Sunday, August 29, 2010

Whew! 2010 Wheat Harvest Done

Joe's combine cutting wheat

We finished our wheat harvest on the Genesee farm around 6:00pm Thursday, August 26th amidst a crazy summer wind storm.  The overall yield was  slightly above average  for the Genesee farm, but it was not the "bumper crop" many  had expected (including us).  The early indicators of having an abundant harvest were due to having the  near perfect weather conditions such as lots of rain and cool temps in May and June which typically produce record wheat crops.  But we are still happy to have a little above average yields and even happier that they are now safely in the grain bins.  We now have a small field of lentils to harvest and many acres of garbanzo beans to harvest as soon as they are ripe, which should be in the next week. 

As many farmers, including us have many different field locations, it takes a little bit of organization to get all the equipment moved from one field to another.  To give you an idea of what moving looks like, I took this picture of a neighbor moving his equipment along the road we live on.  The header on the combine needs to be removed as it is too wide for roads or highways, so it will be pulled by a pick-up on its special trailer.

Pick-up pulling the combine header on a special trailer

Farm equipment moving along our county road

Like many farm families, we enjoy hitching a ride or two on the combines and tractors and the day before we finished, our oldest daughter, Jen brought the grand-angels out for another ride.

Brinley and I getting ready to take a ride with Poppa

Brinley is our 4 yoa grand-angel, although she likes getting rides in the equipment, she is more into picking wheat for a bouquet for Mom.  She is our girly girl, just like her momma and Aunt Kaitlyn.  On my side of the family we are used to all girls and they are all "girly girls" who like dressing up, shoes and all the glamor that goes along with that. 
Brinley in the wheat posing for Grandma

Natalie awaiting a ride with her Poppa in the combine
This is Natalie, our almost 2 yoa grand-angel. This is one who grabbed her Mom's phone when she saw Poppa in the field and shouted... "Poppa..... "bine" (combine) .... ride.... NOW!"  I think it was her first 4 word sentence.  From all early indications, I think this is the child who will be wanting to hang out with Poppa in the field as soon as she can.  She loves her John Deere boots, trucks and combines.  Today at our house she ended up taking home one of Poppa's farm magazines  because she liked the pink truck that was in the magazine. 

Sunday, August 22, 2010

A Day in the Life of a Farmer During Harvest

08.24.2010 This blog has been updated with 2 short video clips
I tagged along with Joe to show you what a day during harvest looks like.  Ours started out with a few sprinkles of rain, so we didn't get into the field until 1:00pm.  The day is usually started around 6:30am-7:00am, so we enjoyed the morning by reading the paper, having coffee and then getting a call from our 4 yoa grand-angel inviting us into breakfast at their house. =) Yummm.

As you can see the clouds were still hanging around and it is cool and windy, about 63 degrees.  Joe is on top of his combine blowing off the wheat chaff and dust.  This practice helps eliminate a possible fire, which the danger of that is always present as their is plenty of dust and wheat chaff that forms on the combine.

Joe on top of his combine blowing off wheat chaff

More wheat chaff and dust being blown off ( you always
want to be upwind when this is occurring)

Cutting wheat with a 40' header
Climbing up into the combine I take my seat next to Joe and watch as the wheat goes through the header which then goes into the bulk tank.  For the passenger, watching the wheat get thrashed in the header is very mesmerizing, sort of like watching a fire in the fireplace. 

The monitor in the cab

 This combine has a monitor that provides all sorts of info, like the one above that gives a picture of the field where Joe's combine had harvested the day before.

A view of what is seen while cutting from the cab

A view from the cab, the wheat chaff makes it dusty
Cutting wheat is dusty and there is chaff flying all over, so above is what it looks like as the header is cutting the wheat. 

Looking into the bulk tank from the cab back window

Loading on the go from the combine into
the bank-out wagon
Above is a picture I snapped as the bank-out wagon pulls up along side the combine and we are dumping the grain into the cart. 

Short video clip of unloading the grain from the combine into the bank-out wagon.  The combine usually needs to unload the bulk tank about every 12 minutes, so  by " unloading on the go" it saves approximately 2 minutes harvest time every 12-15 minutes.

Loading the grain from the bank-out wagon cart
into the semi
The bank-out driver, Erin, then unloads the cart into one of the semi-trucks.

The truck arrives on the scale fully loaded with wheat
 Next I hop into the semi that Cody, our hired man, is driving and go into town with him to dump the grain at the co-op. Above is Cody pulling onto the scales to get weighed fully loaded.

Cody opening the valves so the grain can go into
the pit at Pacific Northwest Co-op
Once the truck is in the correct spot at the warehouse pit, Cody opens the bottom of the grain trailer where the grain drains into the pit. 
The warehouse man collecting a grain sample

Here is a short video clip of unloading at the warehouse.


The warehouse man takes a sample of the grain for testing. The wheat gets tested for moisture, test weight and grade, checking for sprouted wheat heads, dockage and  a falling numbers test.    

Waiting line to dump the grain at the PNW Farm co-op

The empty semi getting re-weighed
 The empty truck then goes back to the scale to get re-weighed and at that time is when Cody gives the wheat sample to the  person inside the scale house.  Then it's back out to the field again where another semi is loaded and ready to go!  This is what we do to feed America.  As I've said before, farmers are ordinary people who have an extraordinary job to do.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Harvest Dinner in the Field

Whew! We finished our wheat harvest on Wednesday, August 18th down at the Tammany farm and that is always a good feeling.  After  having  moved all of the equipment up to the Genesee farm we have started harvesting the winter wheat.   From the looks of things harvest is now  in full swing on the Palouse as I see other combines, tractors and support vehicles on the roads as they move from one field  location to another once all the crops have been cut.

Around 2:00pm today while I was still at work,  I got  a call from my hubby asking if it would be possible to bring a dinner out to the field for the crew.  Of course he was hoping the answer was yes, and knowing that I do like to cook and usually don't mind last minute requests, I was happy to oblige.  I used to take dinners out to the field, but it became too hard to do when we had 2 different crews in different locations so we discontinued them.  So by 6:30pm I was out in the field with my trusty Subaru bringing everyone a hearty dinner that consisted of  lasagna, garlic bread, green salad and a berry tart and chocolate zucchini bread that I happened to have on hand.  So this is what a true harvest in the field dinner looks like.
Dinner served from the back of my trusty Subaru
A clean milk jug with soapy water allows the crew
to wash up before dinner is served.
One thing with men, they  pretty much eat anything and are really appreciative for the food. =)
This is my husband, Joe dishing up his plate.

Left to right is our hired man, Cody, brother in law, Jay and friend,Hale who
dropped by for a ride in the combine

 (A little history on Cody- he started hanging out on the farm when he was about 11 yoa riding in our trucks and tractors when our girls were helping on the farm. He'd also ride for hours in the combines and would ask a million questions - he  was one of those kids who is extremely mechanically inclined and wanted to know exactly how everything worked!  So once he was old enough to work on the farm he has been our dependable and loyal hired seasonal help during the summers, until June when he graduated from high school and we hired him full time)   =)  I also want to note our other wonderful seasonal help was Erin, who had the day off today.  She is off to college in the fall, so we have found another young lad (Ryan) and Erin is training him to replace her spot in the tractor/bank-out wagon.
In the red shirt is Cody's dad, Roger and  Ty, Roger's other
son (by the car)
Roger and Ty both had the day off, so we were happy to have them drive our trucks.  One thing about Roger, Cody and Ty, they are hard working and can seem to do anything you ask.   It is definitely good to be us  to be able to have friends like these when you need extra help and at a moment's notice.

Ty received lots of kidding from the guys as he just announced he had
asked his girlfriend to marry him last night.  He looks
like a pretty happy young man to me! =)

All the semi's lined up waiting to go to town to get unloaded.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

I love this picture, it's like the combine is patiently waiting to get into the field and it reminds me of watching a Friday night football game wherein some young lad is patiently waiting his turn to get into the game. =)

Last night we finished the winter wheat down at the Tammany farm, with the exception of the 10 acres hit by hail and are waiting for the hail insurance adjuster to assess it.  So today the crew is looking for ripe spring wheat to harvest.  The winter wheat which is seeded  (in this area) usually in late September or early October has a longer growing season, so it is harvested first.  Winter wheat is genetically designed to need the cold weather in order to produce a wheat head the following summer.  Spring wheat on the Palouse is typically planted late March or in April and as it has a lessor growing season and does not usually produce as many bushels of wheat per acre as winter wheat does.  On our farm, we use spring wheat in the rotation of our crop cycle to help with the disease cycles and weeds.  Our typical crop rotation on a field is winter wheat, then the next season spring wheat, then the following year it will be planted with some type of legume and it is usually garbanzo beans, but we have planted lentils as well.  The rotation of crops help the farmer to control weeds as different treatments affect different weeds and herabicide products can help control a broad leaf weed but won't hurt the wheat plant, and then we can control other weeds with products that will kill a grass like weed when we have a legume planted.  Plus rotation of crops are needed to help destroy soil diseases, all  this is done to keep the health of  the soil in optimum condition.  

Friday, August 6, 2010

Hail during Harvest

The ever present threat of rain storms coupled with hail during harvest is one of our biggest fears (especially during a good wheat year).  Pictured above is some of the hail stones gathered that hit one of the fields we were harvesting this afternoon.  Joe said he had never seen such big hail before and was concerned they were going to break the windows in the combine cab.  Luckily all windows are in tact.  If we can get the video he shot of the storm uploaded, we will add that as well.   They had the field about 90% harvested so that was good.  Now we will need to await to see what the  insurance adjuster has to say about the rest of the crop damage.

A mile or so down the road the ground was dry so we moved the combines to that field and started harvesting that field.   Crazy weather!  We are hoping this is the last of the rain/hail that we will have to encounter during this harvest.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

The Season of Harvest

I saw a sign at a local  implement dealer that said, "Farmers have 3 seasons, Before-Harvest, Harvest and After-Harvest."  It's true, it is what we live for.  This is our "paycheck", it's what we use to buy seed and fertilizer, pay labor, make equipment payments and live on until the next harvest.  Sometimes farmers have to use their line of credit if they have not had a good year, but this year with all the rain, I think it will be a great harvest! =)

On the Anderson Farm, we started our wheat harvest on Monday, August 2 down at the Tammany Farm.   This year's cold rainy spring has delayed the crops and we, along with everyone else, are about 10-14 days later than usual.  Once we finish the wheat at Tammany  then  we will move up to the Genesee farm which will be probably 8 or 9 days from now.

Last  Saturday I helped Joe take our 2nd  semi truck over to  the field that would be harvested first, and as I was following him into the field, I was again amazed at the amount of equipment that is needed to get the wheat harvest done at the Tammany farm.   So here is what I saw but couldn't get it all in the picture,   3 combines, 2 tractors with the bank-out wagons and 4 semi-trucks plus one tractor with a disk behind it.
All the equipment seen here is from our farm, with the exception of the  green John Deere combine and one semi truck as they are owned  by the Hermann farm whom we have hired to help us harvest the wheat.

Joe and I  bought a used (but new to us) 2009 combine and  this model is very complex as it has a TV like monitor in place of gauges.  So after getting the semi parked,  Joe wanted to practice cutting a couple of bulk tanks of wheat before Monday in order to get more familar with this new machine.   When the combine starts up, it  feels a little like an airplane reviving up, just before take off, then the motor calms down and all is quiet except for when the monitors that beep and sound like a video game.   Actually a cockpit of an airplane does remind me of the inside of a combine.

Our day started out with Joe checking out the combine to make sure all was in order.

 Once Joe  checked out the combine, he wanted to get a feel for the machine due to the fact that we bought this late last year after our harvest was over and he had never driven it.  This is the newest combine we have ever  owned and like I said,  it is very high tech.  Joe has been reading the owners manual for weeks now, but you need "seat time" to really understand all the bells and whistles.   

 Joe's combine has a flashing beacon just outside the cab and it will automatically start flashing when the combine sensors note that the bulk tank needs to be unloaded.  The bulk tank is located  on top of the combine.

This is what we call the bank-out wagon, it is a grain cart pulled by a tractor and the driver will move up to the combine and drive along side it while the combine unloads the grain into the grain cart.  Then the bank-out wagon will then go to the semi truck and unload the grain from the cart into the semi trailer.

To give you an idea of just how big the equipment is, this is me standing next to the tire of the bank-out wagon.  I am 5'4" and the tire is still a tad taller than I am.   In the picture below is the auger folded up at the front of the green gain cart.

This is what a full bulk tank looks like just before it gets unloaded into the bank-out wagon.

Joe checking the wheat heads.

Here is a video of the combine unloading into the bank-out wagon, as well  as a picture below unloading into the other bank-out wagon.

Here is a picture of one of our semi trucks.
The purpose of this tractor and drill (below)  is for fire prevention, so once the combine cuts the first opening round in the field, one of the crew will take the tractor with the disk and plow up the ground for a fire break.
Well that's it for today's Harvest 101 lesson. Stay tuned for more to come! 
P.S.  Joe is really having lots of fun and his first day of harvest 2010 went well. No break downs for him and we cut 300 acres of wheat.   
Hope you come back for more updates on our harvest.  =)