All Aboard Harvest | Megan: Slow Start “Up North”
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Megan: Slow Start “Up North”

Dickinson, North Dakota – Last weekend Roland Harvesting made the journey from Nebraska to North Dakota to begin our last stop for this year’s wheat harvest. If you look on a map, this trip “up north” is almost a straight shot and we were psyched about the relatively short move, only 7 hours of road time. Unfortunately, we were unable to follow this route due to the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally taking place near Rapid City, South Dakota. The high motorcycle traffic created a 12 foot width restriction through much of the area, which caused us to take a 180 mile detour east and back west to safely (and legally) make it to our destination.

Upon rolling into Dickinson our whole crew seemed to observe the same, unexpected thing and everyone fell quiet on the radio, which is usually full of chatter back and forth.  To our shock, most wheat fields were more green than golden. We had anticipated pulling into the area, and hitting the ground running. With many fields looking like they were 10 days to 2 weeks off from being ready, we quickly lost the wind in our sails. The next couple days brought rain showers, overcast skies and cool weather. We spent this time tuning up the combines and doubling back home to finish moving trailers and headers.

On Tuesday, our luck finally turned and we were delighted with the change of pace. The clouds disappeared, the sun came out and the temperature actually rose above 65 degrees. Our farmer surprised us with a hidden field of ripe winter wheat that was way outside of town. Fortunately, the moisture was border line and with the sunshine, warm weather and nice breeze it quickly dried down. After conquering that field, we moved 45 miles in the opposite direction and found a few fields of spring wheat that looked like they would go. Most of these fields have ripe heads, but some of the straw is still green. This makes for slow going down in the draws and in lower areas of the field. We’ve had some 80, almost 90 degree weather the past few days, which has drastically helped the green patches turn in many of these fields. The weather forecast continues to look promising for the next week so it seems that harvest around here will be in full swing in no time. We’re just happy to be back in the combines cutting away!

Convoy lined up
There’s nothing like waking up with the sun to get your convoy moved to the next destination in a timely fashion.

Brandon puts on his “game face” (and blue tooth) as we prepare to leave for North Dakota.

Convoy heading out
The caravan lined up and ready to head “up north.” It was such a beautiful, cool morning to travel!

Big hill to climb
Because of the detour we were required to take, we had the unique experience to travel through the Bad Lands of South Dakota. The view was very intriguing but the big hills we were forced to haul our heavy loads up made sure we stayed on top of our game.

As we neared Buffalo, South Dakota, Brandon heard a loud boom as rubber scattered across the highway. He ended up blowing out two side-by-side tires on the combine trailer.

Changing out the tire
The “pit crew,” sporting their orange safety vests, quickly put on the new tires that we luckily had thrown in the service truck.

Blown tire
As you can see we didn’t make it very far after the first tire blew.

In order to get to the blown tires, we had to work out a bit of a charade. The header trailer had to be dropped from the back of the load, followed by the combine being unloaded. Instead of jacking up the trailer, we actually used a chain on the feeder house of the combine to lift up the trailer.

Loading combine again
After changing the tire out, we loaded the combine back up, chained it down, hooked up the header again and hit the road. From the time the tire blew until we were back on the highway was just 41 minutes. Now, that’s what I call an effective pit crew!

Wicked dark clouds
We faced some fierce storm clouds at the North Dakota border that rapidly turned into a h
orrendous downpour. Please note the wheat field on the right is actually ripe. Another 80 miles north and we were seeing nothing but green fields. It was a very strange phenomenon to witness. 

CR unloaded
We were greeted in North Dakota by crazy clouds and red dirt. After surviving the rain storm that seemed to have hurricane-strong winds and rain, we broke out our jackets and unloaded in brisk 44 degree weather.

Unloading the grain cart
Kasey watches on and gives directions as Jose backs the tractor and grain cart off the trailer.

That’s a little green for our likin’. The locals reported receiving over 3 inches of rain in the past week.  Apparently high moisture is the theme of the summer in the Dickinson area as it has been very cool and damp the past few months.

Green patch
When we first pulled into town it was not uncommon to see wheat fields with green patches in them like this one. The mild summer has created luscious green pastures as well, which is definitely a switch up from last year’s dire drought in this area. The high moisture means more bugs, too. I think I’m up to 11 mystery bug bites/ bee stings at the moment.

Huge snapping turtle
Check out this HUGE snapping turtle we spotted on the road!

Ergot in the field
Several wheat fields in the area have been affected by ergot this year. Ergot is a fungus that replaces the grain in the heads with ergot bodies (black in color) prior to harvest. This disease is common during wet, cool growing seasons, which North Dakota experienced this year. Many grain elevators often dock or reject loads if ergot is found within the sample.

Ergot next to wheat
Ergot (the black pieces) compared to wheat kernels without disease.

Crew at Painted Canyon
While waiting for the wheat to dry down a few days ago we took a mini trip a few miles down the interstate to Medora. Above: Kasey, Jose, Eric, and Brandon pose in front of the Painted Canyon in Theodore Roosevelt National Park. It amazes me how beautiful and diverse the land is in western North Dakota.

I got a little chuckle out of this “weather station.”

Oil fields nearby
Back into oil country! These pump jacks scatter much of the country side in western North Dakota.

Cutting again
Finally, back into ripe wheat and we’re so happy to be cutting again! The yields have been varying between 25 to 50 bushels per acre with most test weights hanging around 60 to 62 pounds.

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


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