The compost manufacturing process presents a linear relationship between incoming feedstock volume and effort – meaning that for every additional ton of incoming material, it’s an extra ton of work to process (I knew we should have started an internet company instead). This past spring we quadrupled our incoming feedstock volume from a rate of 2,500 tons per year to 10-12,000 tons per year. During the spring, although scrambling daily, we were basically able to keep up with the new volume. The thing we didn’t realize at the time was that the bone-dry, ridiculously-hot and very windy The Dalles summers would increased our watering demand through the roof. Last summer we were able to maintain the requisite 55% moisture content through make-shift irrigation systems using hoses and pumps. This summer, we realized the only way to apply enough water to our new curing pad was a water truck – and thus began “the water truck saga”.
We started by renting a water truck. At $85-100/hour couldn’t afford to apply the 30,000-40,000 gallons of water per week we needed, so we struck out to find our own truck. The search began with an heavy machinery online auction site called Iron Planet (bad idea). In a moment of excitement, desperation and an overly-caffinated trigger finger we found ourselves the highest bidder of a 1980 Kenworth water truck that we had never seen (really bad idea). After further examination we realized this was not the truck for us. And, after negotiation with the fine folks at Iron Planet and a non-refundable $1,500 bidders fee (ouch), we found ourselves free of the unknown water truck.
Gluttons for punishment, we decided to attend yet another heavy machinery auction (in person this time, but hey at least we could actually see the truck in advance of bidding this way). This auction had four really nice trucks, all of which were quickly bid up out of our meager budget range. Feeling dejected at the auction we walked up to the highest bidder for the truck we wanted the most and jokingly asked if they had an old water truck they’d like to sell. Our asking on lark panned out, it turned out we knew the bidders and they had an old water truck they were willing to sell to us! We came to the auction looking for a truck and while we didn’t outbid anyone for a truck, we were going home with a deal in hand. Fast forward a few weeks and we are now the new owners of a 1974 Kenworth water truck with a half a million miles on the engine- we couldn’t be happier.
What were the morales of this mini-saga? Growth at a compost facility takes on different forms different times of the year, persistence pays, and most importantly, never, ever bid at an online equipment auction.
Big thanks to Brent and Donnie at Kerr Contractors!