Friday, July 18, 2008



Wheat is a pretty thing, goldish-red and gentle. Agriculture generally seems like a more gentle profession than, say, raising cattle. This is not to say that I don't appreciate ranching, just that there is something nurturing about communing with plants. Our wheat is hard red winter wheat, and it is true that when you look at grain pooling in the back of a combine, it really has a reddish hue.

Standing in a wheat field in the sun, I couldn't help but think about Superman, and how much sense it makes for the imagination to dream up a human being super-powered by the sun. You stand there and you think, all these crops are reaching up for the sun; can't the sun super-charge me too?

As happy as we look here, it hasn't been a particularly notable harvest so far. It's unclear just what the problem is, though we spend much time talking it over and wondering what we can do differently for next year. One solution is to try a new type of seed wheat, which locals are loving. In the past, we have tried experiments before others do; with this new seed wheat, we will be followers.

I'm generally struck by the primary colors I see everywhere; lots of red, yellow and blue. I suppose there is the occasional John Deere green combine, but mostly things are red and you can see why. The color pops against the background.

My young cousin, Tyler, took this photo after expressing disappointment with the pictures I'd taken of the town grain elevator. He finds interesting subjects and angles to look at, and I'm going to try to let him use my camera as much as I can.

After the wheat is cut, it is taken by trucks to the grain elevator where it is weighed. This only works, of course, if you know the weight of the truck when it is empty and can subtract this from the total weight.

I asked if the pressure was on truck drivers to keep a consistent weight, sort of the way that jockeys have to watch how much they eat. I don't know if food intake is monitored, but I did find this sign posted in the window of the grain elevator office.

I should also note that I saw a man get out of the truck one time, but he at least stayed on the scale.

And here is a truck on the scale. It was very hard not to jump on the scale. Jumping would not have been adult behavior on my part.

Sometimes we will put our wheat directly into the grain elevator. Other times, we will store the grain in our bins. Since the bin is currently not completely full, we can leave the top part of the door open. The bottom must stay closed, for obvious reasons. It smells wonderful--fresh wheat grain. I tried to take a photo of the grain pouring into the bin but, as Tyler pointed out, the lighting was terrible. I had a bad photo I was going to put onto this blog, but Tyler seems to have deleted it from my camera, as it offended his aesthetic tastes. He wants to wait until the sun is just right to try again. Being a person obsessed with aesthetics myself, I'm inclined to indulge him, even if he is only 15.

When we store wheat in our bins, it is dumped from the truck into a pit, then sucked into the bin by the cylindrical metal machinery you see behind me (I'm posing with Mark, son of Paul, my cousin). This piece of machinery is called an auger and works by means of an Archimedean screw. For many years, I repeatedly confused the word "auger" with "augur" on school tests designed to teach SAT words. To auger wheat obviously has nothing to do with prognostication, though I would happily develop the ability to accurately predict the price of wheat.

And here is young Tyler's wheat-field glamor shot. We found an old and abandoned homestead out by a field in Colorado. Among the treasures we unearthed was this car door. Tyler agreed to pose with it only if I put this old shed in the background. So far, it is the only photo I've taken of which he approves. I tend to take pictures for information and not for composition. But as I said above, I'm happy to indulge someone who is trying to refine his sense of taste.

That wheat looks good enough to eat! Ask Tyler if he knows who Lord Litchfield is. G
Who's that cutie?
I enjoyed reading about your harvest experiance. I am on Eric's crew and helped harvest and haul your wheat to your bins and to the elevator.
I am keeping a blog about my summer harvesting wheat in Texas all the way to Idaho. Check it out if you like at
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