Megan: Sunny Skies Underway for Roland Harvesting

Thursday did not go quite as smoothly as I had hoped for in my previous post, but my ultimate wish did come true since we were lucky enough to get back to harvesting wheat again! My mom always says you have to keep having faith because it will all work out somehow. And that’s exactly what we did.

When we arrived at the field on Thursday morning we immediately decided it was too muddy to even try since we almost got the pickup stuck in the driveway. In hopes of finding drier ground we moved to a different field about twenty miles away and once we made it there we were finally able to start cutting. The moisture was running on the high end at about 12.5 to 13 percent moisture, which was just low enough for the elevator. The grain might have been dry but the fields certainly were not. We spent much of the day fighting mud and got every vehicle out in the field stuck at some point.  Nonetheless, all struggles aside, we were able to fire up the combines, kick up some dust, and haul many truckloads of wheat to the elevator so we were content.

In fact, the last few days have been quite productive for us. Brandon’s field was too wet to cut so he joined up with the rest of the crew and we were able to knock out a fair amount of acres with the two machines in the same field. However, Saturday we were forced to split the crew again as Brandon went back to help the other farmer with his fields. The entire crew is still fighting mud and the combines are burning through an unbelievable amount of fuel. Due to the high engine load that the combines must use to get through the mud, fuel is being burnt at a very high rate.

Along with the mucky conditions, much of the wheat in the area has been hailed throughout the summer. Sadly, some of these wheat fields have seen numerous hailstorms in the past couple months. Nevertheless, most of the fields are yielding around 20 to 40 bushels per acre. Many of the farmers in the area believe that these fields would have made between 70 to 90 bushels per acre if they had not been hit by hail. The damaged wheat straw is causing problems for us because we have to cut very low to pick up all the heads. Normally, this is not a big deal but since the fields are muddy the combines can sink down unexpectedly and the headers can get tore up in the mud pretty quickly. The cutter bar on the header also picks up mud, causing the sickles to plug up, so we’ve had to stop periodically to clean the mud off the headers.

Now that rain is out of the picture for the time being, it seems that the weather has decided to warm up. The Imperial area is under an “excessive heat warning” for the next three or four days. Forecasters are predicting very high temperatures reaching above 100 degrees with extreme humidity and sunny skies; with all these elements intermixed the result is severe heat. Anyone who works in agriculture can agree that in order to survive in our industry you have to be pretty dang tough to endure such extreme conditions. For harvest, hot days and intense temperatures are to be expected, but like my parents have taught me, you still have to respect the power of Mother Nature. Being the only girl on the crew right now, I’m playing “Mom” and making sure all the guys are drinking plenty of fluids so we don’t have to deal with any serious health issues such as heat exhaustion.

The last few days we have been getting phone calls from farmers back home in Hemingford saying the wheat is almost ready. Our plan is to finish up in Imperial today so we can get loaded up and head towards home.

Moving in mirror
A view from the side mirror of the pickup as we move to a new field.

Road sign
This was one of the roads we had to travel down – luckily our wheat field was before the washed out bridge! The large amount of rain in the area has done a lot of damage to the dirt roads creating dangerous conditions on many of them.

Dad putting header on
Dad hooks up the hydraulic hoses on his header.

Hailed wheat
Much of the wheat in the area has been hailed. Although this picture doesn’t quite show the extent of the damage, you can still see how much of the straw is bent over and how unhealthy the heads look.

Short stubble
Due to the recent hail, much of the wheat is broken over so we have to cut very low to get all the heads. In the other no-till fields we had to sacrifice some of the bent over wheat in order to keep the stubble taller so the field can maintain moisture better during the winter months.

Tractor and tow rope
James’s new best friend who rides around in the tractor all the day with him – the tow rope!

Extreme trucking
Since I’ve been playing truck driver lately I wanted to share the harvest version of “extreme trucking.” Although this photo does not give the terrain justice, there are many sharp corners and steep hills to truck up and down from the field into the elevator. Also, due to the recent heavy rains, many roads have bumpy washouts that have to be steered clear of to avoid damaging the semi or grain trailer.

In one of my previous posts when we were sitting in rain I had mentioned that we were “looking for a rainbow.” To my surprise, I spotted a beautiful faint rainbow while I was taking a truckload of wheat into the elevator. I stepped out of the semi to un-tarp the trailer and this was the view I was blessed with. I like how the rainbow is “falling” into the grain trailer. Perhaps that means the leprechaun and his pot of gold will find us soon!

Brandon on phoe
Brandon talks “business” with one of the farmers from home.

Muddy tires
Just a glimpse of the dried mud on the combine from last night. Since I’ve been busy trucking lately I haven’t been able to “document” the crew’s mud mishaps or deep tracks they’ve made.

James greases
James greases the tractor and combines before we get started for the day.

A neighbor in the distance whittles away at his wheat while the sun sets on another great day of harvest. I love how the wheat dust settles on the horizon as it intermixes with the gorgeous colors of dusk.

Brandon, James pose
During our rain days last week I captured Brandon and James to pose for a couple photos.

Brandon, James pose 2
They pretended to be upset that I waited to take pictures till after they had been working. So, please, for their sake, excuse the dirt, sweat, and grease!

Blast to the Past – Today’s Flashback: From Helpers to Grown Men

James and Brandon in '95
1995: When James and Brandon were younger they used to dress like twins all the time. These were the outfits they used to wear out to the field to go help their dads work!

James & Buba with old thrasher '96
1996: James and Brandon play in the straw in front of an old thrashing machine. It’s amazing to think that 15 years later these cousins are efficiently running much of the harvest operation – with equipment a bit new than this though.

Brandon & James on combine in '97
1997: Brandon and James stop for a break from washing windows. Now, they also grease, fuel, fix, load and run the combines all summer long. This fall they will both head back to college at the University of Wyoming. James is a junior in Mechanical Engineering and Brandon will be a freshman starting his major in Agricultural Business. I couldn’t resist sharing these old pictures of them – it’s remarkable what fine young men they have grown up to be!

Megan can be reached at All Aboard 2011 is sponsored by High Plains Journal and DuPont Crop Protection.

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