25 Jul Brian: Some fun in the sun with Kansas done!
Minneola, Kansas—It’s been a whirlwind of activity, the crew running hard day after day with the hot and dry weather here in southwest Kansas. Harvest can be hard work and long hours, but then that’s not really a surprise … it’s the nature of this lifestyle. Crews all around Kansas have capitalized on this break in the weather, making for one of the fastest and biggest harvest pushes Kansans may have seen in quite some time.
The crop has been exceptional in the area this year, with some fields achieving the highest yields ever seen. Farmers were grateful for (mostly) cooperative weather this year to harvest the crop as quickly as possible.
Just as we were closing in on the final fields, a small chance of showers turned into a notable rain that gave the crew a few days off … and no one complained! A summer spent in a trailer house may sound like a whimsical “glamping” experience (glamorous camping), but I’ll be honest … it’s not like taking your RV to the beach for a weekend getaway. These small tin boxes begin to close in on you after the “fun” wears off. A few weeks of sharing such small spaces, especially with four young boys, means the crew decided to get out and explore the local area during our rain delay.
Kansas storms can be ferocious, with blue skies quickly turning black from the dust kicked up off the plains. It’s a reminder of how the 1930s Dust Bowl ravaged this area and why being good stewards of the land is so important to farmers in the area.
You’ve been seeing a lot of photos and videos over the past few weeks of the crew hard at work, but I thought you might enjoy seeing some of what we have been up to on our rainy days off. It’s unique that our crew is all family, and it can make for some fun adventures and memories along the harvest trial. Enjoy scrolling through some photos of the crew having fun in the sun—be sure to read the captions—then continue reading about Kansas’ harvest wrapping up and what we anticipate to be a very busy week ahead as we move to Nebraska.
Excursions into Dodge City gave the boys a change of pace with visits to the zoo. They also were pretty happy the trailers were parked across from the swimming pool, making frequent visits to cool off from the Kansas heat. And of course … when in Dodge City no trip is complete without some cold slushies for a special treat!
The adjacent park made for plenty of opportunities to get out of the trailers and make use of the playground on a daily basis. Even the adults got in on some of the fun with a friendly tether ball competition.
The crew celebrated a very important birthday on our day off … the chief cook’s! We gave Vernelle a break from meal preparation and headed out for pizza. Brenda also baked a German chocolate birthday cake, a long-standing family tradition.
There are plenty of historical attractions in the area, and the crew took some time to do some exploring. When you are in Dodge City, no visit is complete without seeing the legendary Boot Hill. The Meade County Historical Museum showcases just how much farm life has changed over the years, and the Dalton Gang hideout—complete with an underground escape tunnel—reminds us just how wild the west once was!
While exploring the Meade County Historical Museum Brenda considers—or re-considers—getting her hair curled the old-fashion way, Brian checks out the antique saddle collection, and images from the 1930s Dust Bowl exhibit reminds us of one of agriculture’s darkest times—literally, from the dust that blocked out the sun.
The Hamer family with Cameron, Brenda, Titus, 11, Ezra, 8, Judah, 5, and Canaan, 3. At the Dalton Gang Hideout the boys enjoyed exploring the 95-foot-long underground tunnel linking the barn and house through a concealed door in the floor. Outlaws used the tunnel to escape from local law enforcement back in the 1890s when the west was wild!
Apparently some crew members got into trouble on their day off! Allegedly there was a run-in with the sheriff, someone nearly died, and a few of us went to jail … but no one is really sure what happened. All we know is everyone showed up for dinner on time, and we haven’t seen any “wanted” posters with our faces on them.
Lest you think all our time off was filled with fun, here is proof even down days can be filled with projects. The crew took advantage of an indoor place to work out of the sun and wind, installing a new tarp on one of the grain trailers. At 43-feet-long, tarp replacement is a surprisingly awkward, heavy and time-consuming project.
While harvest had few rain delays here in Minneola, much of Kansas had substantial rains leading up to harvest. These storms caused some local damage, flattening some wheat fields and causing a lot of green undergrowth. Our last few fields were downright miserable to harvest. We cut right at ground level to salvage the storm-damaged wheat, but the soft soil from the rain made it difficult to not get dirt and mud into the machines. The green weeds also made for very slow progress, taking a huge amount of horsepower to process all the material. It is still amazing to see how today’s machines can capture nearly all of the grain, even in such adverse conditions. It wasn’t pretty, but these fields still yielded an incredible 70 bushels per acre!
Not all fields were spared from storm damage, and green undergrowth become an issue on the final fields. This made for some very challenging and stressful harvesting conditions for the combine operators. These fields will not be remembered as the highlight of Kansas harvest I assure you.
With the final field in Kansas done, we have loaded equipment and are ready to head to Big Springs, Nebraska. However, a conundrum lies ahead … Much of western Nebraska suffered from a winter that seemed to never end, meaning the wheat matured much slower than normal. South Dakota is more on-time and the scenario for two states ready to harvest simultaneously is beginning to shape up … the worst-case scenario for a harvest crew. Since you can’t be in two places at once, the weather is going to be critical in deciding what happens in the next week. It looks like there could be a lot of work and travel miles jam-packed into the next few days, so be sure to check back soon to see how the Nebraska harvest plays out!
The sun goes down … and the moon comes up one last time as the Kansas harvest comes to a close for our crew.
All Aboard Wheat Harvest is sponsored by High Plains Journal and John Deere. Be sure to join the conversation by leaving a question or comment. Brian can be reached at Brian@allaboardharvest.com.