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Brian: Change of address

Minneola, Kansas—After being in Oklahoma for 27 days, it felt like we had almost taken up residency there. I’m not sure what the rules are, but I was beginning to think I’d need to change the address on my driver’s license if we didn’t get harvest wrapped up there soon. I think the post office was ready to assign us a permanent mailbox, and we probably qualified for membership at our church.

Despite more rain this week we harvested a whopping six days in a row. Not full days, mind you, but it felt like we were actually making some progress. Every acre has been a struggle here, fighting rain, mud and weeds right to the bitter end. It’s been a long time since we’ve been in Oklahoma in July, but after nearly four weeks and eleven separate rain events this challenging stop is behind us.

Whether it’s red dirt, red roads, or red sunsets, Oklahoma has a certain charm to it. David finds an area of the field that is thin, but miraculously has few weeds.

Finishing the last of the fields did not come easy. This week was a pivotal time to get the grain out before some fields were simply lost to the weeds. The window for spraying had passed, and sprout damage had begun to appear in some fields. Insurance adjusters have been in the area, and we’ve seen some fields zeroed out and destroyed with tillage tools. Some of our acres were totaled out by insurance, estimating yields as low as two bushels per acre. Other fields we left behind looking like Swiss cheese, leaving areas that were simply unharvestable. From a distance, fields now look like lawns.

The weed situation has gotten worse by the day, and yet some how these fields still yielded 25 bushels per acre. If the operators weren’t battling weeds, then they dealt with short, wind and rain-battered wheat.

The last few days we slogged through some weedy messes that were almost more than the machines could cope with, but it was now or never. The carpet of green left behind the combines almost looked like a freshly manicured lawn. The fields that did get sprayed were scarred by the tracks of the sprayers with deep ruts pushed up by their wheels. It wreaked havoc on the combine operators. Cut too high and you missed the mud but also the short wheat. Cut too low and you risked slicing off the top of a rut or even dipping the head into standing water at times. Somehow I managed the miraculous feat of picking up another deer antler in my combine tire … in the same field as I did last year.

How I can find another deer antler in the same field as last year seems impossible at best, but thankfully it doesn’t go all the way through. Mud and standing water makes a mess of the machines. I’m over it.

After weeks of battling the weather I’ve never felt so relieved to see the last truck headed towards the elevator. The afternoon was spent cleaning machines, but the high humidity and temperature made it almost unbearable. Maybe we just got soft with all our time off, but the water jugs were emptied and refilled more than once as we tried to keep hydrated. Apparently Oklahoma has a sense of humor, so in an effort to help quench our thirst it brewed up one final storm that came right in the middle of loading equipment. Muddy tires and rain-slicked metal trailer ramps are a bad combination, so we gave the ground overnight to dry up. Loading the following afternoon required the use of a hammer and chisel to remove rock-hard red mud preventing access the chain tie-down points on my combine.

It’s a scorcher of a day, and red dirt mixes with our sweat while we clean machines that includes using a hammer and chisel to make room for chains. Cameron delivers the last load of grain to elevator.

Filling out the change of address card at the post office seemed like quite the accomplishment this year. Our mail is now being forwarded to Minneola, Kansas, located just south of Dodge City. Our move north went smoothly, but after being in Oklahoma for so long we almost feel discombobulated by our new surroundings. But don’t worry, it looks like we’ll have plenty of time to get settled in. Not five hours after unloading equipment a thunderstorm swept across our fields here. You can’t make this stuff up.

It’s a bird’s-eye view of the crew pulled off the road for a quick break on our move. We wave farewell to Oklahoma and are welcomed to Minneola with its moonlit water tower.

Brian Jones can be reached at brian@allaboardharvest.com.

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

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