I’ve just finished a couple of months working on the grain harvest in W.A. and I wanted to make a post about it because when I searched online before I started there, I couldn’t find any information about what I’d be doing. It seems that no one talks about it online, but I will. Maybe no one can be bothered, but for someone traveling it’s a great way to make some money in a fairly short period of time if you’re willing to work hard.
Here’s a video of the site and the basic processes that happen.
I’ve come to learn that all CBH sites are different, there are large sites where your experience may be very different to mine, I was posted to a tiny site out in the middle of nowhere about 80km north west of Ravensthorpe called Dunn Rock. Also known as Forgotten Rock, Dingo rock, Dingo Den, and a few other choice names.
Forty kilometres of dirt roads to the bitumen, and no phone reception for miles around. The dirt roads get progressively worse as the season goes on with all of the trucks carting grain, and if you want to shop at a half decent IGA then you’re looking at a round trip of about 260km.
So what is the job all about? Well there’s three main roles to be filled by casual workers, samplers, weighbridge operators and receival point operators or RPO’s. Samplers and weight bridge operators do a three day course teaching you the process of spearing trucks for samples and then testing the grain, as well as weighbridge operation, while the RPO course is one day training before season starts as well as some online training.
The sampling, testing and grading of the grain all happens in the sampling hut.
This process is part automated and part manual, the automated machine tests for moisture content and protein levels, then there’s the manual side where you look for rocks, weed seeds, pests and distorted grains.
Weighbridge operators are responsible for weighing the trucks in full of grain, then directing them where to drop their loads, before then weighing them out again. Perhaps one of the more boring positions because you just tend to sit in the hut all day, but on a 40 degree day, those outside will be jealous of your position.
Then there’s the RPO, which are generally responsible for standing at the grid and directing the trucks in to drop their grain in the grid, hand signals for the trucks telling them when to go forward, and when to stop, as well as pressing the button on the truck to open the tailgate, then blowing off the grain with an air lance before the truck drives off.
And this is a grid in operation, the truck tips the grain in, then the augers which you can see on the right, draw the grain up from the grid and deposit on the conveyor. The augers need to be opened slowly each day in the morning for the first load, and each auger at each grid is different, some you can open fully, some part way, some need to be very slowly opened over the first truck to avoid bogging the stacker and having big spills, all these things you discover on the job as you go.
The grain is transported along the conveyor till it gets to a tripper with a banana chute, that deposits the grain onto a stacker. The stacker then deposits the grain onto the stack.
The stackers are big machines with 4 wheel hydraulic steering, they are beasts to drive with two steering wheels. You can raise and lower the boom and on the end of the boom there’s a chute you can flick out or in to direct the grain onto the front or back of the stack.
You can see we have the latest gear out here at Dunn Rock.
Moving the stacker and directing the grain in and out onto the stack is a very important job as you need to try and fill the stack completely without getting any overflow onto the ground and a lot of time is spent watching the stack, watching the grain fall, planning when to move the stacker. Then taking the stacker back over old ground sometimes to fill up gaps.
Here’s a rather nasty spill over the back of the stack. It can be hard to watch both sides of the stack, you often have to walk hundreds of metres down and around the end of the stack to check the other side, and this can go on all day, backwards and forwards, watching, chute out, chute in, move along a bit.
Another task is to build walls and doors, a reasonably simple process of using large struts with Z purlon along the top, then corrugated iron is tek screwed onto it.
Once the walls are in position they need to be pinned in place with hug pins sledgehammered into the bitumen. Not a very pleasant job out in the heat.
Then there’s kancong or however you spell it, we named it king kong to keep things simple. Basically rolling out blue woven plastic around the walls, hooking it in with boards on the outside edge and piling some grain on the inside edge to hold it down.
Oh and the most favoured job of all, scraping the stack.. You have to climb the stack, knee deep in grain, then use a big scraper to manually smooth the top off and push grain down to fill gaps, we spent so many many hours scraping the stacks. This one below had an issue where the stacker wasn’t throwing the grain over the back far enough so we spent days pushing the grain by hand. Initially I hated scraping because it was so exhausting, but after a while I came to appreciate the exercise.
And of course we did so many hours of the beautifully named “hygiene”, which in reality translates to sweeping, shoveling, wheel barrowing and blowing tons of grain. And when I say tons of grain, I mean many, many tons of grain. Every bit of grain that falls has to be picked up manually, and I mean every grain, so when you see things like this.
Every grain has to be picked up..! A fairly daunting task…
Of course there’s an upside, the crew you work with. When you work long hours and you all live and work together, you form bonds with each other that’s far different from a normal 9 to 5 job. I mean hey, out here we’ve had up to 7 people sharing the one shower and toilet.
And now a video of all the fun things that happen. Take note of the song, I’m done.. Done, at Dunn Rock at the end of the season. This was a song the boss would put on whenever things were going wrong for him, he always walked around with a speaker hanging off his belt and you knew when you heard that song, things weren’t good… 🙂 Oh and at the start of the video, watch the two way radio hanging from Mick’s pocket as he runs down scraping the stack. I will add more photos to this later as I have so many.
Ok. I made a revised version of the video, here it is.
The old original video.