Hardin, Montana - Things can get pretty dry in Montana in the summer. That doesn't sound like that unusual because a lot of places get dry. However, it takes on a different meaning when you're dealing with some of the desolate areas that make up the state. There aren't always the square north/south or east/west roads every mile or so like you find in some parts of the plains. If lightning strikes, and a fire starts, it's not always very easy to fight because of the very remote, and often rough terrain. Same can be true for a fire started by harvest equipment. The fields in the part of the world can be very large, I'm talking 1000+ acres. If a fire starts and blows through a field, the consequences can be devastating and extremely difficult to fight. Crews are often driven from the field for rain, but at this stop, the crews have been asked to shut down when the fire risk seems especially high, which is completely understandable. There are disastrous fires currently burning in the state.
Pierre, South Dakota – We made the big trip from Western Nebraska up to the Pierre, South Dakota area, and there is definitely a big ole drought going on. I was told that there really hasn’t been any rain at home in Nebraska since May, and South Dakota looks to be the same way. I could see the drought results as I traveled across Kansas, Nebraska and South Dakota last week. Kansas looked alright, but as soon as I was in Nebraska I could see it. And it became worse as I traveled into South Dakota.
On the way up here we ran into road construction at Mission, South Dakota. There was a sign at Valentine, Nebraska that said road construction and width restriction 31 miles ahead. We asked around in Valentine; and everyone said they had seen lots of combines going north, and we could get through there. We got up to Mission, and there it was. There they were working on the main street that we travel, and our wide loads couldn’t fit through because of the cones. I wonder how many combines have just been hauled through there anyway. A local was nice enough to stop and tell us to turn around at the school, go back a mile and then head west on the gravel. Then at the dead end, go north up to Highway 18 and we would be back on the right track again to Highway 83 north. There was no detour route sign anywhere. For goodness sakes, why not?
Western Nebraska – This year I was in Kansas longer than expected due to the evening rain showers. We couldn’t ever work really late like we needed to and put in our time because we’d get shut down by the rain most evenings. The weather really messed with us.
Thankfully, my brother Jared and Uncle Lonny were able to harvest most all of our wheat jobs in Western Nebraska before we got there. We did still get to stop there and cut for a few days, which was great. Disappointingly, the wheat I cut didn’t yield well due to mosaic disease. The wheat looked decent from the road, but the mosaic disease really got to it this year. However, Western Nebraska has some of the most beautiful sunsets with such beautiful colors. I didn’t get to cut there long enough this year to enjoy them.
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.