Pierre, South Dakota – We made the big trip from Western Nebraska up to the Pierre, South Dakota area, and there is definitely a big ole drought going on. I was told that there really hasn’t been any rain at home in Nebraska since May, and South Dakota looks to be the same way. I could see the drought results as I traveled across Kansas, Nebraska and South Dakota last week. Kansas looked alright, but as soon as I was in Nebraska I could see it. And it became worse as I traveled into South Dakota.
On the way up here we ran into road construction at Mission, South Dakota. There was a sign at Valentine, Nebraska that said road construction and width restriction 31 miles ahead. We asked around in Valentine; and everyone said they had seen lots of combines going north, and we could get through there. We got up to Mission, and there it was. There they were working on the main street that we travel, and our wide loads couldn’t fit through because of the cones. I wonder how many combines have just been hauled through there anyway. A local was nice enough to stop and tell us to turn around at the school, go back a mile and then head west on the gravel. Then at the dead end, go north up to Highway 18 and we would be back on the right track again to Highway 83 north. There was no detour route sign anywhere. For goodness sakes, why not?
Western Nebraska – This year I was in Kansas longer than expected due to the evening rain showers. We couldn’t ever work really late like we needed to and put in our time because we’d get shut down by the rain most evenings. The weather really messed with us.
Thankfully, my brother Jared and Uncle Lonny were able to harvest most all of our wheat jobs in Western Nebraska before we got there. We did still get to stop there and cut for a few days, which was great. Disappointingly, the wheat I cut didn’t yield well due to mosaic disease. The wheat looked decent from the road, but the mosaic disease really got to it this year. However, Western Nebraska has some of the most beautiful sunsets with such beautiful colors. I didn’t get to cut there long enough this year to enjoy them.
Morgan County, Colorado - Ryan left several days ahead of us to get started in Colorado. I had several more days of paperwork and preparation before we left home again, so I was relieved to finally have it all done and hit the road late Friday morning. As soon as I hit top speed, we experienced what I would call a "major" vibration. I exited on the next road. Nothing was visually off, so I circled around and tried again... same thing. The kids thought is was hilarious and great fun. They were laughing and making the "aaaahhhhh-ahhhh-ahhhhhh" noise along with all the vibrating. I could feel my frustration rising. All the while, I said prayers of thankfulness that this happened only a couple miles from home. A few back and forth calls with Ryan, a few calls to local mechanics to see who could get me in last minute, a couple shakes at Wendy's to pass time with the kids, several laps around Wal-Mart and visits to the pet department to watch the fish, two plus hours later we were ready to roll again. Thankfully it seems that something had just gotten out of balance, and it was nothing more serious!
Sheridan County, Kansas - It has been humid lately. And by humid, I mean western Kansas humid, not eastern Kansas humid. The day I was there it was downright sweltering with temperatures in the high 90s and almost no wind. Yes, it's not common out here to have little to no wind.
Out in that heat is where I met Stoney, a semi-retired farmer, whom wanted to come check out the "big harvest." It has been something on his to-do list for some time, and he drove 8 hours from the east to come watch. That is REAL desire to come watch harvest on a hot July day! Of course they have harvest east of us; but the fields are often smaller, and there isn't as much wheat in his area. The scale out west is just different. Here, the field sizes are often so much bigger, and they can hold a larger number of machines, larger headers, etc. It is a little humbling to think that someone would want to visit "US." In my mind, we just do what we do, but I guess it is no different than me going to see other sectors of agriculture, like the strawberry patch earlier in the season. I think we as farmers and ranchers, of whatever type, typically have a great respect for the profession and enjoy seeing and learning what goes on in other areas different than out our own backdoor.
Goodland, Kansas – We’ve been harvesting wheat every single day here on the Kansas/Colorado state line, which is great. However, we’ve been getting little rain showers almost every evening around 9 p.m. causing us to have to quit early most nights. These little rain showers usually just make a mess of the equipment. The dust and the chaff on the combines and blue headers get stuck on badly with the rain drops, and every morning we're kept busy blowing off the combines. And I get my biggest workout of the day in washing windows like crazy. Washing windows every single day gets old, but it is part of harvesting and the weather.
When we see the storms showing up in the west, we almost always have a threat of hail. Disappointingly, we did have some hail out of one or two of the clouds. Harvesting wheat that's been hailed on and a few acres of wheat with mosaic disease takes all of the fun out of it. Both are definitely disastrous to the wheat crop. That’s just the way it is sometimes. We have had plenty of good wheat to cut though for the most part. The wheat yielded 60-80 bushels per acre. The test weights were 60-63 pounds, and the protein ran at mostly 10 but was 12-plus sometimes.
Tribune/Sharon Springs, Kansas - We just finished our job here in the Greeley and Wallace County area. To give you some perspective, last year we started around July 5, and this year we ended the entire job on the 5th. It's interesting how seasons can vary so much from year to year.
This was part of the area affected by the late season blizzard I mentioned in an earlier blog post. Most of the wheat was laid flat beneath the snow. And who would have thought, after all it's been through this year, it would survive and be a respectable crop.
Test weights here were in the high 50s. Irrigated acres ranged widely between 50-80+ bushels per acre. I guessed the reduction in yield was due to freeze damage but was told they suspected it was 10 consecutive days of heat at the end that effected the yield. The irrigated results were a bit of a disappointment and just another example of a farm that tried to do everything right and was dinged by natural forces out of their control. Dryland (non irrigated) acres were in the 50 bushel per acre range. In some places, it was as good or better than the irrigated, which is unusual.