let’s play catchup

I’ve been pretty absent since the end of January. Guess I had things to do…

Like remove wallpaper from my kitchen walls and renew my kitchen chairs.

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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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another faith building year

There’s one key element involved in this harvesting game which none of us have control over and that is the weather! This particular piece of the puzzle will either make you or break you.

IMG_5001Right about now, I’m feeling like my invitation was lost in the mail. I know it’ll show up soon…I just have to be patient!

Taylor and I left home early on Tuesday morning. The van was packed to the hilt as we headed south – south to Texas. For the past couple of weeks, I’ve been seeing the loaded combines on Facebook. I’ve felt that feeling before. It was when the girls were little and I had to stay behind. I’ve been feeling a bit left behind.  So, I was thankful to have the Case IH ProHarvest Kickoff as a reason to head for the Longhorn State.

IMG_0524Dan Renaud of Case IH has done this event for the past 18 years. Dan informed the crowd today that after this meeting, he would no longer be employed with Case IH. After working for Case for 35 years, his job was being cut. We’ll miss you, Dan! And thanks for the many years of supporting the US Custom Harvesters!

IMG_0525Day one of two.

The states of Texas and Oklahoma have been battling weather for quite some time. Rain, rain and more rain (and a few tornadoes and hail)! Some places have seen up to 30″ of the wet stuff. If you remember why we haven’t been back to Texas since 2012, it’s because of the drought…and late season freezes. Circumstances have kept us from returning to the great State of Texas this year (mostly because we didn’t have a “for sure” job to head to) but maybe it’s for the best.  This crazy weather has most of the “wheaties” who are in Texas struggling to keep their employees busy and has provided plenty of time to socialize.  And socializing is something you can only do if it’s raining. Those are my most favorite days on harvest – as long as you’re parked in a campground with other harvesters.IMG_5002

The annual kickoff breakfasts began on Tuesday with the MacDon gathering. I’ve never been to these gatherings before. I’m sure if there is wheat to be cut, the socializing is kept to a minimum. Today, however, everyone had plenty of time to enjoy each other’s company. It was almost like a mini convention.  I set up a “booth” with USCHI products to promote the organization a bit more and to sell a t-shirt or two.

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It was after the meeting that I started feeling like the party planner had forgotten to send my invitation. Seeing the loaded combines parading down main street of Frederick, OK made me realize that it was, in fact, harvest time.  The “boys of summer” were making their way back to the small towns for the wheat harvest. The golden wheat fields are just waiting for the combines to do what they’re meant to do.  When? When will this party get started? The harvesters are hoping soon…very soon. BUT, the weather needs to straighten out first. Today I learned that within the past seven days, the tornado sirens have gone off five times. It seems this part of the country can’t get a break from the rain. The lakes and reservoirs are maxed out and overflowing. The Red River is about as wide as it can possibly be. I heard a DJ on the radio talk about all this water. He mentioned that the flooding is bad but it will go away and the lakes will remain full of water. The ranchers and farmers who own cattle are in heaven.

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Taylor and I will start making our way back north tomorrow.  There was no rain here today but the forecast for the next two days shows 60% and 70% chance of rain. If things don’t straighten out soon, I have a feeling it could be a train wreck! If it’s not the wheat going down, it’ll be sprout damage (or both) and can you imagine the mud holes these combines are gonna find? Even though we SHOULD be out here with the rest of the harvesters, I have a feeling that we may have done the right thing this year by staying away from the Longhorn State. I will pray for my fellow “wheaties”. I have a feeling this is shaping up to be one of those faith building years.  One of these years, though, we’re going to have a typical harvest journey again (I hope)!

while you were away

That’s what my Twitter feed tells me. When I see that, I feel behind. It’s been that sort of winter!

Reader BEWARE – you are about to see a whole lot of pictures and not many words while I attempt to get you caught up on where I’ve been and what I’ve been up to.  I’ve made a few trips since the first of the year. A couple of excursions to DC, a trip to Phoenix, to Billings and one more scheduled to Colby, KS before the beginning of the 2015 harvest. Of all these trips, the very best one was the trip to Phoenix. This took me away from home one day short of two weeks. But…it was two weeks with Jenna and I would do it all over again if I could. We left Omaha on a very COLD, windy day with anticipation of much warmer temps once we started heading south. The one thing I would change, if I could, would be that Jenna wouldn’t have been suffering from a miserable cold.

IMG_7498She’s done this ever since she was a little girl (and she’ll probably be mad at me after she sees this picture. 

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the path i have chosen

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I’m headed back home after being in DC this past week. I finally have a bit of time to myself to reflect on the past couple of weeks (actually months) and I find myself wondering where in the world the time went. How could it already be the first week of February? This makes me think about what I have traded my days for.

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the great american wheat harvest (video)

IMG_3538 Well…once again, the days have run together and more weeks have gone by since I allowed myself to sit down and write about the adventures of the Z Crew. Our time in New York City was phenomenal! One major thing I would have changed (if I could have) would have been the weather. The “winter-that-just-won’t-quit” continued the entire time we were on our trip of a lifetime. It was so cold, we were ducking into stores hoping to find gloves and hats. Unfortunately, all the winter items had been taken off the shelves to make room for summer merchandise. Dang it was cold! The final day of New York was spent at The World Trade Center site and Central Park. The girls LOVED Central Park (especially Taylor) and I really wished that it had been more spring-like weather instead of a strong bitter cold wind. All we wanted to do was get somewhere warm. Our last evening was spent washing clothes, packing and preparing for an early morning departure. We had tickets to take the Amtrak from NYC to DC and had to leave the apartment at 6:00 a.m.

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nyc – havin a grand ‘ole time!


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