Dacoma- Week 1.
The first official week of harvest is over.
We arrived in Dacoma the evening of Thursday, June 2nd. We split the “convoy” up into three small groups, and we were the last group to arrive thanks to a flat tire on the header trailer I was pulling. (It happens. Funnily enough, this is my first flat ever, which I think is a pretty good track record so far.) We got to our parking and unloading space to find the others had unloaded the last combine, put on the beacon lights and bin extensions, and organized the equipment in the lot. After that we went into Alva and checked in to our hotel- our first “home” of the year.
Friday, I went to Bucklin, KS to pick up a header from last summer that we left at the dealership. It had needed work that we weren’t able to do ourselves, and rather than driving down from Valentine to pick it up when it was finished (we don’t need it after wheat harvest anyways), we left it there until we arrived in OK this year. While I was on my journey, the rest of the crew put duals on and finished up some other projects. I got back to Dacoma around 230pm and all of us went to eat lunch at the Smok-Shak in Ingersoll. (One of my favorite places to eat ever. Just a little hole in the wall on Highway 64, but dear God, can they smoke some meat. Seriously drool-worthy.) Wheat was still looked pretty green and the ground pretty wet from the recent rain, so we went back to our hotel and let the “kids” get acquainted with Alva a bit. I took a nap.
Saturday, Matt and I drove around to the majority of our fields in the morning to check on the progress. Another crew leader took his guys out to move their machines over by Carmen. To our surprise, we found quite a few that were incredibly close. It had gotten hot the past two days with a strong steady breeze, and that makes conditions change fast.
While scouting fields, I received a message from our friend John. John went on harvest with us for the past two years, and I’ve kept in contact with him on a regular basis. This year, he snagged a special internship and is traveling with wheat harvest with experimental equipment. We met John and his co-worker, Thomas (we got to know Thomas from last year from when we had an experimental combine) and ate again at the Smok-Shak (way too much food for the second day in a row). It was a blast having lunch with those two. We swapped stories and did a lot of catching up. It’s an awesome feeling to see familiar faces on the harvest trail when you’re far from home.
Later that afternoon, we drove back our to a field and decided to sample it. After grabbing a combine and a grain cart, to our surprise the wheat was much dryer than we originally thought. Like I said before, conditions can change fast. Matt poked around the field a bit, and opened it up for the next day. I hopped in the grain cart, and didn’t have to wait all that long to fill it. By that time, the final wave of equipment arrived from Valentine, and we drove back over to our staging area to meet up with them, then heading back to the hotel.
Sunday kicked off harvest full bore. We moved some more equipment around and then drove into Dacoma to eat lunch in the shade at the park. Sometimes just having shade and not eating quick in a wheat field is pure bliss. We even played a little football.
After lunch all nine combines were fired up and running, split between three different crews. Our crew has four combines and two grain carts running.
The first few “real” days of harvest are always the hardest. Kids are eager to get out and start combining, but training has to be done, equipment has to be moved around, etc. It takes time for everyone to get into the swing of things and to start feeling comfortable. Usually about a week in things start to calm down and every one gets into a pattern. Running all new equipment can get interesting at times too. It needs to get broke in and every once in awhile you’ll find a bad sensor, loose connection, etc. There is always something. Always.
The rest of the week went by without any (out of the ordinary) problems. Monday and Tuesday were pretty calm.
On Wednesday, our favorite place to get lunch reopened for the season. The girls at the Dacoma Diner are absolutely awesome, and I love visiting with them nearly every day. They really go above and beyond for us, even pushing themselves this year to get open a bit earlier than they had planned just because we were in town. Over the past few years, I’ve gotten close to them, and this year there was definite excitement when they opened (and not just because I hate packing coolers of food in the back of pickups and trying to keep it cold all day). The day went pretty smooth harvesting-wise. I spent a lot of time running between two crews with lunch, parts, and moving crews down the road. After those two crews settled into their last fields of the night, I decided to take a few minutes (maybe a bit more than a few) and hang out at the Dacoma Farmer’s Co-op, one of the main elevators we haul into.
I shouldn’t be biased, but I think all custom harvesters have their favorite co-ops and elevators. Dacoma is by far my favorite place. It’s been the same people working there for the most part for years. When you harvest in the same place for so long, you tend to get to be pretty good friends. The men (and woman!) of this particular co-op are hands down some of the most fun people we have the pleasure of “dealing with” on harvest. They’re also good for cold drinks, snacks, hilarious stories, and everyone knows that the local co-op is the best place to catch up on the local gossip and weather reports. I got back to my crew and found our friend John hanging out in the field with us.
Thursday, John was waiting on a shipment that got delayed, so he hung out with us for pretty much the whole day. It was a blessing in disguise because he was willing and able to help us move equipment, which would have been a pain otherwise. We moved from Dacoma to just south of Kiowa, which isn’t a long drive, but can be a pain to move four combines, two grain carts, a shop truck, and only three pickups and header trailers. We did the move in two trips, and although a bit slow, went fine. Thursday was one of “those days” however. Nothing major happened, but enough little things happened to make the day a bit frustrating. My day ended pretty late.
Today is going much better, and I’m actually writing this on my laptop in the pickup (much easier than trying to chip away at a post on my phone). Gotta do what you gotta do sometimes. The middle of the day was my most hectic, but right now we’re cutting a full section (without terraces or ditches!), which means no more moving or messing around. Definitely taking advantage of this “quiet” time.
If this hot and dry weather continues to stick around for a few more days, after Sunday/Monday, our time in OK will be very close in sight. Matt and I need to get our crew to Ford, KS near Dodge City at least by the middle of next week. They’ve had the same hot dry weather and that wheat is rapidly approaching its cutting time.
As a first week, it’s been a damn good one. Wheat is tall, thick, yielding fantastic, insane test weight and has been generally easy cutting. The wheat belt hasn’t done overly spectacular the past few years, and everyone is due for a good harvest- farmers and harvesters both.