Brian: Time machine trickery

Minneola, Kansas—After twelve days of going stir crazy staring at the clock, we finally have started harvesting in Kansas … and it’s about time. This weather pattern is so unusual even the locals can’t recall another summer quite like this. Known for triple-digit heat and single-digit humidity, Kansas has instead given us foggy mornings and cloudy skies. The gale force winds that usually blow your hat off and into the next county have been light and variable, and even a few sprinkles on our tin roof have served as an alarm clock a few times this week.

As you can expect, this has significantly slowed our progress in the field. We managed to string together four consecutive days of harvesting for at least a few hours per day, but our working streak was ruined by a stray thunderstorm. Ironically, we have been stranded by rain in this specific field multiple times due to being on a dirt road. We should know better by now, but once again we found ourselves trudging through the mud in a walk of shame towards the closest gravel road to meet our ride home.

More times than not, the evening brings about thunderheads that threaten to brew up another round of storms. Harvesting with our lights on has been a rare occurrence this year.

We continue to fight mud in the fields as well, although it’s more of a nuisance compared to the heartache it caused in Oklahoma. Speaking of Oklahoma, our farmer there informed us since we left the area they have received 12 inches of additional rainfall. Talk about finishing in the nick of time. It’s also interesting to consider much of southwest Kansas has received more rain in the last two months than they have in the previous eighteen combined. We’ve had 19 rain events so far this summer, and it’s almost enough to make us wish we could turn back time to the year 2003. That summer we worked 68 days with only two days off.

The fields are too wet for the semis, and even fueling the combines with the pickup requires 4×4 and a little luck. Water along the ditches and ponds in the fields mean some areas will never be harvested.

Every day we are getting closer to finishing here, partially due to better weather, but also because of fewer acres than anticipated. Between the water creating ponds in the low spots and weeds overtaking some areas of the fields, we’ve had to leave areas unharvested. While disappointing, some tricky timing has us thankful Kansas will be done sooner rather than later.

There are no pretty pictures of wheat this year in Kansas. Many acres have been lost to weeds, even after the fields pictured here were sprayed to kill them 10 days ago. If you find a field without weeds the wheat is thin, short and poor. Harvesting in these conditions has proven to be trying.

We always knew there was going to a day of reckoning with all these weather delays. It has arrived. The worst case scenario of multiple states ready at the same time has once again become a reality. Talk about bad timing. Earlier this week a few fields were already harvested at our stop in central South Dakota. Of course before we move there we have our Nebraska acres waiting. This means we need to be in three states all at once, and outside of utilizing time machine trickery it’s simply impossible.

Nearly all crews are facing this dilemma, and there is no easy answer. In an occupation where timing is everything, we all seem to be at the right place at the wrong time. For us, forfeiting Nebraska to get to South Dakota ASAP has been determined the least worst option. In a year where all we want to do is work, seeing more acres snatched away is especially hard. Not being able to fulfill the commitments made to our Nebraska customers is even harder. I wish I had better news to report this week, but you know what they say … better luck next time.

We help celebrate Vernelle’s birthday with a traditional German chocolate cake with decorations provided by Judah and Canaan. She is one talented cook, and we often take for granted her variety of meals and remembering how to make everyone’s sandwiches with just their preferred condiments.
After tens of millions of revolutions, the draper head’s auger fingers get new guides and hardware installed. In Kansas we find ourselves often harvesting alongside trains and turbines.

Brian Jones can be reached at

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