is “it depends” and the same goes for harvest/agriculture. The newest question that has arose is “when are you going to get a real job?”

Now, that last question can be taken many ways. How do I take it? Simple. A “real job” is one that pays you and most importantly, one that you can enjoy. Harvest is what I enjoy… I have even more passion for it than I realize. It has always been the center of the year, everything else falling in place around it. Harvest is the constant and everything else fills in the blanks. May till October/November are the busiest months of the year, working long hours seven days a week. The months when other people take time off and go to the lake are the months harvesters work the most; the months the money is made. The other months are for less time-constraining activities. Those off-months have given me the opportunity of freedom and flexibility and those are the two things that keep me going on those sporadic days when I catch myself wishing I could have some free time without a steering wheel to control. Harvest has probably ruined my chances of ever being happy at a desk job, but it has opened so many other doors that I think I can forgive it for that. Harvest is my real job and always will be.

As for the harvest in western ND, it’s been a slow moving process. The wheat has taken its time turning and elevators are only open till 5pm on account of lack of truck traffic. And on top of all that, rain showers have sailed through the area followed by moderate temperatures so the wheat doesn’t dry up as quickly as it could be. Unreal — August in North Dakota and the average temperature has been 70 degrees. Comfortable, but wheat likes heat and wind.

Cabover Alert update;
C&K Harvesting – 109
Anderson Harvesting – 115
MacDon Harvest Support – 63.5

Quote of the Day “Nothing haunts me like the cabovers I missed.”

Stuff Harvesters Do – While driving from place to place, crane your neck so bad that it almost cracks in half in an attempt to watch other combines cutting to see what kind of job their doing.
Wheat and sunflowers?! Too beautiful.
Wheat and sunflowers?! Too beautiful.
Sunflowers.
Sunflowers.
Sunflower field.
Sunflower field.
Long distance combine.
Long distance combine.
Almost a full load.
Almost a full load.
Neverending North Dakota country.
Never-ending North Dakota country.
Wheat as far as the eye can see.
Wheat as far as the eye can see.
Closeup.
Close-up.
Meet Ryker! New crewmember from Apache, Okla.
Meet Ryker! New crewmember from Apache, Okla.
A rare photo of me in the wheat field... ha ha!
A rare photo of me in the wheat field… ha ha!

 

Never a dull moment out here.
Never a dull moment out here.
All Aboard Wheat Harvestis sponsored by High Plains Journal and John Deere. You can contact Steph at stephanie@allaboardharvest.com.

Steph: Harvester’s hangout – part 2
Steph Osowski

Scranton, North Dakota – You know how when someone goes, “Hey, tell me a story,” and you draw a total and utterly complete blank? Then later on when you’re going about your daily life, the perfect story comes to mind, and you think “Dang, too bad I couldn’t have thought of that earlier.” Well, pretty sure that’s how this whole “harvester’s hangout” segment is going to go. Therefore, I bring you part two.

  1. It seems every year, there is one specific song that is the “song of the summer.” Back in 2006, the song was Love Today by Mika. He was quite the European pop sensation back then, but he has fallen off the grid since. Anyway, this guy is a soprano. It’s pretty insane. When the crew was in Ogallala, Nebraska, we took the crew out to the lake. So my mom, dad, brother, myself and three hired hands were all piled into the Suburban heading back, and this song comes on. By this point in the summer, everyone knew it pretty well given how often it just so happened to be played. The whole Suburban was singing along to the song, and to this day, I don’t know how no windows were broken.
  2. Just like the “song of the summer,” there always seems to be a “movie of the summer.” Back in the late 90s, my dad purchased Happy Gilmore on VHS. We wore that thing out. I remember sitting in the living room of the fifth wheel Country Aire my parents used to have and trying to decide what movie to watch, and somehow, we would keep going back to it. The whole crew quoted the movie incessantly and to this day, I can still quote the entire movie word for word.
  3. This one was told to me by Papa T, so this is an Anderson Harvesting original. Last harvest in Texas, the crew went to town for groceries and also purchased a grill. Rather than buying a grill that would need to be put together, they wanted the one on display to be able to get to the actual grilling that much sooner. Once all the groceries and grill were packed away into the pickup, they grabbed the grill and shook it, seeing how stable it was. Feeling confident, they decided not to strap it down and head back. Not far down the road, they met a Peterbilt pulling a cattle trailer, flying down the highway. The sheer forces of speed and suction lifted the grill and groceries out of the back of the pickup, and they decorated the highway. There were pickles and peanut butter everywhere. One of the hired hands was devastated about the pickles and managed to salvage a few by picking them up off the highway and eating them. Believe it or not — the grill survived! However, when they left Texas, the grill ended up getting left in the haste of harvest transition.

Enjoy and happy harvest!

All Aboard Wheat Harvest is sponsored by High Plains Journal and John Deere. You can contact Steph at stephanie@allaboardharvest.com.

Mike: Cutting down downtime
Mike: Cutting down downtime avatar

Photo by Bill Spiegel
Mike Barnett has well over two decades of experience on the wheat harvest trail as a leader with the John Deere Harvester Works Customer Support Team. For this special edition of the All Aboard Wheat Harvest™ podcastMike is on the line with AAWH’s Sarah Moyer discuss the evolution of this support team and how he started with the program. Tune in to step out on the road with Mike.

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Steph: Hot dog stands
Steph Osowski

Scranton, North Dakota – On one corner, the wheat is days away from being ready to cut. Across the road, the field is grass green and won’t be ready for weeks. A hop and a skip down the road, wheat is being swathed and baled. When the insurance company is paying the farmer to bale rather than harvest, how could you say no? It’s tough for me as a harvester to type that, but I also understand profit margins. Don’t be surprised if harvest crews add some instruments and a hot dog stand to their crew. Just imagine, the crew/band playing some country music and selling hot dogs in the wheat field. Combines park strategically around the bandstand, passing the time before the wheat ripens. Sounds pretty awesome, actually. Continue Reading

Steph: Mountainous
Steph Osowski

Alliance, Nebraska – Okay, tell me honestly; if I were to have a fleet of pink cabovers with white hopper bottoms that coincidentally have pink polka dots, how do you think that would go over? It was a thought-out-loud I had the other day and every member of the crew has a different opinion. I know a certain little harvest girl (Miss Carley Russell) who would be the first in line to drive one.

I’m writing this from a hotel in Alliance, Neb. With my family, we cut in Hemingford for many, many years so this area is all too familiar to me. This morning/afternoon in Pine Bluffs, we took duels off the combine, loaded up the combine, loaded up the grain cart, and fixed a valve on the grain cart trailer. It was HOT. Everything we touched was all but smoking from the heat and the cloud cover that would sporadically bring us shade brought out an audible sigh of relief from all of us. Continue Reading

Steph: Harvester’s hangout
Steph Osowski

Pine Bluffs, Wyoming – Anderson Harvesting is at its first standstill of the harvest 2017 season. Farmer Lance, with his 25 bushel average/62 pound test weight crop, is all cut up and now the real question arises; where do we go from here? John’s ear and his phone have been inseparable for the past few days and the decision is still up in the air. But, as Papa T said, “you go where the wheat is ripe.” Western ND is looking like the best bet!

So, since I’m running low on harvest action, I’m going to try something a little different. I’ve decided to call this little segment the “harvester’s hangout”.  What this will be is me telling three harvester tales of yesteryear. Imagine a room full of harvesters with their scuffed up boots and ball caps in a cafe, exchanging laughs and stories with one another for hours and hours; that’s the feel I’m going for. So, grab a nice cup of coffee and have a comfortable seat because that’s how the best tales are received. Continue Reading

Laura: Learning on the road
Laura: Learning on the road avatar

High Plains Harvesting (2017-Laura)
Photo by Laura Haffner

Laura Haffner and AAWH’s Sarah Moyer talk about balancing family and business during harvest. In addition to the lessons they find from the HPH crew, she focuses on her children’s character development and creating impactful experiences for them on the road. Tune in to step into the field with Laura.

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