Sunday, October 26, 2014

Finis, Kaput, Done. The Lights are Turned off and the Doors are Locked... The Harvest is Over

Shortest Night Yet in the Quality Lab. Just 28 samples to finish out the 2014 Sidney Sugar Beet Season.

I'm ready to move south.

Tomorrow will find this old rig poaching a parking spot at Wally World Resort in Sheridan Wyoming... and then a bit longer haul, about the longest we ever do in a day, a mite over 400 miles to Northglenn... though... truth be told, we'll likely pull up in Fort Collins. :) so... 'bout 75 miles shorter.

None to soon neither... the weather fella is threatenin' rain tomorrow. Since it rained hard this morning his credibility is fairly good... annnnnnd... the bugger is threatening to let it break off into snow...

So this Ol' buster is Out O' here!

Not doing the NASCAR Thing this season... lots of reasons, one being... I've got other work to do! :)

So... a few days in Colorado takin' care of business... rig registration... etc... and then, continue to march south


Thursday, October 23, 2014

Not There Yet... But... Ever Closer to the End...

No No No... I'm not the goofy whack job on the street corner in a bed sheet and sandwich board preachin' about the end of the world and callin' all sinners to repent... ever'body knows that the end of the world only comes along... when you run out of beer anyway...

Nah... I'm talking about the 2014 Montana Beet Harvest. Except for lockin' the doors... it's juuuuuust almost done.

We had no work in the Quality Lab yesterday night 'cause there weren't enough samples in to bother firing up the lab... which is ok... was the first full day off I think since September... buuuuut... I'd just as soon jump some gullies and get the work done, so I can get south before ol' Jack comes rippin' in here with a genuine Northern plains blizzard!

They're takin' bets on whether we'll be done tomorrow or Monday... I'm HOPIN' on tomorrow. If my wishes meet up with reality I'll hitch up early Saturday and make the easy haul to Sheridan on Saturday...

If they don't... I guess we'll have to sit in the county playground over the weekend... waiting to finish up at the start of another week... which isn't ALL bad, considering they pretty much pay us to be here... yeah yeah I know... whine if they tried to hang me with a new rope.

I want the broke in one so it don't scratch my neck!

Projects and Plans a waitin'... books to write and leather to carve... but none of it can start... until the last sample is tested and I'm haulin' south!


Sunday, October 19, 2014

In the Final Week of the Beet Harvest... and got Extended :-0

Wellll... thought kinda that today would be the plug pulling last day of our 2014 sugar beet harvest... buuuuuut... me being me... I was bad... and they've held us in detention. :)

About half the crew got their walking papers today... I expect most of the rest will get it tomorrow... There's few acres left to harvest for this yard.

How-some-ever ... there's several other pile grounds that work on past the end of operations in the Sydney yard. That means the Quality lab that we work in at night will continue to crank for another few days.

Soooo... we, Heidi and me, were asked to stay on in the yard and the Quality Lab until ever'thing is shut down... yeah... my work ethic apparently let me down one more time. :-P

I'm guessin' it don't know I'm a lazy buster would rather sit in the shade and drink cool beer than whistle and spin on the job! Aw... it'll come out ok... two or three more days of work will pay the diesel to get south so no complaints... and to tell the truth, I'm not sure I can afford any more burnt bridges... so I agreed to hang on. :)

The past few days have slowed down a lot.... and then were juiced up with moments of OH CRAP!

Yesterday, a trucker got her bed full up not realizing the gate hadn't opened... Now... the Piler operator was tryin' to get her attention and get her to drop her bed before... OOPS!

Yup... the gate popped with the bed full up... which meant... the load didn't come in any sort of a controlled dump... nope... it came with a rush and a hustle! filled up the hopper and flowed right on over the back gate...

*NOT how you're supposed to dump your load of Sugar Beets*
The gal drivin' the truck was suitably embarrassed. She climbed out of the rig apologizing like a Nunn caught in a bar with a beer in her hand and squeezin' the leg of the hunk by her side... by the local Bishop.

Yes sir. There was some little conversation as we labored to clean up the mess as to what might could have been the screw up that caused this lil gyration...

Yeah... most wanted to blame equipment. "the bed stuck"... "it was the trucks fault"... 

Now... me... being the pragmatic, seen quite some little bit sort of a fella... paints it this way... Though the driver claimed the bed gate "hung up"... I'm sorta kinda doubtful. The fault I'm sure and certain enough to bet both my kidneys and half my liver goes this-a-way...

First... the piler operator was at fault when he failed to stop her raising the bed when it had gone 1/4 up without the gate opening... The driver was at fault when she failed to see that she wasn't dumping anything when the bed was a 1/4 up... Ether person catching it at that point would have prevented the mess...

Buuuuut... it gets better... see... I don't buy the bed gate was "hung up". My money is on; It's late in the harvest. Everyone is getting tired... and she simply spaced out, tripping the gate to release... when she realized it wasn't... she jumped and scrambled to pop it... buuuut her bed was way up so WOOOOOSH! it unloaded. :) What she SHOULDA done is drop the bed and start over... (Lesson Learned)

The folks on the ground were only talking about the mess on the ground. I told 'em as we worked; "count your blessings. We're all lucky none of ya'll are squished."

Huh? They wondered. What are you talking about? ( see... most of  'em are from "other" backgrounds. This sort of thing is new to 'em... )

This is what I been 'round my whole lazy life!

See... with that heavy load still in the bed, and that high? if the truck isn't sitting on level ground?... just one wheel down in a bit of a hole?... WHAM! It falls over... if the load (and most aren't) is loaded off center in the field? WHAM! it falls over... If one side of the load slumps faster than the other when it dumps? with the bed that high? WHAM! it falls over.... sooooo... the mess on the ground was the best thing that could have happened in that deal!

It pays... to pay attention... when ya'll work 'round big equipment. Never Ever Ever... get into that zone beside a dump truck that the bed can fall on if it tips over... It ain't no rare occurrence... When the bed is in the air... that zone beside the truck is a Kill Zone. Stay out of it!

Took six buckets out with my bobcat and piled behind the piler before I could get close enough to the hopper where I could even start dumping into the hopper to clean it up. :) Ha ha...

Then today... a weary driver pulled another, longer semi rig with a belt unloader system crooked into the piler... Oh crap... broke part of the suspension frame of the bed and had it wedged into the hopper as he crossed it crooked pulling in. :) another embarrassed driver. Poor bugger couldn't roll forward and couldn't back out (crap happens with big equipment)

Took pulling the broken frame with a chain come-along over far enough to clear the Piler parts and pulling the tail of a 95,000 pound semi truck over with the "big" loader as he backed out to get him free... and get back to piling beets!

Yeah... it ain't all just boring Sugar Beet Piling. We got us some excitement on occasion! So... when you're working such a job? and you're getting weary? THAT... is the time that a lil' bell should go off in your head... "Brian said take extra care and watch what you're about RIGHT NOW!"

For us, Two Farm bred lady bosses... a couple of rednecks and a farm boy or two got it happening. :)

I'll take rednecks and Farm/Ranch raised over all other sorts ANY day. :)

Sooo... we work and we work and we work till the work is done... and then we roll south.

There's two ways of sayin' that that come to mind;
1. If you take a fellas money... you do the job he paid you for.
2. If you take a man's money... you ride for the brand.

If you can't hang... saddle up and ride! :)

Yes Sir... I'm stronger right this minute than I was a month ago when we pulled in. I truly like it when I'm challenged and come out on top! ... annnnnnd... just a mite of a braggart about it too! :)

Big Head and all... I'm...

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

The Sugar Beet Harvest of 2014 is Nearing The End

The weather has held and the work's getting done. You never know for sure and for certain until the people with the power tell you they've pulled the plug... but it's looking like the first of the week will see the end of the harvest.

Sometime next week, Monday through Wednesday or so... we'll be rolling back south.

The toughest part this year has been in the Quality Lab at night. The first few nights saw the highest volume of samples to process... along with some sort of equipment scramble pretty near every night for the whole harvest that has obstructed getting the work done.

Yup... a few of these nights with Beet dumps, water pumps, lab machines and other "equipment challenges" making us adjust... it's been a bit of a challenge to keep on keepin' on... but that's the nice thing about that... when you look back at what you've overcome... difficulties ahead of you seem a bit less threatening.

...Then there was a bit of... ahem... interpersonal drama to keep things interesting.

Last year the "Personality Dramas" were on the piling grounds... this year... T'was in the Lab at night.

It's a curious thing to me; considering that I've got an ego of some significant size... and I know it, I still have difficulty understanding how somebody signs up for a "Crew" job... and then comes here and deliberately and willfully refuses to be a co-operative part of the team... "I'm not doing that. I don't care if you need someone over there. I'M STAYING RIGHT HERE!"...


Why bother coming if you're just gonna be a rock jamming up the wheels of progress?

It's kind of a funny thing to me that one of us "flunkie" laborers on the floor... thinks they're gonna control who does what and where. ha ha ha ha ha... Luck with that! :) Ya'll might could have been some big muckity muck in your past life... but here, at a Beet Harvest... you're a paid laborer piling beets or processing quality samples... Get over yourself! ;)

The job here is to get the job done. You take a man's money, you do the job he paid you to do and you do what you have to to get that job done. It's called Cowboy Up!

I mean, there's an old saying; Lead, follow... or get the hell out of the way. There's another that comes to mind. I think it also fits well; Are we all in the seventh grade? Grow Up!!!

Anyhoo... with all my fingers, only a bruise or two and my pockets filled fuller than they've been in some little while I'll soon be rolling south headed for new projects on the winter desert.


Wednesday, October 8, 2014

The Day Job... Saddling a Diesel Bucking Horse to Crochet Steel Pipe Into a Ventilation System...

So... I already posted pics of the night job... This is the day job... setting ventilation pipe and piler cleanup on the Piling Grounds...

That be me running the skidsteer with the grapple. I have to run across the rutted lumpy piling grounds nigh on to a quarter mile or so, to get the pipes where they're stored in a tall pile that threatens to fall on me ever' time I grab a pipe...

Then... after I peel myself off the ceiling, belly bar and various pieces and parts that that damned diesel bucking horse has splattered me on as I thump and buck back across that ground as fast as I can tolerate in that machine... I drop 'em in stacks three deep or so, along the fans that extend down either side of where the pile is building. Basically staging them until we need 'em.

Dan, a bob cat maestro, runs the other bobcat... and he kinda percolated up to be the head of our ventilation crew... which is him and me. I swear, the man can do things with a bobcat bucket I have difficulty doing with my fingers!

So... the deal is, there are big fans that shove air in through these perforated pipes... pushing the air up through the pile to cool it. They don't want the beets getting too warm in the storage pile or they rot.... which kinda degrades the ability to turn 'em into sugar!

We have to fit the pipes together as best we can. Now, if they were new and fine that might not be much of a problem. Buuuuut since they're all more than a season old, and have been buried and dug up several times... they are NOT in what you might call... good... condition...

*Ventilation Pipes under sugar beet storage piles*

So, Dan and I end up trying to crochet a steel ventilation tube out of corrugated junk with bobcats and imagination. That pic up above was just about the last of the decent pipes... Now... since I ain't got time to gather the pics of the rotten stuff :) imagine trying to fit those pipes together when one is squished oval one way... and the other is flattened another... and the perforations all need to be toward the bottom....

some ends are crushed so they can only be used as the last pipe. Others are bent, warped and overly distressed...  buuuut... they're what we got to work with so we tease 'em, squeeze 'em and push 'em with machinery until we've got a tube they can pump air through.

And... not really seen in these pics... are the semis full of beets... some weighing 125,000 pounds 0f beets PLUS the truck... roaring around you. Empty rigs leaving and loaded pulling in, all in a hurry cuz they want to get back and get another load... and the piler booms swinging back and forth... and ground crew walking around... and your goal is to not BE run over by the big ones... and not run over the walking ones!

... and not break anything while you're dodging all the things that can quickly convert you into fertilizer! :)

The piler that requires ventilation is the biggest one, the one one the left. There's two more pilers on these grounds not in the pic. One behind me and a fifth out of frame to the left... so... there's trucks of various sizes, from 55,000 pounds of load to 125,000 pounds scrambling around trying to find the piler with the shortest wait... and me threading through that mess hauling 24' culvert pipes with a bucking bobcat... oh yeah. Guaranteed to bring on a desire for quiet and a beer... or nine...

Oh... and when necessary I zip over and swap the grapple for a bucket to clean up a mess dumped by a truck if Dan is already tied up cleaning up another mess... then swap bucket for grapple and get back to hauling and setting pipe... really boring day with nothing to do :)

Buuuuut, after doing this all day... Me in the skidsteer and her on the ground crew... we go into the Quality Lab for a few hours...

Tonight which of course... after the day job gets more difficult because of the degenerating quality of pipe left... I go into the lab, where I run the outweigh scale... and... the rasp which cuts the samples is starting to fail. I can hear the bearing making noise...

... and the dump that dumps the sample beets into the rasp won't dump... so I have to force it each time with a shove... and then... and THEN and THEN! The scale itself takes a Dump! and goes spastic...

So there I am operating the scale... with no dump, no scale and a failing sample cutting rasp... Fun Times girls!

You got those same two choices. "Tuck your tail and ride for home and wait till it ends"... orrrrrr... " Pull your hat down tight, grit your teeth, bow your head... and ride into the wind."

Ha ha ha ha ha... I might be noisy with complaints and grousing from time to time... but this child ain't never got fond of or gained much of a handle on quitting. We just pushed on through and got the biggest night yet of the campaign processed and done.

They say were somewhere in the vicinity of 40% or so harvested... so juuuuust a bit of work left to do.

This is what a Cowboy does when he gets to scheming. ;)

...and now... I'm gonna knock back that second beer before I climb under that east German army wool blanket that keeps me warm at night! :)


The Harvest Campaign Continues...

The weather has been cooperating to allow things to dry out so we can get our work done. A few folks have complained about the wind. Ha Ha Ha... This is Montana girls. 30 mph ain't wind, that's a calm day! :)

With temps staying in the fifties and low sixties we're staying away from the two ends that shut down operations. If the beets get too warm, they have to stop piling or they'll spoil/rot in the stockpile before they can be processed. Likewise if they freeze.

So... periodically one of the higher highers take internal beet temps to monitor where they're at... so far so good. So this weather is just about perfect.

The campaign is beginning to wear on a few folks though. Simple truth is, there's a lot of people who have never worked for twelve hours a day, seven days a week for any length of time. It takes a certain sort of mindset to just pick 'em up and put 'em down one step after the other, when you're weary and dirty, and just get the job done.

Compound that with the wind, dust, noise and machinery roaring around everywhere, and it can get fatiguing. That right there is when you reach down inside, look up with a grin... and holler; "Let 'er buck!" :)

Yup... time to separate the Cowboys from the men ;)

This right here is where I swell up my chest and brag just a lil' bit. When the pressure tightens up, the wind rises, and the proverbial "Stuff" is hitting the fan... is where I do my best work. It's kinda like climbing onto the storm deck of a bronc...

To folks on the outside sitting in the stands, it looks like a blur of confusion and violence... on the inside... things slow down and you "See" what needs to be done and when... and you just get the job done.

Now... Piling Beets is not something you do for fun... I came here for but one reason... Dinero! :) That said, it's a good feeling to be able to test yourself against the crowd... and yourself. To know that you can still hold your own when things get more difficult... and even still outrun the majority is not a bad feeling to have. :)

To be a "Disabled Vet" and still be out front... why... That's just Ego on Steroids! Ha Ha Ha.

Yeah... I'm a show off braggart at times... I suppose that's the Cowboy in me... and maybe just a lil' bit of the bareback Bronc Rider. ;)


Friday, October 3, 2014

Shhhhh... Be Vewy Vewy Qwwww-iet...

Got all fired up ready to go to work... and then ... NADA... Three days called on account of rain. :-/

Hell of a way to start the Beet Pickin' Campaign ;) buuuuuut... Today the morning sky is Montana clear, even if it is shiver in your jeans cold! ... sooooo... shhhhh... don't tell nobody and jinx it!

I can't complain about the wait, other than to say too many days of cold and wet waiting in a fiver for to go to work... is too many... even if they DO pay us four hours a day just for being here to wait!

But, now it's time to pull on the hard hat, turn the key in the ignition, fire up that BobCat skidsteer and start hauling ventilation pipe and piling beets!

You know, some folks think sitting in a bobcat is an easy deal. "You have air conditioning, a heater and a radio!!!"

Ha ha ha... I'll tell you what. Last year I thought I'd be losing some of my fitness from a month in the cab of that skidsteer. Yeah... I HATE working out. You might end up buff but other than that and sweat you got nothing to show for it.

I much prefer having something DONE for all the hard work. A shop built. A hundred ton of hay stacked for the winter, something. But working out... meh it's just boring... so... anyway, since I am sorta busted up from the world I've lived in, with maybe a half dozen bones that haven't been broke, bruised or dislocated... and the carcass around 'em Heat stroked, concussion-ed, frost bit or cut...

...I work out a bit to stay mobile and functioning, since tapping out words on a keyboard doesn't keep much but my fingers and brain in shape. ;)

So... last year I thought I'd get weaker in the skid steer for so long...

Turned out, according to my modest lil' workout routine... I GAINED about 15 or 20% ! It seems working a bobcat skidsteer is harder than it looks!

Off to my Beet Campaign workout!