Lou and I woke up around 7:30 A.M. to eat a breakfast of eggs and pork belly before getting back to work. I tried pork belly first about a year and a half ago when I started working at Mendocino Farms (a sandwich shop in Brea). I liked it a lot there, but it was marinated in brown sugar and other spices. I was surprised to find that it tastes great without all the sugar too!
Our job today was to remove the rest of the sod on the slope. Yesterday, we tried rolling up the sod after we had cut it out, but the rolls were too awkward and heavy to move out of the way. We’d found it worked best to cut rectangles about eighteen inches long and eight inches wide. These were small enough to carry and could be stacked to the side of our work area.
I fell into a rhythm of cutting borders into the sod with a crescent-shaped spade (fittingly named a sod cutter). Lou came through next and cut the underside of the sod with a trenching shovel which had a long, narrow blade that made it perfect for the task. Since my job didn’t take as long, I came back and carried the newly cut rectangles of sod to our piles nearby.
While we worked, we talked. Last night Lou told me quite a bit about three summers he spent working at a sugar beet factory in Southern California, and today he told me some more about his experiences and the general workings of these factories.
There were two separate stages of production in the factory Lou worked at. The first stage took raw beets and turned them into a liquid called “thick juice” by a lengthy process of slicing, baking, and soaking. The second stage purified and crystallized the thick juice so that it was eventually refined down to usable sugar.
Lou had a different job each summer he worked there. There was always one goal though – to keep the factory running from when the first beet was delivered until the last beet was processed. The two stages of production that I mentioned above could be stopped independently for a short time to perform essential maintenance, but there was always a rush to get things back online. While dealing with these tight schedules, the workers also had to survive the sweltering heat that often topped a hundred-twenty degrees.
The processing of beets into sugar may not be the most fascinating subject, but I enjoyed learning about it. Like so many other things I’ve seen and heard so far, it helped me appreciate the work that on behind the scenes of the world I see.
We finished working around 2 P.M., before the afternoon sun started beating down fully. Of course, the mild Colorado sun was nothing compared to the hundred-twenty degree sauna of the sugar beet factory Lou told me about, but I was still glad to avoid it.
I spent the afternoon writing about my trip and updating my blog. Then we enjoyed dinner, visited, and finished off the day by going to the airport to pick up Lou and Valli’s son, Louis, from the airport.
We made the half-hour drive to the Colorado Springs Airport around 11:30 P.M. It was a nice size – much smaller than LA International Airport which we fly out of sometimes back home. Louis’s flight was a few minutes early and he had no baggage to pick up, so we got in and out of the airport quickly. We arrived back at the house and went to bed shortly thereafter in preparation for an early morning tomorrow.