and just like that…

IMG_1348Callie and Kara have been best friends since kindergarten. They finished their school career off with a BANG! Callie was Valedictorian and Kara was Salutatorian. I asked Callie if there ever seemed to be competition between them and she said, “No, we helped each other”. Good job girls!! Please make sure to take that attribute with you the rest of your life! Eliminate competition and replace it with helping each other. 

And just like that…it was over.

It started the fall of 1991. It ended on Saturday. The school schedule has controlled what we’ve done, where we we’ve gone, and has been a major piece of the game called life. I’ve been so focused on getting through each day that I never really thought about it being over.  Oh, don’t get me wrong – I knew it would one day but that was so far into the future.  Well, the future is here.

For 25 years, I have known what duties my job entailed. But that all changed on Saturday. There will be no more peanut butter sandwiches to pack, no more kisses as they grab their backpack and walk out the door, no more waves from the window. Not on a daily basis. And this is what we, as moms want, right? We want our children to grow up as independent adults who can take on their world and make a difference. That’s what I want, too. I’m just not sure what retirement holds for me and that’s a bit scary.

JamieJamie’s first day of kindergarten.

Jenna's class in JordanJenna started kindergarten in Jordan, MT and was there for 6 weeks before coming home.

JennaJenna at home. I guess I didn’t get a picture of her first day in Manley.

When people have asked me how I’m doing, I’ve been truthful in answering, “I’m doing okay, but…”  And their reply is always pretty similar, “Yes, but now you have grandchildren to take up your time.” I do. But it will be a different “time taker”. I will miss the daily songs, the long hair on the bathroom floor, the extra dishes in the sink and the dirty clothes in the baskets. I will miss the noise that having kids in the house brings.

I guess this is what having an empty nest feels like. And it happened in the blink of an eye. Not really, but it feels like it did. When we leave for harvest in a week or so, my new normal will begin. We’ve never done harvest completely on our own. And when we get back in the fall, Callie will be in college. So, I better soak up the noise and all that having kids here on a daily basis brings because it will soon be a memory.

To all the moms out there who have little people and this day seems like an eternity away, please stop and hug those little guys right now! Enjoy the messes and the spills. Don’t worry about the broken toy or the fact that you can’t see the floor through all the clothes. Enjoy all the good times and the bad that comes with having the greatest job in the world because all too soon, you too will be facing retirement and a new normal.

TaylorTaylor’s first day of kindergarten.

J, J & T

CallieCallie’s first day of kindergarten.

T & CI’m proud of the job I did and the adult humans that have evolved from this house. They have assumed their adult responsibilities whole-heartedly and are making a difference in the world. I expect this of Callie, as well. I am confident that all the twists and turns of the last 30 years will produce a beautiful outcome. Even for me.

Congratulations, Callie! The day was perfect. You worked hard for everything you received and I couldn’t be more proud of you! You made everything appear easy to your peers and not many know or understand just how much you have already conquered. The road less traveled is scary. It will mean not having many walking beside you. But the ones who are, will be there with you every step of the way. Keep blazing your own trail and don’t look back. You’re an amazing person and I’m so very lucky to be able to have you call me mom.

We had a beautiful day for graduation…a bit on the windy side…and representation from a few states – Colorado, Iowa, North Dakota, Oklahoma and Wyoming. One of the many blessings associated with harvest and having friends all over the country! Thank you to all of you who came to help us celebrate Callie’s accomplishments! Each of you have been instrumental in molding her into the person she is today. THANK YOU and we love you!

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may…the under-told story 

A friend of mine just said this to me,

“May is the “under-told” story for WHOA!”

She’s right! The “under-told” story of WHOA…Women Harvesters of America. She just created that acronym and I’m thinking it might stick!

May is hard on most harvesters. This is the month of preparation and deadlines. It’s also full of uncertainties:

A. When is the money going to be depleted? This is the worst month for spending. Most harvesters are as broke as they’ll ever be this month. A lot of expenses going out and NOTHING coming in.

B. When will the farmer want you in his yard? This, of course, depends on the weather. How soon will the wheat be ready? How long will the rain hold off? The estimated date of departure seems to change on a daily basis.

C. How much preparation do you do before you finally just hit the road? Guys can “tinker” on equipment as much and as long as they have the time. It gets to the point, though, when you just have to put the tools away and load the combine!

D. Will all the help show up when needed?  The stress of employees must be a minute by minute worry for a lot of harvesters. Finding quality people willing to take on the job is getting harder and harder to find. We are fortunate not to have to deal with this.

For the gals, it’s usually a different sort of uncertainty (depending on the above). We’ve still got to go on with our daily routines of being moms, being involved with school and church, preparing for graduations, taking care of an elderly parent or neighbor, etc. until the day of departure. All this PLUS getting a trailer house cleaned and packed, feeding the crew, mowing the yard and everything else it takes to shut down a house for the extended “vacation”.

Most of the last minute packing and leaving stress is saved for the day(s) just prior to leaving. When the trailer house and the combine are headed out the drive, it’s a relief.

In the meantime, life as usual must happen AS WELL AS getting ready to head south.

Today, I am spending my day in the little town of Adams with the Jr. High track team. Yep, I had to put on my bus driver hat. All I can think about is everything I should be doing to prepare for Callie’s graduation. I still have a week. And all the while I’m thinking of this, Jim is preparing for the day of departure. I’m sort of in denial for both events. I’m guessing, though, they’ll both happen whether I’m really mentally ready or not. So, I may as well just march right on through both.

Small town Nebraska.  I decided a walk through town would be a must before the anticipated high of nearly 90°. This town reminds me of the small towns we call home during the harvest run. It has all anyone needs to survive without the hassles of the big city!

I remember a particular time that Zeorian Harvesting had to make a sudden detour to the basement of the cafe here in Adams.

As we left home, we realized the clouds were looking a bit scary to the SW. But it was time to leave. As we were heading further south and further away from home, the clouds were getting angrier and angrier. All the while we were driving, Jim’s sister and my mom were tracking the tornadic storm for us (prior to iPhones and radar apps). The final call from one of them was to tell us we were driving right into it. We pulled off the highway and parked the equipment next to the grain bins just outside of town. That’s when the tornado sirens sounded. The girls were scared and I was a bit concerned too.

We jumped in the pickup and headed for main street. The only business that we could see which might allow strangers at this time of day was the cafe. We parked the pickup and ran inside. Thankfully, they had a basement and we were all ushered down the steps to safety. The storm blew to the north of this little town but I will forever have that memory etched in my mind. And every time we pass Adams, I think of that night. Thank you, Adams (and cafe owner) for taking care of strangers when the need occurred.

I enjoyed walking the streets of this little Nebraska town this morning. Seeing the flowers and smelling the freshly cut grass. The stress of the upcoming days disappeared for a fleeting moment.



Looks like a picture I took by mistake, right? Nope! Did you ever throw these maple seeds up in the air just to watch time twirl to the ground? Such great kid fun!

The amount of work that needs to be done now until we drive out that driveway is crazy. How it all gets done is beyond me. Lots of late nights, I guess. Yes, May is truly the under-told story for the harvester family!

we’ve got a starting point!

One of the many “prairie skyscrapers” we saw on our adventure. This one was in Perryton, TX. 

We decided at the very last minute to go. I had been asking if we would be attending the annual Safety Day in Colby, KS for quite some time. I know it’s difficult for Jim to make any commitments this time of year because of the work he has ahead of him. And if the weather is good, he’s got to focus on getting equipment ready for the harvest run. However, it’s been a bit chilly and rainy. So on Thursday morning, he decided we would go. 

The Safety Day starts Friday morning. “I have an afternoon bus route to do and won’t be home until approximately 5:30.” Because he wouldn’t commit, I had already told one of the regular route drivers I would help him out. 

When I arrived at the school, I told Callie what would be happening. She had no idea. But why would she? I told her we would be leaving that night but wouldn’t be home until Sunday night because dad wanted to take a drive to look at a possible job near Amarillo, TX. Surprise!

 Kent Braathen of Braathen Harvesting (Grand Forks, ND) had to make a trip to the area for business. It was a lot of fun getting to meet his 2016 crew. All of them made the trip to the USA from South Africa. Left to right…Greg, Kent, AJ, Zyn, Dan and Tiaan. What a GREAT group of guys!! And so interested in our low-budget operation. Hope to run into these guys again somewhere along the journey this year. 

It was a late night by the time we parked the pickup in the parking lot of the Colby Days Inn. And an early morning wake-up call. We had been invited to breakfast by Jim Deibert of JKD Harvesting. Jim is also the organizer of the Safety Day. For those of you familiar with The Great American Wheat Harvest movie, Jim and his crew were one of five crews featured in the story. (He’s the one with all the foreign employees and newer John Deere combines.)

Jim did a fine job of representing New Holland and Kan Equip while attending the meeting! 

We left the meeting before it was over to begin our adventure to Texas. We wanted to get to Amarillo before too much of the day was gone. We drove in rain all the way from Colby to Texas. Most farmers between these two points were probably pretty darn happy the rainmakers were back in town! We didn’t even need to drag the Beast with us! 

So…it was supper time by the time we got there. Jim knew exactly where he wanted to go. A place he had seen on tv and while passing through town in the past – The BIG Texan Steak Ranch. He said he wasn’t up to the 72oz steak. 😊 (Maybe another time)

We ended up spending the night at the hotel that was just across the parking lot. As we opened the door, Jim said, “Now, THIS makes it feel like we’re on vacation!” And here is why:

The next morning, we made our way east of Amarillo to visit with a farmer about cutting his wheat. The best part of the job we have is dealing with really good people. A fellow harvester knew we were in trouble with the beginning of our 2016 run and suggested we make the contact. What we encountered was some of the flattest wheat acres we’ve ever seen and the opportunity to meet more good people! We were blessed all the way around. It looks like we have a place to start…thank God! The farmer said he thought we’d be in the field June 6. 

After our visit, the farmer suggested we take a quick trip to see the Palo Duro Canyon. All I could say was, WOW! This is the 2nd largest canyon in the United States. Want to guess what is first?

We finally saw some Texas sunshine and boy did it feel good! I have a feeling the next time we’re in this area, it won’t be quite as lovely (the Texas sun). 

And who couldn’t stop along the road and take advantage of a few pics of some real Texas Longhorns?

Our day ended by going back to Jim Deibert’s shop to partake in his annual cream can celebration. He had a large crowd of family, friends and employees gathered for a great time. I believe he estimated approximately 100 people in attendance. 

I finally got to meet the famous Jordan Taylor of J. Taylor Photography. If you have never seen his pictures (especially of the 2014 harvest), you’ve got to take the time to visit his Facebook page and also his website

The first time I sorta met Kelly and Warwick Denton was in Omaha at the 2016 USCHI annual convention. I was surprised to see them at the party and also to learn they will be joining JKD Harvesting on the wheat run. I think I heard that Warwick will be driving truck and Kelly has taken on the job of cook. And what a challenge that could be! She’ll be cooking for a crowd of about 20 every day. Kelly and Warwick are from New Zealand. Kelly has a Facebook page – Karen Denton (Kelly). I told her she should begin a blog and write about her adventures. If she does create one, I’ll share the link in another post. Their story is a fun one to hear!

We spent the night in Colby again and woke up to more rain. Rain..it’s a good thing…especially while wheat is “filling”. We “mosied” home at a turtle’s pace as there was no hurry. 

So glad to know we have one large stress eliminated…where to start. The reason this is even a cause of concern is because the job we usually start our season at (Shattuck, OK) turned their wheat acres into cow food. 100% of the acres we have cut in the past were being grazed. We saw quite a few fields with cattle in them on our trip. 

What now? Well, first we gotta get Callie graduated (5/14). And then…it’s crunch time!!! The Cottage will need to be packed, lots of hours and late nights of preparation, loading equipment and back to two trips to get everything to the first job. As you will recall, last year was the FIRST time (and will be the LAST time) we were able to get everything moved in one trip. It looks like it may be lining up to be just Jimbo and me this summer. 

Stay tuned…

keep your sight on the horizon

FullSizeRender (1)I’m not good at making New Year’s resolutions. I think they’re dumb. Mostly because when I used to follow the crowd and make a resolution, it was usually something that was next to impossible to keep. It was a good intention, though. So, rather than deal with the guilt of not living up to my end of the deal…I stopped making them. Well, now I’ve sort of made myself this pre-harvest resolution. I’ve been enough sedentary over the winter, I can see and feel a few of the extra inches that are a result of this lifestyle. I know it comes with age but until I can’t do something about it, maybe I should at least up the ante on the number of steps I take each day.

I got a bit obsessed with knowing the number of steps I was taking when I rode to New Orleans with Jenna to help her with her CLAAS booth at Commodity Classic. The facility was gigantic!!! It took many, many steps to get from point A to point B. Our biggest day of steps was 21,391 or nearly 10 miles. So, when I checked my phone the other day and the health app showed less than 1,000 steps, I decided I could do something about that. Either I needed to keep my phone in my pocket a little more OR I could just take off and go for a walk after Callie leaves for school. I opted for option #2.

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or so I thought…

claudias-book-quoteYou know, some days just seem to start out a bit more of a struggle than others. Today was one of those struggle days. Struggle to accept changes that are being thrown at me. Struggle just to get started with what’s on my list of “to do’s”. Just a struggle. I really hate days like this. Mostly because it takes hold of your very soul and seems to try to back you into a corner and not let you out. The tears that have been pushed back for so long seem to flow easily and won’t quit.

Why is it so hard to accept the fact that you’re not quite as tough as you’d like the rest of the world believe you are?

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for the love of tractors!

3e676c9e-56bd-4ba0-8d71-72e560453a7cThe 2016 Gathering of the Green was held on March 16, 17, 18 & 19 in the RiverCenter facility located in Davenport, IA. This biennial nationwide conference is for John Deere collectors, restorers & enthusiasts. The next gathering will be in March 2018.

During the past two months, I have had the opportunity to speak at two tractor club events. The interest in the custom harvesting industry is amazing to me. It’s what we do so I don’t see it being anything more than that – what we do. However, the interest is incredibly huge and it energizes me when I’m given the chance to talk about it!

I was approached by the Elkhorn Valley Antique Power Association to speak at their January meeting.  This was held at the CLAAS of NA headquarters in Omaha, NE. I was a bit hesitant to agree to do it but then decided, what the heck!

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1534765_657882587609051_770060094_oThe “end of the harvest journey” for The Great American Wheat Harvest documentary was filmed inside the CLAAS headquarters January 2014.

I already had a PowerPoint presentation which I had pulled together for a previous presentation. The very first opportunity I had to chat about the industry that I love was to a group of engineers at the January 2013 AgConnect show in Kansas City. I was scared to death! I worried about that presentation for days and could feel my heart in my throat right to the second I was introduced. But…I got up there and started talking. And talking. And talking. I think I was up there for half an hour (or longer) but it felt like five minutes. I guess it was easier than I thought.

The second presentation just two months ago came so much easier. I didn’t even get the last-minute jitters. Actually, I was quite surprised. It comes easy when you talk about something that means so much to you. After the presentation was over, Jim and I answered questions about harvest, equipment, the journey and anything else that came to mind by the attendees. I thoroughly enjoyed it! I know that a few of the members of this club read my blog so I’d like to give a shout out to you and thank you for giving me the opportunity to tell my story!! I hope it was a fun and interesting evening for you. I know we had a blast!

My latest opportunity to tell the story of the custom harvester was a spur of the moment idea. I was called by a member of the board for the Gathering of the Green as a last-minute thought. The event was in the process of being set up and they really wanted me to come and talk about the custom harvester…and could I bring a copy of the EMMY award-winning documentary, The Great American Wheat HarvestI made a phone call to Jim expecting him to say there was no way he could take a couple of days off of work to drive to Davenport, IA. However, I was wrong. He agreed and we made our plans to head east. 

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6dbd720b-ac28-4ac6-96fd-57b484ea0a08 - Copy (2)It was a short trip – out there and back – but we really enjoyed ourselves. The people are like most of Ag – awesome! There’s a common connection with anyone involved with agriculture and anytime you can visit with like-minded people it’s a great time. My presentation was set for 8:00 am on Friday. I intended to give my presentation, show the movie and end it with questions from the audience. Well, the DVD didn’t want to play on the computer for me. So, we just spent the remaining time with the group answering questions and talking custom harvesting.

2ea9093f-cb32-4104-b485-2eb18defa37cThe amount of interest in our lifestyle is simply amazing to me. Once we get started talking about this nomadic way of life, it’s difficult to quit the conversation. So many great questions about what we do!

The Gathering of the Green is sponsored by the following four tractor clubs:

Deer Valley Collectors
Illinois Valley Two-Cylinder Club
North Eastern Illinois Twin-Cylinder Club

Northwest Illinois Deer Collectors

172808f8-f8e2-499f-9c2f-e708cb284357I took this bit of history directly from the Gathering of the Green website:

The four sponsoring clubs meet every other year at Grand Detour, John Deere’s home, for a tractor show, and during a group meeting there during the 1999 show, Mark Johnson, an NEITCC member, shared that he had recently attended a conference sponsored by another tractor company. Given the fact that no such conference had ever been sponsored for John Deere enthusiasts, it was his opinion that our four groups together could create such an event for our faithful green and yellow collectors. After some serious conversation, the group agreed to give it a try, and the rest is history.

Be sure to visit their Facebook page to see pictures and more information about their event.

7c449d63-aaf6-4a20-9958-8ee41c2c10afThank you to those of you responsible for giving me yet another opportunity to share our way of life (Dean, Brad, Dan and others)!!! Again, I was surprised by the lack of pre-speaking jitters . I guess talking about something near and dear to my heart – the prairie nomads – is much easier than I thought. I encouraged the participants to tell their story and as often as they are given the opportunity. I may not ever be given the chance to tell our story again to a group but I hope to those who have heard it, they’ve learned a little more about what we do and why we do it!

1f070ec3-ffe5-49a2-b0c1-4d57458b01e2Photo credit goes to Jim. I asked him if he’d take a few pictures for me and it looks like he did just what was asked of him. The people involved with the set up for this event certainly know how to create a beautiful and interesting show!

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a sure sign of spring in nebraska…baby bovines (calves)

Palm Sunday 2Regardless of what the thermometer shows for a temperature this time of year, the surest sign that spring has sprung is the sight of calves standing near their mama. Or, better yet, a gang of them running and leaping as if to say, “Why worry? Have fun!”

We don’t live on a farm. The last link to the farm for our immediate family belongs to Jim’s sister, Maureen, and her husband, Harvey. They plant corn and soybeans and raise cattle. They used to have pigs, as well, but gave up on that quite a few years ago already. Diversified operation. Recently, I’ve come to appreciate them and the connection much more. Prior to this appreciation, it was taken for granted.

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