Here I am again, after dark with just a couple hours until bedtime trying desperately to update the blog before my last ounce of energy leaves me. On the plus side, today (Day 8 work-camping at the beet harvest in North Dakota for those just tuning in), was our first short day due to weather (it got too warm), so I only worked 8.5 hours instead of the usual 12. But that extra time off needed to be spent rectifying the laundry, grocery, and RV tidying situations, all of which were reaching critical levels.
Eight days, 92.5 hours worked. This is by far the most hours I’ve worked in this short of time in my entire life, and it is an experience. Not a fun experience, but an experience.
What do I think about the beet harvest now on Day Eight?
Each individual day isn’t bad. It’s twelve hours of moderately strenuous work with frequent short rest periods waiting for things to happen. But the longer it goes, the harder it gets. It’s hard to work this many hours without a day off.
Which is of course why this is such a great financial opportunity. If it was fun or easy, the job wouldn’t pay this well.
So far I’m hanging in there. It really helps that the crew I’m on are all decent people. We all pull our weight and get along fairly well. In fact I’ve made a true friend in one of my co-workers who is a fellow RVer. I don’t particularly LIKE the job (I don’t particularly like working at Amazon either), but the money makes the hardship worth it.
Some random facts.
- I’m on Piler 1 at the Grafton site, which is the same age as my Casita: 18 years old. It’s had a few problems and we were down on Thursday for about an hour when a part needed replacing, but Piler 2, which is only two years old, has broken down over 50 times now. 50 times! Most of those were just a few minutes or less but once the boom broke and it was down for 10 hours. Piler 1 is easily winning the race for who fills their pile the fastest, but it’s not due to anything the crews are doing.
- What happens to the beets after the farmers bring them in and we stack them into piles? The beet piles are covered and left on the slabs over the winter after harvest. Then in the spring they’re loaded onto different trucks and hauled away for processing into sugar.
- Some years ago, the beet harvest did not finish until just before Thanksgiving. There was a record 23 day streak in which rain and snow kept the farmers unable to harvest because their fields were too soggy (and later too frozen). Many hundreds of acres of beets were lost, it was a catastrophe. After that, farmers changed their harvest method so that the trucks would not have to drive all the way into the field to pick up the beets, meaning the harvest can still run in moderately inclement weather as there’s less worry of the trucks getting stuck in muddy fields.
- We’ve had ridiculously good weather for the harvest so far this year. Usually the harvest is 10-14 days, and work-campers are told to expect three to three and a half weeks for the harvest, counting on a certain number of days off due to weather. In looking at the forecast, it seems quite possible right now that we’ll finish the harvest without a day off. Which is good for business but hard on the people. Thank you all for your patience and know that I will answer all questions in time, it just may have to wait a while yet! And for other remarks in comments and e-mails, I can’t respond to them all individually, but know that I have read them all and appreciate the time you took to write them. I miss you all and am looking forward to getting back to some semblance of normal after this is over.
For those who asked about photos in the comments last post:
Company has a no picture policy, proprietary equipment and processes and all that. Phones are also not allowed while you’re on the piler. I do have a pic and short video taken from a distance (what you can see from the main road going past) that I’ll put up at some point. But you can learn more about what a piler looks like by visiting Crystal Sugar’s official YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC8mpsG9P5cb5A8jaE51rarA
An update on what ages can do the harvest:
Several people responded in the comments last post about folks in their 60’s and even 70’s successfully doing the beet harvest, so as I suspected it’s less of an age thing and more of a how-good-a-shape-are-you-in kind of thing. I also now have one co-worker on my piler who is in his 60’s and does fine.
P.S. There’s another travelogue up on the YouTube channel today, phew! I’m slowly getting caught up, this one is from early 2014. Once the harvest is over, progress will go much faster.