After over a month of 16+ hour days for all those involved in watermelon harvest, we have finally slowed down! If you haven’t read Watermelon Elementary: Harvest Part 1, start there.
This year was particularly special in that we had our very own road signs! Of course, if you live in a small town you know that it doesn’t take much to get noticed!
We don’t mind doing things small town though…
And parking in a pasture is an experience for all!
Now to the rest of the harvest….
After the watermelons are loaded onto the buses, they drive back to the barn. They park just outside of the barn and wait to be backed up to the line.
Here in the foreground you see a full bus waiting to be unloaded. In the background a blue and yellow bus is in the barn being unloaded. On the right another bus is being backed in to be unloaded as well. Two buses park on either side of the belt that carries the melons into the barn.
Marvin, “Mi’tah Margin” to Blair who loves him dearly, is the crew leader’s son, and he backs the buses into the barn.
One bus is usually unloaded at a time. The watermelons are placed on a belt that takes them to through some scrubbers and onto a larger belt. After unloading one bus, the guys jump over to the other and go again.
As Blair says: “See the watermelons coming out!” Below they pass over the scrubbers and onto the wide belt that takes them to the boxes. The belt has padding on this side so that the watermelons aren’t bruised. Yes, watermelons bruise.
After the melons pass the scrubbers, one or two people grade them for quality. They look at them and slap them to make sure they feel right. They almost have a vibration to them when you slap them. Marvin says no “squishy” melons – he says bad melons feel “squishy.” We all know that a watermelon is not at all squishy, but the flat sound of it does sort of give a squishy illusion I guess!
Alberto’s brother grading/slapping.
Marvin’s fingers get cracked from slapping, so he wraps them in stickers. (And they always take time out to give Blair a Blair-sized watermelon.)
Next, a sticker is placed on each melon. This lady has been working with us since I can remember. She is the sweetest thing. Her husband and son also work with us. They love Blair!
As the watermelons travel down the belt, they are plucked off by size by the box packers. The large watermelons are taken first, then the medium, and finally the small and extra small.
All the while, boxes and tops are being put together to replenish those that are used and taken to the truck or to storage.
Watermelons are sold by the number of melons that fit in the box. We do have some different size boxes that hold other quantities, but the most common basic sizes are boxes of 35 large, 45 medium, or 60 small watermelons. We’ve had a few 80 count extra small watermelons as well.
After the box is loaded a top is put on, and a fork lift driver picks up the box and takes it to the floor to make a stack of three boxes. We ran five fork lifts for most of this season.
Once three boxes are stacked, they are either stored in the barn until they can be loaded onto a semi or they are loaded directly on a truck.
And off they go to wait on their driver!
Early on in the season, we had a full barn and very few loads being shipped.
With tears in my eyes, I prayed and prayed that God would provide a better year this year than last. And He did. The barn emptied as we shipped one load after another. As a wife, it’s so hard to see the stress of farming on my husband. He loves farming dearly, but the stress is beyond anything I can imagine. I’m so thankful for God’s blessings this year. I don’t know what Brad would do if he had to stop farming like so many others.
We have four docks that have trailers backed up to them without trucks attached. We use these for storage of boxes, stickers, tops, etc.
We have four docks from which we can load semis.
I have more pictures to share, but I’ll save them for another post. I hope you enjoyed your watermelon shed tour! Check out Watermelon Elementary for other posts about watermelon farming!