• Dallas and Ashley Green operate DG Harvesting as they cut wheat on a farm near Forsyth. Photo by Larry Mayer

    Harvest time: Montana wheat harvest late but protein rich

    From our partners at the Billings Gazette:
    Photos by Larry Mayer
    FORSYTH — They raced east to west across the mile-long wheat field like swimmers in a lap pool, their harvesters sending ripples through the golden grain.

    Ashley Green and daughter Sommer rounded the corner in their John Deere combine and rolled to the semi awaiting their load. The mother swung the boom of the unloader over the truck trailer and let the grain spill.

    The boys were right behind. Dallas Green, son Rory, and nephew Kyler Venable moved as fast as threshing speed would allow. It was a good day to be custom cutting winter wheat in Rosebud County. There were combines trundling through grain in just about every field east of Pompeys Pillar. The Greens, from Whitewater, were seeing some better-than-average wheat.

    “The protein is about 14 percent and we’re averaging about 50 bushels an acre, which is good for this area,” Dallas Green said.

    Wheat farmers pump a year’s worth of sweat into the slot machine hoping for a late summer payout. This year, decent rain across most of the state and light hail damage has made the harvest less of a gamble.

    “So far, it’s looking very good,” said Cassidy Marn, Montana Wheat and Barley Committee marketing director. “We’ve had reports from the state grain lab, early reports, very early, about 15 percent in with samples over 13 percent protein and test weights over 63 pounds per bushel.”

    Protein is what makes Montana wheat valuable to foreign buyers looking to blend it with ordinary wheat to create flour good for making pasta. Montana farmers normally receive a premium payment for high protein levels, which aren’t usually found in wheat from other parts of the country. Ordinary winter wheat has a protein level of no more than 10 percent. A 13 percent protein level is on the higher end.

    Dallas Green operates DG Harvesting. His son, Rory, and nephew, Kyler Veneble, are along for the ride as he harvests winter wheat on Phil Steinberger’s farm near Forsyth recently. Photo by Larry Mayer

    Dallas Green operates DG Harvesting. His son, Rory, and nephew, Kyler Veneble, are along for the ride as he harvests winter wheat on Phil Steinberger’s farm near Forsyth recently. Photo by Larry Mayer

    Test weights are a good indicator of flour extraction for wheat, with 60 pounds per bushel being the highest grade. Early test weights suggest Montana has a high-quality wheat crop, which it might need to clear the $1 billion value mark for the sixth time in seven years.

    There is a lot of wheat on the global market, which is driving prices down. There’s also a lot of protein in U.S. wheat because in regions like the Southern Plains, drought stress drove up wheat protein levels. That means high-protein Montana wheat has unwanted competition and that protein premiums might be lower or nonexistent. It’s the second year in a row that states not known for high-protein grain are crowding Montana’s niche market.

    Gulf State wheat protein levels in some cases are above 12.5, Marn said, which isn’t good news for Montana payouts. Roughly 85 percent of the Texas crop has protein levels above 12.5 percent.

    There is still a lot of Montana wheat yet to be harvested. Through last week, roughly 65 percent of Montana winter wheat was cut, but just 6 percent of the state’s spring wheat has been harvested, according to the Montana Agricultural Statistics Service. Cool, wet spring weather delayed winter and spring harvests by several weeks.

    There were exceptions, like farmer Phil Steinberger, who cut his grain July 13, weeks ahead of his Forsyth neighbors, though his protein levels were closer to 9 percent.

    In the extreme northeast corner of Montana, farmer Gordon Stoner said spring wheat and durum crops in his area were still too green to cut and may not be ready until September. Rain in nearby Plentywood is 4.5 inches above average for the year and the summer temperatures have been mild.

    “Durum and spring wheat, there hasn’t been any harvested, but the crops look very good,” Stoner said as he harvested peas Wednesday.

    Not everyone benefited from a wet 2014 growing season. Dallas Green said it was great to be cutting such abundant wheat near Forsyth after suffering drought conditions in Whitewater, where drought fissures were opening in the parched ground.

    “You could lose a 32-inch crescent down those cracks,” Green said.

  • Photo by Lisa Wareham

    Throwback Thursday: Unlocking the history of Butte’s long forgotten underground speakeasy

    Here’s a fun through back Thursday for you: One the most popular stories of 2014 (so far) the mysterious and wonderful tale of the long forgotten Rookwood Speakeasy uncovered underground in Uptown Butte.

    Butte wasn’t necessarily a place that was pro-prohibition. For instance:

    “It is estimated,” The Butte Miner reported, “that 150 gallons of whiskey, 1,500 bottles of beer and 30 gallons of wine were destroyed by the hue and cry.”

    “The agents, taking advantage of the evening rush hour of thirst quenchers, had little difficulty in entering any of the places,” The Anaconda Standard added. Arrested at the Rookwood was infamous bootlegger and moonshiner Curly McFarland.

    The full story is up now.

    Enjoy!

    - Jenna 

    • 1959904_4497017758939_7095650888033459302_n

      Evening over Ninepipes Reservoir by John D. Harwood

    • 10399990_329717623871052_2272409419680118286_n

      Light show over Northwestern Montana by Natatum Haines

    • 10458365_910517658964505_7914255356235348450_n

      Sunrise on Flathead Lake by Sherry Meyers

    • 10487549_10202124056533453_7176926801462871906_n

      A cowboy roper under the Big Sky by Yvonne Moe Resch

    • 10523988_626489607465024_3042953029461552456_n

      Heaving shining through near East Glacier by Earle Take Photography

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      Sunset near Plains by Robin K. Ha'o

    Slideshow: Celebrating Big Sky Country’s summer skies

    Once again, our readers and Facebook friends have shared an amazing bunch of photos with us. And what better time than the first week of August to share a few that celebrate the summer skies of Montana?

    Here’s a compilation of big sky shots from around the state.

    Thanks to Yvonne Moe Resch, Sherry Meyers, John  D. Harwood, Natatum Haines, Robin K. Ha’o and Earle Take Photography for the wonderful images.

    Find us on Facebook for more.

    Enjoy!

    - Jenna

  • Take a jaunt down Billings’ Sugar Ave.

    There’s a street in Billings called Sugar Avenue, and it ‘s a very appropriately named street. That’s because every winter, more than 1.5 million pounds of sugar is produced at the Western Sugar Cooperative plant.

    Contributor Jennifer McKee took us into the refinery in our July/August issue, taking readers through the process of making sugar from Montana-grown sugar beets. It’s quite a process.

    The sugar ends up in products across the world, helping to sweeten things you’ve almost definitely eaten (like Wilcoxson’s ice cream or Wheat Montana bread).

    But how do you make sugar from a beet? Here’s a quick breakdown of the process:

    Inside the Western Sugar Cooperative. Photo by Larry Mayer

    Inside the Western Sugar Cooperative. Photo by Larry Mayer

    From seed to sugar

    Seed: From mid-April to May, planting season begins for beet farmers on 150 Montana farms from Bridger to Custer

    Root: From May through September the seeds begin to grow on the 24,000 acres of Montana farmland into what will become white, two-to five- pound, foot-long sugar beets. Beets contain up to 22 percent sucrose

    Sugar beet: In September, harvesting season begins and roughly 1.5 billion of pounds of sugar beets are shipped to “beet dumps” around the state. Beets are then delivered by truck to the Billings refinery

    Refining: From September through mid-February, once at the Western Sugar Cooperative refinery, beets are taken through a three hour process to make sugar. The refinery runs nonstop producing sugar

    Sugar water: Inside the refinery every day beets are washed in river water, sliced with precision, dropped into a diffuser where steam coaxes out sugar. The resulting sugar water is then pumped into pans that induce crystallization

    Crystals: As sugar crystals form, they’re sent through a centrifuge that blasts the last of the water from the sugar

    Sugar: The sugar is spun dry and packaged. Every day of operation, the Billings refinery produces 1.5 million pounds of sugar. Sugar is shipped from the refinery to facilities across the world, including to Hershey, Penn.

    - Jenna

  • Survey says Montana home to 2 top national parks

    You probably saw this online poll making the social media rounds in the past couple weeks, asking people to vote for the nation’s best national park.

    Easy choice right?!? Well there are two easy choices for most Montanans…

    There was a good campaign and showing coming out of Montana, and our national parks earned the No. 2 (Glacier National Park) and No. 3 (Yellowstone National Park)spots.

    I think we can all agree it should’ve been a tie for first, with Glacier and Yellowstone at the top. But it was Maine’s Acadia National Park that took the No. 1 spot.

    Still, pretty good showing for MT. And in case this  makes you want to go and see the parks, we have a great suggestion on the best way to take in the scenery.

    Writer Ednor Therriault wrote a great feature in our July/August issue about the iconic red and yellow buses the operate inside Glacier and Yellowstone. It really is a fun story. And even if you’ve seen the parks, Ednor says you’re missing out if you haven’t seen them in a bus.

    Enjoy!

    - Jenna 

     

  • Centennial farms and ranches: Celebrating a century of MT stories

    “These days, to have a job for 10 years is something of an achievement. To spend an entire lifetime on something is remarkable, and to spend multiple lifetimes in dogged determination is downright admirable.”

    That’s what Montana photographer Thomas Lee told our readers to introduce his Portfolio of photos that documented the lives of three Montana centennial ranching families in our July/August issue.

    Lee’s Portfolio, “A Century of Stories” introduced readers to three of the 28 Montana families that have been honored by the Montana Historical Society’s  Montana Centennial Farm and Ranch program.

    You can meet the families Lee highlights and learn more about the program with our interactive map. To see all the photos, pick up our July/August issue.

    Enjoy!

    - Jenna 

    • Photo by Moonie Bradley

      Photo by Moonie Bradley

    • Photo by Regina Rigby

      Photo by Regina Rigby

    • Photo by Andrea Vizzotzky

      Photo by Andrea Vizzotzky

    • Photo by Rachel Ann

      Photo by Rachel Ann

    • Photo by Whispering Pines Photography

      Photo by Whispering Pines Photography

    • Photo by Betty Jo Dalke-Jones

      Photo by Betty Jo Dalke-Jones

    • Photo by Danielle Maiden

      Photo by Danielle Maiden

    • Photo by Brian Timmons

      Photo by Brian Timmons

    Slideshow: Bald eagles across Montana

    In case you’re in need of a little patriotic boost this Fourth of July Friday, our Facebook friends helped us put together this collection of Montana bald eagles.

    As always, they captured some amazing images. Thanks to everyone who shared.

    Enjoy and Happy Fourth of July.

    - Jenna 

  • Glacier National Park in spotlight of July/August issue

    The July/August cover of Montana Magazine. Photo by Tony Bynum

    The July/August cover of Montana Magazine. Photo by Tony Bynum

    Our fourth issue of 2014 is taking readers into the heart of one of the most special places on earth (at least us Montanans think so): Glacier National Park.

    As you can see on our cover, we’ve got some gorgeous and amazing features to share.

    Mountain goats, you should know, are under observation in Glacier as park officials continue a three year study to determine how the increased visitor numbers are affecting the goats.

    We’ll also show you how, after 100 years, the remaining operating chalets in Glacier are thriving.

    And we’ll take you on a ride on the famous Red Jammers inside Glaicer. How does that compare to a ride on the iconic yellow buses in Yellowstone National Park? Read our feature to find out.

    There’s more. We’ve got sugar beets, a glimpse at how a few artisans are crafting a living with handmade products, and a look at three families that have farmed their land for more than a century.

    Enjoy!

    - Jenna

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