First Time at the Beet Harvest – Days 2 through 4

Saturday, October 1, 2016

I was asleep by 9pm and slept like the dead.  I was wide awake at 3am feeling slightly hung over.  I was dehydrated, so I definitely need to drink more water.  My left hip was a little sore, nothing too serious. My feet feel surprisingly good. The worst of it is my right shoulder.  Still feeling the sharp pains, but not all the time.  It’s very much related to position.  I took a couple Advil, had a hot shower and added a new Icy Hot Patch  which helped. We also have better snacks for today (more fruit) and I am going to make a large salad to take for lunch.  The pb&j sandwiches from yesterday just didn’t get it done.  Mentally I also feel great.  Really proud of what we did yesterday, and thinking about ways we can improve our performance/make things a little easier.  The entire yard did 600 trucks yesterday and Bill, our foreman, said it was one of the best first days he has ever seen.  He has more new people than he usually does (our team for example is all new people) and he felt we did really well.  I did also, and that is a credit to their leadership and the work ethic of the crews.  We made some really big piles of beets! Saturday morning  I felt really good.  Shoulder gave me no problem.  It did progressively get hotter though and by noon it was close to 80.  At that point the beet temperature was 51 degrees (at 55 they start to decompose which is bad) and they shut down the operation for the day. Many people were bummed because Saturday is all day OT, but I was fine with a half day.  It’s helping me ease into this and gave us a chance to go to the Walmart in Williston.  We bought several items and I am going to list them because they ere things I wish I had on the first day.

  • Four Gildan Pocket T-Shirts – I had no idea I would be in my T-shirts without a shirt cover and since all mine have sentimental value, I bought 4 new ones.  Wish I would have bought them at a thrift store, but some will hopefully be wearable after this.
  • Igloo Sport 1/2 Gallon Jug – Lee hates drinking warm water, so this jug is for his iced tea.
  • Dr. Scholl’s Massaging Gel Ultra Thin Inserts – The arch support is fine in the boots but my toes and heel are getting a little tired.  Maybe these will help.
  • Fruit of the Loom Work Gear Heavy Duty Tube Socks – The top of my boot is rubbing on my calf and I thought I was being a big baby until I saw a red rash circle forming on both legs.  I bought men’s tube socks because the women’s section only had crew which wont go high enough.
  • Contigo 20 oz coffee mug – Lee lost his mug months ago and appropriated mine.  I never replaced it because it wasn’t a big deal, but you have to drive to the sugar shack to get coffee and in the mornings I want it for the caffeine and the warmth.
  • Thermos 16oz –  Lee loves his, but again I never really felt I needed one until now.  I am going to try taking some soups, spaghettios, etc for lunch.  The salad I ate today was really good, but hot food will be great on the colder days which according to the forecast are coming early next week.
  • Mack’s Earplugs – The noise doesn’t bother me at all, which is surprising since I usually hate loud noises.  It’s kind of rythymic, like a Stomp concert. Still, I get close to take advantage of the shade and wind break and I know I need to protect my hearing.  I’ve tried all kinds of plugs and hate them all, but Marie had these cool silicon ones that swimmers use that stay outside the ear drums.  I’m excited about giving these a try and appreciate her passing it along.

It was $90 in all, but most of it is not beet harvest specific and even if it was,  I just don’t care.  Plus we got to try out the Grand Buffet in Williston and it was awesome.  For $8.50 each (20% off special) we got 4 large tables full of choices including shrimp and crablegs.  YUM!!  Best Chinese buffet we have had in a year.  Then I was super tired and we went back and another early to bed.  Tomorrow should be cooler, but it may rain so we will see what happens.

Because I’m not a slacker, I woke up at 2:19am. My eyes just popped open, and I was wide awake, and felt great. No aches, no pains. Probably because I’m much, much younger (Screw you, maybe it’s because you pushed buttons all day.  Trying doing some real work 😛 – Trace). Shush, this is my section of the post. You can tell, because it’s in italics, and funnier than your medical reports. Also, it’s not all buttons. There are levers and stuff too.   Anyway……I ran to the store last night to pick up some junk food for Trace to have on hand, apples and grapes and such, and ran into the foreman who was also at the deli getting some heart healthy pastrami for his lunches. He told me that it was a 600 truck day, and a normal day shift is 800 trucks, so we did pretty well for a first day. Night shift typically gets only 400 trucks.  More on that later. – Lee

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Today it was hard to know how many layers to wear.  There was wind, but it was warm.  Rain was called for, but also highs of 70.  I started with my thin flannels, but after walking around a few minutes quickly realized I was too hot so removed them before leaving the house.  I do recommend that.  Get dressed, start moving outside a bit (packing the truck or whatever) then decide.  There is no great changing area out in the piling yard, and although I don’t mind removing layers in my car, it’s not easy.  Some folks use the porta john to change, but personally I’d rather avoid that.  We also carry extra layers in the truck.  Yesterday I went from a heavy flannel, to a light flannel, to a T-shirt and that worked pretty well for me. The hard hat is still bothering me as well so today I am trying a baseball cap under it.  Yesterday I used my RV-Dreams visor and that helped enough that I think a full baseball hat might do the trick.  I hope so, because when we went looking for helmet liners in Williston yesterday no one sold them.  Helmets yes, accessories no.

We listened to the message in the morning and it said come in at 6am but then we drove there and were told the beets were still too hot and we were called off for the day.  We will get paid 4 hours OT for the day, but 12 would have been better. Not sure why they didn’t know that earlier in the day because obviously we would have preferred just staying home and not driving in.  It’s only a 13 mile drive to the fields, but since we go through two small towns with lots of lights  it takes about 25 minutes to get there, even at 5:15 am.  Since it’s was supposed to rain all morning I wasn’t totally upset, but then it turned out to be a beautiful day, sunny, 70, and a cool breeze.  That’s a bummer. It would have been the perfect day to get out a little, but neither of us felt like it, so after cleaning and laundry, we lounged around all day. I should probably mention there is no “normal” season here.  Last year we heard they worked 21 days straight and the year before that every third day or so they had weather delays.  I don’t mind having the days off, heck I would far prefer that to 21 days straight, but it would be nice if they were spread out a little more and not on Saturdays and Sundays, because those are the big money days. 🙂

We spent the day feeling cooped up and getting on each others nerves.  Since we got up so early we didn’t really feel like going well and the day really dragged on.  The highlight though was when Jen and Kyle stopped by.  They didn’t go in at all on nights and they spent some time telling us about their shift.  It’s totally different from ours and they totally cheered us up.  Much more laid back, all younger people, and far less volume. It is colder though, but they are allowed to sit in their cars during down times.  They spent some time cleaning inside one of the pilers and Jen said it wasn’t that bad and they both seem to like it.  I should also mention that we are hearing that each site is a little different.  Quite a bit depends on who your foreman is and your agriculturist and they aren’t all run quite the same, so you would see some variation depending on what yard you worked in and what shift.  I’m still glad we are on days though, but if you were looking for something at a slower pace and more relaxed, nights might be a good option for you.  – Trace

Monday, October 3, 2016

Lee got up at 4 and called the hotline. We were called off again for rain and thunderstorms, but this time we didn’t have to go in.  Lee stayed up.  I went back to bed until about 6am, but looking at a long day to fill. I think I’ve partly figured out why we are so antsy.  Normally our campsites have a great view of nature and are located in areas that are the perfect jumping off point for seeing cool stuff.  Nothing much up here except for the Teddy Roosevelt park, which we already saw, and our view is of the road and our next door neighbor.  Normally we like to sit outside which makes our living space bigger.  Since there is near constant road noise, we are inside instead and it doesn’t take long to start to feel like you are on top of each other. If we were at work as much as we expected to be working the place we are staying wouldn’t matter, because it would all be about sleep and work.  Not so great though with all this down time. – Trace

We’ve known since we got here that they don’t operate when it’s too hot, because that starts a composting process that can destroy an entire pile of beets. They don’t operate when it’s too cold, because they don’t want the beets to be handled if they’re frozen. They don’t operate when it’s too windy because the long boom that piles the beets can sway in the wind and become damaged. They don’t operate in heavy rain or really wet ground because trucks get stuck. Beets are a picky crop apparently. Knowing something and experiencing it are two different things. We’re just bored, and still wondering what it will look and feel like to actually work a string of 12 hour days. Until we do it, we just don’t know, and waiting is just the absolute worst. On the plus side, we do get paid 4 hours of “stay pay” on days we don’t work, and we aren’t spending money on a campsite. So there’s that. I’m sure once we’ve been working 10 straight 12 hour days we’ll be praying for a blistering hot freezing cold windy day with a thunderstorm. But we’ve been here for 14 days and actually worked a total of about 18 hours. So for now, we wait. And wait. And wait. – Lee


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8 thoughts on “First Time at the Beet Harvest – Days 2 through 4

  1. For a hard hat liner, try a knit winter watch hat. Just stuff the crown up inside the band and wrap the edges around the rim. Learned that from construction workers.

  2. Tracy, I so totally understand why you’re bored and antsy. If you can, please explain the whole process. I grew up on a sugarcane farm in Louisiana, so I know how sugar cane is harvested and processed and am trying to understand the beet process. Are the beets coming to you from the field? Are you loading them into transport vehicles to go to an off-site refinery? (Sorry, you can take the girl off the farm, but you can’t ever get the farm out of her!) Thanks!

  3. Just catching up with you two… Sounds like you are getting into the swing of things and the physical part will get you in great shape. Think of it as getting paid to go to the gym;o)) I do have a question for Lee… What did you mean by your comment that “they’re a bunch of Nancys.” Now I’m sure that was a high compliment…RIGHT:o)))

    Stay safe, work hard and make lots of money!!!

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