Friday, October 4, 2013

Sugar Beet Harvest - Day # 4 - Fifty Million

Theoretically, if my body clock ever gets adjusted, you will be seeing my blog entry later and later each day as I sleep longer than the 4-4.5 hours I have been sleeping the first few days.  Today (Friday) I slept until 1:30 for 5.5 hours.....that's a nice improvement....just hope it continues tomorrow morning.  But....I get ahead of myself.

In  a typical day at the SBH we process, just at the Factory lot with 6 pilers going, 50 million pounds of sugar beets.  Each truck weighs approximately 106,000+ pounds fully laden.  We, at this location, handle around 550 truck loads a day.  This goes on at several locations for 21 days every year at this time.  By anyone's estimation, that is a lot of sugar beets.  I am beginning to understand why it takes close to 5 months to process the harvested beets.

Our Thursday shift saw us (Dallas and I) moved to FP2 after less than an hour at FP4......they are trying to get our piler "cleaned" earlier in the evening.  The word "cleaned is a relative term.  This equipment is never really clean.  The only difference before and after a "cleaning" is that all the sugar beet matter that accumulates over the course of 24 hours is picked up with Bobcats, or "skidders" as Casey and Joe call them, and taken some where else, thankfully.  To do this they must roll the entire piler back about 200 feet and then scrape the ground clean.  As this is being done another guy named Joe greases and oils the piler.  This all takes a little over an hour.

Well, we had only been processing trucks over at FP2 for about 45 minutes when it sprang an enormous hydraulic fluid leak.....with no hydraulic pressure we could not move the piler (what we were trying to do when the leak erupted), or operate the gates, so we were quickly moved back to FP4.  By the time the decision was made to abandon FP2 we had about 6 trucks backed up, which all had to be re-routed over to FP4.  I have to say one thing for the drivers of these mammoth trucks....they are very patient and understanding.  Breakdowns are pretty common on this equipment, and so far in the first three days we have had only minor problems.

Unfortunately they were not able to fix a minor problem on FP4 so we only had use of one gate instead of the customary two.  Normally only having one gate is not an issue on the night shift as the trucks come about 15 minutes apart and we only use one gate anyway, but now we had that 7 trucks now that were backed up......that's close to 2 hours of work when you only have one gate operating.  At least the obnoxious smell of rotting sugar beet matter was gone as Casey and Joe had done a great job of cleaning up.  Once it gets consistently into the 30's that smell will not be as noticeable, but with temps in the low to high 40's  the first few days it was starting to smell like someone had fallen into the equipment and perished.

I don't recall if I have mentioned before (frankly right now I don't recall brain feels like mush) , but we have about a 2-3 hour stretch early each morning when there are no trucks running, so we get a nice LONG break.  We knocked off about 12:45 am this morning and didn't see another truck until 3:15.  I had a nice lunch with TLE and then took a 1.5 hour nap, and I needed it!

The rest of the shift went pretty routinely, and temps dipped below 40 for several hours.  Just before the end of our shift it began to drizzle lightly, but it never got bad enough to worry about putting on a rain jacket.  On our Friday/Saturday shift the low temperature forecast (guess) will be 25!  It won't get above 44 today, so I'll be wearing a couple more layers tonight for sure.  If it does get that low I would expect they will stop piling, but it really comes down to the internal temperatures of the beets....if that stays above 32 they will keep going.

When you work in the 20 foot shadow of the beet pile you don't really think about how long the pile has become until you have to visit the porta potty......then you realize you don't have to walk as far anymore.

Well, four days down and 17 to go.....give or take a day, or two.  I feel like I'm starting to get a rhythm, and the time is going by faster.  There is a lot to do around the piler in between trucks, so I am always busy, and that is one reason why the time goes quickly.

Oh, by the way, my Dodgers won their first playoff game in Atlanta against the Braves last night.  Clayton Kershaw allowed just one earned run as they won 6-1!

I didn't mention TLE very much in this post......well, she's doing just could she not be in that well lit, warm, cozy Scale House.  She is taking good care me, and always has a hot lunch for me when I show up between 12:30 and 1 am.

Thanks for stopping by.

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