First Time at the Beet Harvest – Days 7 through 9

Thursday, October 6, 2016

We called the hotline at 4am and they said they would reevaluate at 10am.  At 10am we were told to come in at noon. The temperature rose from 37 degrees in the morning to 40 degrees at 11:15am when we left to go to work, but unfortunately the wind, which had died down, was going again strong, and it was very cloudy so there was zero sun to help. I wore two pairs of socks, and  heavy thermal pants under jeans, heavy thermal shirt, tshirt, flannel shirt, and a winter coat I picked up at a thrift store on top.  I also had a pair of winter gloves, earmuff headband, and head scarf.

The first two hours went very well.  The sun was out a little and we were super busy which helped keep us warm.  Then the temperature dropped to 36, the sun went behind clouds and it felt colder and colder.  If you have ever skied you know the feeling.  Starts out OK, and then you get colder and colder.  As with skiing it’s all about keeping the hands, feet, and face warm.  What I learned is that two pairs of tube socks wasn’t enough in the boots, so tomorrow I will try a thicker outer sock.  The gloves were not 100% water proof, and they did get wet from picking up the beets.  Taking an extra pair of under gloves tomorrow.  My face scarf, which works great for ear and neck coverage not so much for the whole face.  The safety glasses don’t help and I was constantly adjusting and readjusting the whole day.  My ears did stay warm though, with the earmuffs under the head scarf. And everyone was having a pretty good time, early on at least.  Robert’s wife Bridget was with us and we were jamming through trucks.  Marie in particular has the best attitude.  She reminds me so much of my friend Linda.  She was dancing throughout the day and almost always had a smile on her face.  (Of course she was dancing, there was a good beet. – Lee) Her positive energy is contagious.

So, we were all cold, but it wasn’t nearly as miserable as I thought it would be.  The wind itself I could barely feel because I was so layered up.  I say this though knowing full well it was half of a day.  What this looks like for twelve hours, still don’t know yet, but Catherine (our agriculturist) says this is as cold as it can be, because any colder and the beets start to freeze in the trucks. Tommorrow we are expecting a late start around 8am, but still have to get up at 4am and check the message.  That is one of the downsides of all this.  At least one of us is awake at 4am and we are waiting around when we go in late.  So essentially we were in “work mode” for 12 plus hours today, but only got paid for 6. -Tracy

(That last part really bothers me. I get that they don’t know until they know, and I don’t mind being told I have to call a number at a time to find out. But to call that number and hear yesterday’s message is not cool. If the message isn’t updated, then you’re just calling and calling. You can’t go back to sleep if you’re doing that. Or it could be that that’s just the thing I’m choosing to fixate on to vent my annoyance at all the things I can’t control that are making me crazy. – Lee) 

Friday, October 7, 2016

Woke up mildly sore all over, to a 6am start with 34 degree temps. Luckily I slept well. We stopped and got gas on the way home last night then I showered, then ate some chili, watched a half hour comedy, and went to bed.  The problem with that kind of schedule is that it’s very hard to get anything done. We need to stop at the store on our way home tonight to get some essentials, bread, eggs, etc.  It was cold this morning, 32 degrees, but the message said be there by 6am so we were.  I was doing dishes though at 5am just so I wouldn’t have to deal with it on the way home.  It was super cold and slow and the way I dealt with it was to sit in the truck as often as I could.  We only had 1 truck the first half hour, so that was easy, and then the piler had a small mechanical issue and once again I was in the truck.  It works because we are parked right next to the piler and I watch the rear view mirror to see when a truck is coming in my lane and I am in position before it ever gets there.  I also made sure I took my 15 minute breaks and took my half hour lunch in the “sugar shack” break room, which was very warm.  I made it through and again was cold but not miserable.  Stopped just short of that.  I am sore though.  Pretty much everywhere.  But again, it’s bearable.  Oh and did I mention Marie counted 14,0o0 steps with her watch.  This is one heck of a workout plan. 

For one glorious hour the sun came out and it was like a party.  It never got above 37 degrees, but it felt so much warmer when the sun was out.  Thankfully everything else was really good.  Our team was doing great and every foreman and supervisor  came over at least once to compliment us.  We processed 90 trucks (which is a lot) and really were functioning so well as a team. Everyone was covering for each other and looking out for each other …it really was great. One of my major complaints was when they put us all together we knew the jobs, but it was up to us to figure out all the team dynamics.  That is a lot to ask of people under pressure, and thankfully it has all worked out for us.  Mainly that is do to the fact that everyone carries their own weight and we all talk about the process…a lot.  I will say both of us really feel good about the work.  There is a definite sense of satisfaction.   Keep in mind though I an Gen X, Midwestern, and of German descent.  As Lee says working hard is almost a religion with me, lol – Tracy

Saturday, October 8, 2016

I woke up at 3am after a restless night.  Dreamed a lot about beets last night so it feels like I didn’t even get a break.  I decided to get up and do the budget post, walked outside to smoke and it was snowing.  Awesome.  That was sarcasm, btw..I’m pretty tired not sure if that came through. As I was doing the budget it turned to rain.  Not sure that’s much better.  I am sore, I am tired, and Lee said he’s starting to get sick.  Once we were fully awake and well on our way to getting ready and getting out the door, we found out we wouldn’t be going in until 8am.  The extra 2 hours is a good thing, except it’s not.  We lost 2 hours of OT pay because Saturdays are OT all day, and we are just sitting here waiting. I did lay back down and managed to nap for 20 minutes or so, and Lee said he was glad to have the extra time since he wasn’t feeling well, but overall I would say I am not a fan of being “on call” without getting paid.  We did find out later that the night shift was sent home early because trucks were getting stuck, so that actually made me feel better. 

The day was much warmer, but also a muddy mess.  Again we did amazing, processing 186 truckloads (large trucks count as 2).  The beginning of the shift was awesome, very slow and we all had lots of downtime.  One of the truck drivers told Marie that the smaller farms could “pick and choose” their weather to harvest, but the larger ones had to go 24/7 to get it all done.  So we were just seeing trucks from the bigger outfits.  As the day wore on though it got busier and busier and the mud was definitely a factor.  The beets come in muddy on days like today and they stick to the inside of the hopper.  You have to take this long scraper and push them down and man that’s hard when the mud holds them like glue.  Robert and Marvin did most of it, but I tried to help some.  I liked learning about backing up the trucks, that was really fun…but the scraping was pure murder.  I was breathing pretty hard trying to get that done.  Overall though I feel better.  I even had enough energy to make dinner when we got home. Oh and we did 12,000 steps today! – Tracy


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6 thoughts on “First Time at the Beet Harvest – Days 7 through 9

  1. Thanks for keeping the updates, even when you’re exhausted! Hope you are both still taking hot meals for lunch. Getting to the store definitely sounds like more of a challenge now.

  2. Take your vitamins, drink water to stay hydrated. a few naproxen tabs..Thanks for sharing.Have some chicken noodle soup. Some gator aid to keep electorialities up to par. God be with you all. Try to get a hardhat liner. may have to go to a weld shop. also buy some heli-arc gloves.They are lighter,but durable leather.Also, try to get snow mobile boots, or liners. We worked on Craig Power plant at -35* F.

    • What a great idea and I bet it would help with the wind as well. I am moisturizing the heck out of my face every day, which is definitely helping, but if the wind gets much worse I will try that

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