Wheat Harvest – The Best Time of the Year!

combine in wheat

We are smack in the middle of wheat harvest right now!  (Update:  We finished last night before our area got a big storm!)  Hip-hip-hooray!  Seriously, I think wheat harvest is the absolute best time of the year and I feel so sorry for everyone that doesn’t get to experience it!

This year makes my 37th wheat harvest 🙂  We have two main harvests around these parts- wheat harvest and fall harvest.  Fall harvest starts in October and can run to almost Christmas and is long and drawn out.  Wheat harvest, on the other hand, starts mid-June and everyone is usually done by the first of July (although I do remember several 4th of Julys as a kid where we had to miss the town fireworks because we were cutting.)

cutting wheat in Kansas
This was my view most of this week!

In this area, we grow hard red winter wheat.  We plant it in October and it comes up, looking like green grass.  It stays dormant all winter (but still stays a pretty green) and then starts growing again in March.  This wheat is used for all that bread you see in the grocery store and any flour you might buy!  Did you know Kansas is the number 1 wheat producer in the United States?  So, if you eat bread (whether you buy it or bake it yourself), there’s a good chance some of the wheat used to make it came from a Kansas farm 🙂

kids on combine
Here are my kids with their grandpa. This was about 7 years ago! Everyone was so little!

As a kid, harvest was like another holiday!  We all looked forward to it and we’d fight to get the first combine ride.  We had two main elevators that we hauled to- one handed out glass bottles of pop (later switching to aluminum cans) and the other handed out bubble gum.  You could find us kids somewhere in the field or on the road to the elevator during harvest.  Mom pretty much let us go where we wanted and if we wanted to come home, then we had to hitch a ride from our uncle or grandpa (if we were hauling the wheat back to the bins at our house) or wait until supper when Mom brought food to the field.

I have so many harvest memories!  We would play in the grain in the back of a wheat truck, take naps in the combine, try to chew the wheat long enough to make gum (you had to chew for like an hour!), eat our share of raw wheat and come home dirty and scratched up from the wheat stubble!  It was hot, it was windy, it was dusty and it was so awesome!

As I got older and became a teenager, my role changed.  I still had a blast in the field, but I eventually graduated to truck driver and occasional combine driver.  We had converted semis (instead of pulling a trailer like you normally see with semis, my dad and uncle elongated the frame and put a grain bed on it).  The trucks all had quirks, which you learned very well after hours and hours of driving them 🙂  They also did not have air conditioning and there was no radio.

kansas wheat harvest
This is me tarping a truck before taking it to the elevator.

We often cut late into the night (think 2 am), which would result in 80- 90 hour work weeks for almost 2 weeks.  My sister, who was 13 when I started driving trucks, was given the glorious job of keeping me awake at night!  Guess who would nod off?  ….. you guessed it- my sister!  I enjoy a good prank and one night I dumped my water jug on her to wake her up.  It was totally worth it using up the last of my water to see her jolt awake with a scream 😉

There’s an adrenaline rush that comes with wheat harvest.  We have a small window to get it in and June is still prime time for thunderstorms around here.  I have many memories of being chased out of the field by a later afternoon storm.  The last thing you want is for the combine to get rained on because even if the combine bin has been emptied out, there is still wheat left in the crevices.  If you get water in there, you end up with a stinky, fermented mess!  (Ask me how I know 😉 )

kansas wheat harvest
This is my view out the back window of the combine. That’s the auger dumping wheat into the combine bin. When my window gets covered, I know the bin is full and it’s time to dump in a truck.

One year, after driving trucks for a few days, they decided to put me in the tractor and have me start planting the double crop soybeans.  I was basically running behind the combine.  An afternoon thunderstorm popped up and everyone scrambled to get the equipment home.  My sister was riding with me and we were in the far end of the field (it happened to be one of the biggest fields we had!).  I was told to just keep planting until the rain came, so my sister and I are out there just planting away, watching the storm come closer and closer…. and then on the radio, they break in with a tornado warning!  A tornado had been spotted only a couple miles from our field and was headed our way!

There was no shelter and no way for us to get to any.  We discussed jumping in a nearby creek if things got dicey, but until that happened, we decided just to do what any self-respecting Kansas farmkid (who is accustomed to tornadoes!) might do… keep planting! Thankfully, it all disappeared as fast as it popped up.  It was a story we talked about for years, though 😉

kansas wheat harvest
This is the combine dumping into our semi.
kansas wheat harvest
This is the view from the combine seat. That long thing is called the auger. It folds up for when you are out in the field.

My kids love wheat harvest as much as a I do.  Everybody get their first combine rides as babies.  My 10 year old niece got her first combine ride just a couple days ago… she thought it was extremely boring and she can’t figure out what all the hype is about.  Maybe you have to grow up with it?  You catch the excitement of the adults and it just stays with you?

kids during wheat harvest
Here are the twins getting their first combine ride with their other farming grandpa- my dad 🙂

During wheat harvest these days, my job is to run the combine occasionally, which I LOVE.  Yesterday, I started teaching Lindy (who is 11 years old) how to run it, so one day she can help. (Update:  After 3 days of operating it for several hours each day, she’s a pro and is about ready to solo!)  That’s one thing about farmkids- you start learning to drive large equipment, which would intimidate most adults, very early in life!

kids during wheat harvest
Here’s Lindy driving!

Once wheat harvest is over, it’s almost a let down.  On one hand, you’re relieved that the crop is in the bin (this means money for the farmer!), but after the adrenaline rush that keeps you going for a week or more, you kind of feel a crash and it’s rather sad that all of the excitement is over.

kansas wheat harvest 8820
Lindy’s taking a short break while the guys change the fuel filter in the combine.

So, three cheers for the 2017 wheat harvest!!  And if you live anywhere near a field being cut, ask for a ride.  Most farmers are happy to explain all that they do and share the excitement of it all 🙂

Have you ever experienced a harvest season?  Does anyone else have a yearly “thing” that happens that you consider an unofficial holiday?

Feel free to share with your friends!

Back Where I Come From

 

Anybody know the Kenny Chesney song “Back Where I Come From”?  It’s an older one but one of his best, in my humble country-music-loving opinion 🙂  So, a couple weeks ago I spent two weeks of my life redecorating our community hall and this song kept playing in my head.

Why, you may ask?

Because our community hall is one of the symbols of “back where I come from.”  See, I’ve been blessed to come from a long line of people who settled in southern Kansas during the Homestead Act of the 1870’s/1880s!  And my family has been part of keeping up this community hall going back multiple generations.  And as I was doing this-

I realized that not many people get to be so blessed!

I don’t actually know very many people who live in this area because, well, that’s where their family has always lived!  You see it among the farmers (which is a dwindling population), but among my regular friends?  A lot are transplants.

And it also occurred to me that this is one of the many jobs a farmwife takes on that is behind the scenes.  My girls asked me, “Mom, why are you doing this???” as I was scraping wallpaper, patching sheet rock and repainting.  My answer?

“Because I can and it needs to be done.”

This is me with country music blaring in the background!

That’s a farmwife’s theme in life!  One that I learned as a farmgirl watching my mom and dad, my grandma and grandpa, my aunt and uncle.  It’s a lesson that my girls are learning, whether they realize it or not.  There are things that are just in your blood and keeping up the community hall is just one of the many things I saw and took for granted growing up.

It all goes back to “Back Where I Come From.”  There are things that get passed down in an agriculture community that stick with you and define you.  As I was painting, I was remembering all the times I’ve been in that hall- graduation parties, anniversary parties, baby showers, bridal showers, family holidays, community reunions, 4H meetings.  This community hall doesn’t belong to just my family, but to our whole township out there.  Many other people rent it and use it for those same things.  It’s used kind of like a church basement, except that we don’t care what denomination you belong to.  The one thing we all have in common is where we came from.  And it brings many of us together for a variety of celebrations several times a year.  It’s an honor to be part of the next generation preserving that.

That’s where I come from 🙂

Where do you come from?  How has that defined you as an adult?

 

Feel free to share with your friends!