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Brian: Winning weather, weary crew

Thomas, Oklahoma–If you measure success by the number of consecutive days you harvest, the crew is totally winning in Oklahoma. We are having ideal weather here in Thomas, the wind and sun are pushing temperatures into the upper 90s and even into the 100s. Sometimes green wheat and rain are a constant headache, but not this harvest so far. This year we may have won that war, but the crew is starting to battle fatigue. We have harvested all but one of the 12 days since we arrived. An unexpected cold front developed a fast-moving storm that brought three-tenths of an inch of rain and a high temperature of 80 degrees. We appreciated the reprieve from the heat and a chance to catch our breath, but our break was short-lived.
The morning was spent relaxing a little and working around the trailer houses. We haven’t found time for odd jobs like mounting a TV in the new trailer, and I still have belongings in cardboard boxes to be put into drawers. In the afternoon we caught up on some maintenance projects we have been unable to get to. We took a sample, but the wheat was just a little too wet still. Hot weather returned the following day, and we are right back to harvesting. It’s the only rain delay we will experience in Oklahoma, a very different experience compared to the muddy fields we have battled here the past few years.

Sometimes the wheat fields follow the red roads of Oklahoma, winding through scenic terrain.  The John Deere “drops straw” in windrows behind the machine instead of chopping and spreading it so it can be bailed up for animal feed or bedding.  Cameron, David and Glen take advantage of our one rainy day to replaced the cutting sections on the sickle of the Case combine draper head.
Once again we were excited to arrange an in-field visit for three young men from the Oklahoma Baptist Home for Children. One of the faithful sponsors of All Aboard Wheat Harvest, OBHC is a faith-based ministry that provides children and single mother families a safe, stable and nurturing place to live. They assist struggling families by teaching important life skills that help them develop a solid foundation on which to build a more positive life for themselves. Their visit is a rare opportunity for the boys to spend time in Oklahoma and be a part of agriculture for an afternoon. The boys were full of questions and eager for combine rides. The machine’s advanced technologies were a hit, and they decided a full grain tank of wheat makes a great swimming pool substitute. It’s a fun way for us to share the story of agriculture through our unique harvest lifestyle. The excitement and laughter provided an escape from some of the challenging life circumstances these young men face, and we were inspired by their life-changing stories. Perhaps you will be inspired as well to consider supporting the great work going on at OHBC. Make sure to visit obhc.org/10AcreChallenge to learn more about the work of this great organization and how you might be a part of their 10 Acre Challenge fundraiser.

Our visitors from Oklahoma Baptist Home for Children are excited to get up close to the machines and understand how they work.  They discover a full grain tank of wheat can also double as a swimming pool or plastic ball pit.
Despite the long hours and hot weather while here the equipment has performed very well. It’s largely been incident-free, but we have had a few snafus along the way that idled each machine briefly. The Case combine developed a vibration that we identifed as a failed bearing starting to damage a few other components. One phone call to the factory-staffed ProHarvest support team resulted in a technician being dispatched with all the required parts needed for the repair. Everything went back together easily, and soon we were up and running again. The John Deere found a hidden surprise in the wheat while harvesting along a pasture fence. A long piece of electric fencing wire, likely tangled around the feet of a cow and dragged into the field, got caught up in the machine. This resulted in the wire being wound up inside the machine like a spool of yarn and wrapped around a number of components. Fortunately I realized what was happening immediately and performed an emergency shut down of the machine–also known as simply turning the key off in a panic. We have heard of this happening before, and it can be a monumental disaster to remove. What could have been an all-day job ends up taking only an hour. It’s a hot, dirty job, but we successfully remove all of the wire and get right back to harvesting.

Case IH ProHarvest Support visits the field to assist with David’s small repair, an amazing service that keeps downtime to a minimum. Brian frustratingly found loose wire in the field, and Glen’s hands were full of the tangled mess wrapped up inside the machine as a result. Fortunately it took less than an hour to remove.
Oklahoma usually entertains us with some unique exotic wildlife. Armadillos, snakes, tarantulas, scorpions, road runners and wild boar are all on the menu of possible sightings. This year has been a bit disappointing. We’ve only come across a dead armadillo on the side of the road, a clutch of turkey eggs and some fawns. Baby deer always concern us, as their natural instinct is to hide rather than run away from danger. Fawns often hunker down in the wheat, threatening to stay right in the path of the combine. Let’s just say that leads to a bad outcome for both the fawn and the combine operator, so we take great care in keeping a close eye on any rustling wheat in front of us. This year we chased out more fawns than I’ve ever seen, but don’t worry … everyone escaped without incident.

Titus, Ezra, Judah and Canaan are always on the lookout for wildlife when visiting the field. This year they missed out on seeing the more unusual animals here, but turkey eggs and baby fawns are still entertaining finds.
As we finish up in Oklahoma the wheat crop continued to impress. Yields ranged from 30 to 60 bushels per acre, and test weights were 61 to 65 pounds. The crew has settled into our new summer routine, even if we are a little work-weary. A record number of acres were cut here in Oklahoma, and that’s a great way to kick off this harvest season. But there is little time to celebrate. All eyes are on southwest Kansas now, and they have been experiencing the same hot, dry weather we have had in Oklahoma. We hear a few early fields have already been harvested, and the yields are big. Looks like we will have to keep daydreaming about that rainy day off, but there are no complaints about this wonderful, winning harvest weather. Load ’em up and head ’em out. The wheat is ripe, and the crew is ready. Kansas here we come.

Everyone is all smiles and thumbs up as we finish our Oklahoma acres. Before we leave for Kansas the machines must be cleaned, a hot and dirty job made more tolerable by the cooler temperatures as the sun goes down. It’s an acceptable tradeoff for working in the dark, but headlights and flashlights are needed to light the work area.
Brian Jones can be reached at brian@allaboardharvest.com.
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.


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