15 Jun Brian: The greatest show on Earth
Greenfield, Iowa—We may be counting down to the final day at home, but the stress level seems to be going up. Without question, the worst part of wheat harvest is the “getting ready to leave” part. You never know which one of the bazillion things you have to do should be completed first, and once you finally pick a task it only takes a few minutes to realize you should be doing something else.
It ends up a juggling act of sorts, often with too many balls in the air at once. School is winding down with last minute sporting events and music concerts to attend. The planter is still running in the field, trying to finish up those last acres of soybeans. Baby calves are being vaccinated and turned out to pasture for the summer. The baler and rake come out of storage in preparation for hay making, while feed wagons and tillage tools are put into storage for the summer.
Finishing field work while simultaneously preparing to be gone for three months presents many time constraints. Thankfully planting our crops wrapped up earlier than normal. Usually we are already in Oklahoma before our hired hands begin to put up hay for the season, and we’ve enjoyed the chance to smell the fresh cut alfalfa for the first time in a while.
Let’s add a few more balls into the juggling act while we are at it. The lawn needs mowed again, my driver’s license needs renewed, and the stack of mail pilling up on the counter top might contain a bill or two that better get paid. Oh yeah, I almost forgot to call the post office to arrange forwarding our mail to Oklahoma. I suppose I should also get the combine out of the shed for its 12-hour wash job, and maybe I better get the semis inspected for the summer. And now I’m out of milk, so maybe I can find time to go to town for some groceries. You know … in my spare time. I just realized I need a hair cut, too.
I’m sure you get the picture. So many things to do and not enough hours in the day to get it all done. Fortunately we have had a beautiful planting season this year, and we have finished weeks sooner than the previous years. This means a lot more time to focus on wheat harvest preparations, and that’s about the biggest stress reliever there is. The weather has turned unusually cool in the midwest, meaning the wheat in Oklahoma is ripening slower than normal. Much of Oklahoma had 75 degrees recently for high temperatures, yet North Dakota broke records with over 100 degrees in many areas. Here in Iowa, winter coats were worn on the last day of school with a 36-degree wind chill while waiting for the bus.
Make no mistake, washing a combine takes a lot more time than washing a car. It’s difficult to ever finish in one day, and there are some very hard to reach places. A big thanks to my friend Jeremiah that volunteered to help me take on this wet, dirty job.
The weather has been wonky this spring, but we won’t complain about a little extra time here at home. There is always plenty to do, but we added two more time-consuming projects this year. We are excited to have upgraded our living quarters this year, with David purchasing a new travel trailer. This is only the second new trailer we have had in our 38 years of living on the road, so it’s a pretty exciting purchase. Finding a floor plan that can accommodate David, Cameron and Brenda and their four boys took quite some research, but we were able to custom order a new 32 foot-long Palomina Puma that has three push outs and two separate bedrooms. That’s a huge increase in living space square footage and we are excited to have such an upgrade in accommodations.
Three slide outs with two private bedrooms—one in the front, one in the rear—means a really big upgrade in our living accommodations. This floor plan included a ton of open storage space to hold a summer’s worth of stuff. Once we’re settled in, I’ll give you an official tour of the inside.
Of course this means finding a new place to store everything seven people tote along for the summer. All new cubbies, drawers and closets to fill means it’s taking a lot more time to move into that trailer. Don’t get me wrong … it’s worth all the effort in the end, but, wow, it’s been a lot of effort for Brenda and Vernelle. If cardboard-box-Tetris was an Olympic sport, those two would bring home the gold medal. Another exciting addition to the new trailer is also a first in 38 years—a washing machine. While not sized to tackle a week’s worth of dirty field jeans, we hope the ability to do some daily washing will shrink our mountain of laundry and make trips to the laundromat less overwhelming.
While it takes a lot of physical work to load equipment, the real unsung heroes are Vernelle and Brenda that do the bulk of trailer house packing. Years of experience and extreme organization help, but the detailed lists of what to bring and where it all goes takes an enormous amount of time—and even more so in a brand new trailer. Hopefully a big time saver this year is the washing machine you can see hidden in the closet to the right behind the stack of cardboard boxes.
The other big upgrade for the summer is a new service pickup. The last truck served us well for 9 years, but a unique opportunity to trade it for a new one was too good to pass up. You may have heard COVID-19 has caused car manufacturers to have a difficult time getting enough computer components to build new vehicles. This has led to a pretty severe shortage of new heavy duty work trucks in the midwest for sale, making used trucks a hot commodity. Long story short, we got a huge offer to sell our old pickup and found one of the last new trucks in the area that suited our needs. It took days of work and a road trip out of state to make it all come together, but we are excited to have a new work horse that offers a host of improvements over the old truck that will make life easier on the road. However, I would’t wish on my worst enemy the arduous task of swapping over two-way radios, fuel tanks, and tool boxes. Just one more unexpected task that eats up more time than you seem to have available.
It’s not every day our crew gets a new pickup, and it was nearly impossible to even find a new truck available for sale. Glen is all smiles picking up his new 2021 Chevrolet Silverado 3500 HD diesel 4×4, but perhaps that’s because he delegated the swapping of the tanks, toolboxes and gear to Brian and Cameron. Getting something new is a lot of work, but totally worth it.
With only a few days left before we hit the road, everyone here is hot, tired and just ready to get on our way. Once you leave, the worst is all over. It doesn’t really matter what you forgot or what didn’t get done, it’s just finally over. It’s certainly a later leave date for Oklahoma than normal, but we didn’t waste any of those extra days. We are hearing the wheat in Oklahoma is looking pretty good, and the same goes for southwest Kansas. We are concerned, however, about the Dakotas. Their record-setting heat wave so early in their growing seasons has put a huge stress on the wheat crop, especially the spring variety. It’s already looking like some acres could be lost to drought unless the weather turns around soon. However the forecast doesn’t indicate any such luck. We’ll be keeping a close eye on that situation.
Leave the farm behind for three months means a lot of planning, and getting harvest equipment field-ready takes a lot of time. Cameron works on removing the corn concaves on the combine while Brian inspects every hose and pulley in search of something in need of preventive maintenance. Glen works on annual semi truck DOT inspections, checking brakes and tires to make sure we are ready to safely tackle the thousands of miles that lie ahead.
Ladies and gentleman, boys and girls, children of all ages, get ready for what some call “the greatest show on Earth.” Our circus is about to hit the road, we just have to corral the last few monkeys. The combines resemble elephants all loaded up, ready to saunter down the road single file. The opening juggling act has been pretty entertaining, but the main event will soon start under the big top. The tent flaps are pulled back and there is plenty of room inside. So grab a few peanuts, sit back and enjoy the show. I can’t promise any flying trapeze artistes or lion tamers, but we’re not clowning around. The wheat harvest circus is in town.
Soon the sun slipping behind a growing green landscape will be replaced by golden wheat ripe for harvest. Leaving behind our family, friends and farms is bittersweet, but we can’t wait to begin wheat harvest in Oklahoma. Daily life is about to change in a big way for the crew, and we are looking forward to finally hitting the harvest trail.
Brian can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
All Aboard Wheat Harvest is sponsored by Case IH, Unverferth Manufacturing Co., Inc., BASF, Oklahoma Baptist Homes for Children, Gleaner, ITC, Westbred, Huskie, Western Equipment, US Custom Harvesters, and High Plains Journal.