15 Jul Brian: I’ll take what’s behind door #3
Minneola, Kansas—With Kansas in the rearview mirror, the crew has enjoyed a change in our routine over the last week. It was a scorcher loading up equipment. With 110 degrees indicated by a local weather station, the wind seemed to be like a hair dryer blowing in your face. Humidity readings in the single digits are a far cry from the muggy and humid weather we had in Oklahoma. As the crew moves north, we won’t see these desert-like conditions again.
Cleaning machines is a hot, filthy job any time. With temperatures above 100 degrees it makes for a miserable experience as we prepare to leave Kansas.
In our last conversation you will recall the crew was ready to head north—we just didn’t know exactly where north would take us. What used to be a rare occurrence seems to have become the new normal: Nebraska and South Dakota harvesting simultaneously. Normally our next move is to Big Springs, Nebraska, located right along Interstate 80 and just a stone’s throw away from Colorado. Yet the weather is once again causing custom harvesters a massive timing issue.
You just can’t leave Kansas without some wind turbine selfies. Brian swings by the infamous Boot Hill in Dodge City for a quick photo opportunity. The scruffy faces from late nights and early mornings prove sleep was prioritized over shaving.
This year western Nebraska has been plagued with a very late spring. Winter seemed to never go away, and the wheat has not ripened very quickly. A late freeze really hurt the plants, and it always seemed the weather was too wet or too dry at all the wrong times. It looks like the yields will be relatively poor, and Nebraska harvest will likely just be starting when the calendar says it should be wrapping up.
Cameron and Titus finish chaining down the combine to the trailer for our big move north while Brian carefully drives the other machine up the ramps to load.
This poses a significant challenge for custom harvesters and wheat growers. Farmers depend on us to harvest their crop, and we need their acres to support our business. It’s easy to see the co-dependence we have on each other. So what do you do when you have two states harvesting simultaneously and two farmers that need you at the same time—but their fields are 500 miles apart?
That is the situations we find ourselves in now. We have seen this problem coming at us for quite some time. We have been in close contact with our Nebraska farmers, giving ample time to consider an alternate harvesting option. Many of the acres we were to cut have already been declared a total loss. A single weather delay in Nebraska would put us in a very difficult position. It’s like we are in a game show … trying to guess what’s behind door #3, hoping to make the right choice.
With the house trailers ready to go, the crew loads up while Glen makes a final phone call before we hit the road. At 90 feet long it takes a lot of situational awareness to move these oversized loads, especially on narrow rural roads.
After much debate we decide to bypass Nebraska, but it is an agonizing decision. We are thankful to have understanding farmers that have made other harvesting arrangements in our absence. It is a large financial loss for the crew, and it is frustrating to have weather keep us from doing the work we had expected to do. This means in lieu of more harvesting, we make the very long drive from southwest Kansas to central South Dakota.
The crew works to load up equipment in the early morning hours to avoid the hottest part of the day. We appreciates the heavy cloud cover that provided a brief reprieve from the heat, the morning we leave Kansas.
The move is a two-day affair, and the crew spends the night on the road. Road construction forces us to take a very convoluted route, and we encounter some narrow roads that are not ideal for wide loads. It adds an extra element of stress to the already difficult task of safely moving wide loads so many miles.
Pulling over this many vehicles requires a lot of space and a little bit of planning. The crew lucks out and spends the night in central Nebraska at an RV park … with air conditioning after a full day of driving.
Thankfully we encounter much cooler weather than normal during our drive. With 128 tires on the road, warm temperatures significantly increase the chance of tire failures. We do have a flat tire on a trailer house, but a quick roadside change has us back on the road in no time. The rest of the trip is uneventful, and we even luck out on stopping for the night in a town with RV hookups. This means air conditioning for a refreshing night of sleep, a luxury we rarely get when spending the night on the road.
Flat tires are never convenient, but with the variety of spare tires we carry they rarely cause a significant delay. Our biggest concern is our safety as traffic passes by. Cameron and Brian hurriedly work to get us off the roadside and back on our way.
We are now in Onida, South Dakota, located almost in the middle of the state. The winter wheat has a lot of ripening to do yet, and the spring wheat is grass green. It’s uncommon to have such a delay between jobs. The wheat here looks to be 10 to 14 days away from being ready to harvest. After pushing so hard in Oklahoma and Kansas, the crew finally gets our well-deserved break. The wheat looks really amazing, and it’s likely big yields are going to keep us very busy in South Dakota.
After staring at the brown, sandy soil of Kansas over the past two weeks, the green prairie grass of South Dakota is a nice change of scenery.
We typically harvest the most amount of acres at this stop. With square mile fields (or larger) and long hauls with the trucks, we know a monumental amount of work lies just around the corner. Some of the crew is entertaining the idea of returning home to check on their own farms, while others consider a mini-vacation to the Black Hills. We may be returning to Iowa for a tractor and grain cart to help us more efficiently harvest these large, high-yielding fields.
The caravan looks like tiny ants as we head north in the wide open prairies of South Dakota. The blue skies seem seem so vast, and it’s a completely different view than we have become accustomed to over the last month down south.
No doubt we will find plenty to keep us busy while we wait on the green wheat. Onida is always our largest effort of the summer, and it never disappoints with excellent photos and stories to share. Until then we will enjoy the chance to take a little break. And before you know it, I’ll be back with another harvest update as the big South Dakota harvest begins.
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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