All Aboard Harvest | Janel: The Golden Triangle
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Janel: The Golden Triangle

Janel: The Golden Triangle

North central Montana—Ever heard the phrase been there done that? I’ve been told for many years by my parents that they’d never go back to Montana to cut wheat. So never in my life did I think I’d be harvesting in Montana. I’m here and it’s been quite the change from the Dakotas, which are my favorite on my harvest run. Almost my whole life we’ve always rushed to South Dakota to cut winter wheat just as soon as we finished up in western Nebraska. This year we had no winter wheat to cut in South Dakota and the spring wheat is late. Truthfully, there’s just not much wheat planted in the Dakotas anymore and it’s sad for a wheat harvester like me because I love cutting wheat in the Dakotas. It’s all gone to corn and soybeans. In fact, there’s more corn planted than ever on the wheat belt of the Great Plains. I’m now in north central Montana that is home to the Golden Triangle where some of the best wheat in the world is grown. Wheat is Montana’s leading cash crop and is third among the wheat producing states in the U.S. Chouteau County is one of Montana’s top producing counties of winter wheat. Other crops grown here include canola, flax, lentils, chickpeas, mustard and many more.

I drove through miles and miles of great open country, past miles of pasture ground, herds of cattle, deer and antelope, travelled up and down many hills and enjoyed the view where I could see for a long ways in any direction. We made it to Fort Benton, which is Montana’s birthplace. It was established in 1846 and is the oldest settlement in Montana. The history of the West is the theme in this tiny town and there’s a unique beauty here as the town sits on the banks of the Missouri River. Overall, I’m enjoying the scenery and there’s so much history here to learn.

The wheat has been making over 70 bushels per acre and the test weights are over 60 pounds per bushel. We’ve been using our pickup headers to harvest the winter wheat. One reason it is swathed is because of sawfly disease. The fields are big and everyone involved keeps busy. Our next field is a big one. It’s 1,358 acres. Our forecast is hot and dry so we’ll be busy here for a while. I hadn’t used my pickup header in a few years. I did a lot of picking up swaths in South Dakota and North Dakota when I was a teenager and in my early twenties so this reminds me of that a lot. In fact, we used to load the combines up with the pickup headers on them when we cut in the Dakotas. This is back when combines were hauled behind a straight truck. Things change over time though.

We have seven combines here harvesting winter wheat. We still have one combine in southern Kansas. It has been broke down and sitting in the field since June 26. What a headache the entire situation has been and I’m pushed to my limit on this deal. What’s that saying?  If it wasn’t for bad luck we wouldn’t have any at all. I am not a happy customer and it’s been a tough deal. The John Deere dealership claimed the parts were ordered but the date to receive them kept getting pushed back. I had to call the boss to get things figured out and moving along. Over a month later and I’ve just gotten word that the combine is now fixed. Well, that is great. However, it has missed three stops on harvest and we’ve followed the wheat harvest 1,200 miles north now. I’m harvesting here in Montana full blast and it doesn’t fit in my schedule now to spend a week or so and all of my energy chasing after the s770 combine. The Schemper family has been buying John Deere combines since the 1980s. That’s a very long time. I wish we could have been a priority when it came to getting the combine fixed. Again, as a customer I want to be pampered but too many bad experiences has given me a change of heart.

All Aboard Wheat Harvest is sponsored by Oklahoma Baptist Homes for Children, Unverferth Manufacturing Co., Inc, BASF, AgriPro, Gleaner and High Plains Journal. Janel Schemper can be reached at janel@allaboardharvest.com.

Schemper Harvesting

Leaving Nebraska and going north towards Montana. This is what I drove and hauled the whole way. There’s 24 tires on the ground and 6 loaded on the trailers plus a few spare tires so that’s over 30 wheels going up the road. I’m always praying for no blowouts!

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We were blessed to have cooler temperatures during our traveling north to Montana.

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It was cool and cloudy the whole way on our trip north.

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I think I climbed about 100 hills to get to my destination. Some were little but some were monstrous.

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We stopped here because the header trailer in front of me had a blowout tire. We had it changed in about 5 minutes and kept traveling up the road.

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This was a wicked looking cloud. Drove into rain and hail and stopped for about 5 minutes then continued on our way.

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One last turn we thought. We stopped here for a 5-minute break to check chains and tires then went about a mile and read a width restriction road construction sign. We stopped immediately. We had three combines on this trip so us combine haulers had to turn around (luckily a local farmer showed us where to turn around about a mile away) and take a different route while the rest of the crew continued on through. All I wanted to do was get to Fort Benton and didn’t need the extra miles and stress but we made it eventually.

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I made it to Fort Benton, Montana. Photo by Jared Schemper.

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Such a beautiful outlook. There’s about four pivots, a house and a road down there if you can see it.

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Check out that railroad track and beautiful scenery.

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Interesting read about Fort Benton.

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The story of Shep is so special. What an amazing dog. Miss Moo and I understand forever faithful! Also, check out my farmers tan! LOL! Photo by Carlene Schemper.

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I hauled my combine across that bridge when we came into town.

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The Lewis and Clark Memorial. Sacagawea had to be one tough woman! So beautiful.

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Bloodiest block in the West at one time. Very interesting history here.

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This was the Bloodiest block in the West at one time.

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Pretty scenery.

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Fort Benton sits on the banks of the Missouri River.

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Miss Moo is in Montana.

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Miss Moo loves adventure too!

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Hello, George Montgomery! He was born near Brady, Montana, and went to Hollywood after high school and became a Hollywood leading man. He was in 87 movies and on a tv series! 

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Interesting information on open range cattle.

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Strangers often ask me, “How do you get your dog to pose for a photo shoot?” I just say, “She’s so smart!” No, really though, I think I’ve taken her picture 10 million times so she just knows what to do!

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Miss Moo is in Montana.

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Downtown Fort Benton, Montana. It’s a tiny town but there’s lots of history here!

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Pretty scenery along the Missouri River.

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Shep’s memorial. Very interesting story about a forever faithful dog.

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Miss Moo is in Montana.

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Miss Moo is in Montana.

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Oh, Moo! I won’t ever leave you behind.

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Going to the field and in Montana the rule is you have to have a pilot car in the lead and also have one following.

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Going to the field. I have a pilot car following too.

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Harvesting winter wheat in Montana. Check out the mountains in the background. They are 35 miles away I was told.

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The bushels are good.

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My combine and pickup header.

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Harvesting winter wheat in Montana.

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Dry wheat and excellent bushels.

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The first field is finished! Yay!

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Moving on to another field.

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Just fueled, greased and used the air compressor to blow the chaff and dirt off of the combine.

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Harvesting winter wheat in Montana.

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Harvesting winter wheat in Montana.

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Harvesting winter wheat in Montana.

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Harvesting winter wheat in Montana.

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Harvesting winter wheat in Montana. It’s so dirty.

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Harvesting winter wheat in Montana.

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Finishing the field before we quit for the night.

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We stopped and were waiting to hear back the moisture. That’s an excellent wheat crop in that swath.

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Lots of good looking wheat—full even heads—in the swaths.

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I love being in the field but never thought I’d ever be in Montana harvesting! 

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Harvesting winter wheat in Montana.

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Harvesting winter wheat in Montana.

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Harvesting winter wheat in Montana.

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Harvesting winter wheat in Montana. Making lots of dust!

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Harvesting winter wheat in Montana.

14 Comments
  • Paul E. Tomlinson
    Posted at 12:49h, 03 August

    I understand your feelings on the parts, It’s that way with many items, The dealer is at the mercy of his supplier, everything is backed up, I checked on a new bike last Sat. 6 month wait-, Right now, nothing is certain– Good luck with your harvest-

  • allen walters
    Posted at 20:56h, 04 August

    i bet if they saw a red combine in your fleet they would change their tune!!! that is pathetic it has to sit that long

  • John Lase
    Posted at 12:25h, 07 August

    Doesn’t John Deere still have harvest support? I know the dealers are suppose to help first, but they should have stepped up and helped get the part. They should have pulled it right off the line at Moline if needed. Seems like its all about getting the right people involved, and I know you have the connections. Heck I remember a motor blowing on a Case IH machine and the guys at ProHarvest Support had one straight off the line from Grand Island in Frederick, Ok the next morning. When I had my S670 combine down in Texas back 2013. I had the 6 bolts holding the separator drive clutch come loose. We called the local dealer on a Sunday, and the Service Manager himself came out and put gauges on it to check it out. Yup it was broke. I asked what we could do to get it fixed fast. He said if I had it at the dealer at 7:30 Monday morning they would work on it ASAP. And they did, I asked if we could help, he put 3 guys on it and I and another guy helped. We had it fixed and out the door by 3pm. It was so great to deal with them, I had NEVER met them or done business there before. But they sure earned my respect. Sad that it has become so “hard”. Good luck, I loved combining in Montana.

  • Don Eliason
    Posted at 13:12h, 07 August

    What an excellent post! I really like your writing which always includes how the harvest is going and tops it off with a few pictures…and one or two of Miss Moo!

  • Joseph Tomlinson
    Posted at 08:21h, 20 August

    Thank you publishing the article about wheat harvesting in the golden triangle of Montana. I very much enjoyed reading it and seeing all the photos. My late wife was from
    Turner Montana and she had so much knowledge to teach me about combining and life around her home area in Blaine county. I’m sharing this information with my daughters and grandchildren so they can be more aware and knowledgeable about harvest time in Montana.

  • Leah TIetz
    Posted at 11:09h, 20 August

    Welcome to Montana! Your beautiful post was shared by the MT State University Alumni Foundation.

    • Janel Schemper
      Posted at 21:54h, 21 August

      Leah Tietz, hi! Thank you! That’s amazing news that MSU shared my post! Thanks again and I appreciate your message! -Janel 🌾

  • MaryBeth Groseta
    Posted at 13:17h, 20 August

    Wow, Janel, what a great post. I grew up in western Montana on a a cattle ranch and only went to eastern Montana after college to teach right in wheat country. Home today is a cattle ranch in central Arizona. We had the same part story on one of our trucks about parts that did not come, wrong one sent, one that disappeared. I think we were without our truck for 5 weeks. On the other hand we pump water and haul water to many pastures here in the arid southwest and out huge generator went down and the guy was out the next day to get us back up. Your blog is a boon to all agriculture and how we educate those non-aggies. You write beautifully and all the photos made me homesick. .

    • Janel Schemper
      Posted at 21:51h, 21 August

      MaryBeth Groseta, hello! Thanks for reaching out! I very much appreciate your kind words! Thanks again! -Janel 🌾

  • Carol Gard
    Posted at 00:14h, 21 August

    I thoroughly enjoyed your post with all the gray scenery! I grew up in southern Montana and consider it my home state though I’ve lived in Illinois over 40 years.

    • Janel Schemper
      Posted at 21:48h, 21 August

      Carol Gard, hi! Thanks for your message! -Janel 🌾

  • S Glass
    Posted at 18:23h, 22 August

    Well earned farmer’s tan. I found out about this post on the MSU Alumni post and found it informative and interesting. Thanks for your narrative and your hard work.

  • Vincent Abdi
    Posted at 11:58h, 26 August

    Having read this I believed it was rather enlightening. I appreciate you finding the time and energy to put this short article together. I once again find myself personally spending a lot of time both reading and commenting. But so what, it was still worth it!

  • Evelyn Urrabazo
    Posted at 22:16h, 26 August

    I’m amazed, I must say. Rarely do I come across a blog that’s both educative and amusing, and let me tell you, you’ve hit the nail on the head. The problem is an issue that too few people are speaking intelligently about. I am very happy I stumbled across this in my search for something relating to this.