Tuesday, June 28, 2022

This Is Us: An Overhead Glimpse of Harvest 2022

Thanks to our neighbor, Mark Pike, for these drone images and his permission to share them. What a gift!


Just like 6.4 million other people, I watched the series finale of a family television drama called "This Is Us" at the end of May. Just by watching my Facebook feed, I know I'm not the only viewer who had a Kleenex box nearby as I watched the finale episode about a family we all got to know and care about during six seasons of Tuesday nights.

I'm not sure how many people then scoured the internet to find quotes from the episode. But there was at least one. (That was easier than starting and stopping the DVR for me to take notes. And since I found a compilation of "This Is Us" quotes, I'm fairly confident that I'm not the only one.)

In it, the mom, Rebecca, is traveling on the metaphorical train toward death after suffering from dementia for several years. And I was struck by the words from her "conductor," William:

"The way I see it, if something makes you sad when it ends, it must have been pretty wonderful when it was happening. Truth be told, I always felt it a bit lazy to just think of the world as sad, because so much of it is. Because everything ends. Everything dies. But if you step back, if you step back and look at the whole picture, if you're brave enough to allow yourself the gift of a really wide perspective, if you do that, you'll see that the end is not sad, Rebecca. It's just the start of the next incredibly beautiful thing." 
William to Rebecca, This Is Us, series finale

I saved the quote (and a few others). And I thought about it again when our neighbor, Mark Pike, sent some drone photos he'd taken of our harvest - our final one as active producers.

Undoubtedly, the drone gives that wide perspective - a little bigger picture than I'm able to see with my normal "boots-on-the-ground" view through my camera lens.

For some reason, the drone pictures - and that different look at harvest - had me pulling out the Kleenex box again.

Through the years, I've tried to document harvest to the best of my ability. Since I began Kim's County Line in 2010, I've made an even more concentrated effort, but the efforts to photographically show and tell the journey of wheat - beginning to end- have been part of my DNA for long before then.

I've taken some spectacular shots - and a whole lot that weren't noteworthy at all. But, for some reason, these photos taken from a bird's eye view were particularly poignant. 

"The way I see it, if something makes you sad when it ends, it must have been pretty wonderful when it was happening."
That bears repeating, I suppose. But I also know this process is a little like childbirth. The mom develops a bit of amnesia about the rigors of the birth process itself. Otherwise, the whole world would be single children - or so the joke goes.
So, as I look back on 41+ years of farming with Randy (and a lifetime for both of us before that), I have a tendency to remember the good - the rides in the buddy seat on the combine, my book in my hand after the conversation was exhausted. ... The wildlife making a hasty retreat as the mighty machine takes another swath of field ... The vibrant green peeking through brown soil, a yearly miracle. ... The dewy raindrops caught on green wheat. ...The sound of wheat, rustling in the Kansas breeze. God's masterpiece sunsets sinking into the western horizon as the combine rumbles toward it and seems to gobble up the light. And so much more.

You don't wax nostalgic about yet another trip to the parts counter or the third flat tire in a week or your legs sticking to the plastic seat of the truck or the buckets of sweat. You realize that you're not bounding up the steps of the combine like you did when you were that teenaged truck driver. You aren't thrilled with the rash you develop during harvest or the pesky cheat that gets stuck in your socks. You don't fondly remember those phone calls to hire a Caterpillar to come pull both the combine and the tractor out of mud - and the accompanying bill. While Harvest 2022 was pretty smooth sailing the first week, perhaps I needed a reality check - and got one. We had a rain delay, and, when we got up and running again after a day and a half, I got the call that I needed to come help get the truck pulled out. (Plus, since we hadn't used the tractor for awhile, it had to be jumped before it could do its job. Mission accomplished - but it was a circuitous route.)

But those moments of aggravation don't take away from the life and lifestyle that we've lived and loved. It's not for everyone. We didn't do it perfectly. I'd change some things.

But, a bird's eye view helps me remember that it was - and is - a beautiful life. 

Toward the truck, that field finished
In another quote from "This Is Us," Dad Jack tells his kids:

“That’s what we’re doing, just collecting these little moments. We don’t recognize them when we’re in them because we’re too busy looking forward. But then we spend the rest of our lives looking back trying to remember them, trying to be back inside them.” 

So I find myself doing a bit of that. I think it's natural, as we change directions.

Mark also included a drone photo of Randy's folks' house. It sold on June 4, and a new family will begin building a life and making memories there, beginning in mid-August.


I just hope they'll look back - years from now - and have those moments to collect and remember, too. 

And, as for us, we may get done with wheat harvest today, after getting rained out yesterday again. Then it will be time to get things ready for the farm sale coming August 13. 

And, hopefully, just like William told Rebecca: "It's just the start of the next incredibly beautiful thing." 


Mark shot drone footage two harvests ago. He didn't send any video from this harvest, but here are some repeats of 2020 videos



I actually got a pretty awesome still shot from that 2020 harvest night, too. The sky was breathtaking. I enlarged this one to canvas size.

Harvest 2020

A shot I got Saturday night, June 25, reminded me of that one. 

Harvest 2022

For more from the post about the 2020 harvest, click HERE. And, thanks again to Mark!

Thursday, June 23, 2022

From Planting to Harvest: A Review in Photos

June 21, 2022

Back in September, during planting, I began documenting our 2022 wheat crop.

September 2021
We began planting wheat on September 21, 2021, so I decided to use the 21st of every month to take a photo at the same location and post it to my blog and Facebook.

I patterned the concept after Hudson Cream Flour's Facebook page. ("Patterned" sounds better than "copied." Thanks for the idea, Tabra!) During the last growing season, Stafford County Flour Mills posted a monthly update on the wheat crop to its Facebook page. The mill - which is located in Hudson, Kansas, in our home county - produces Hudson Cream Flour. (It's the best flour there is, if you need a testimonial. They also have a Hudson Cream Flour Baking page on Facebook. Check it out, too!) They did similar reports in 2022. 

I decided to take my photos on the same day, mainly so I'd remember each month.

My June 21st shot at the same location revealed a stubble field. We harvested that field during the first week of harvest.

Here's a recap of the photos, without having to go back to each individual blog post. (Click on the photo collage to make it bigger.)

Since I always took the monthly photo on the 21st, it didn't reveal the whole story. Here's one from January 26, when we got a little snow on the crop.

We began our harvest the evening of June 13, and we are about halfway done. We had a stretch of long, hot cutting days but were halted when we got 0.25" of rain Tuesday evening. It didn't dry off during the day yesterday, and we got another 1.10" last night.

During many of those days, we had clear blue skies, with no clouds. But, as an amateur photographer, you always hope for a little drama in the sky to offset that beautiful golden wheat.

Father's Day provided some fluffy clouds for some photogenic shots.

Speaking of photogenic, that storm that rolled through on Tuesday evening provided plenty of drama, including a rope cloud that I captured in a panoramic shot.

The sky provided a free show. A brief shower had moved through about 5:45 PM, dropping a few sprinkles, and then quickly moved on. 

Still, the dramatic blue sky to the east was a startling contrast to the sunshine behind the weather system. It made for pretty photos as I delivered supper to the field.

We thought that was the extent of the weather, but just 30 to 45 minutes later, another system rolled though. 

We watched as the rope cloud developed from the west/southwest.

It constantly evolved as it moved across the plains.

My final panoramic shot was just as the cloud was about to go over me. I made my way back to the car, and then Randy called from the combine to get picked up as the rain began to fall. There was quite a dust storm as I drove a mile over to pick him up.

After more than a week of hot harvest weather, it appears that we'll be dodging raindrops for awhile. We have a custom cutting crew scheduled to come and help us finish. We'll see when we close the chapter on Wheat Harvest 2022.

Tuesday, June 21, 2022

Giving Up the Co-Pilot's Seat: Wheat Harvest 2022


We almost needed one of those number dispensers that they used to have on the counter at Baskin-Robbins during the summertime rush. Plucking one of those numbers from the spool guaranteed your place in the line to order your scoop of one of 31 flavors.

It may not have been ice cream, but there was still a line to ride in Grandpa's buddy seat this past weekend, when the whole family made a quick trip to the farm. I didn't think it was going to happen. Jill, Eric and the girls had planned to come, but Brent and Susan had just returned from their honeymoon. However, Friday afternoon, they made the decision to get in the car and come, so they were last-minute additions to the harvest "party." 

There was no homemade ice cream - or Baskin-Robbins, for that matter - but there was frozen lemonade dessert for all.  And everyone got a ride or two (or 3) in Grandpa's co-pilot seat.

It made my day - and weekend - to have everyone here together.

The bright sun may have not been particularly conducive to quality photos. But I'm still glad to have them as we celebrated wheat harvest as a family one last time.

I'm sure our kids remember wheat harvest with a mix of emotions. During such a busy time, there's pressure to get a lot done. The hours are long. The time is short. Machinery breaks down. You make trips to the parts counter or the co-op. You think things are fixed ... then they break again. The weather doesn't cooperate. Tempers boil over. By the end, people are exhausted. And after a celebratory dinner at a favorite restaurant (a harvest tradition), then there are always new farm tasks to complete - like the seemingly endless job of working wheat stubble to prepare it for the next crop.

But I also know they learned a lot about working hard ... working together ... doing a job well ... being dependable. Those long hours on the farm working with family helped shape them into the successful adults they are today.


As always, Randy loves combine "hitchhikers." And Kinley and Brooke are definitely favorite riders.

He loves answering their questions and introducing this generation to their agricultural roots. This year, Grandpa got to see them before I did. They spotted Randy on the combine as they drove by, and their parents let them out for their first combine ride of the weekend. It wouldn't be their last!

Randy is glad to tell them about their mom, who was our truck driver back in the day. They always come back to the house with reports of wildlife they've seen. Jill even got to see a bobcat.

This was the second year that Susan was part of our harvest-style family reunion.

We ate "out" with our special dinner guests.


Grandpa was the instigator behind this posed photo.

This type of "eating out" may not be the norm when you have dinner guests. Maybe they can't be called "guests" when they are drafted into work.

One afternoon, Brooke illustrated the lunch bags while Kinley rode the combine.

It's a tradition that the girls draw pictures showing each dinner guest's interests and hobbies.

There can be some interesting seating arrangements. Grandpa likes to stand up to eat since he spends hours sitting in the combine cab, so we don't bring a table and chairs, like some farm families do.

Since our truck driver fell through, Randy has been cutting the wheat, then hauling it to the co-op. But that made for another experience for the girls (and others) who rode along on the trip to Zenith.

There's a lot to learn at the elevator, too.

Cities aren't the only places with tall structures.

After the grain was dumped, they headed back to the scale house for the ticket, which gives the amount of grain delivered, the quality, the moisture and any dockage.

After supper, it was time for Daddy-Daughter time - old style. Jill rode with her dad both Friday and Saturday nights.

Photo by Jill

It was a flashback to her truck-driving days, when she'd catch a ride in the air-conditioning and wait for the truck to get filled before another trip to Zenith.

Everyone left shortly after lunch on Sunday to return to their own lives. But it was the perfect gift for a Father's Day weekend for a Kansas wheat farmer.

Photo by Jill

Then Randy was just left with me as a helper again. It may have been Father's Day, but those clouds - the first of this harvest season - seemed like a gift to amateur photographers like me.


More photos to come in upcoming reports!