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All Aboard Tag

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. 

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.

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]

Garden City, Kansas - My oh my... the days certainly run into each other, and the weeks are gone before you know it! We left home four weeks ago this past Sunday (7/2). Seems like a whirlwind of events since we pulled away from the driveway as Taylor and Jenna were waving goodbye. 
[caption id="" align="alignnone" width="768"]Z Crew: Because it's what harvesters do! Because it's what harvesters do! (Photo credit: Nancy Eberts)[/caption]So, let's have an update. 

Dodge City, Kansas - Once the harvest stops in Kansas have all been completed, the rest of harvest becomes a blur. I was thinking today how far we have come as a crew. I say this in the sense of a rhythm - a groove that a crew gets into. Everyone gets acclimated to how everyone else works, and things just go smoother. The farmers in Texas versus the farmers in Nebraska see two different crews.

We were able to finish up in Dodge, and we will be heading to our fifth stop on the harvest run - Sidney, Nebraska. We brought one of two combines up here today, and the wheat is still a bit green along with the inch of rain the area received this afternoon (07/03). The wheat we cut in Dodge ran anywhere from 60-100 bushels per acre, and the test weight averaged 60 pounds.

That being said, Farmer Chris here in Dodge City bid Anderson Harvesting off with an awesome barbecue for a job well done. There were hamburgers, brats, brownies... you name it. Farmer Chris' wife, Eileena, made some of the most delicious potato salad I have ever had in my life, and the evening was full of laughter and conversation.

Dodge City, Kansas - A little over a week ago, I received a Facebook message request. I hit "accept" to get a look at what this perfect stranger had to say. In the message, this gal explained to me that her and her husband both grew up on farms in Oklahoma, but they had made their home in the Philippines for thirty-five years now. She continued on to say her husband never missed a High Plains Journal issue and that he particularly loved the All Aboard Wheat Harvest program. How cool is it that? This program is so widely renowned.

We chitchatted about how harvest was going, and she then mentioned to me that there was one particular photo that her husband loved. The only thing was this; he had only seen it in black and white, and he had always wanted to see it in color. I asked her to send me a "photo of the photo," and I would see what I could do in terms of hunting it down in my picture archives.

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."