Megan: Rain Dance

Hemingford, Neb. – One main recurrent theme during this year’s home harvest has been rain. Due to multiple storms that have passed through the area we have had rather short time frames for cutting the past few days since most of our time has been spent on waiting for fields to dry down. Because of this weather we remain stuck in “limbo” around Hemingford and Chadron, making our home stop significantly longer and more frustrating than we had anticipated. Tuesday we were able to get back into the field and work a 9 hour day, which thrilled us. Wednesday we were back at it again and continued working hard until 8 pm, when yet, another brutal storm passed over us and shut us down again.

Cutting away with blue skies
Finally, some blue skies accomanied us on Tuesday. Being back in the field felt so great!

Mom in the combine
Mom laughs as she passes Brandon in the field. He “stole” the last strip of wheat she was cutting on. Humor is most often present within our crew and makes the days go by quicker.

3 combines on the move
The 3 combines knock out a field in no time and move down the road to the next one.

Due to all the rain nonsense we have switched our combines around between Hemingford and Chadron multiple times. Tuesday morning we moved the third CR back to Hemingford and took the ’98 up to Chadron to finish there. Having the 3 CR’s and grain cart all in the same field make for a power house that can quickly cut out fields.

Loaded truck
With the 3 combines in the field it seemed like the trucks were alway loaded. Luckily, the truckers and grain cart managed to keep up, making us wait for only one truck yesterday (which blew a tire on the way into town.)

Brandon hooking up the hydraulic hoses
Brandon hooks up the hydraulic hoses from his combine to the header. 

Opening a new field
Opening up another wheat field on Wednesday. The innocent white clouds in the distance quickly turned into dark, fierce ones that brought one heck of a thunderstorm our way.

Each time it rains on ripe wheat, test weights are decreased and protein is leeched out. In addition, each storm increases the risk of heavy rains, hail, and high winds that could severely damage the wheat and lower the yields.

'98 combine in Chadron
The lone ’98 up in Chadron plugging away. Dad is the master at running this machine so he’s been volunteered to complete the Chadron stop. 

Given all this rain talk, it’s important to note that Roland Harvesting is particularly familiar with one main type of rain dance. Now, when I say rain dance I’m not referring to the crew doing a tribal jig around the farm to make the skies open up with a downpour.  We may or may not have attempted this before, but sadly our efforts usually fail. Therefore, our version of a rain dance is the following process: When we are cutting away in a field and a storm is on the brink, the crew has to follow a very carefully choreographed “dance.” Most often times we can see dark clouds brewing on the horizon so we typically know when a storm is headed our way. Once the first few sprinkles hit the windshield, they are called out across the radio and the procedure begins. The most important things to remember are to keep the grain dry, avoid getting equipment stuck in the mud, and keeping the crew safe.  Given these “rules to remember” the grain cart operator usually tracks down the combines to get them unloaded as fast as possible. The very second the combines are empty the grain cart operator tarps the grain cart and books it to the edge of the field where the truck is waiting. The truck driver will have tarped the truck already if grain was in the trailer. Upon seeing the grain cart line up at the truck, it will be untarped and the rest of the grain will be unloaded. As the truck driver is out tarping the truck, it is essential for the auger of the grain cart or combine to remain over the trailer to act as a “lightning rod” to keep everyone on the ground safe from lightning. Next, the truck must quickly but safely reach the dirt road and make it to solid ground, usually onto a highway or paved parking lot. When a truck is loaded, the extra weight of the grain makes it very easy to get stuck on soft/wet roads, so we try to avoid such problems.  The combines and grain cart are then parked near the edge of the field with the windshields facing away from the storm in case it hails. Lastly, the rest of the crew piles in the pickup, throws it into four-wheel drive and gets the “heck out of dodge” before the dirt roads become too muddy and we are stranded in the middle of nowhere. This “rain dance” is often manipulated based upon the situation. Regardless, Dad and Brandon call the shots when rain hits and it’s crucial for the rest of the crew to listen closely to directions during this time.

Kasey tarping truck
The first few rain drops have fallen so Kasey tarps the truck and waits for the grain cart and combines to make their way to this end of the field.

Parking the equipment in rain
A view from inside the combine after all the equipment has been unloaded, tarped, and parked appropriately. When it rains the grain cart auger is unfolded and left up so water will not run down the open auger and cause us problems later.

Tilting headers in the rain
Over the weekend we were able to finish a field just as it started to sprinkle. We moved to another field to see if that one had dodged the rain but sadly it hadn’t. Dad and Brandon parked the CR’s in the summer fallow and tilted their headers so that water wouldn’t congregate on the bottom side of the canvas. This is part of our  usual “rain dance” shut down.

Storm on radar
After years of using “bag cell phones” and flip phones, much of our crew has updated to “smart phones” at last. One of our favorite and most used apps is WeatherBug.

As shown above it will find your exact location and pull up the current radar. It can also alert you about severe weather and immediately notify you about weather bulletins so you don’t have to be glued to the radio listening for such information. One of the coolest features I have found on it is called “spark,” which scans the sky for nearby lightning and lets you know how close it is to you. This is very useful and allows us to keep the crew informed on the severity of the storm and make sure everyone safe. It also shows an hourly and 10 day weather forecast, which is pulled up multiple times throughout the day.

Puddles at the grain elevator
 Hemingford got dumped on both Wednesday and Thursday evening. Check out the massive puddles at the grain elevator in town.

All Aboard Harvest is sponsored by High Plains Journal and Syngenta. Megan can be reached at

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