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Wheat Harvest on a Colorado Farm, July 2009: Photos and Story Detailing What Happens

Updated on September 3, 2017
ButterflyWings profile image

Butterfly grew up fourth generation on a farm on the Colorado Plains, where sky and dreams were both huge.

The Main Equipment

The combine, speeding back to the field after dumping a load of wheat. The combine is a fairly recent invention, being developed between the 1910s and 1920s. The machine is called a "combine" because it is a combination header-thresher.
The combine, speeding back to the field after dumping a load of wheat. The combine is a fairly recent invention, being developed between the 1910s and 1920s. The machine is called a "combine" because it is a combination header-thresher.
The main grain truck, a 1952 military truck, fitted with a gravity wagon. We affectionately refer to it as "The Six-By"...as in, 6X6 military truck.
The main grain truck, a 1952 military truck, fitted with a gravity wagon. We affectionately refer to it as "The Six-By"...as in, 6X6 military truck.
The hopper, into which the grain is dumped to be fed into the transport auger.
The hopper, into which the grain is dumped to be fed into the transport auger.
The transport auger, with the upper end positioned over the hole in the grain bin.
The transport auger, with the upper end positioned over the hole in the grain bin.

A Peek at Wheat Harvest

Wheat has always been a crop on this farm, which was homesteaded by my Great-Grandpa near the turn of the century. He was an innovative man, always ready to experiment with new ideas and equipment, so I can tell few stories about his use of horses. He was, in fact, one of the first men in this area to acquire a gas tractor (an Avery, perhaps?), which he had shipped in by train to the nearest town, 12 miles away.

I don't know exactly what wheat harvest was like for him. Though there never was a threshing floor built on this farm, and flails were never used to beat the wheat from out of the heads, I know the task was not easy. I am sure that by the time he handed the farm over to his son, it seemed farming had come a long way. And it had.

Now, it seems sometimes that the progress has stalled. My Dad is using equipment which is the same era as Grandpa's. The tractor and combine are both 1971 models, and though small by today's standards, they continue to do their jobs well.

Wheat harvest usually only lasts about three days. Dad harvested 100 acres of wheat this year. This is not much, by Western United States standards, but is as much as the land will accommodate and stay healthy, leaving room for proper crop rotation, and resting of the ground.

The yield per acre this year was very good. The wheat was grown organically, in a type of ground called blow sand, where 20 bushels to the acre is the norm. Blow sand is very dry and loose, which makes it difficult to build up a good topsoil, and forces the plants to push their roots deep if they want to live and find water. But this year we averaged 38 bushels to the acre!

Dad chose not to haul the wheat to the farmer's cooperative elevator in town, yet...he's waiting for a better price on wheat. I've no doubt he'll get it, too, and ride the wave of price adjustments with skill.

This is something most farmers must be good at, or their farms perish.

I'll show you now how harvest is done on Dad's farm.

In the Field

The field Dad was in happened to be close to the house, so I walked down.
The field Dad was in happened to be close to the house, so I walked down.
This kind of farming is called "strip farming" - which means that the fields are arranged in strips, for easy rotation of crops, and also resting periods, or "lying fallow".
This kind of farming is called "strip farming" - which means that the fields are arranged in strips, for easy rotation of crops, and also resting periods, or "lying fallow".
There is just a small patch of this field left to harvest.
There is just a small patch of this field left to harvest.
The combine throws the straw out over the stubble, where it remains unless baled.
The combine throws the straw out over the stubble, where it remains unless baled.
A good stand of wheat. The heads are full and plump, the stalks are healthy and close together.
A good stand of wheat. The heads are full and plump, the stalks are healthy and close together.

The Combine

The combine approaches the end of the field near the road.      The wheat is harvested in "rounds" - that is, the combine begins at the edges of the field, and follows a path inward to the center.
The combine approaches the end of the field near the road. The wheat is harvested in "rounds" - that is, the combine begins at the edges of the field, and follows a path inward to the center.
Often, a corner of wheat is "missed", to allow the combine to get turned and lined up correctly with the remaining wheat.      The driver comes back and catches those "corners" later.
Often, a corner of wheat is "missed", to allow the combine to get turned and lined up correctly with the remaining wheat. The driver comes back and catches those "corners" later.
As the combine begins its turn, you can see the chaff being spit out the back.
As the combine begins its turn, you can see the chaff being spit out the back.
Two spreaders with flails scatter the straw out behind the combine.
Two spreaders with flails scatter the straw out behind the combine.
Grooves worn in the metal of the underside of the header, by the countless wheat stalks that have been harvested.
Grooves worn in the metal of the underside of the header, by the countless wheat stalks that have been harvested.

On the Combine

What remains of the strip of wheat is spread out before us. We have only a one and a half more rounds to go before this field is finished.
What remains of the strip of wheat is spread out before us. We have only a one and a half more rounds to go before this field is finished.
The yellow blades of the header push the wheat into the sickle bar, which cuts the stalks of wheat in two. An auger then feeds it into the interior of the combine, where it is threshed to separate the grain from the straw and chaff.
The yellow blades of the header push the wheat into the sickle bar, which cuts the stalks of wheat in two. An auger then feeds it into the interior of the combine, where it is threshed to separate the grain from the straw and chaff.
The holding tank behind the cab of the combine. The grain is fed into this.
The holding tank behind the cab of the combine. The grain is fed into this.
Nearing a thick part of the field.
Nearing a thick part of the field.
This is a "heavy" spot, which means there is more wheat than average in the heads. It is a low spot which got more moisture, and Dad averaged 60 bushels to the acre here.
This is a "heavy" spot, which means there is more wheat than average in the heads. It is a low spot which got more moisture, and Dad averaged 60 bushels to the acre here.
Now we are close to the west and far end of this field.
Now we are close to the west and far end of this field.
Heading back in after making the turn.
Heading back in after making the turn.
A view of the farmstead from the west end of the field.
A view of the farmstead from the west end of the field.
The holding tank is filling up nicely.
The holding tank is filling up nicely.
Here you can see the various parts of the header - the blades, the sickle bar, the auger. A bit of unprocessed wheat always stacks up in the center, where the header attaches to the combine.
Here you can see the various parts of the header - the blades, the sickle bar, the auger. A bit of unprocessed wheat always stacks up in the center, where the header attaches to the combine.

Unloading Combine and Truck, Loading Bin

The "Six-By" truck is nearly full. It needs to be emptied before we empty the combine tank.
The "Six-By" truck is nearly full. It needs to be emptied before we empty the combine tank.
We have an unusually high vantage point from the combine cab.
We have an unusually high vantage point from the combine cab.
The grain begins rushing out of the gravity wagon on the "Six-By".
The grain begins rushing out of the gravity wagon on the "Six-By".
Dad adjusts the flow. Too much, and the auger will not keep up; too little, and you waste time.
Dad adjusts the flow. Too much, and the auger will not keep up; too little, and you waste time.
It is nice to think of the bin getting full.    My family keeps back some of the wheat for our own use, for homemade bread.
It is nice to think of the bin getting full. My family keeps back some of the wheat for our own use, for homemade bread.
Looking at the hole in the top of the bin - a cascade of wheat.
Looking at the hole in the top of the bin - a cascade of wheat.
The wheat still has much dust in it, in spite of being threshed. It will need to be  cleaned properly before being used for bread.
The wheat still has much dust in it, in spite of being threshed. It will need to be cleaned properly before being used for bread.
My camera and I, I am afraid, fail to give you a clear idea of how much wheat this is. There is a pit built into this bin, and the wheat is nearly on a level with the door, about four feet above ground level.
My camera and I, I am afraid, fail to give you a clear idea of how much wheat this is. There is a pit built into this bin, and the wheat is nearly on a level with the door, about four feet above ground level.
Now we begin emptying the holding tank on the combine.
Now we begin emptying the holding tank on the combine.
It has its own auger (the black rubber guard is gone off the end), which can fold back along the side of the combine, or can extend out over a truck.
It has its own auger (the black rubber guard is gone off the end), which can fold back along the side of the combine, or can extend out over a truck.
My son, who rode with Dad a lot this year, returns from his trip to the top of the truck to watch it empty.
My son, who rode with Dad a lot this year, returns from his trip to the top of the truck to watch it empty.
He's ready to head back to the field.
He's ready to head back to the field.

A Wheat Harvest in Motion

© 2009 ButterflyWings

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    • ButterflyWings profile imageAUTHOR

      ButterflyWings 

      6 years ago

      It is organic Red Winter Wheat.

    • profile image

      bread baker in Carbondale, Co. 

      6 years ago

      We have a farmer here who would like to grow some wheat for the bread bakers who are a part of our community bread oven. Can you help us? We are at 6200' elevation. What type of wheat do you grow.

    • profile image

      Subramaniam Sivalingam 

      8 years ago

      Good Morning Sir

      I am Subramaniam from Malaysia

      My company, Saroo Enterprise was selling 100% liquid organic fertilizer for wheat farm, paddy, fruits tree and also vegetables

      Add 100ml Bio Fitrah Herb with 20 liter water and spray to the farm from age 25days and continue every 25-30day until harvest. Dont use even 1 drop of chemical fertilizer or chimecal pesticide for the farm........ just let go if incerst come in..... dont worry, your yeild will be 30-40% high.

      Please mail me if you wana try, i can send by courier to you.

      Thank you Sir

      Subra

      Malaysian

    • ButterflyWings profile imageAUTHOR

      ButterflyWings 

      8 years ago

      Gene, how cool is that! I am glad to share such harvests with you across the distance. Blessings on your book.

    • profile image

      crownlifeinc@yahoo.com 

      8 years ago

      wonderful article and the photos made me feel like I was right there. We just finished the barley harvest in the galilee and I was watching the lone combine harvest about 100 arces,last month. I am writing a book on the parables of Jesus, so your article on wheat harvesting was a blessing

      Shalom, Gene; Jerusalem

    • profile image

      Farmerboy 

      9 years ago

      very nicely done, I enjoyed the pictures of the harvest,

    • ButterflyWings profile imageAUTHOR

      ButterflyWings 

      9 years ago

      Ivorwen, I'm glad I could give you a bit of "home" with this hub. To be honest, I hadn't been part of harvest since high school, at least, and I found out one has to be creative when figuring out how to fit three people in Dad's combine! Even when one of them weighs less than 50 lbs. It is still easy to let harvest glide right by without seeing a glimpse of it, if it happens to occur during the first half of the week when I'm not likely to be out there. I was very glad to have this opportunity to grab.

      I hope I have captured not only the process, but in some way, the essence of harvest with this hub.

      I suppose I don't miss it in the same way you do, since I never drove the grain trucks into town. You and "Jeffrey" always helped most with that.

    • Ivorwen profile image

      Ivorwen 

      9 years ago from Hither and Yonder

      Oh do I miss harvest! This brought tears to my eyes, as living so far away I have not been involved with harvest since I got married. I miss the dusty wheat, the rich smell of fresh grain and driving that old six-by. I miss the business of town, when dumping grain at the elevator and the kids with their lemon-aid and pop stands, making a killing off the hot, dusty, tired farm hands.

      Thank you for the beautiful pictures. They bring back such fond memories.

    • ButterflyWings profile imageAUTHOR

      ButterflyWings 

      9 years ago

      Fen Lander, you're very welcome. I suppose it seems strange to you that I should want to live here. I always have.

      Don't get me wrong - I would love to visit your country, and a lot of other places - but no place I've been provides me the same "fix" this big sky does. You can only know what I'm talking about if you've been out at 11:00 on a clear night, with a level horizon all 'round, and not enough light pollution to count. You stare up at the constellations, and it's like falling into nothingness, forever - like one of those crazy nightmares we all have, but there's no nightmarish feeling.

      When I was 12, I began praying for God to let me stay in this area, because I didn't think I'd be happy anywhere else. When I neared the end of highschool, I thought surely I'd asked too much - who would I marry, and how would I make a living, and what was there really worth staying for, anyway? - but when I was 19, after I'd been a few places and done a few things, I married a man who'd grown up in a nearby town, and we're raising our children here.

      I've reached a point where I'm willing to consider going elsewhere, for a good reason. I have some places in mind (only one of them is in the U.S.), but I'm willing to keep quiet about it, pretending I'm not a person of strong opinions, and see what God has in mind. If he takes us from the area, I know it will be a wonderful adventure.

    • fen lander profile image

      fen lander 

      9 years ago from Whitstable

      Thanks for this. I feel a connection with you, your family and the land you love. I really do. It's amazing to me, living in the lush verdance of the Garden of England (Kent CT5 1PB) how you make that arid desert grow. It's truly heroic. Love XXX

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