High Plains Journal All Aboard Wheat Harvest


Category Archives: Videos

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.
 
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Proso millet windrow.

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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.
 
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Taylor and Callie being their silly selves – Cottonwood Pass, Colorado
.
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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.
 
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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.

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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!

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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!

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

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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!

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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.

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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?

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Yep, another one of those sunsets!

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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.

Tracy: And yet it’s all the same
Z Crew

Chester, Montana – It’s ALL different – the routine is different, the combines are different, the trucks are different and the scenery is different. And yet it’s all the same. 

The Mattson Farms harvest crew consists of five Gleaner combines, two tractors/grain carts and a whole slug of trucks. Four of the five combines are driven by women – Kerry, Megan, Tasha and me. Prior to our arrival, Janice (Carl’s wife) was in the combine I am now running. They have three young men from South Africa (Koos, Mynhardt and Johnathan) for the summer and the rest of the crew are men who have helped them with their harvest in past years (William, Bill, Al, Butch and Quanah). Gabe is a senior in college and is visiting the crew for a week. Travis is the mechanic (I refer to him as the Maytag Repair man) and this leaves Carl and Vince – the two in charge. There are 16 lunch boxes filled each morning.

Speaking of lunch boxes… do you know how much better a lunch prepared by hands other than yours tastes? I am so appreciative of the filled lunch box and a hot meal at the end of the day!

This reminds me of a couple more harvest hands to add to the list. Vince and Kerry live on the farm and have two children. Since Kerry is in a combine all day, they hire a babysitter for kids. Kennedy and Ahmia have tag-teamed this job. These two gals have been the ones preparing the evening meals – but not totally. Most of the meals are pre-made and in the freezer so all the girls (and kids) have to do is cook the main meal and prepare a side dish.

The only real complaint I have is the lack of cell service here. When we first pulled into the yard and realized there was NO SERVICE, I thought my life was going to end right then and there! How in the world would I be able to keep up with all that I’ve got going on? Seems it’s not as difficult as I first thought (and it’s even sort of nice)! However I do miss being able to call the kids once in a while – but have found out facetime works quite well.

I was concerned about running a combine that was different than what I was used to. I rode with Janice for most of the first morning to get the feel of the land and the machine. I was a little apprehensive at first but it seemed as the day grew longer, the more at ease I was feeling. I’ve already been asked by several, “How does the Gleaner compare to the New Holland”? There’s no comparison. The Gleaner is 20 years older than the New Holland. It’s the bells and whistles on the New Holland that I miss – and the fact that it can eat through the heavy crop much easier. So, I have had to change my attitude about cutting wheat – slow and steady!! But in all honesty, other than the age difference, they both do exactly what they’re supposed to do – cut grain.

The one thing I DO think about while sitting in the cab of the Gleaner is my old buddy, “The Beiner”. If Kevin Bein was alive today, I just know he’d be smiling from ear to ear knowing I was sitting in one of “his” machines. I have to wonder if he isn’t sitting next to me on the buddy seat. Darn, I miss talking to him!

We finished our fifth day of work on the Mattson Farm today – August 4th. Vince explained to me the drought line begins in Havre. From Havre east, severe drought; from Havre west, the crops fared much better. The further west you go, the better they are. We’re cutting winter wheat that will average 50 to 60+ bushels per acre. I was told the stand was so beautiful this spring and they were expecting better yields and then they got a late season freeze. So it could have been better but considering the year, I think they’re sitting pretty darn good! The quality is excellent…61-63 pounds and protein has been 13%-15%.

From tonight’s supper conversation, we should be done with the winter wheat tomorrow. What next? Either Durum or Chickpeas (garbanzo beans). Either one will be interesting to me since I’ve never had anything to do with either. So…stay tuned!

Z Crew: because it's what Harvesters do.
Our new location.
Z Crew: Because that's what Harvesters do!
We did have one rain day since we arrived. Jim and Koos are putting a steering wheel kit on the new auger.
Z Crew: Because it's what Harvesters do!
This thing is a monster and without the steering wheel addition, it was practically immovable.
Z Crew: Because it's what harvesters do.
The daily menu.
Z Crew: because it's what Harvesters do!
Tasha, Ahmia and Kerry preparing about a jillion sandwiches every day.
Z Crew: Because that's what Harvesters do!
The assembly line begins about 7:00 each morning. While the gals are busy putting these lunches together, I am in charge of water jugs and filling lemonade bottles. I’ve been taught how to create a refreshing mid-afternoon treat. Fill water or Gatorade bottles 2/3 full of lemonade and freeze overnight. The next morning, fill the bottle to the top with more lemonade. As the frozen lemonade melts, it creates a slush. Pretty good on a hot day!
Z Crew: because it's what Harvesters do.
Please don’t tell The Beast it’s been replaced for a little while. This ‘ole girl and I have become pretty good friends over the last couple of days.
Z Crew: Because that's what Harvesters do!
Partial line-up of trucks waiting to head to the field.
Z Crew: Because that's what Harvesters do!
Dang! These Montana wheat fields are big!
Z Crew: Because that's what Harvesters do!
The hills in the background are called the Sweet Grass Hills. The elevation of the highest point is 6,983 ft.
Z Crew: because it's what Harvesters do.
These hills in the field look like they’re no big deal – until you start climbing them. I had to put it in first gear to make it up and over. I honestly don’t know how the people cut wheat in the Palouse! They are a whole lot more brave than I am!
Z Crew: because it's what Harvesters do.
I am most impressed with the width of the swath we take compared to what I’m used to.  Five combines with 40 foot heads = 200 foot swaths. It’s quite amazing to watch big acres disappear so quickly.
Z Crew: because it's what Harvesters do.
This group is so organized but it doesn’t happen on its own. Carl’s son, Vince, is the orchestra leader. He’s in the tractor/grain cart shown in this picture all day long constantly on the two-way directing everyone’s next move – much like a symphony. I really am quite amazed how he keeps everyone moving in the right direction but I do feel sorry for how often he hears his name being called out.
Z Crew: because it's what Harvesters do.
Making the move to another field.
Z Crew: because it's what Harvesters do.
Vince and Travis working on a noise I was hearing in the machine.
Z Crew: because it's what Harvesters do.
I don’t know much about the unloading process since I’m in the combine all day. However, they’ve got it perfected! Jim said it’s pretty nice not having to get out of the truck to weigh at the scale or to dump. There is someone at each station keeping the flow moving. Above, William is the truck driver and Gabe is helping him get the truck dumped.
Z Crew: because it's what Harvesters do.
Awfully nice winter wheat!
Z Crew: Because that's what Harvesters do!
Tasha had to come to my rescue. My bin filled before I could get myself cut out of the line I was opening up. So, I had to follow her out of the cut.
Z Crew: Because that's what Harvesters do!
Finishing another field with the Sweet Grass Hills in the background.
Z Crew: Because that's what Harvesters do!
Action shot – while waiting for Tasha to get dumped. At one point, the grain carts couldn’t keep up and we had to wait for them in the field.
Z Crew: because it's what Harvesters do.
The end of another day!
Z Crew: because it's what Harvesters do.
The evening lineup.
Z Crew: because it's what Harvesters do.
No explanation required!
Z Crew: Because it's what Harvesters do!
Another day of work comes to an end.




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

Tracy: My Harvest Top 10 List
Z Crew

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.  Continue Reading

Tracy: Full speed ahead!
Z Crew

Claude, Texas – Good grief! We go from not sure what to do next to full speed ahead! We just completed our sixth consecutive day of being in the field (06/15). 

Last night, I had a few things to catch up on – one being bills that needed to be paid. I had to look at my phone to see what the date was. My brain did this weird little thing when I saw it was the 14th. I felt like I had completely lost a day (or two). It was the strangest feeling. You see, when we’re out here doing what we do, it’s just day after day after day. No reason to really know what the date is until you have to step back in the “normal” world once in a while… like to pay bills.  Continue Reading

Tracy: Joining the party
Z Crew

Claude, Texas – After all the pre-harvest preparations, details taken care of and tears shed, we can finally say we joined the #harvest17 party today (6/10). 

We woke up to a heavy fog again this morning and very cool temps. But, the weatherman had been warning us of the impending heat and wind. It had been decided the night before we would get up early and move our equipment to a 400-acre field west of our current headquarters. By the time we made the move and had everything situated, we hoped the field would be ready to sample.  Continue Reading

Laura: Texas Wheat Harvest Video
Laura Haffner

North Texas – To all of you wishing you were out cutting in a field or those who just need something to get you through until harvest reaches your area, I made you a little something.  Enjoy!



All Aboard Wheat Harvest™ is sponsored by High Plains Journal and John Deere. Laura can be reached at laura@allaboardharvest.com.

Tracy: Be patient heart…it will only hurt a little while
Z Crew

Manley, Nebraska – The preparations have been ongoing for quite some time. The talk about harvest and when we’ll be leaving has been happening for more than a month. I’ve often thought about creating a sign and start wearing it every day about the first of April. What would this sign say? It would say…”I don’t know when we’re leaving”. Maybe I should just create a t-shirt! So, THINKING about harvest and DOING harvest are two different things…two different worlds. 
Continue Reading

Patiently Waiting and Q&A
Laura Haffner

Garrison, North Dakota—The kids and I survived the long trek to North Dakota. They really did as well as I could have hoped, but that doesn’t mean this mama wasn’t just a little stressed.  But, all’s well that ends well! For now, I’m just going to pretend the return trip doesn’t exist!

I have been in North Dakota before, but this is my first time for an extended stay. What beautiful country I find myself in. Gently rolling farm land can be seen in all directions. We are staying just a few short miles from the Missouri River and Lake Sakakawea, the third largest man-made reservoir in the United States. The weather has been warm, but pleasant with just a hint of coolness in the breeze.

After cutting nonstop for weeks, the harvest has finally caught up to itself. The wheat isn’t quite ready here (nor in Montana where Mark is), so we’ve been getting to have some much needed family time. It seems we have a few days together back-to-back and then we may go for weeks with very minimal time together. I’m trying to soak it in while we have it. We’ve tried to do a few out of the ordinary fun things like take the kids to the lake to play on the beach and water. Too bad prime lake time coincides directly with prime harvesting time otherwise we might make it a habit. Ryan’s tan lines (not pictured) made it obvious we aren’t lake people! We’ve also done more ordinary things like going to the park and getting to go for runs/walks as a family.

That’s the latest harvest news, such as it is. Hopefully I can write later in the week that we’re going. This stop has on-farm grain storage so they will let us cut at 16 percent moisture, which will help us get started a little sooner.

In the mean time, while we wait for harvest, I thought I may address several questions that have popped up over the season with a common theme. I attempted to do something new a few weeks ago and make a video to answer all the questions, but I think I need a little practice in broadcast journalism before we go live with that. Nothing says “humbling” more than listening to your own voice on video. I could probably make a bloopers movie from all our rejected footage. I would get almost to the end of my information and then I’d get stuck on the word rotor. For some reason, I kept saying router. Ryan would say, “Honey, practice. It’s a rotor, roooooowwwwwwww-ter…” To which I would be, “I know what a rotor is and how to say it, I just can’t spit it out!” Then there were toddler interjections and baby babble and the ill timed radio chatter or Ryan forgetting we were live and comment on something. It was hilarious! As a result, here are written answers.

Why do we run stripper headers? Many of our farmers desire to run stripper headers to aid them in their no-till conversation practices. Since the headers just take the grain from the head, the remaining plant is left standing in the field. This helps holds snow in place in winter in snowy areas and shades the ground helping with weed suppression.

What caused the wheat to go down (become lodged)? Some examples of conditions that may cause it to go down are excess moisture weakening the straw, wind, grain too heavy for the straw to support, or a combination of these conditions.  

What is the main way a stripper header is different than the draper headers? The headers are very different. The most basic explanation is the draper headers cut the wheat stem at a desired height, then, the majority of the plant is fed into the combine. Stripper headers “comb” the plants, if you will. This combing motion pops the seeds out of the head and the grain is then fed into the combine leaving plant residue in the field.

How are the stripper headers in down (lodged) wheat? The headers work fine in lodged wheat. The combing motion of the fingers can pick it up. It allows less material to run through the combine, making it easier to collect the grain. When running a draper header in lodged wheat, a lot of plant material runs through the combine. Sometimes it’s hard for the machine to separate the grain and plant matter in those conditions.

What adjustments do you need to make to harvest the lodged wheat? Some adjustments may include lowering the header, lowering the hood, and changing rotor speed. 

Underside of Stripper Header
The fingers spin opposite the direction of travel. This pops the grain out and conveys it up and back into the combine.

Thanks for those who have asked questions. I hope I answered all of them and that this helps clarify things.  
 

Since we have received interest in our stripper headers and questions about cutting in lodged wheat, I created a video of the view from the cab. Toward the end of the video when the camera is looking out the right windows, you will see the combing motion of the header through the wheat. Ryan was moving his thumb over the buttons on the hydrostat to show some of the adjustments he can make.

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

The Official Beginning!
Emma Misener

Elk City, Oklahoma — We’re cuttin’ wheat! Harvest 2016 has begun for MFH (Misener Family Harvesters)! As I mentioned in a previous post, we have been having some late nights and early mornings, and we started harvesting a little while back. Here’s a video of the very first outing in the field.


Be safe and God bless!

All Aboard Wheat Harvest™ is sponsored by High Plains Journal and New Holland Agriculture. Emma can be reached at emma@allaboardharvest.com.

Short and sweet visit
Emma Misener

Vernon, Texas — We are ready for harvest! The machines are in tip-top shape, all preventative maintenance is done and we’re rested up and ready to roll. The wheat isn’t quite ready at our first job so we decided to go visit our friend Kent Braathen, owner/operator of Braathen Harvesting. He starts near Vernon, Texas which is a good hour and a half drive from us. His dad was also a harvester so Kent grew up on the dusty trail just like us. It was a great time seeing Kent and his crew! Thanks for the good times and laughs 🙂

Here’s a quick video.
 

Be safe and God bless!

All Aboard Wheat Harvest™ is sponsored my High Plains Journal and New Holland Agriculture. Emma can be reached at emma@allaboardharvest.com.