Thursday, June 18, 2020

And Away We Go (Again): Harvest 2020

It was a picture-postcard-kind of day for the beginning of Wheat Harvest 2020. If the golden wheat set against a cotton-candy sky didn't have you humming "America the Beautiful" under your breath, you just weren't looking.
We began our County Line Wheat Harvest Tuesday, June 16. As I said when I posted a couple of photos on Facebook that day, Wheat Harvest is capitalized around here. It's the largest crop on our dryland farm in Central Kansas.

Randy had done some test cuts the day before, and it was just a little too wet. But by Tuesday afternoon, we were ready to  channel our inner Jackie Gleason and say, "And Awaaaay We Go!"

As always, it's interesting to look in the rearview mirror and do a little comparison. I started blogging in 2010, so I have a handy way to research the beginning date for our harvest for the past 11 years:

2010:  June 18
2011:  June 10
2012:  May 26 (an anomaly and the earliest harvest, by far, we've ever had)
2013:  June 21
2014:  June 17
2015:  June 20
2016:  June 15
2017:  June 12
2018: June 12
2019: June 26
2020: June 16

But we've both been involved in wheat harvest our entire lives - me growing up on a farm in northern Pratt County and Randy just down the road from where we were cutting that day.  
My Dad had me helping at about age 12, when I began moving the grain truck in the field. It was my prelude to being ready to drive the truck to the Iuka Co-op once I was legal.

I couldn't find a photo of Randy in a wheat field when he was really little, but I did find one when he was a junior in high school.
This wheat field was part of his FFA project, and the cutline says: "I am pictured here in my wheat field. The wheat has been freeze-burned by recent cold weather."
We've joined a long line of farmers who've been planting winter wheat in Kansas for 179 years. The first harvest of a wheat crop is believed to have been in 1839 near what is now Kansas City and before Kansas was actually a state. Statistics on wheat production in Kansas have been published since 1866, when records indicate that 68,000 acres of wheat were planted. Average yield that year was 19 bushels per acre.

Settlers mostly used varieties they brought from the Eastern U.S. or western Europe. The most successful early imported variety was Turkey Hard Red Winter Wheat. It was brought to Kansas by Mennonite settlers were arrived from the Ukraine in 1874.

My brother posted this video sometime last year, and I showed it to Stafford Elementary 2nd graders when I spoke to their class about farming then and now last fall. It's from Washington state, so the hilly landscape is much different from my part of Kansas. But it's still fascinating to watch. It's dated 1938. It's astounding how many horses and people were needed to accomplish harvest.

By 1880, planted acres in Kansas were up to 2 million, but the yield that year was only 10 bu/acre. By 1930, acres totaled 13.6 million and average yield was 14.2 bu/acre. Wheat production hit its peak in 1937 with 17.1 million, but abandonment of failed acres was huge, with only 13.1 acres harvested and a yield of 12 bu/acre.

Even though the view our ancestors saw out their front doors might be somewhat similar, I wonder what those Kansas farming pioneers would think of our mammoth machines today?
Wheat harvest transforms my resident farmer into a kid waiting for Christmas morning.
It's his favorite time of the year to roll the combine through the field and watch the kernels fall into the bin behind him and the yield monitor calculate beside him.
After last year's abysmal crop, my farmer is cautiously optimist so far. (OK, he's his normal overly-optimistic self and I'm cautiously optimistic.)
Though the puffy clouds from earlier in the day were gone by sunset, it was still a spectacular scene during the so-called "golden hour" ...
... no matter which direction you were looking.
And then it was almost as if Randy were harvesting the sun right along with our golden wheat crop.
It was so pretty out in the field that I turned down a ride. There will be plenty of opportunities for that in the days ahead though.
As I've told some of my farming friends, here's my wish for you this harvest season: May your breakdowns be few and your yields high.
And on that note, I'm off to get a part in Hutchinson at Case this morning!

1 comment:

  1. Thanks. We had another pretty night last night, so there will be more photos to come. However, the cloud-filled sky also brought rain, so we won't be cutting this weekend.