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Brian: Blazing through Nebraska

Big Springs, Nebraska—Sometimes we spend quite a few days (or weeks) in one place harvesting, and other times you move through a stop so quickly it seems it’s time to pack up the trailer houses again before you even got re-situated from the last move.  This describes Nebraska for us this year.


The crew arrives in Big Springs, Nebraska, and sets ups camp right before a rain storm threatens to delay the start of harvest.  This would not be the only time rain brought a full-stop to harvest during our short stay in Nebraska.   

For quite some time we had been concerned with the reports of such green wheat in much of western Nebraska.  Since you work and live by the weather when harvesting is your life, we always keep our eye on storms along our harvest route.  It seemed much of Nebraska was in a cycle of rain every few days with cool temperatures, and as we finished Kansas, the Nebraska forecast didn’t look very favorable.  What was more worrisome was the progress of the wheat in South Dakota ripening ahead of Nebraska.


With the unique Sandhills of Nebraska as a backdrop, a beautiful wheat crop was just about ready for harvest … if only the weather would allow.  After countless rounds of rain over the spring and summer, would there finally be a window of opportunity for harvesting? 

So how did it all shake out?  Rather than reading about it, let me tell you about it in the video below.  (Spoiler alert!  I recorded this in South Dakota so a lot happened in only 9 days.)

That’s right, in only 9 days we packed up camp and left southwest Kansas, moved to Nebraska, cut all the wheat the weather would allow us, reloaded machines, made the long move to Onida, South Dakota, unloaded equipment and started harvesting again.  In the last 12 days we have cut in 3 states (4 really, if you count the one field that was located on the Colorado side of the Nebraska/Colorado border).  That makes me tired just to write that … that is a lot of set up plus tear down plus loading plus unloading plus driving in a very short time.  We wish the weather would have been more cooperative so we could have harvested more acres in Nebraska, but we had been preparing for this scenario for quite some time.


Our campground in Big Springs, Nebraska, is located right along the I-80 Interstate, and our farm in Iowa is located just off this road.  It’s as close to home as we get during the harvest trail, but no time for a road trip home.  It’s not every day you drive your combine over the interstate.  

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Unusually cool weather with numerous rain showers gave the crew time to get caught up on some maintenance. We made sure any broken cutting knife sections on the headers were replaced, and Brian and David worked on some small repairs on the semi trucks.

So currently the crew is in Onida, South Dakota, successfully making the very long 2-day trip.  We had hoped to maybe have a day or two to catch our breath, but no such luck in catching a break this time.  After unloading machines in the afternoon and taking a spin through the countryside to look at fields, we found some acres ready to go.  We started harvesting the very next day.

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The crew cleans up equipment in the field with compressed air, and then loads up for the big move to South Dakota. After harvesting with heat indexes of 115 degrees, we load in the morning with temperatures dropping into the 50s overnight.  Such odd weather … but we enjoyed the cooler temps.


Our move to South Dakota takes us up Highway 83 through the Sandhills of Nebraska and the Valentine National Wildlife Refuge.  The scenery is always amazing, but unusually frequent and heavy rains provided us with a new experience … fording a flooded road.  With one lane of traffic controlled by a stoplight, traffic alternates through a low-lying area of the highway covered with water.  It looks dramatic, but the Nebraska Department of Transportation assured us it’s safe.

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The caravan stops in Valentine, Nebraska, for refueling and roadside dinner.  There are a lot of tires rolling down the road, and it feels like we wear out air gauges checking air pressures in all of them before a move.  Cooler temperatures made for a pleasant 2-day drive to South Dakota without any tire or mechanical issues to contend with this year.

Onida holds a special place in the hearts of our crew.  We have been coming here for 36 years, worked for the same family farm the entire time, and we love the beautiful scenery and wide open spaces. Huge square mile fields (many larger) are the norm here, and weeks of work lie ahead of us.  The crop looks exceptional, and we are in it for the long haul now to bring in this bumper crop.

South Dakota always provides some of the best examples of harvest in action.   Wheat fields as far as the eye can see, a steady stream of semi-trucks headed to and from the fields, dust plumbs rising from countless combines across the countryside in any direction you look … this is wheat harvest on a grand scale.  The photography opportunities are never disappointing here, so be sure to check back again soon as I share the unique experience of what can only be the South Dakota wheat harvest.

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The crew enters South Dakota just before dark, and we spend the night on the road before making the last leg our of trip.  As always, we are greeted with a stunning sunset that’s so unique to South Dakota.  The crew is never disappointed by the amazing photo opportunities while here.   

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.


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