Hey Honey! Go get your mud boots!
1 Dec 2014
What do you do when there is more coffee to be processed but the dump truck is already full? You hand your wonderful wife a shovel and tell her to start shoveling. And you try to remember to say please.
Over the past couple weeks we have set a new record for the most coffee we have ever processed in a single month. Not only did we have to process our own record amounts of coffee, we also process coffee for several other farms in the area. It was a very busy month.
A couple years ago we outgrew the little trailer we were using for the discarded coffee pulp. To replace it I purchased a giant dump truck and we had a Dump Truck Party. That dump truck turned out to be too big for our little farm and I have since traded it for smaller dump truck that I thought would work much better for us.
The smaller dump truck (if you can call a 350 small) can get around the farm much better so overall I'm happier with it. The problem is, it's not four-wheel drive. I know, what kind of stupid farmer buys a two-wheel drive dump truck? Well, me.
I thought it would work. It can hold a couple days worth of coffee pulp so I figured I'd be able to dump it on sunny days and let it sit on rainy days. I should have known better because here in Kona coffee country it rains a lot. Indeed, it's all the rain that has made this a record round of harvesting. Not only was it so wet and muddy that the truck kept getting stuck, the coffee was coming in so fast that I had to empty it almost every night.
What do you do with a truck that needs to be emptied but can't get through the mud? Snow chains! Not surprisingly, nobody sells snow chains here in Hawaii. It took some explaining, and a very confused sales clerk, but I finally managed to find some snow chains from a place in California.
The chains definitely helped but only on relatively dry days. Well, in addition to all the normal rain, Mother Nature decided it would be a great time to throw a couple hurricanes at us. The hurricanes didn't hit us directly but the last one did give us some torrential rainfall. Torrential rain + full dump truck + more coffee = problem.
What do you do when your dump truck is full and going to get fuller? You start shoveling. Or rather you get your wonderful wife to start shoveling while you process the coffee (after a couple quick pictures to commemorate all the fun).
The dump truck has never been so full and hopefully will never be so full again. Thanks to the snow chains, and a brief spell of cooperative weather, and some expert driving (i.e. pedal to the metal and hope for the best), I managed to get the dump truck emptied.
I got the truck emptied but getting it back up the hill to the pulper was a different story. Even with the snow chains, as soon as one tire found a slippery spot the truck would loose traction and slide to a stop. I'd back up and take a running start at the hill. I'd get going so fast that I could barely make it around the corner, mud and smoke flying everywhere. I still couldn't get the truck even half way up the hill. Heck, I could barely walk up the hill it was so slippery.
This process didn't happen once, it happened every single time the truck needed to be emptied which was damned near every night. After getting the dump truck stuck for the zillionth time, I decided I needed a better solution. A four-wheel drive dump truck would be great, if they were free. A new set of mud tires would be great but those ain't free either. It looked like the only option was to weld the truck's differential.
If you don't know how a differential works, I found a funny little video from 1937 that describes it well. Basically, the differential allows the tires to spin at different speeds so the vehicle can turn. The problem is, if one tire loses traction, all the power goes to that tire and the other tire just sits there. Welding the differential gears together is the same as having no differential at all. Without a differential, traction on slippery ground is vastly improved at the cost of not being able to turn very well. Not being able to turn would be unacceptable for a regular truck but for a farm truck that will never see pavement again, it's an acceptable compromise.
With the differential welded I can usually get the truck up the hill on the first try. I still need the snow chains if it's wet and if it's really wet I'll still get stuck. Most of the time though I can get the truck emptied and back in place for another load. That's good because even a really awesome farm wife only has so much patience for crappy old dump trucks.