He just takes the tractor another round…

I’m working on an article for my newspaper about wheat prices. The drought and severe fires in Russia (affecting the Ukraine and Kazakhstan, also big wheat exporters) have driven the cost of the wheat commodity up about $1.50. Still not enough. But it’s something.

Spent several hours last night riding in a local farmer’s combine, learning about wheat and the business of farming in Big Sky Country. I’m a city girl, born and raised. My fiancé is a rancher’s son. I think we’ll end up somewhere on a farm someday (that’s the dream), so I’ve got a lot of making up to do. I learned that wheat kernels must be a dark amber color. If they’re white-ish, they’re too wet and not fully matured. The farmers around here are struggling with too much moisture — too much protein — which hurts the value of the crop. In “traditional” farming, everything must be the same. All the calves must look the same. All wheat kernels must be amber. Amber waves of grain, if you will. I think that’s one thing the organic industry has going for it. If there’s some variation, that’s OK, because that’s normal.

Something else I just loved about the evening: When I pulled up to the field where the farmer and hands were harvesting, farmer’s wife was there with their five kiddos. Farmer’s mother was there, and farmer’s father-in-law. All were gathered around the family SUV, eating dinner and enjoying huckleberry crumble. Delicious! Farmer’s oldest son knew everything, and I mean everything, about the combine I was going for a ride in. Darling. Youngest son was just a babe in arms, looking quizzically about. Daughters looked at me with shy smiles. A slice of quintessential Americana.

There was a storm moving in that later lit the night with jagged streaks of lightning (there’s been a number of fires reported after last night, but they’re little — for now). Hence the dark, heavy clouds behind the combine and tractor. It was Nebraska windy. I think I’ll be picking wheat chaff out of my ears for days. But oh, it was fun!

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