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How I Work: Rana Zeller

Rana Zeller Published on 30 May 2014

Our morning starts just as God gives us daylight. Most days, it seems it starts only minutes after we go to sleep – because we’re exhausted and because it really has only been a few hours since we lay our heads down, thanking God for another blessed day.

I am the wife of a custom silage harvester. It is difficult to know what my morning will bring, not to mention what it will bring for my husband.

I can promise that our morning starts with thankfulness to the Lord, for yet another day, the blessing of his Son, the blessings of this life and the blessing of each other.

Most harvest mornings, I begin preparing my husband for his day. While doing this, through the camper walls I hear the sound of our workers talking, laughing and starting up their designated silage trucks.

Soon after, they start knocking on the door. They are typically in need of more forms, a payday advance, something that could be fixed, or they just want to wish us a good morning.

Some could find this exasperating, but we call it a blessing. Just when we think we aren’t going to have enough, God sends us the employees we need.

After everyone gets moving for the day, I get my morning prayer in. Forage harvesting can be dangerous, so I always say a special prayer for safety. I check on my 18-month-old girl and find her still sleeping, since it is just now daylight.

I call my husband and find out how his day has started. I typically ask about the yield tonnage, how wet or dry it is, if things are going smoothly, how our drivers are driving, and most importantly, how the customer is feeling about the job being completed.

With this call, I typically give him an update of the actual tonnage yielded the day before.

Every day, I see my husband as a man of integrity, hard work and great knowledge. Those qualities are even brighter during harvest. During his day, he encounters many issues.

Some days require him to change tires, fix windshields, brakes, weld parts or replace parts on our silage trucks. The day could require him to fix a major part on our cutter or, depending on the crop, he may have to unclog the header more than once.

His day could also be filled with many phone calls. The cab of the cutter serves for more than operations and is also his office. He keeps regular contact with the current customer, and with scheduled and new customers.

When we have a dry spell, and nowhere to go next, he may contact another harvester to see if they have any ideas or customers they cannot make it to in time. He could also call another harvester to see if they can cover one of our customers.

At this point in the day, I should be working in my office: our camper. Our camper serves as a home away from home, a gathering place and an office building.

We typically charge by tonnage or acreage as well as mileage. So it’s necessary to stay ahead of each day. We are also required to follow all DOT requirements.

This includes a lot of paperwork and extensive record-keeping. With our little girl, this can be challenging; however, she is always willing to help in her own loving way.

After I am finished keeping up with the office end of things, our daughter and I will visit my husband in the cutter. I always enjoy this part of the day. It is a great joy to be part of American agriculture.

As each truck follows beside our silage chopper, my husband continues down the field, loading our silage trucks time after time. What only minutes before was a full field has turned into an empty field ready for planting.

This part of the day not only allows me to spend time with my husband but also converse with our employees. It is so important to encourage them throughout the day. Our days can be long and monotonous.

During the busiest part of our season, there are times we run for weeks with no days off. It is so important to get the crops harvested at the right time, so I try to let our employees know how appreciated they are.

There are days I spend in our packing tractor. I leave the camper in the morning at the same time as the rest of the crew. This was not a trade I intentionally acquired but enjoy nonetheless.

I have spent many hours sitting next to my husband as he packed silage. These hours were spent in leisure for me, not knowing I was learning a trade at the time. I fill in when we need to use our tractor operator to drive a silage truck, or maybe we have not yet hired for the job.

As each truck comes bringing a fresh load of silage, I let them know where it is needed and proceed to push the load up the pile.

Depending on the length of the haul, the type of crop, the size of the silage pit and the amount of trucks we are running for the day, it can be quite stressful. It is necessary to push the load, as well as pack down the silage. If I do not achieve a good pack on the silage, it can spoil the product.

When night falls, we must stop for the day. My husband comes in very tired with this lunch pail in hand. He takes off his cowboy hat, hangs it up and gives me a tired loving greeting.

He gives me his load sheets for the day, we figure the tonnage chopped, and talk about our day. We eat an informal dinner. We typically have knocks on the door from employees who, at this point, are our friends who feel like family.

They let us know how their day went, turn in paperwork, and sometimes stay for dinner. While we are not in our house in Kansas each night for dinner, we are at home, blessed and knowing we are a family that helps bring dinner to the table of so many. May God bless each of you.  FG

Rana J. Zeller
Zeller Harvesting Co.