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Moving to Kiowa, Kan.

Tuesday, June 16

When we finished harvesting in Olney, Texas, we were out of work and waiting for the wheat in Kiowa, Kan., to be ready for harvest. We decided to head up the road slowly and see if we could find any work, but there just was not any work to be found. If you are not from the Oklahoma area and happen to drive by some of the wheat, you may ask why does the wheat look better just a few miles up the road. However, looks can be deceiving. Oklahoma received severe frost damage, which took away any possibility of finding work--unless you already had it. Since it rained in Kiowa, Kan ,and our farmer told us his wheat was not quite ready, we did not think it made sense to rush up to our next stop. We decided to stick around and see if any possibility of cutting would transpire. It is not fun to sit and wait, so to waste some time we hung out by Altus Lake in Altus, Okla.

While it was fun to act like weekend campers, it was back to reality yesterday when we moved to Kiowa, Kan. Unfortunately, the rain struck us again while we were on the move. We still have not been able to cut. According to weather reports, it is to be very hot tomorrow. This will hopefully dry out the wheat and make this barely ripened crop ready to harvest. All the sitting harvesters in Kiowa, Kan., are hoping for some wind to come with the heat to make the drying time faster. We are all impatient to cut.

Wednesday, June 17

The wheat is ready and we are going to start harvesting the wheat in Kiowa, Kan. We are so happy to be in the field.

Friday, June 19

When harvesting is in full swing, our days are not your typical 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. days. Like I mentioned previously, the weather plays a major role in our day. We begin cutting when the wheat is dry enough to harvest and cut until our trucks are full, or until the wheat gets tough--whichever happens first.

In the morning, we begin our day by servicing our combines. We grease the combines, wash windows, fuel the combines up, clean the cabs of the combines and trucks and do any major servicing that needs to be done. Once the elevator is open, our drivers dump our semis so they are empty and ready to go when we begin harvesting.

At dinnertime, I usually bring the food out to the field between 6 p.m. and 7 p.m. The crew takes turns eating to keep our combines running. My dad and I usually eat before we come out to the field so we can be ready to switch with the combine operators while they eat. Everyone swaps spots until we are all back in our original working place. This is a way to continue to work efficiently, but offers the crew a break at the same time. Our crew is cross-trained to operate all our equipment, which helps keep everything organized.

At night, if you are outside, you can smell the wheat getting tough. A good way to determine if the wheat is tough is to see if there is morning or evening dew on the ground. The dew makes the straw wet. You cannot cut when the straw is tough because the knives on the header do not cut the wheat as well as they should. If the wheat is wet when it is running through the header, the tough wheat does not feed through the machine very well. In addition, the chaff spreader does not spread well. We cannot cut in these conditions and must wait for the wheat to get dry again. The wettest we can cut wheat is 14 percent moisture. If the moisture content is over 14 percent, the farmer receives dockages on his grain ticket. Therefore, we are forced to quit before this happens.

Every harvesting operation does things differently when it comes to feeding their crew. When my parents started harvesting, my mother would cook breakfast, lunch and dinner for the crew. Things are a little different today. We have breakfast food, such as cereal, on hand for those who wish to eat it. For lunch, we make up snack bags for the crew in advance. The bags usually include pudding or fruit, chips and something sweet. In the morning, our crew makes their sandwiches, puts them in a snack bag and places the bag in their cooler. It is a system that works well because everyone can decide what is on their sandwich. If they don't like mayo, or butter, then they don't have to use it on their sandwich. To get a break from the sandwiches, we sometimes bring something different for the crew to eat for lunch, such as lunch specials from restaurants, brats, hotdogs or something else easy to make.

The evening is when we serve our big meal. We like to do it at night, because it starts to cool down and everyone's appetites return with the cooler weather. We serve a meal that includes the main dish, a salad or dessert, and a vegetable or fruit. We like to keep it a fully balanced meal.

Since we have 12 mouths to feed, our favorite place to stock up on the essentials is Sam's Club. We also go to the local grocery store and Wal-Mart. My mother and I coordinate with each other to do the cooking. Sometimes we take turns and sometimes we cook together. It just depends on the day and our schedules.

We always cook in the crew trailer, which was recently converted from my parent's trailer to the crew's trailer. We like to cook in our 1957 Spartan because it has three air conditioners and the front of the camper still has a full kitchen, unlike our other campers. We have a full size oven, two full size refrigerators, a freezer stocked with beef since we raise our own beef, and all the kitchen utensils we need to perform our culinary tasks. Since it takes a lot of organization to cook for so many people, we always plan our menu a week in advance to make sure we have everything we need. To stay on top of this task, we cook ahead so we do not get behind. For instance, today we are having cake for dessert, so I made it yesterday.

Jada can be reached at jada@allaboardharvest.com.

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