May 12, 2010

Crying Over Onions

I almost cried over onions, in more ways than one.
For starters, we came down here to Brawley, CA to deliver fertilizer and then load onions. We got here Tuesday morning bright and early. We didn't load the onions till just now. An entire day of sitting around in the truck, with scant choices for food, nothing to do, and on top of it all, Malcolm's been feeling ickish (some kind of sinus/fluish type thing). I figure those are sufficient reasons to bring me near tears, and it was mostly the onions doings.
Brawley is a small town that sits between California's southern interstates, 10 and 8. We used to load meat and bone meal down here a lot, but haven't been in this area since last summer I think. Its amazing that they even get stuff to grow here. Its sandy, dry, and in the summer, our truck's thermometer has frequently read 120+ degrees. And that was back in the day when we were not supposed to be running our truck while sitting, according to California's Clean Air acts. (that was one law that we blatantly disregarded...and I'm not sorry for it!) Now, in our new truck, we are "certified" for idling...new engine standards and all that stuff. So we ran it legally this time around.
Another interesting thing about the Brawley area...
It is well below sea level.
Yesterday the broker didn't have the load info and there was a scary moment when he informed us that they had ordered 25 trucks and then only ended up with 10 truck loads. But we were guaranteed a load, so good for us and I'm sorry for whoever else headed this way and got disappointed.
Then the onion field owner wouldn't answer his phone all evening to give us directions. He finally showed up at the truck stop this morning to lead us and the other three trucks in that had showed up to load.
We were second in line, and it was a game of follow the leader. Down one road...
...and then another.
Its so odd to see them cutting and baling hay! Feels other worldly...and smells divine. I think fresh cut hay has got to be one of my favorite aromas.
Its also one of the few places you can go and see palm trees growing in hay fields. Those two things just don't seem to go together.
Finally reached the onion field, where we waited to load.
Had to wait for the tractor and the other employees to get there.
More waiting...
...and in the midst of everyone standing around waiting, Ella got interested in something, stood up on the wheel for a better look, and honked the horn at everyone. I slipped a little further down in my seat.
And then they were ready and started loading the first truck.
I didn't feel like getting out in the dust to take better pictures. I was busy finishing my latest book, and also playing on FaceBook. But we loaded last year in this same area and did it the same way so if you want a more detailed explanation of how it works, and also some better pictures, you can read The Story of an Onion, my post from last year.
Amazing, and I never thought it would be, but apparently an onion field can make you cry too. By the time we were nearly done loading, my eyes were burning and I was starting to tear up. Must be the fumes from the onions crushed under the tractors tires.
And just like last year, there was an amazing and disgusting amount of waste. Really really depressing, so much so that I didn't even bother taking a picture of it. I don't like to think about it. I'm still letting myself pretend that they come back and pick them all up and do something with them. Let me live in my dream world.
OK, I just went back and read that onion story myself. I must have been in a goofy mood that day. It doesn't really give any more details on the ins and outs of onion harvesting than this one does,, but it was kind of humerous if your needing a laugh. If you didn't figure it out from the pictures, the trucks actually drive alongside the tractor as it digs the onions up. They are sorted by 3-4 people standing on the tractor and then a conveyor tosses them into the trailer. And for whatever reason, they only take the really big ones, leaving all the, what I consider to be, normal size onions laying in the field to rot, I assume. So there you have it.


Susan said...

I had no idea that's how they loaded onions. Do they at least till the leftovers into the soil? It looks like it could use some organic matter.

Sydney said...

If it helps onions give me headaches too. Literally I get horrific migraines from them.

Yankee Girl ~ Missy said...

Awesome!!! I love onions. I would buy onion sented candles if I could. MMMMM

Love the pictures you posted. Man I would go crazy sitting there all day like that. =)