Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Sugar Beet Harvest - Day # 1 - Working Man Again

Monday was a day of contrasts.  It started out with clear, windless skies and  then around 3 pm the wind picked up to 20 mph with gusts up to 40 within a few minutes.  TLE and I had to do an emergency take down of the patio awning.....the kind where you think you may lose the awning the wind is blowing soooo hard! The wind was coming directly out of the west pushing dust before it.....then it began raining quite hard for about 2 hours.  We began to see some of our day shift friends coming home early from the piling stations due to the heavy rain, and mud, so we weren't sure whether we would be working the night shift, or not.

I called the employee hotline right at 5 and got the message we were working, and should be clocking in by 6:45 for our 7 pm to 7 am shift.  There's not much more to tell about Monday, so I might as well get right to the reason we arrived here 10 days ago....the sugar beet harvest.

We were in the 'Bird around 6:15 and on the job site at the Sidney Sugars Factory by 6:30.  There was one piling station still operating.....#4.....where I will be spending my late nights, and early mornings for the next 3 weeks....give, or take a day.

We met Joe, Dallas and Casey, 'Manda and Danielle......18 to 21 somethings.....whom I will be spending a lot of my nocturnal hours with the next 3 weeks.  I bid adieu to The Lovely Elaine who landed the "INDOOR" job in the Scale House  essentially greeting the drivers as they enter the property, and handing them their Scale Ticket which shows the date, time, GVW, etc.  Then she hands them their unladen weight ticket as they depart for another load of sugar beets.

Moi, on the other hand, spent his 12 hour shift walking through mud (the blessing of the aforementioned rain), scraping mud off my boots, picking up spilled beets, shoveling spilled beets, scraping mud and squished beets off the "gate" area of the piling station, getting hit on my hardhat with beet pieces and dirt falling from the conveyor belts, taking beet samples for the lab, and trying not to get squished by 103,000 lb trucks as they ingress and egress from Factory Piler # 4.....to be referred to in the future as FP4.  The first thing you learn on a piling station is to never look up when you are around, or under the piler apparatus......you never know what airborne objects are falling toward your person.

So I ask you, my faithful followers.......what is wrong with this picture?  How is it the good looking blonde women always get the good jobs?

Taken about 11:30 pm.....about 45 degrees.....and I will look back on that temperature with fondness in a few days when it hits 30 at night.

The picture I painted is a little harsh......I actually had a good time doing some demanding physical labor, and getting to know my fellow workers.  Again, it is one of those situations where after a while their youth is forgotten.  Danielle, the main operator of FP4 is very professional, has good communication skills, and knows what she is doing.  Dallas, just returned from serving in the Army in Iraq, and Afghanistan, is a hardworking, no nonsense young man.  

Below are pictures of FP4, where I will be spending hundreds of hours over the next few weeks slinging sugar beets.  And while we are on the subject of sugar beets.....wow....sugar beets are the homeliest agricultural product I have ever seen.....they are kind of this grayish white with very unappealing shapes, and most of them are quite large......a typical sugar beet....at least the ones I am manhandling,  weighs about 2 lbs.......many close to 5 lbs.

FP4 - The "Doghouse"....where the operator operates

Where the dirt is removed from the beets

The "Pile"---20 feet high and about 150' wide

The good looking blonde....safe and warm....and smiling

One of the things I am going to like about the night shift is that between 1 and 4 am there are no trucks.....some people have the good sense to get some rest I guess.  Once we have FP4 cleaned and ready for the next truck we are basically on break for 3 hours each night at 1 am......now up until 1 am things are pretty much going non-stop, but the time flies by.  I went up the Scale House for my 3 hour break and visited with TLE....and yes, she was smiling just like in the above picture.  She has the Scale House all to herself after about 8 pm, and has already mastered her job.  I sat with her whilst eating my tuna sandwich, and drinking my DP, then lay down and took a nap.

Thankfully, the wind was very mild last night, and due to the rain there was no dust.  I'm sure in a day, or so after it dries out I may wish I was still cleaning mud off my boots when the dust comes back......NO, actually I won't wish that....I'll take the dust over the mud!  My first night on FP4 was interesting, and the time went by pretty quickly.  I was just learning the basics my first night.  Starting Tuesday I'll get some more training on operating FP4, and later this week spend some time in a Bobcat learning what all those levers are for.

We got "home" around 7:20, and TLE was in bed within 15 minutes.  On the other hand I needed a shower, and a bowl of shredded wheat before I hit the sack at 8 am.  Just like at Amazon I couldn't sleep past 12:30, but I know there are a couple of naps in my near future.  TLE is still sleeping....I know she must be tired from her exhausting work last night.....(smile).

Thanks for stopping by!


  1. Clarke, the piles are interesting, but what happens to them? Trucks bring them and you pile them. It appears that there are MANY piles. Is there a processing center somewhere? Inquiring minds, you know. Thanx, Scott

  2. There is a processing factory right behind the pile I took a picture of and they process the beets.....it takes them from now until the end of March to process all the beets harvested, so to answer your question the beets will stay in piles for up to 5 months. Of course the weather is quite cold during that 5 months, so they don't rot. As the piles are built they put in large ventilator pipes (3-4 feet in diameter) that have fans on the the ends to pull the heat out of the pile so it won't combust. I'll take a picture of the ventilator piping.