Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Summer Harvest Adventures, Part II

It's true what they say, farming is definitely a family affair.  And, our experience this summer custom harvesting 3 hours from home, certainly affirmed that truth.  If you missed Monday's post, part 1 of our Summer Harvest Adventures, you can catch up on that here.  Today's post highlights how our family worked together each day to ensure the success of our operation.
When Steve's sister, Jen, found the Little R & R bed and breakfast for us as a possible place to stay, we didn't realize, at the time, how fortunate we would be to be able to call it our home for a month.  Located in the St. Mark's community, just west of Wichita, it was a conveniently centralized location for us to station a kitchen, office and bunks. Kathy and I went to great loving strides to make this our home away from home.  From sunup to sundown, the b & b bubbled with activity, and while the long days were, at times, a bit waring, we still managed to march on.  The front porch, equipped with a dreamy porch swing and a cooler of cold drinks, made for some great late night relaxation and conversation at the end of a hard day.

Now we don't want to toot our horns too loudly, but Kathy and I pretty much concur with the saying that behind every successful man is a strong and wise woman.  I might add to that, a woman who can cook! Keeping tummies full, laundry fresh and kids happy helped the guys work harder and happier every day in the field.

Unfortunately, I don't have any photos of Kathy or myself in the kitchen slaving over the hot stove, filling to-go boxes with steaming portions of goodness, topping off countless cups of ice water for sweaty kids or rubbing Benadryl on their mosquito bites 100 times a day....but this depiction is pretty close:
Honestly, if we do this next year, I'm going to do a full-on video montage of what it takes to feed a crew out in the field.  It will include everything from our favorite recipes and the scandalous amount of butter we used to the crazy winding trips down unknown back roads (without GPS) to deliver the goods to the guys.

But, enough about us! Let's talk tractors! (And balers, and Stingers!)
The wheat crop this summer was thick and lush.  I couldn't quite get over how exquisite it looked on my early morning runs, the way it shimmered in the sun like gold against the bright, fresh sky. 
Contrasted to the rich green bordering pastures, it really was something to behold.  If you're clutching a bagel with your coffee right now - look closely - this is where the bread begins!
The first order of business for the guys was to get the swather into the fields that needed cut, so that the tractors could follow up with baling.
As the swather moves forward cutting the straw, small tines on the header sweep the straw to the center of the path, leaving a nice fluffy row of straw in its wake.
This is our son, Andrew, jumping down to grab lunch (and a hug!) after a long morning at work.
Grandpa Bob is very patriotic, and found a way to attach American flags to all of the equipment. The flags looked awesome blowing in the breeze atop the towering tractors!
After the wheat straw is swathed, it's time for the tractors to move in to the field and bale. Sometimes, they were able to work together, and at other times, they had to split up, depending on the conditions of the fields (we did get a couple of tractors stuck after a big rain!)
The day I was able to capture these shots, Steve had called me to let me know that they were baling just 2 miles down the road from the b & b, and believed it to be the perfect photo op of the straw squad!
The straw is compressed into large square bales and left in the field for the Stinger to load and stack on the perimeter of the field.
I have photos of every single one of the boys sitting on Steve's lap, gripping the wheel, believing they are driving just like daddy.  Charlie says tractor with so much gusto he foams at the mouth. It's hilarious! Our boys were definitely born to farm!
Like most occupations, farming requires a healthy dose of humor in order to deal with daily set-backs - especially when an entire tractor cab has to be removed just to get to the lower air conditioner unit. This was by far the best photo we took of Steve all summer!!
{Catching a grin from my big guy up in the cab!}
After riding with Steve for a day, Ben knew he could handle a seat on the tractor, and he was right!  He did an amazing job baling for us this summer, and had a great experience working out in the field with the guys.
One morning, after a heavy rain, the guys decided to move equipment in search of a dry field. They just happened to be "passing through," so they stopped to eat lunch at the b & b.  They are literally parked right across the street from the house! That's small town America for ya!
For all of you who are interested in the equipment side of this post, this piece of machinery is called a Stinger stacker.  Using large forks (top of the stinger), the stinger is able to pick a bale, lift it over the cab and onto the platform on the back of the truck.  
Once the platform is full, the stinger drives the bales across the field and releases them in a tall, upright stack at the edge of the field. I wish I had better pics of the Stinger in action, because it's really pretty amazing to watch (catch a video here).  Unfortunately, my phone doesn't take great low-light pictures.
After being on location for about 2 weeks, nearly everywhere you traveled within a 20 mile radius of St. Mark's, evidence of our operation was visible across the countryside.  Fields spotted with freshly pressed bales and towering stacks stretching across the field's edge couldn't be missed!
Looking back on our 30+ day adventure eastward, despite constant kp duty, long exhausting treks to the laundromat (with 5 kids!), long hours on the road delivering meals, running for parts to fix break-downs, and countless grocery sprints, the highs and lows blend together beautifully in my memory. I believe that is greatly due to the fact that the people of West Wichita are the warmest, friendliest and most sincere people on the planet.  They made our time away from home truly feel like home, and they will always hold a special place in our hearts for that.
In between the intense demands of work, we were able to squeeze in a little fun.  The easy-going rainy days are really what made trips to the park and pool with the boys and even a big 4th of July celebration possible.  I would be amiss if I failed to mention the guy up there on the left. Jonathan was Steve's right hand man this summer (as well as his farm-fashion advisor. Pearl snaps and aviators, anyone?).  Our boys grew to love him like a brother, and we will truly miss him when he heads back to K-State.

Will we do this all again next summer?  
Only time will tell, but for now, the forecast looks positive!



  1. Little boys and their tractors!! Nothing makes my little guys more happy than going for a ride with grandpa in the tractor or combine.

    Beautiful pictures of the countryside and what a wonderful post about farm life!


  2. I love the pictures and the brief education on a small part of farming!!
    My favorite picture is of the Stinger full of hay with the sunset!!
    So cool that your boys all get involved!!
    And, I love the flags on the equipment!!

  3. My boys would love it if we were real farmers with real farm equipment. Your photos are gorgeous. I can't even imagine the work you all had to do during that month, but the memories you made and the good it did for your family has to be worth it.
    Thank you for giving us a glimpse into real farming life.

  4. Loved this! Your family always sets such a beautiful example of working, playing, and loving together. What an exhausting yet wonderful month for your family. Great series!


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