Brian: The 3 Ps

Brian: The 3 Ps 

This time of the year always is filled with lists. Lists of things to start, things to pack, things to finish … the lists are long. This is the final week to check things off our lists before we leave for Oklahoma. We’re almost down to the wire, and the time has come to prioritize. Years of practice has us focusing on the 3 Ps of harvest preparation: packing, pasture and planting. 

Packing is in full swing, and years of honing our checklists of what to bring are invaluable. The big things are easy to remember, and you never forget the water jugs, pillows, or the phone chargers. But this list always seems to omit a few things, usually stuff you tell yourself you don’t need to write down because you’ve done this for decades and you’ll remember. Sometimes what you forget is just an annoyance, like the double-sided tape or flashlight batteries. Sometimes you forget what you can’t just run to the store to replace, like spare truck keys or the fuel card to the South Dakota diesel pumps. 

Extreme organization is the only thing that helps us keep our sanity. Stepping out the front door means you’ll find your summer home and the summer semi side-by-side.

While the gals are busy moving things into the trailer houses, the guys are moving cow-calf pairs to their summer pasture. The cool spring led to lazy grass growth, but finally warmer weather has the pastures ready for their new tenants. Calving season is over except for a few stragglers, and it went exceptionally well this year. However, we still had 3 a.m. cow check every night, there was plenty of bottle feeding to help those calves who got off to a rough start and we even had an emergency C-section. Cameron and Glen spent most of their time this week at the rodeo … and by rodeo I mean sorting, vaccinating and hauling critters out to pasture. 

Taking care of baby calves is always a family affair, but it’s never easy. Somehow the novelty of bottle-feeding calves wears off after a few weeks.

I’ve been spending long hours in the planter, but the urgency to wrap up has really set in this week. Our spring field work got off to a very slow start with cool, rainy conditions. A week-long rain delay had us a little anxious, but I’m excited to say the planter says all 143,010,855 seeds are in the ground and ready to grow. Unlike other farmers in the area, I now have my combine sitting in front of the shop. While their harvest starts six months from now, mine starts in just a matter of days. 

Planting got off to a slow start, but once we got started we only had one major rain delay. Now we wait for 143,010,855 seeds to pop up through the ground and pay our bills.

Planting even had a wheat harvest connection this year. We’re very excited to have upgraded to the latest generation of John Deere 8R series tractors, but actually finding a tractor available proved challenging. Equipment dealers are still suffering from inventory shortages and long order times due to supply chain issues. When we couldn’t find exactly what we wanted locally we made a phone call to our dealer in southwest Kansas where we purchase our wheat headers from. It ended up they had a low hour, used tractor that was exactly what we were looking for, and a week later it was hauled up to Iowa. I couldn’t help but chuckle when it arrived seeing some wheat straw still crammed in some of those “impossible to ever get clean” places, and it’s fun to think maybe we saw this exact tractor in the field working while harvesting wheat last year in Kansas. 

The new John Deere 8R 340 gets a thumb up from from both the adults and the kids. It’s always exciting to see shiny new machinery arrive, and we’re thankful for such a terrific tool for those long days.

As we spend our final week here at home, maybe I should add a fourth P to the list … panic. It’s impossible to not feel the pressure of having everything ready for life on the road completed over the next few days. But we are ready to put all the stressful preparation behind us and get to work. We are also not trying to panic about the poor crop conditions down south. Our Oklahoma job has majorly suffered from the drought, and we don’t expect a very stellar stop. Some acres have already disappeared, some fields so poor they have more value as cattle feed than harvested bushels. Everyone hates to see cows grazing instead of combines harvesting, but there isn’t much else to do when the rains don’t come. Southwest Kansas isn’t looking a whole lot better, so it looks like most harvesters are going to have a rocky start to their season. Let’s hope our panicked packing, planting and pasture work wasn’t all for nothing. 

No matter if we are panic packing, moving cows to pasture or planting soybeans, there is always time to stop and smell the beautiful spring flowers … and cuddle baby kittens.

Brian Jones can be reached at

All Aboard Wheat Harvest is brought to you by Unverferth Manufacturing Co., Inc.High Plains Journal, New HollandITC Holdings CorpU.S. Custom Harvesters, Inc., and Kramer Seed Farms

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