Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Finished Harvesting Wheat, What the Heck Happened?

The best thing that I can say about this year's wheat harvest is that at least it's done.

There were no major breakdowns besides a broken alternator/water pump belt that somehow managed to also loosen the A/C belt.  The engine overheated, the A/C compressor puked out a bunch of freon (from the overheating and loose belt), and with all the smoke and stink I thought for sure that the engine was on fire.  After I figured out that I didn't have to try to put out an engine fire and my heart stopped doing back-flips, it just took a trip to town to get a new belt and I was back to cutting wheat in an hour or so.  

It was one of the quickest harvests I've ever had, one long day of cutting, rain, a day of waiting for it to dry up, then another day of cutting, another rain and day of waiting, then a final day of cutting. The only downside to a quick harvest is that it was so quick because there wasn't much wheat to harvest, most of it was really short, and there wasn't much grain in the heads that were there. So, I had to run faster and closer to the ground to get enough material feeding into the header (at least the header has skid plates so I could run it that close to the ground).

I knew the yields were going to be a lot lower because it was so dry over the winter and the freeze (27 degrees) we had back in April, but I never expected it to be so horrible (about 20-25% of normal).   I absolutely hate dealing with buying crop insurance, but at least I had crop insurance this year (I almost opted out of it last fall) and should break even because I only buy enough crop insurance to cover a catastrophic year.    

Next year will be better (it shouldn't take much to top this year).

I rent a farm a few miles away, so I need to drive the combine down this narrow paved road while hoping I don't meet some guy driving a semi or something.  This year I didn't meet anyone at all, unlike last year when it seemed like I was meeting some sort of an oil-field truck every time I crested a hill.   It's a little hard to tell from the picture, but from 8 feet up in a combine cab, the road looks awful narrow, and since it feels like you are bouncing all over the road, it seems even narrower whenever you meet someone on the road. 
Heading back to the barn, hoping I don't meet a semi coming over the hill
So, if you ever meet someone on the road driving a combine, try to slow down and get over a little bit in the road so your ears don't start burning because the guy driving the combine is cussing his guts out at you because a combine doesn't handle like a sports car and he thinks he's about to slam into your car because you refuse to get over.  Words of wisdom from Rich.


  1. I imagine it's pretty hot and humid over there with the recent rain... it's definitely muggy here.

    I didn't have anything as dramatic as a belt blowing up on a combine, killing the A/C... but I have spent two days learning all about frost-free refrigerators and taking our main one and the spare apart multiple times to get them working right.

    Although I curse the timing of things blowing up, I do enjoy learning about how things work, and being able to fix them.

    Refrigeration is a wonderful thing when it works!

    1. Usually it's starting to get hotter and drier by this time of year, but it seems like it's more humid this year and just as hot even though it's in the '90's. At least everything still keeps growing when it's this sort of humid hot.

      I was lucky that the A/C was still working after I tightened the belt (it had just been re-charged before I started harvest). A few years ago, the A/C just stopped working (it was a wiring problem), but it was supposed to rain the next day, so I had to just tough it out and keep going. It was over 100, but it was so hot in that cab that whenever I would stop and get out, it felt like it was almost cold outside. I was drinking water almost non-stop, but it's a wonder I didn't get heat stroke.

      After that, I try to keep the A/C charged up and try to check all the wiring, switches, etc. before harvest starts. If I hadn't checked the charge this year, I might have been sweating my guts out again.

  2. Ron - Where were you when my refrigerator shot craps?!

    Rich - Growing up on a farm, I always learned to drive a bit slower and pull over when cresting hills on the back roads especially during harvest times. I am constantly amazed to see people flying along those narrow roads and going right down the center when cresting hills. It is like a bad game of craps to see who is going to shoot them. It has never happened to me or my parents driving machinery but a farmer down the road took out a guy a few years back who did a header into the farmer's combine cresting a hill and going way faster than he should have been. Kind of put a damper on the harvest.

    1. Last year, I had a guy come out of nowhere who flew past me just as I hit a rough spot in the road. I thought for sure that I was going to crumple the side of his car with my front tire.

      The really stupid part is that he turned off at the next intersection about 100 yards away.

      I don't think most people realize how much a tractor or combine actually weighs or what it could do to them or their car if it ran into them.

    2. (Ed - don't let me near your refrigerator... I thought I'd clean up a rusty patch at the bottom today, and managed to hacksaw through the condenser coil... doh... so ended up buying a new one anyway... sigh... at least it was educational... and the new one is a lot quieter...)

  3. Did they wrap up the oil exploration in your area?

    1. I'd say that the most drilling activity close to the farm was from about late-2012 to about late-2013. They were drilling wells, building pipelines, upgrading the electric powerlines, and doing siesmic surveys.

      In the spring of 2013, you could see 12-15 drilling rigs all lit up at night from the farm. Now, you might see 4-5 rigs. The majority of those rigs were directional drilling rigs and they were drilling up to 4 (possibly more?) wells on each drilling site.

      About the time the drilling started, they started working on the pipelines (much bigger pipelines than they ran in the past, with multiple pipelines laid at once that can handle oil, gas, and water), but now most of the pipeline activity seems to be almost finished in the area.

      This spring, another seismic survey was done in the area (complete with sensors everywhere, helicopters flying in the sensors, and thumper trucks driving all over), so it's possible that they might come back and drill some more wells.

      I don't think the boom is completely over yet, I think the drilling activity has just moved down the road for now.