Sunday, October 20, 2013

Sugar Beet Harvest - Day # 20 - Ahhhhhhh!

I can feel the relief oozing through every pore of my body as I sit here typing my last Sugar Beet Harvest entry.....there will be no "Day # 21".  I love prep days when we are getting ready to roll our wheels again.  I spent the morning wiping off a month's worth of the FireCoat wash/wax system.  All I do is use a microfiber towel and she shines right up.    We put in the awnings, disconnected the water hose, continued getting the trailer ready for travel, and watched NCAA football.  I still feel whipped from last nights piler cleaning episode, so I took a few naps in between all the activity.

It actually got up to over 60 degrees Saturday, which was surprising since the weather guessers had forecast temps in the 40's.  The wind also came up as it is obvious another front is coming our way, and with it much cooler temperatures.

I planned my whole Saturday around the notion that we would working another abbreviated shift of 2-3 hours in duration.  That was part of the reason we decided to leave Sunday morning instead of Monday morning.  When we arrived around 6:45 pm for our 7 pm shift we were informed that we would be working.......come on now, I'm sure you're ahead of me here.....a full 12 hour shift.....wait, what?  Apparently, besides TLE and I, two other night shift folks had given notice that they were also working their last shift, which basically decimated the night shift, so Vanessa, our over all supervisor, decided to do away with the night shift entirely and just work days for what few acres remained to be harvested.  However, they were already committed to working all night Saturday night so there went our well thought out plans.

The day shift was on duty until 8 pm, so we mostly sat talking with the day shift crew on FP2.  At 8 pm Dallas and I took over FP2, and Dallas advised me I would be operating the piler most of the!  Just what my whipped body easy night of pushing buttons, and giving hand signals to truck drivers.

There were only four trucks running the overnight shift so we would have a flurry of activity as the four trucks came through, then nothing for 20, or 30 minutes until the trucks returned with new loads of sugar beets.  The wind was blowing, and you could feel the chill in the air as the new front approached.  For the first time I wore my $3 Salvation Army jacket for the entire was that cold.

Around midnight we got our usual 3 hour break as this harvester only works 21 hours a day.  They take off from midnight to 3 am, then start running again.  While Dallas and I took our long lunch, which included a nap.  Joe and Casey cleaned FP2.  We arrived back at FP2 around 3:15 to a drizzly rain, and stiff wind out of the north.  FP2 has a canopy over it, but, unfortunately FP2 faces the north, so the wind just blew the rain into the "doghouse" where I was operating the piler.  Thankfully, within an hour the rain had stopped, but not the wind...the icy north wind felt like it was penetrating all the many layers of clothing I was wearing, but the flow of trucks kept my mind off my steadily numbing extremities.

At last I began to see the eastern sky getting lighter around 6:15 am and was thinking "just 45 minutes until I'm out of here".....famous last words.  When each truck finishes dumping its sugar beet load they move forward to separate conveyor system, and I push a button that returns the dirt that was separated from their sugar beets  via that conveyor belt.  Sidney Sugars does not want to buy dirt so they generously insist that the harvesters take their dirt back to their farms.  I pushed the button like I had a few dozen times before, but this time I heard the mechanism clanking, and clunking, and then it just stopped.....before the dirt was returned to the truck.  As it turns out the dirt separator had been slowly clogging since 3 am, and eventually became so clogged it could no longer move the dirt.....or should I say clay like mud....a result of the hour long rain fail earlier.  When we climbed up on the piler to see what the issue was we were greeted by a massive wall of mud.  We began to attack it with shovels hoping that if we moved enough of the mud out to the conveyor belt we would be able to turn it on again, but alas it was not to be.  When I left at 7:15 am there were three strong, young lads toiling to remove the looked like a multi hour project, and I was not going to stick around to find out how long it would actually take, so I said my farewells, and headed over to the Scale House to pick up TLE and head home.  We had 170 miles to cover before day's end, and I wanted to get to it.

As we drove back to the RV ghetto I began to feel a mild exhilaration sweep through my body.....I had made it to the end......the job did not defeat me.......I finished the course, now it is time to roll the wheels again as we seek new adventures.

Unfortunately, that story is another day, so tune in later for Sunday's adventures......thanks for stopping by!


  1. Hey Clarke the Camp Host job you guys are taking is that for a year again? And Oh let me be the 1st to give you at-a-boy job well done...

    1., we've only committed for the 2 months we will be in town. Don't think I could stay off the road for a year again.....and thank you!


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