Saturday, October 5, 2013

Sugar Beet Harvest - Day # 5 - You Don't Want to Know

But, of course, you are still reading, so I must assume you do want to know.....so here goes.... 

TLE's sunset photo - Friday around 7 pm.....look at the size of those "piles"!

The temperatures Friday just took a brief peek at 40, and then headed south quickly, and as I mentioned in yesterday's entry I slept all the way to 1:30 pm, which was a big improvement.

We are right in the middle of Major League Baseball playoffs to see who goes to the World Series, so there were four games on Friday.  One was almost over when I got up.  I took a nap while watching the Red Sox and Tampa Rays playing, then watched the beginning of the Dodger vs. Braves game before we headed off to work at 6:30 pm.  The Dodgers ultimately lost 4-3 so they head back to L.A. tied with Atlanta at one win apiece. 

So here's the dealio.....we, or really I should say "I" (TLE's routine hasn't changed a bit....she's still inside a well lit, warm, comfortable work area), had gotten acclimated to the routine at work for the first four days.  Of course, you know once you get used to something and get to thinking it would be just fine if the rest of your time here went that way, things suddenly change, and never for the better.  What changed was another grower began harvesting, and unlike the other growers we have been servicing who only work 20 hours a day giving us the 2-3 hour break I have written about, this new grower goes 24 hours a day, meaning there is no let up all night long.  At least there is no let up if the temperatures stay in the sweet spot......33 to 55.  

The added wrinkle, if you will, was/is about half the new drivers for this grower don't know their posteriors from a hole in the ground when it comes to maneuvering a 45' trailer through a piler gate.  Two of them caused damage to the right gate, and a third driver backed up too fast into the left gate and hit the hopper hard enough to break two hinges.  One guy got to close on one side, and got so wedged in that it took us 20 minutes to get him unstuck without causing more damage.

We knew in advance that Friday/Saturday temps would get down to 25, or 26 degrees meaning that the beets would probably, at some point, get too cold to pile.  That time arrived around 1:30 am, and they had to stop piling.  Just for the record, even if we stop piling we must remain at work until 7 am.  As we unloaded the last truck I was thinking I would be heading over to the Scale House to join TLE, and maybe take nap when Casey (the "skidder operator") told Dallas and I we had to "lock out" the piler.  "Locking out" the piler means we turn off the power, then each place our locks on it so it cannot be turned back on unless each and every lock is removed.....actually a nice safety feature I like.....and fell in love with when I found out why we were "locking out" the piler.  Of course I asked Casey "So why are we locking out the piler?", and Casey replies "Because we're going to perform a procedure."  I'm thinking as I hear those words, "what, are we going to operate?".....if only it had been that.

Just before Casey explained the "procedure"

The procedure involved climbing inside the guts of the piler where neither sun, nor any form of light penetrates, and cleaning out all the gunk that accumulates over the course of a day as tons of beets pass through.  You access these dark, small, claustrophobic "intestinal areas" by climbing up a ladder to the top of the piler then slithering down a conveyor belt into the bowels of the beast to scrape, with a scraper, about 200 pounds of beet and dirt residue off the walls of the "cleaner" which I have mentioned previously, but, in case you have forgotten, the "cleaner" separates the dirt from the beets.  At the end of unloading a truck the driver pulls forward and we give him his dirt back.  Of course, as I now know, not all of the dirt comes out on the conveyor belt, and must be removed by hand.  We performed this "procedure" on FP4 and FP5.....thank God, and I mean that literally, the other 4 were already done.

This is what Casey and Joe (the "skidder operators") do when we don't see them for a while at night.  They deserve the higher pay they receive for just doing that "procdure" every single night on every single piler.....even if they never drove a "skidder".  There are not adequate words found in the English dictionary to convey how gross that job is, and I pray the temperature stays above freezing for the rest of our stint here so I never have to go back in "there".

We finished our two "procedures" by 3:40 am, and I headed immediately to the Scale House, and warmth to wait out the rest of my shift with The Lovely Elaine.  As I entered the door I told her she didn't want to know.  Of course, if she reads today's entry she will know, so I guess I'll warn her in advance and then she can read at her own peril.

Thanks for stopping by!

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