02 Jul Brian: Race to the finish line
Minneola, Kansas—Sometimes wheat harvesting can seem like a traffic jam … just when you think you get to start you find yourself sitting still due to weather, spinning your wheels. This year will not be described as stop and go, but instead more like a race. Since we arrived in Oklahoma, it’s been non-stop; and once we reached Kansas, we didn’t let our foot off the gas. It’s been “pedal to the metal” for over a week now, and there are no signs of it letting up till we see the checkered flag fall as we cross the finish line.
The wheat in southwest Kansas looks picture-perfect this year. It’s been a real treat to harvest such a nice crop. The windy weather has kept the turbines spinning non-stop since we arrived.
Hot and dry weather has been persistent since we started harvesting, and Kansas has not disappointed with its reputation for windy weather. We have seen triple-digit temperatures now on more than one occasion, and it’s made for incredibly long (but productive) harvest days. The crew has seen the PM side of the clock switch over to the AM side, working late at night to capitalize on this amazing stretch of weather. That’s not to say that we haven’t seen lightning in the western sky more than a few times, threatening to halt our progress. If Kansas is know for its wind, it’s equally recognized for its ability to turn a pleasant evening into a wicked storm.
While we have been fortunate to be spared from the severe weather, on more than once occasion the sky has turned ominous. Not everyone in western Kansas has been so lucky, seeing rounds of heavy rain and hail in some areas.
We have seen two rain events while we have been here, but each time it has only caused us to delay harvesting 24 hours. The dry, sandy soil soaked up the rain into its deep cracks, and the hot winds dried the grain down before we even caught up on our sleep with an afternoon nap. Thankfully we have missed the heaviest rains, and the light hail damage has not diminished very strong yields here. Most fields have been yielding in the 50 to 60 bushel range, but we have seen a few cross into the 70s.
The hot Kansas sun beats down on us with triple-digit temperatures. It’s been ideal to ripen and dry the wheat down, but not ideal for those of us that prefer 70 degrees in the shade.
The combine operators have been enjoying some of the nicest fields we will likely harvest all year. With near-perfectly flat and square fields, the combines cross back and forth in laser-straight lines as autosteer pilots us across the field. The wheat is a perfect height, and the straw is not overly dense. This allows for the machines to work at near-peak efficiency, covering an astounding amount of acres per day while moving huge amount of bushels per hour. In fact the crew set an all-time record for most acres harvested in one day, a big accomplishment after 38 years.
A record-setting day of harvesting means a lot of bushels of grain to be hauled from the field. The grain cart is constantly in motion, and the truck drivers rarely get a break before their next load is ready to head to town.
We harvest in two areas here, usually starting in Minneola and finish near Sublette. After a few days of harvesting, we ran into a variety of wheat that was just not quite ready. After sampling a few more fields, it was clear we needed to wait a few days for it to finish drying down. So we loaded up equipment and zipped on over west 50 miles and harvested for our Sublette farmer. We finished in record time, and then headed back east again to finish our acres in Minneola.
Cameron pumps fuel in the dark after the operators finally turn off the key for the day. Long days require a lot of fuel, and the hour drive home from Sublette to the trailer houses means bedtime comes well after midnight.
It’s a lot of work crammed into a few days; but when the weather is this good, you just don’t want to stop until you are done. There has been plenty of activity, and I’ve captured some of it so you could see what we’ve been up to. Watch the video below and check out all the action yourself, and then continue reading on about what comes next for the crew.
With only a few days of harvesting left here in Kansas, the crew will soon be ready to head north. We are currently trying to evaluate what to do next. Normally we travel to Big Springs, Nebraska, but unfavorable spring weather has led to a very late crop that’s in pretty tough shape. We hear some fields are so poor that they will not be harvested, and what is harvested will very late. The concern is the few acres we have left in Nebraska may be ready to harvest after we already start in South Dakota.
You can’t be in two places at once, so there are some tough decisions ahead about what comes next. All we know for sure is we have been cutting up a storm in Kansas, and its been a race to the finish line. The crew will be glad to pull into “pit lane” for a few days and take a well-deserved break. Be sure to check back next week and I’ll let you know exactly where Jones Harvesting will be headed off to next. Until then, take care!
All Aboard Wheat Harvest is sponsored by Unverferth Manufacturing Co., Inc., Oklahoma Baptist Homes for Children, Agri-Pro, Gleaner, BASF, and High Plains Journal. Join the conversation by leaving a question or comment. Brian can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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