High Plains Journal All Aboard Wheat Harvest


Category Archives: stories

Laura: It has started!
Laura Haffner

Wichita County, Texas: May 24 – Mark it in the books – the official start to the cutting season. I had almost forgotten how I love to hear the hum of the machines. The low sound almost has a calming effect on the soul, and nothing can beat the smell of fresh cut wheat!

Due to moisture, some fields have some patches that remain to be cut, so we don’t have official yield data to report yet. Test weights are coming in around 58 lbs per bushel. Hail damage has affected yields, and some fields have been zeroed out at our first stop. Today’s forecast shows a high of 99, and tomorrow shows 101 with a little wind. It should be prime cutting weather, if we can avoid the small chances for rain in the forecast. Continue Reading

Laura: When the rains come to stay, the crew will play!
Laura Haffner

Wichita County, Texas – After a couple seasons of life on the road under my belt, I’m packing lighter and lighter all the time. I don’t have time, energy or space in our camper house to deal with unnecessary clutter. So, I debated bringing the kids’ mud boots this year. Surely we wouldn’t need them for a third year in a row. I finally threw them in as a mind game and insurance policy against the imaginary Texas harvest rain gods because if we had them, we wouldn’t need them, right? Wrong. With grain moisture around 15%, we were just on the verge of being able to cut when the rains started. As I’ve stated many times in my writing, I have a terrible time wishing away rain when I come from an arid area and armed with the knowledge that this region broke out of a terrible drought just two years ago. However, the Texas weather systems and I need to have a little chat, because these harvest rains are starting to be a thing!
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Steph: Commence
Steph Osowski

Gilliland, Texas – You know how they say everything is bigger in Texas? That’s no lie. I kid you not. I had a mosquito the size of a quarter bite me today. Around dusk, Josh the Elevator Worker and I had to dance around like fools while unloading my truck in an attempt to keep them away. Not like it worked much — my arms and neck are covered in little red welts. Battle scars on the first full day of cutting, what more could you ask for? Harvest is HERE. The yields are between 20-25 bushels per acre with test weights coming in at 58 pounds. With a whopping distance of four miles to haul the grain in to the elevator, we are seeing some major progress and were able to do 250 acres on day one with our combine.
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Laura: Mom Guilt
Laura Haffner

Kansas –  For months Little Man’s prayers have been harvest/travel themed and have sounded something like this or a variation thereof, “Dear God, please watch over the combines, the wheat, the blue headers, the camper house, the splash park, and the swimming pool. AMEN!”

Just the other day we helped play musical vehicles with Ryan, which allowed us to pay a visit to headquarters where a beehive of preharvest prep was taking place. One of the crew members expressed his excitement for heading south and getting the cutting season going. He then asked me if I was excited about harvest.
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Steph: Road to Texas
Steph Osowski

Gilliland, Texas – I had a nightmare last night that my tractor/grain cart load fell off my trailer… never had I been so happy to be jolted awake by reality at 3 a.m. Sometimes road stories are bizarre and out of control like that. This road story is the exact opposite.

We were graced with perfect travel conditions and the road to Texas went off without a hitch. When we were embarking on our final travel day this morning, Bossman John asked me if I had $16 to pay for the campsite since he had no cash (and also said he would give me $20 back. As an economics major, that’s a no-brainer). I had $16 exactly and not a penny more.
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Steph: New Perspectives
Steph Osowski

Grafton, ND – Harvest time. I doubt there will ever come a time when I don’t start mentally packing for it come mid-April. My mind will wander off, daydreaming about wheat fields, and next thing I know I’m checking my apps for wheat prices, weather reports for that first stop on the wheat run and yield projections. Some friends of mine started combining in southern Texas a week or so ago and were sending me Snapchats of their combines in the wheat… I got goosebumps.

For those of you new to the program this year, here’s a quick synopsis of me. My name is Stephanie (Steph) Osowski. I’m a third generation custom harvester and am hopelessly addicted to the lifestyle. My family has always custom harvested so all my best childhood memories are either in a wheat field or somewhere along the wheat belt. Continue Reading

The Lingering Harvest of 2016
Steph Osowski

Grafton, ND – It is October 6th and I sit here being able to tell you that we are not done with wheat harvest yet. Sugar beets are being harvested, potatoes are being dug, soybeans and edibles are being combined and there is still some wheat that has yet to be taken off. We have had some desperate calls from farmers in the area that normally wouldn’t have their wheat custom harvested but since they can’t get through their fields with their wheeled-combines, the one combine we had tracks put on has been a busy little bumblebee. Dad has switched out the concaves on the combine with tracks at least 3 different times because he switches crops so often. It still amazes me how that thing can just drive right through water standing in the field. However, we have discovered it isn’t a foolproof system — the track combine has still been stuck. We have had anything from a tank puller to a 4-wheel drive tractor having to yank us out of some of the holes we have found ourselves in. It is truly unbelievable. As for the rest of Osowski Ag,  Brandon is helping out until the bitter end when college will start for him in November. Mom has gotten back on her regular work wagon but occasionally will spoil us and still bring supper out to the field.

The days have been long and the nights have been… well, the same actually. This time of year is the time to buckle down and get as much work in as you can to prepare for the long winter months. What I mean is this; dad needs help during the day for wheat/bean harvest and then Peter and I have a farmer that I take night shift for driving beet truck. I have been told recently that if you stack your feet on top of one another, try to nap and your feet topple to the sides that that is enough rest and you are good for another 8-hours. I think that is a trick I may put to the test before long. It still doesn’t know how to quit raining up here seeing as we received around half an inch in the last couple days- so that’s fun. 

I would like to take this opportunity to thank all you readers out there for your continued support of this program and our crazy lifestyles we love. This year has certainly been an interesting one but if I’m being honest, that’s something I can truly say for each and every harvest season. I know I’m lucky to have the opportunity to be able to say that. An even bigger thank you goes to High Plains Journal and New Holland Agriculture for bringing this program to life and doing everything they can to support us out in the field. The gratitude we correspondents and harvest crews alike have for you is immeasurable. So again, thank you!

As for me, I have a holiday booked for a solid month and a half to head back to South Africa and then spend some time in Europe on the trip home. People always ask me how I can do such far and long trips and my response is always the same; you just gotta book it and go from there. Hopefully we will be finished with harvest by Christmas, right?

Till next harvest, have a great year and we look forward to sharing our stories with you next season!
Waiting on the headland.
Waiting on the headland in my beet truck. To the left is the pull tractor and to the right in the beet harvester.
Dad getting pulled out by the tank puller AND 4-wheel drive.
Dad getting pulled out by the tank puller AND 4-wheel drive.
Beans.
Beans.
Grandpa Hiladore running grain cart. Isn't he the cutest?!
Grandpa Hiladore running grain cart. Isn’t he the cutest?! Note the lunch box and thermos — can’t go anywhere without those!
Peter and I, ready to haul beets.
Peter and I, about to embark on a beet harvest shift.
A cute little barn by the river.
A cute little decrepit barn by the river, surrounded by perfect fall colors.
Osowski Ag bids farewell!
Osowski Ag bids farewell!

All Aboard Wheat Harvest™ is sponsored by High Plains Journal and New Holland Agriculture. You can contact Steph at stephanie@allaboardharvest.com.

Field Swamps 101
Steph Osowski

Grafton, ND – I kid you not, there are fields with ruts from one end to the other.  No matter where the combine drove, it left a rut-shaped tattoo. That is what 95 percent of the fields look like in Walsh County, North Dakota. Since we got our tracks put on last week, dad’s phone has been ringing off the hook with more wheat to cut and it’s been the best kind of scramble. 40 acres here and 60 acres there and maybe a quarter somewhere in there each day, all for different farmers in the area. The thing about tracks is that when roading the combine from place to place, the header must always be removed and thrown on the trailer. Also, the tracks only allow for a whopping speed of 15 mph even in the highest gear the combine has to offer. Good thing we have lots of practice loading combines on trailers!

If you’re driving a combine, you need to be extra careful where you go in order to stay on solid ground. If you’re driving grain cart, you need to make sure to unload the combine extra often to keep it as empty as possible. There is also a good chance you’ll be taking the long way to the trucks to steer clear of the ruts and getting stuck yourself. If you’re driving truck, you may need to park on the road in order to not get caught full in the field with no way to move. The wheat is of good quality so it’s well worth the hectic harvest. The protein is between 13 and 14 in content and test weights are in the 60s.

I feel like a bit of a broken record lately with my posts but we seem to be stuck in a weather pattern that is determined to complicate harvest as much as possible. This past weekend, it began raining around 11p.m. and continued to be rainy and cloudy until Tuesday morning. And, low and behold, there is rain in the forecast for Wednesday afternoon and on to the end of the week. Looks like the crops will get to have another swimming lesson before harvest will begin again.
Introducing the tracks.
Introducing… the tracks.
Making dust amongst the water.
Making dust amongst the water.
Grain cart action.
Grain cart action.
Ruts on ruts.
A field of ruts.
A wheat field or a puddle?
A wheat field or a wheat puddle?
It's unbelievable how much these tracks can go through.
It’s unbelievable how much these tracks can go through.
Dad and Farmer Lloyd, surveying the mess of a field.
Dad and Farmer Lloyd, surveying the mess of a field.
Side view.
Side view.
Farmer Lloyd yells at me "your camera is going to break" as he smiles for the camera. :)
Farmer Lloyd yells at me “your camera is going to break” as he cracks a smiles. 🙂
Peeking through.
Peeking through.
Crusing around the corner.
Cruising around the corner.

All Aboard Wheat Harvest™ is sponsored by High Plains Journal and New Holland Agriculture. You can contact Steph at stephanie@allaboardharvest.com.

En route
Laura Haffner

Park, Kansas, and Highway 83: The light at the end of the wheat harvest tunnel is becoming larger and brighter by the minute. Mark and the crew in Montana completed their wheat season last week and have made their 1200+ mile journey home to Park, Kansas. While at headquarters, they will make some adjustments to the combines in preparation for corn harvest such as swap out headers, change the concaves, and oil changes. On the trucks they will complete oil changes, change tires, and any other little repair that may be needed. They will begin picking corn later this week in central Kansas.

Trucks pulling combine trailers left headquarters Saturday, and headed up to North Dakota to pick up the crew with Ryan. They had completed their wheat season and had recently moved on to harvesting canola. The last pass was made Saturday evening for the 2016 summer harvest season. After breakfast Sunday morning, the crew moved and loaded equipment for the long ride home. Just because we have completed our summer “harvest” responsibilities, I won’t count the “run” as complete, until each crew member and piece of equipment has made it safely “home.” It has been nearly three weeks since the kids and I have seen Ryan in person, so we are looking forward to his homecoming. FaceTime is a nice luxury we’ve taken advantage of and helps the miles that separate us to not seem quite so far!

Below are some photos that the crew have contributed over the past days.

HPH-2016-North Dakota (Willem)
North Dakota sunset. (Photo Credit: Willem)
 
HPH-2016-North Dakota (Pieter)
Ryan and Willem deer hunting while waiting for their meal!  This picture was humorous to me as this is the closest thing to Ryan deer hunting I’ve witnessed in all our years together! (Photo credit: Pieter)

HPH-2016-North Dakota (Ryan)
Ryan commented that his view from the office window was particularly lovely on this day! (Photo Credit: Ryan)

HPH-2016-North Dakota (Stefan)
The final days of wheat harvest in North Dakota. (Photo Credit: Stefan)

HPH-2016-North Dakota (Willem)
Last pass of wheat for the 2016 season. (Photo credit: Willem)

HPH-2016-North Dakota (Ryan)
This day was spent helping our farmer move Durham wheat out of the bin to make room for canola.

HPH - 2016 - North Dakota (Ryan)
The Montana bunch loaded and headed for home! (Photo credit: Ryan)
HPH-2016-North Dakota (Willem)
The final pass of the summer harvest run. Do you like how both combine operators relished in the glory of the last one? (Photo Credit: Willem)
HPH-2016-North Dakota (Pieter)
Another angle of the final pass. (Photo Credit: Pieter)
HPH-2016-North Dakota (Willem)
Final load of the summer season. The beautiful sunset couldn’t have been a more fitting closure! (Photo Credit: Willem)

All Aboard Wheat Harvest™ is sponsored by High Plains Journal and New Holland Agriculture. You can contact Laura at laura@allaboardharvest.com.

Keep Calm and Harvest On
Steph Osowski

Grafton, ND – We were granted a whole week of harvest before Mother Nature reigned down on us again come the weekend. See what I did there? She reigned and she rained. It was the week of my birthday so that must be why it went so well, don’t you think (it was on the 25th of August)? We have been bouncing from one farmer to another either trying to find wheat that is ripe enough to cut or a field that is dry enough to drive around on. We have been harvesting for almost a month off and on and we have yet to completely finish up a farmer. The thing is everybody is very understanding because they know they aren’t alone — everyone in the area is struggling with the same issue.

Wanna know the hot commodity around here? Tracks. It would be a good year to own a couple sets to be able to rent out because it is becoming one of the only ways to achieve progress. Dad made some phone calls and found a set to rent. The guy we are renting from charges by the acre rather than by the month to rent the tracks, which will be much cheaper in the long run. With the rains the area received again last weekend (anywhere from one to four inches), we are glad we got them! Farmer Randy went and retrieved the tracks for us and while driving back to the farm with them through Grafton, he had many phone calls asking where he got the tracks and who they were going to because they would like to have a word with the recipient. Hopefully if it dries up in the next couple days, I can give you all an update on how they work for us!

I did mention it was going to be an intermittent harvest this season but I didn’t fully realize the truth of it until now. I can’t remember a time when we have ever been so behind with harvest. Dad mentioned the other day that it hasn’t been this wet around here since 1993 so makes sense why I don’t recall that year… I was two years old. I can add two never before experienced harvest experiences to my resume this year; being a part of one of the best wheat harvests the state of Kansas has ever seen and also, being a part of one of the wettest harvests Walsh County, ND has ever seen. All we can do at the end of the day is to keep calm and harvest on!

View from the grain cart.
View from the grain cart.
Little ball of fire.
Little ball of fire.
Wheat.
A hose came loose but, we caught it quickly! Still made quite a mess though.
A hose came loose but, we caught it quickly! Still managed to make quite a mess.
Little hydraulic spill.
Little hydraulic oil spill in the wheat field.
Dad and Peter getting some parts configured.
Dad and Peter getting some parts configured.
Dusk cutting.
Dusk cutting.
Couldn't get enough of this lighting...
Couldn’t get enough of this lighting…
Combine.
Combine.
Sunset.
Sunset love.
Like I said, couldn't get enough!
Like I said, couldn’t get enough!
CAPTURED.
CAPTURED.
Coming to the end for supper.
Brandon coming to the end for supper.
Chicken alfredo...YUM.
Homemade chicken alfredo… YUM. Birthday supper at its finest.
Tis the season for corn on the cob.
Tis’ the season for corn on the cob.
Okay, one more sunset shot.
Okay, one more sunset shot.
My birthday cake!!!
My birthday cake!!! Strawberry 🙂
Isn't it so pretty? It was absolutely delicious.
Isn’t it so pretty? It was absolutely delicious.
Mama bear.
Mama bear.
Mama bear and I.
Mama bear and I.
Peter and I.
“Peeta”, when pronounced in the South African accent.
Tracks!
Tracks! Photo credit goes to Brandon on this one. I stole it from his Instagram.
All Aboard Wheat Harvest™ is sponsored by High Plains Journal and New Holland Agriculture. You can contact Steph at stephanie@allaboardharvest.com.