October 10, 2011

The Sunflower Seed Circus

And truly, the past week has been a circus of sorts, at least where the sunflower seeds are concerned.

Last Monday we loaded sunflower seed in Foxhome, MN and headed out for a Tuesday morning delivery near Spokane, WA.

We hit the Montana state line late in the evening and were driving through eastern Montana's badland country just in time for sunset.
And as usual, Montana put on a show.
All night long we drove, and were parked at the delivery around 6:00 Tuesday morning. I went to bed, and Malcolm got up to wait for the receiver to open, which they did shorty.
Standard proceedure with any grain load is for the load to be "probed" and a sample taken and tested before unloading. They can be checking for anything from moisture content to how much chaff and dirt are mixed in. And usually everything checks out ok. But not this time. They found bugs in the seed. The company we were delivering to mixes and packages birdseed, and as Mom said when I told her about it, "I thought all birdseed has bugs in it." But apparently that happens after its shipped, because the company didn't want the seed.
The shipper called around to see if any other company nearby would buy it, but no one wanted the problem of cleaning it or the risk of contamination, so we turned the truck around and headed back east through Spokane...
...through a very misty and chilly northern Idaho...
...and back into a Montana that was a different world from the day before, where it had been in the 80's and sunny. Western Montana was cloudy, wintry looking, and 47 degrees sure felt cold!
But then we crossed the mountain east of Butte, and when we hit the ground on the other side, the temperature had adjusted to a balmy 67 degrees and climbing, and the sun was out and shining brightly!

So we drove through the night and were back in Foxhome, MN by 7:00 the next morning, where we returned the rejected sunflower seed to its owner. Don't panick too much. The seed was owned by a mill, so the farmer was most likely already paid for it. And fortunatly, we get paid to haul it no matter which direction its going, so we got paid to haul it to Washington and then bring it back to Minnesota. The only ones who were in the hole so to speak were the seed owners. And the birdseed mill was in a pinch b/c they were out of that particular type of seed and in need of some, but at least they hadn't lost any money.

After that there was a bit of a wait to see if the place in Spokane could round up another load of seed for us to bring them in an hurry, but no such luck. So we headed north to Devil's Lake, ND to load some pea starch, which always goes to California.
And on the way west, North Dakota tried to outshine Montana's sunset. It was a close competition.
We stopped for a few hours over night near Ennis, MT, just west of Yellowstone, and you've already heard all about what happened that night and over the course of the next day. SNOW!
We were only in the snow during the morning hours. The rest of the day and evening was on dry roads and since there was no hurry we just kicked back and took it easy.
After delivering on Friday morning south of Sacramento, we drove to the north side of town to pick up sunflower seeds for another trip to Fargo. And the sunflower seed circus came to town again. This time, it was on account of all that mountain top snow, which had been rain in California. The sunflower field was too damp to harvest. They wanted to give it another day to dry out, and told us they'd try and harvest Saturday morning. So the four trucks that were there to load Friday were just out of luck, us included. We all parked at the only truck stop in Sacramento to wait and see.

It is in fact the only truck stop between Reno, NV and San Francisco, and their food is lousy, their building is not kept clean, and they charge trucks $12 a day to park there, unless you spend $50 in the store or restaurant or buy 75 gallons of their over priced fuel. But we didn't have any other options on places to go and wait.

And then Saturday morning the sunflower ringmaster came over to the truck stop to tell us it was still too damp, and they just figured they'd wait till Monday and see how it was. That was really discouraging. I wish they had just made the decision on Friday so that the broker could have found us something else to do. But there was nothing to be done at that point. The broker was off hunting, and most places are closed on the weekend, and so we were just out of luck, along with the other 4 trucks. One of the other drivers was from a town close to our home town, and we spent the weekend visiting with him over meals at a much better restaurant he showed us down the road. We ate to fill the time, and in between meals, I read books, and Malcolm played on the computer, and the girls did what the girls seem to do most of the time...
After an absolutely gorgeous weekend weather wise, Monday morning dawned very gray and ominous looking.
We were all a little apprehensive about how things might turn out. We were called out to the field as the second truck. The first truck got loaded, but as they were finishing him up, it started to sprinkle lightly. And by the time we had pulled into position, it was getting steadily harder. They tried to keep harvesting, but it wasn't long before the sunflower heads were holding the seed instead of releasing them, and so they stopped work, and we headed back to the truck stop. No harvesting till tomorrow, if then.
In addition to the four trucks from Friday, there were now also the four trucks that should have loaded today! We expected to not be around till tomorrow, and sure enough, it wasn't a half hour before our broker had something else for us to do... thank goodness! So long Sacramento!

We drove 40 miles north to load pears. Pears don't mind getting wet!
We'll be in Vancouver, WA in the morning, rain or shine, and unload these pears, rain or shine! Let it rain, it won't matter!
And then the tentative plan is to drive to eastern Washington and load.......sunflower seed. Keep your fingers crossed that the circus is over and has taken down the tent for the year!


MTWaggin said...

Pictures of the girls - PRICELESS! Picture of the mist on the pass - really nice but the one east of Butte is my absolute favorite! And not one bug to be seen on that windshield - wink!

Janice said...

Sounds a bit frustrating.Your dogs are so adorable they look like they give you a bit of free entertainment. That snow on those trucks looks downright ominous. You guys take care out there.

small farm girl said...

That IS a circus! It's probably a good thing you have a broker. I bet he helps out a lot.

Michaele said...

Such challenges! I love to hear you tell of your experiences. Such a good look into the life of truckers.

Sarah said...

thanks, it is always an adventure, and the girls are our constant salvation from bordom.
MTWaggin, it was a blessed time of no bugs on the windshield. The cleanest windshield we've had in ages. Missoula and Butte rain showers were the reason. Lots of wet and windshield wiper action to finally clean off every smear and speck!

Shirley said...

Your dogs are priceless. They sure took advantage of the boring weekend! Hope things look up and you stay out of the snow.

TexWisGirl said...

you guys have an awful lot of patience learned. i'd find it hard to just go with the flow! :)

Annette said...

You guys sure put up with a lot of wait and see. The dogs sleeping are just adorable.

Meagan said...

Sounds like a long, boring weekend! Hate that y'all had to do all that sitting and waiting for nothing!! Better luck next week! Love you!

thecrazysheeplady said...

Holy. Moly. Hey, that misty forest shot is wonderful. Well, they're all wonderful ;-). Love your stories.