Thursday, August 13, 2009

Following Summer North

Starting in late May or early June, the Great Plains region comes alive with the sight and sound of combines cutting and threshing wheat. Entire fleets of combines, known as "custom cutters," start in Texas and work their way north through Oklahoma, Nebraska, Kansas, Wyoming, the Dakotas and eventually Montana following summer northward and so with it the fully ripened crops. Many farmers no longer own their own combines or simply have too much grain to be able to harvest it with just one machine and so they hire the custom cutters who make quick work of 1000's of acres of wheat and barley.
Here at the Hanging HX we still have our own combine. And though it requires a fair amount of maintenance every year, Danish Cowboy and his brother can justify the cost by performing that maintenance on their own throughout the winter months, ensuring that it is ready to roll come early August.
Harvest is an insanely busy time. With the most significant portion of our ranch's income sitting out in the field, there is a great deal of pressure to bring the crop in as safely and efficiently as possible. We often have visitors during this time to help us out and take in the beautiful colors of summer in those last weeks before autumn takes over.

The combine rolls along with the quiet hum of the threshing machine inside and the rhythmic turning of the header as it cuts the wheat and feeds it into the machine. This isn't a quick operation, though. For all its size and strength, we are limited to approximately 3 to 3.5 miles per hour.

As the wheat is cut and thrashed, it fills up the holding tank of the combine. A buzzer goes off to alert the driver (in this case Danish Cowboy) that the wheat must be dumped before any more is cut.
And so we fill little trucks that have been in use for 40 or 50 years and have some history

and big trucks that are recent additions to the garage (which probably have some history of their own, but I digress...).

The trucks are then driven to the grain bins and dumped into an augering system where the grain then gets put into a bin (not unlike the one seen below) until the price is right and we decide to market and deliver it to a regional elevator.
“Plant a kernel of wheat and you reap a pint; plant a pint and you reap a bushel. Always the law works to give you back more than you give.”
~Anthony Norvell
Harvest time around here is always highly anticipated, but very busy with 14 plus hour days for Danish Cowboy and his brother. We include the kids as much as possible whether it is rides in the combine or truck, or just helping to shuttle equipment and refreshments from one field to the next. They soon to start to miss their Daddy, though. So while we are pleased with the harvest this year, we anxiously await the time when the combine will be stored away and the grain is safely in the bin.

But in the meantime, we'll enjoy the beautiful colors of late summer, the harvest moon which inevitably appears at some point, and the remaining stands of the Northern Plains' amber waves of grain.


  1. Firstly, your photo of the moon rising over the combine is absolutely fabulous. As is the photo of your two children with their hard-working father. As you may be aware, National Geographic invites individuals to submit their photos via their Your Shot program. You really, really must think about doing this.

    Please check it out. (Look at the "Daily Dozen" section for some stunning examples...and read the captions. Like those you'll see, your pictures truly tell a story...both about the natural landscape and about a way of life...)


  2. Oh, and secondly, I'm totally hooked on nienie thanks to the link you used to have in your margin. I'd love to hear more about when/how you found her blog...