From Me to You – New Experiences – Tractors

So recently I got the pleasure of a new experience. I got to drive a tractor. But let me back up a little.

I was raised on a farm. Well actually just a farm shaped property. It had a barn, lots of sheds, trees and flat open fields all around, and even part of a fence. But we only had a dog and some cats for animals. My dad drove half an hour to work for another farmer. And every year, though I didn’t realize it in my youth, he would go through times called spring planting, fall harvest, and beet harvest (that is sugar beets). Now the one most important to this explanation is beet harvest.

My view looking out the back window of the tractor at the Rotobeater

My view looking out the back window of the tractor at the Rotobeater

For those of you who don’t know, sugar beet harvest is when farmers pull out their rotobeaters (described by my sister as a giant lawnmower), beet lifters (it scoops(?) the beets out of the ground and deposits them, after much tumbling, into a waiting truck), and a variety of trucks. The rotobeater goes first and the lifter and trucks follow. The trucks run back and forth between the field and the piler (where all the beets are stored in a huge and long pile before being transported to the sugar beet plant) and the lifter waits for them.

The farmers then start the harvest. Most run 24/7 with exception to the weather and the piler working or being open. It can’t be too hot or too cold, though heat is  the greater devil. If it rains there is mud and everyone gets stuck and some things break down (that is very bad and time consuming). This is a very busy time because there are only a few weeks in which the beets can be harvested (thus the 24/7 schedule). And, just about everyone is doing the same hectic work at the same hectic time (the roads get very busy with trucks and covered in dirt or mud).

Rotobeating while the sun sets

Rotobeating while the sun sets

Have you got the picture? 😀

Well somehow my sister got involved with beet harvest (that story is for her to tell). Well, my sister texts me the other day in the evening, “Do you want to drive tractor?” In my head I think “no, not really.” Then I think “well maybe the farmer (who is a family friend) really actually needs the help.” I hadn’t really answered her so she texts me again, “come tomorrow and ride with me.” So I said “ok.” There was no commitment in just riding.

So the next day I arrived at the field and she picked me up (there was some hullabaloo about me not knowing where to park and her saying to drive further into the field to her and a delay receiving texts… “Sigh”) and we started to drive around. She tells me the steps and proceeds to drive down a row. She gives me information as we ride along and the steps for the end of the row when we reach it. Then she asks “so do you want to make the next pass?” (A pass is one length down the field). I was somewhat shocked and said something like “no maybe the on the next one.” I concentrated on the steps and cues she told me to watch for and at the other end we switched seats.

We made another pass, with her telling me the steps, without too many hitches. We started another pass (I found maneuvering a tractor and its trailer style rotobeater rather challenging) and hit a problem. I’d gotten just off the row and it wasn’t taking the beet tops off right. She coached me through fixing it and we rolled on. I spent a total of five hours learning and working through handling several other issues.

Last row of a section

Last row of a section

At the end of the night, I texted the farmer to ask if he needed another rotobeater driver. He gave me the noncommittal answer of “if the others need a break.” Whew! It looked like he wouldn’t need me. Well, the next day, the guy who worked after my sister called me up and asked me to fill in for him. I figured I couldn’t say no, so off I hurried to the field. I got there and my sister was generous enough to make a round (two passes, like a lap) with me as a refresher. Then she left and I was on my own, any questions I had would have to be asked and answered by the man in the lifter. Also, part of my shift was to be done in the dark and I hadn’t driven in the dark before. Let’s just say I was nervous and stressed. But I ended up doing just fine. My sister had taught me well enough to handle the hiccups I did hit.

I worked two other evenings and on that last one I got to do another new thing. We moved to a new field. I had no idea what I was doing, but the man in the lifter and one of the truck drivers were gracious and helped me. It was the most hectic event I’d dealt with. But I did have enough experience by then to do a tractor maneuver (yay!) that the lifter man asked of me. I felt very proud of myself.

P.S. While checking my spelling of some of the “technical terms” (I am a terrible speller) I found this site with a simpler description of beet harvest and close up pictures!

P.S.S. This excitement and activities did keep me from WordPress for a
few days 😦

(Photos courtesy Anna Mae Tollefson. Copyright 2014) 😀

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About AnnaMae Tollefson

I am a 22 year-old, rural Minnesota resident. I love music, singing, design, and writing.
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