Friday, October 11, 2013

Sugar Beet Harvest - Day # 11 - Potpourri

Our Thursday/Friday shift began with a threat of rain, and ended with actual rain.  In between we had a little of everything going on.

First of all for those of you who read my post yesterday you will be pleased to know that we were given an extra person for our piler crew.  Having a third person now solves our break issues as I alluded to yesterday.....we can give each other a break now.  I'm kind of wondering if someone at Sidney Sugars read my blog yesterday and thought "uh oh, we'd better take care of this!", because the timing was just too perfect.

Secondly, for the first 5 hours we had 3 pilers running in anticipation of the coming rain, enabling the growers to pile as many beets as possible before the rain hit.  The unexpected result was that none of the three pilers was running at maximum capacity.  On FP2 we were getting about 1 truck every 25 minutes, or so, which made for a lot of down time.....the complete opposite from the prior evenings.  I'm not complaining....we get paid the same whether we are exhausted, or well rested.....I'll take well rested every time.

Thirdly, the growers that were running 24/7 have now finished harvesting their fields, so we are back to a long break from around 12:30 to 3:15 pm, unless there is an exception.....and, of course, there is always an exception.

Fourthly......I got to run the piler for the first time.  It was actually pretty cool to be in charge, and my debut as a piler operator was a successful as I processed the two trucks without a spill, or any small animals being harmed.

It stayed dry until just before we shut down FP2 at 12:30 am to take our lunch break.  TLE brought chile con carne again for lunch, and I finished that off pretty quickly settling into a nap on the floor around 1 1:30 TLE yelled across the office to me that a truck was coming in.....wait, what?  I quickly hustled back to FP2 (FP4 broke down early in the evening) knowing there would be just three trucks coming through.  We started up the piler, which we assumed was still in the same position we left it in.......and it was a fair assumption since we had just left it 60 minutes before......apparently our night foreman was concerned about high winds predicted for later in the morning and had Casey and Joe (the skidder operators) move the boom into the beet pile so it would not be buffeted by the coming wind.  Why I am still not sure, since the wind was not coming until mid morning Friday, and it was 1 am when she gave the order.  Well.....unfortunately, no one told us it had been moved.  Nothing good ever happens when you try to move the boom when it is buried 2 feet into the beet pile.  Fortunately the first truck had a sample ticket so I had to move to the front of the piler where the "tare taker" is was then that I saw the boom was buried in the pile and though trying to move, wasn't.  I immediately waved frantically at Dallas who shut it down, so we could back it up again.  We were totally baffled at the time, because we had not been informed of what had been first we thought someone was playing a joke on us....not a very funny joke, because damage to the boom is expensive to fix as in tens of thousands of dollars if the worst happens.

So, we quickly moved the piler back 5 feet, but now it would not start up.  Dallas and I are thinking the worst has happened, so we called Amanda, the foreman, and told her what had was at this point she realized she had failed to communicate with us.  Of course now we are all expecting the worst as Amanda calls our over all supervisor, Vanessa.  Vanessa is pretty sharp and leads Amanda through the process of trouble shooting the problem.  We discover a few breaker switches have popped as a result of the overload, and all we have to do is turn them back on.  We do, and the piler comes on again......whew....what a relief.  Meanwhile in order to move the piler back we had to have the dump truck that was trying to unload pull off the ramp, which results in a big beet spill.  We then have to get one of the skidders over to pick up the spilled beets.  By the time that is accomplished all three trucks have arrived, and now it is closing in on 2:15 am. We quickly get them unloaded, and then are told no more trucks bill be coming until 3:15 so we head back to the Scale House for a cup of coffee and then head back to FP2 at 3:15....we sit there until after 4 before it becomes apparent no more trucks are coming, and Amanda confirms that the growers have shut down due to the rain.

We head back to the Scale House around 4:30 thinking we are done for the evening, and will just lay down for a nap.  Suddenly.....and you must know by now what is coming......TLE yells out that a truck is coming....I hate waking up like that.....I look at my watch and see it is 5:30 am.....for some reason one grower decided he would send two more trucks....why I don't know, because by this time it is raining quite hard, and the pile yard had turned to mud.  We unloaded the two trucks (or I should say I unloaded them), and then waited until 6:45 am before we decided no more trucks were coming, so we shut down the piler, and headed back to the office to clock out.

It looks like the beet harvest will be on hold for a least the day light part of Friday.....I don't know right now if the night shift will be working Friday night into Saturday morning.....we won't find that out until 5 pm today.

Over all it was an interesting shift, and we didn't work too hard.

Thanks for stopping by!


  1. Sounds like you are back on track in your mind that you are going to make it through this job. It would be fun to be able to travel and take side jobs like you are doing. Enjoy what you have. I have been following you for awhile and in fact was following you before you actually went fulltime and just a number of weeks ago found your blog again. Take care.

  2. Steve, thank you for following our travels. It is a nice life with a little work thrown in here and there.


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