Tuesday, June 30, 2015

To Market, To Market

Then and now ...

Some harvest scenes haven't changed. A blue Kansas sky provides a backdrop as a combine unloads golden grain into a waiting truck. But compare the 1950s-era truck and combine with today's machines, and it's like the farm version of "Honey, I Shrunk the Kids."
This 1970s-era truck driver has changed a bit, too. But, as a farm daughter turned farm wife, harvest is still part of my DNA.
My Dad had me helping in the harvest field at about age 12. I began moving the grain trucks around in the wheat field before I was old enough to make trips to the elevator. After my Dad would make another swath with the combine, I'd move the truck closer so he didn't have to take time driving to the truck.

When I had my farm permit, I was promoted to a "real" truck driver and took loads of wheat to the Iuka Co-op. I remember being coached by my Dad and also by a truck driver named Ed, who taught me the fine points of waiting in line, unrolling the tarp, how to dump the truck and instructions in the fine art of elevator etiquette. 
After last harvest's truck troubles, we upgraded to a semi. It's been a great addition to the farm fleet. We used it during corn harvest last year, but this is our first wheat harvest using it. Since it can hold much more than a traditional farm truck, it requires fewer back-and-forth trips to the elevator.

Jake usually drives the semi, but I went along for the ride when Randy was the driver. (Yes, I could learn to drive the semi if needed. So far, my services have not been required.)
It's definitely a different vantage point traveling down the road in a semi.
Here, we arrive at the Zenith branch of the Kanza Co-op.
Randy unrolls the tarp.
He pulls the semi onto the scales at the co-op office, where they weigh the loaded truck. With the orange probe, they get a sample of the wheat and test for quality, including weight, moisture, protein and foreign matter.
At Zenith, there are two dump sites. This time, we were directed to the dump site outside the elevator.
Randy waits while another truck pulls out.
Once the truck is in position, the co-op workers open the hatches underneath the truck. The truck is emptied through gravity.

We still use the tandem truck as needed. A hoist lifts the truck bed on the old truck. Here are some photos from corn harvest that illustrate the difference:
A co-op worker opens the slides on the back of the truck, then signals the driver to begin raising the truck bed. As the driver, you watch in your rearview mirror and watch for hand signals from the co-op worker. Sometimes, they want you to pause so the grain doesn't pile up.
The bed is fully raised in the photo below. Once the truck is empty, the driver puts down the truck bed back down before pulling away.
No matter the method, it's a dirty job with all the grain dust swirling around!
Once the grain was unloaded from the semi, Randy pulled away for the trip back to the scales.
They weigh the empty truck and can then determine how much wheat we delivered to the co-op. Below, Tara gives Randy the ticket with the information about quantity and quality. If you click on the photo to make it bigger, you can see she's using a yardstick contraption to reach the driver's hands. That way, it saves steps for everybody.
Right before we pulled away, we took a look at the market board in the window. (This was from a week ago, so the prices reflect the June 23 price.) The wheat is stored at the co-op until we are ready to sell it
The farmer or landlord pays a storage fee to the co-op based on the amount of time the grain was stored before being sold. Then, it belongs to the co-op. When they  sell it, most is trucked out of the elevator to the buyer. (In the past, rail travel helped move a lot of grain, too, but most of it is trucked these days, at least in this area.)
Then it was back to the field to do it all over again.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Where's Randy?

When the kids were little, they liked the "Where's Waldo?" books. They'd be occupied for quite awhile searching for Waldo. You wouldn't think it would be that hard to find a guy in a vivid red-and-white-striped shirt. And Waldo had big, black Harry Potter glasses long before JK Rowling ever thought up the wizard boy.
Illustrator Martin Handford is a pretty talented guy.

However, I don't need an illustrator to lose Randy in the corn field these days. (See the photo at the top of this post.) On Saturday morning, we returned to our customary measuring spot. In just three weeks, the corn has had phenomenal growth. Below is the photo I took on the evening of June 7.
If that's not a miracle, I don't know what is.
The corn is starting to tassel.
 A corn tassel is the male flower of the corn plant. The tassel is a group of stemmy flowers that grow at the top of the corn stalk.  Each corn plant will grow this tassel on top when it is time for the ears of corn to begin growing.
The silk is the female flower of the corn plant. Some of the corn is starting to silk (below). The more silks that are fertilized, the more kernels there will be per ear.
An earlier-planted field has even more of the tassels and silks showing.
Soon, the tassels will pollinate (see 2013 photo below). The pollen is what causes the ear of corn to grow and ripen. The pollen falls off of the tassel and is blown by the wind to reach the silk of the ears.
While the rain we had Thursday night and early Friday morning stalled wheat harvest, it helped the 2015 corn crop. And that's a good thing!

We are still cutting wheat, but I thought I'd take a brief timeout on Kim's County Line to give a corn crop update. 

Friday, June 26, 2015

Time Out

Nature's light show was last evening's after-supper entertainment. As lightning flashed against the dark blue sky like early 4th of July fireworks, we hoped it would stay north of us.
Instead, we got 0.35" of rain last night, with another 0.10" early this morning. That will keep us out of the harvest field for at least part of the day. But it is much less rain than some of our farm friends got in other locations across the state, some of whom got hail, too. We were happy to avoid that!
As the storm approached last night, it meant some pretty photos with the golden wheat silhouetted against a darkening sky.
Farmers don't ever like to admit that we'd rather it not rain. But when there's still plenty of wheat to cut, we would have preferred for it to wait a few days.
Still, the corn and silage will like the little sip of water, and our summer pastures can also use a little refreshment. Sometimes, you just have to find the silver lining.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Harvesting Memories: Take Two

A note from Kim:  I have been having some internet issues the past few days, so I am reposting a blog from 2010, the first year of Kim's County Line. Television isn't the only thing with re-runs these days.

I've been around for my share of harvests. In fact, I entered this world at harvest time more than 50 years ago. However, back in 1957, it had rained enough that harvest was momentarily stopped just in time for my arrival into this world. So my Dad didn't even have to get off the combine to take my mom to the hospital.

However, I was not around for the harvest pictured above. I rediscovered the photo when I was digging through a box, looking for some other photos. It was one we brought home from Randy's folks' house. When we were going through all the "stuff" of their lives, we got down to the photos and everyone was tired of sorting.

As an admitted photo fiend, I didn't want to throw them away, so I said I'd take them home and store them until people wanted to go through them and divide the rest of them. That day never came. So here they still sit, taking up space in my basement.

Anyway, with harvest in full swing, I thought it was perfect timing to find a photo of a harvest from days gone by. I don't know who the people are or the year it was taken. I assume they are some of Randy's relatives. My Grandpa Leonard, who was also a farmer, had a similar photo hanging in his home office in Haskell County.

It does make me thankful for modern equipment. And I also appreciate that I don't have to feed a crew that big. Sure, I have a couple of extra people at the table or gathered around for our impromptu field "picnics." But I count at least nine people in the long-ago harvest crew. That would be a lot of meat and potatoes!

The combine pictured above was owned by my parents. It was a 1957 model, just like me. My Mom and Dad gave all the grandkids a history book several years ago and included family and farm photos and stories. It was a great gift (and one that I haven't yet passed along to my kids. I am storing the books for safekeeping. My sister says her kids have to be 30 before they get their books. I think that's a good idea, since I pull them out all the time and use the photos and information.)

My Dad, who is also a saver, kept sales receipts and other records. I think it's fascinating that a brand new combine had a $6,275 price tag. Let's just say the price for new combines has gone up faster than the price of grain.

In 1964, my sisters and I posed with my Dad in the photo below. I would have been 7. I hadn't debuted as a harvest helper yet, but by this age, I was already driving the pickup in the field while my Dad picked up fence posts. My sister, Lisa, worked the foot pedals on the pickup, since we needed to use the clutch. I do remember it took us a little while to get the hang of it.

Maybe that's why my Dad had me helping in the harvest field at about age 12. I was the oldest child and the first to qualify for harvest duty. I began moving the grain trucks around in the wheat field before I was old enough to make trips to the elevator. After my Dad would make another swath with the combine, I'd move the truck closer so he didn't have to take time driving to the truck. I don't know whether that was really helpful or whether it was a job to get me used to driving the truck.
I can't remember for sure, but I think this old truck was still around the farm when I started, though we had bigger and more modern trucks, too.

When I had my license, I was promoted to a "real" truck driver and took loads of wheat to the Iuka Coop. I remember being coached by my Dad and also by another truck driver named Ed, who taught me the fine points of waiting in line, unrolling the tarp, how to dump the truck and instruction in the fine art of elevator etiquette.

My Dad always said I was a better truck driver than any teenage boy would be. I don't think he was just "saying" that. I know I wasn't whipping the truck around corners to show off, gunning the engine or anything like that.

That's not to say I wasn't trying to impress. I distinctly remember putting on makeup and eye shadow before going to the field for the day. Those cute custom harvesting crew drivers might see me when I got out to unroll the tarp at the coop.

When I think back about that now, I can't help but laugh at myself. I doubt those drivers were looking in my direction - other than to see if it was their turn to drive onto the scales at the elevator. And any efforts to "doll" myself up were probably lost in a cloud of wheat dust anyway.

But I think it's a natural phenomenon among teenage girl truck drivers. I seem to remember a certain truck driver named Jill who was definitely interested in the whole seeing-and-being-seen part of trips to the elevator.

Yes, the truck driving skill was passed down to the next generation here on the County Line. She was all about working on her tan while waiting on Dad to load the truck.
There also was some multi-generational teamwork going on at my childhood farm during harvest. My Mom took these photos from the Moore family harvest, featuring my nephew Brian as combine driver. My Dad was his personal consultant. My brother kept irrigation systems going, but he happened to be available for a three-generation shot.
The equipment has changed. The technology has changed. But the teamwork to accomplish the harvest is still there. Brian was driving the combine on ground homesteaded by his great-great-great-grandfather. He's the sixth generation to work the Pratt County land.
Brian, Kent & Bob Moore
Randy is the fifth generation of his family to farm in Stafford County. I'm proud to be part of this century-old tradition on the Kansas plains.

More from Harvest 2015 is sure to come.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Beauty in the Cracks

The pink petunia seemed to grow right out of the concrete as I pulled into a parking spot on Main Street Stafford.

Just a few yards away, its compatriots were gathered demurely in the red-brick planter box. Since early spring, those petunias have been growing right where the conscientious, community-minded gardeners planted them. The flowers brighten and beautify Stafford's downtown. And they are doing their job admirably. All up and down Main Street, flowers bloom in the planter boxes, colors bright and cheery,  waving in the Kansas breeze.
Since springtime, I've noticed the planter boxes on my way into the Post Office or Stafford Mercantile or even just driving down the street. But, honestly, they remained in my peripheral vision. They were there. They were pretty. But, I didn't give them all that much thought or attention.
But, as I pulled into the diagonal parking space, this escapee caught my imagination. How did it get there? Did a seed float a few yards away and take root in the miniscule spot of soil found in a sidewalk crack? I was sufficiently intrigued to take a few photos.
I kept thinking about the little flower bravely growing in the concrete crack, long after I left Stafford for home. I thought the pink petunia was unique. But, when I was in town again the next day, I noticed even more of these "escapee" flowers. 
And it made me think about finding beauty in the cracks - in the places where you least expect it.

We know the world is cracked.
  • A mass shooting mows down worshipers in a South Carolina church.
  • Passionate people can't agree with one another at a church conference. Both sides believe they are representing Jesus and his teachings. 
  • Friends mourn loved ones.
  • Others struggle with scary diagnoses. 
  • Machinery breaks down - again.
I could go on and on.

Yes, the world is cracked. Sometimes, like the little pink petunia, we feel like we're all alone, clinging precariously to life in less-than-ideal circumstances. But, if we look around, we might find others standing in the cracks, just like those hardy flowers that find a way to bloom from concrete. 

It requires us to STOP.
It requires us to intentionally find the beauty in bad situations. I'm not saying there is beauty when  innocent people are murdered or when people disagree or when we deal with the 101 frustrations of living in this imperfect world.
But maybe the beauty is in how we respond to one another in love and compassion. Maybe the beauty is actually seeing the miracles all around us.

A Time to Think

All the world is an utterance of the Almighty.
Its countless beauties, its exquisite adaptations,
all speak to you of Him.
–Phillips Brooks, clergyman and author

A Time to Act

Open your heart to the beauty that surrounds you.

A Time to Pray

Dear Lord, please help me to see the beauty of every day.
The devotional (in blue) was from a daily email from Guideposts.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Picture Perfect Harvest Scenes

Randy & I thought this looked like an illuminated cross.
When I was in fifth grade, my parents took the whole family on a Christmas break trip to California. It was quite an adventure for a little Kansas girl. Now, when I think about it as a parent, I marvel that Mom and Dad put four kids in a car - one a toddler - and drove us halfway across the country for this big adventure.

We visited Mickey Mouse. We dipped our toes in the Pacific Ocean for the first time. We experienced Sea World and the San Diego Zoo. We drove across the border into Mexico, where we were not permitted to eat or drink anything and almost starved to death. (OK, that's what my 11-year-old brain thought since we didn't get to eat lunch until mid-afternoon. This Midwestern farm girl grew up eating at 12 noon on the dot!)

And we went to the Tournament of Roses parade, where I took roll after roll of photos of the flower-bedazzled floats. The thing is: They were all in black and white. Through the years, it became the family joke. (In my parents' defense, it cost a lot more money to develop color film back then, and it's not exactly like I was fast becoming Annie Leibovitz or anything.)

So, when I was snapping away yesterday afternoon in the wheat field, I told Randy that we were going to have a reenactment of the Rose Parade. However, this time, I was shooting in color. Yes, I shot 102 photos from about 6:30 to 9 o'clock last night. Randy is grateful for the advent of digital photography.
But, in my defense, it was just so pretty. As I delivered meals to the harvest field, thunderheads were illuminated by the sun in the western sky. Ripe wheat provided a foreground. (Randy thought I could PhotoShop Jesus in the cross-shaped cloud, and it would look just like heaven. But, alas, again no Annie Leibovitz around here and no PhotoShop either.)
I rode the combine with Randy after the guys finished supper.
From the combine cab - HDR photo treatment
The sunset was no less spectacular than the views from the supper hour.
Taken from the combine steps
Like an old Western movie, Jake drove off into the sunset.
And I watched and waited as the sun set over a Kansas wheat field.
No Hollywood movie type could have arranged a more beautiful way to usher out the day.
At one point, it seemed the sun was balanced on the highline wire.
It was a great day: The guys were able to start cutting early. There were no breakdowns. (Knock on wood and turn around three times.) And I got some pretty stunning, non-black-and-white photos of this beautiful place we call home. Who needs a trip to Disneyland or the Rose Parade?