Hello everyone! Still alive after Day 4 of the beet harvest, woohoo! I’m typing this up while eating dinner, that should already tell you something about what this work-camping opportunity is like.
I will be doing a thorough write-up of my time here, never fear! But 12 hour days of physical activity leave little time or energy for anything else but sleeping, eating, showering. So that write up is going to have to wait until I day get a day off. In the mean time, first impressions quick-like as I’m tired and want to crawl into bed:
On 12 hour days:
The first 12 hour day was fine. The second day wasn’t bad. By the third day I was feeling quite sore from all the shoveling. This morning it was hard to get out of bed, but I wasn’t as sore. I am getting eight hours of sleep a night which I feel is crucial. If I shorted myself on sleep (to have more free-time outside of work) I’m pretty sure work would be a lot, lot harder. Amazon is sort of the same way.
On the work:
It’s physical work, but not 12 straight hours of it – thank heavens! The shoveling of mud and beets is the most labor intensive (neither are very heavy, the mud is scraped not truly shoveled like snow for instance and the beet shoveling is maybe a few times a shift). And between shoveling you’re helping guide trucks around which is a little walking but not a lot. There are also periods where you’re waiting for trucks to finish unloading or new trucks to pull in, so there is regular intervals of rest. Which is very good, because 12 hour shifts would not be sustainable if you had to constantly be in motion.
Cleaning the beet piler happens once a shift, it takes maybe 20 minutes and is a lot of shoveling and scraping. I think most would consider that the hardest (and least pleasant) part of the job.
S. Kaeseman asked in the comments last post about what age can pull this job off: Several of my co-workers are in their forties and doing fine. Another work-camper on my shift is in his 50’s and he’s holding up well, he is in reasonably good shape. There’s a couple in their 60’s working the night shift – I haven’t gotten to speak with them but I still see them at shift change so they didn’t quit. Like with Amazon, I think what kind of shape you’re in and what kind of work you’re use to is more important than actual age.
On the conditions:
Most pilers are located outdoors, you’re exposed to the elements. Temps have been 40’s at night and 60’s during the day generally – so day shift gets warmer conditions (I’m day shift). Today it rained for about an hour in the morning when it was 45 or so out. So we worked in the mud and got wet and it made shoveling challenging and overall it just wasn’t a fun time. The piler stays open unless there’s thunder or heavy rain. Some farmers stopped harvesting though so it was slower and we were able to go slow to avoid sliding around.
There is no break room, lunches and breaks happen in your vehicle. There are porta-potties on site, and so far they’ve been kept very clean (yay). There is water available inside the weigh house (which is also where you punch in and out).
You need to watch out for the truck drivers! Some of them have no previous experience driving a truck and are unpredictable. Some are driving old trucks or not well kept trucks. Yesterday a truck started spraying hydraulic fluid when raising it’s bed. Today a truck driver fell asleep behind the wheel while waiting in line to dump. We’ve had trucks get flats. Trucks bump into the machine. Trucks stall out. Trucks slide in the mud. Trucks forget to put their brake on. Truck drivers not follow directions.
You get the idea. In short: we’re all working long hours and it’s easy to get tired and careless. The longer everyone goes without a rest day, the more tired everyone gets. There’s a significant potential for getting hurt on this job. It’s important to pay attention.
Oh, and yes it’s dirty work. Everything you wear will get dirty.
On coworkers and management:
On our crew of four working piler 10, there’s me an one other work-camper, and two locals. We all get along fine. Communication between team members is important to keep things running smoothly.
My foreman seems like a nice enough guy. The management above him have also been fine. They’ll stop by two or three times a shift to look things over and make sure everything’s running smoothly, but don’t micro-manage. They’ve also helped clean the machine with the rest of the crew.
* * *
Okay it’s 9:30 I’m done, haha. This post isn’t getting as much editing as my regular ones do, you’ll have to excuse any errors or odd sentence structure. So far the job is fine overall, but if we go another four days without a break my tune may change. We’ll just have to wait and see. Goodnight!
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