We’ve been in New England, North Dakota for two weeks now, and surprisingly it’s gone fairly well up until a few days ago. Starting in mid-August, ND weather usually turns into a crap shoot- you never know what you’re dealing with really. When we were here last year, it was 80 degrees on a Friday, two days later that Sunday was a high of 35 degrees with freezing rain. Nasty and miserable. Thankfully we had a stretch of good, hot weather that cooked our fields. There were some late starts, early nights, and a few days where the farmer told us not to bother.
Even with it being stop and go, we so far have managed to cut all of our farmer’s spring wheat, and about a third of the durum. The past few days we’ve been running up against green durum that isn’t quite ready, and we’ve been playing the “find the dry patches in the field” in between the threat of rain.
Durum is a very specific type of hard wheat. It’s worth much more than the typical hard red winter and hard red spring wheat that’s typically grown. Regular wheat is used for feed and flour, but amber durum is to make flour for pasta and can be processed into semolina. After the durum is ready to be cut, farmers can get a bit fanatic to get it off as soon as possible- if ripe durum gets rained on, it gets bleached out, which causes it to be worth approx. a dollar less per bushel- which adds up to be a lot.
The canola is still a ways out yet, but was sprayed earlier this week. Fingers crossed, we can jump on that in a few days. We straight cut canola here, which is always a fantastic time (/sarcasm).
Sunflowers (or, just “flowers”) are a pretty big crop in North Dakota as well. We don’t cut flowers, but a lot of our fields border flower fields. Seriously, how can one not be happy when there’s a couple hundred acres of these looking at you?
When we’re here in ND, we cut back on how many people we need. Because all of the grain goes right to the farmer’s bins, we only have two truck drivers. We also only run three combines and one cart. Matt hops in a combine up here, and I’m usually on the ground until the remaining college kids go home. We only have one up here this year, so I’ll hop into that combine, and we’ll have a total of six people.
We rent out part of a house/pheasant lodge to stay in, and it has a full kitchen, living room, and dining room set up. By this point of the year, it’s fantastic to be able to have real meals, space to relax that isn’t a hotel room, and a tv to watch the Olympics. The South Africans that came up here with us are an absolute blast. Damn near every night we cook family style and actually all sit down around a table with good food and drinks, which I think has improved the general mood greatly. We’re all away from home, and this makes it feel less so. The inside jokes and stories have definitely increased in the past week.
We’ve got (high) hopes that we can be done here around August 20th or so and head back home to Valentine. I’m ready to be home for a little bit before leaving for York, Nebraska for our high moisture corn job, and I’m definitely ready to see my dog again. Our farmer’s hired man, Ben, has a pup that makes me miss my dog tons more, but he helps me watch the combines go around the field, and is damn good company (and a pretty decent afternoon nap and cuddle buddy).
We didn’t work at all yesterday, and Jan (one of the South Africans) cooked us an amazing meal of beer can chicken done on the grill. Ben and Trapper showed up, and we spent a long time laughing and putting down brandy. Ben also brought us a bunch of lamb, and I am beyond excited. Lamb is something that American’s just cannot cook right, and the SA’s are going to do something amazing with it tonight.