All Aboard Harvest | High Plains Journal
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High Plains Journal Tag

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.

Gurley, Nebraska - Harvest is all about the people. It's about the people you harvest for, the people who provide you with your fuel, the bar/grill in the small town that cooks you supper every night, and the people on the other harvest crews that you get to mingle with at the end of the night. The people are what make the harvest what is it... addictive and unforgettable.

Here in Gurley, the harvest spirit is tangible. The campground is loaded with harvest crew trailers, combine trailers, service trucks and semis. The best part is that we all know each other, so we are just one, big harvest family. Being a harvester is a very misunderstood profession. People just can't understand why we would want to load up our super expensive equipment on trailers, pack up a camper and haul it all across the country to cut wheat only to load it all back up in a week to do it again in a different town. It sounds crazy, and we all know it does.

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]

Dodge City, Kansas - I have found that I do some of my best thinking with a windshield in front of me. While I was over-the-road trucking this spring, I started to daydream about the different features a truck could have that would make life in a truck that much more enjoyable. Mind you, most of these things are pure imagination but it's certainly a place to start.

  1. A holographic barista that will prepare you any coffee drink known to man (bring on the espresso).
  2. Autopilot -- that's got to be close on the trucking horizon, don't you think?
  3. To go hand in hand with the autopilot, the driver's seat should swivel so the driver can easily move in, out and around the seat/cab.
  4. A little more about this seat... it should also have the capabilities of a high-end massage chair -- one that actually relaxes you and doesn't leave you in a bigger pile of knots than when you started.
  5. In the sleeper, there should be a button you press that slides the solid roof of the sleeper to one side to expose a starry night.
  6. A giant flat-screen TV that folds down from the roof between the main cab and sleeper. If there's autopilot, there's plenty of time to catch up with your Netflix-ing.
  7. Blow a tire? A motor? Maybe an alternator? No worries -- the truck will notify you when these things happen, slowly get you to safety and fix itself.
  8. An interactive motherboard that could do anything from teaching you a foreign language to reading you books (in different voices per character) to singing you a lullaby before bed, making the time over the road that much better.
  9. The ability to change colors anytime. Tuesday could be purple; but maybe by Friday you're feeling more adventurous, and you want it to be camouflage.
  10. Wheels that turn into propellers so the truck can go underwater. This serves absolutely no purpose -- just sounds super cool.

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.

Extreme Southeast Colorado - I have to admit. We entered my favorite part of the season as far as the travel route goes.  We are here on the High Plains. It's not that I don't like the other places we go. That's far from it. Each place has something unique and special to offer. It's just that this is HOME. The later part of my growing-up years happened here, as did some of my adult life. Ryan still has to hear about how he took me away from southwest Kansas when we got married, which I'm sure he really appreciates. My heart will always be where my family is, but the High Plains will always have a piece of my heart. In fact, I may be willing to move my heart back if anyone is willing to donate a nice little farmstead to my cause.

Enough gushing.

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.