What Day Is It?

Edit: Photo added! North Dakota had some nice sunsets/sunrises.

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.

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26 Responses to What Day Is It?

  1. S. Kaeseman October 7, 2017 at 8:51 pm #

    Wow, that’s a lot of hours. Not as many as we did in the Navy, but Wow, respect to all doing the work. Please Thank them and you for us out here, we really appreciate what you are dong for us. Without you and others like you, we would have less sugar and such. By the time you are done, working that long will come easy, it takes time, it did for me.
    Sleep tight.
    Respectfully,
    S. Kaeseman

  2. Jeff Harris 000 October 7, 2017 at 9:38 pm #

    Hey Becky,
    You are something else! Such an inspiration to myself and countless others!! The details you give are bar-none the best in the web. I don’t comment much but, I read EVERYTHING. Keep up the great work…lots of people appreciate what you and others do but don’t always say so. Or like me…super shy. Continue to be safe in your travels! Talk soon!

  3. Judy Blinkenberg October 7, 2017 at 9:49 pm #

    I am proud of you!! I remember many years of patient turning, bathing, and changing. It was a lot of work yet the elderly always needed care. I wish I could still work but the old body has given out. I sure hope to shake your hand in Quartzite. Prayers coming your way.

  4. James Messick October 8, 2017 at 4:56 am #

    Long days, but lots of OT, which means fewer days in the long run. Hang in there, kid!

  5. MnDreamer October 8, 2017 at 5:34 am #

    Wow, Becky, you are really something, just hanging in there no matter what, and I truly admire you for that. I hope you get good rest when you are able to and that the time flies!

  6. Ron Kowalczyk October 8, 2017 at 7:17 am #

    Wow!!!
    Just reading this made me tired but I knew you could do this, never doubted it for a minute. Did anyone quit?

    • Becky October 15, 2017 at 6:04 pm #

      Several people, but only one from my crew. Like Amazon there is usually a pretty high turnover and there are always others standing by waiting to fill the holes.

  7. Anne October 8, 2017 at 8:29 am #

    You (and all your co-workers) are just amazing. I grew up in a farming area, and harvest was always crazy — but not like that! I’m so impressed that you manage to do any posting at all!

  8. John October 8, 2017 at 9:19 am #

    I can’t believe that I actually look forward to reading how a beet harvest is going and how you are coping. High suspense I guess. Thanks for keeping me up to date.

  9. Debbie Renaud-Li October 8, 2017 at 10:12 am #

    Wow, it sounds intense! Hang in there my friend. A few long weeks will yield a few months of travel and freedom :-).

  10. Jodee Gravel October 8, 2017 at 10:13 am #

    There used to be a sugar beet factory in Manteca, CA, and you had to plug your nose driving by it for several months of the year. I hope your fresh beets are smelling much better!

    Sounds like you’re continuing to make the best of the hard work. Finding a true friends is like a great bonus check :-))
    Jodee Gravel recently posted..Glad We Added Two More Days in Moab!My Profile

  11. Mark V October 8, 2017 at 10:39 am #

    As a first time truck driver for a farmer just to the east of you during the harvest, I can confirm all of what you wrote about us. I’d never driven a semi prior to my first load. Had a young guy ride along for the first time at the piler.
    It takes some time to get used to the size and operation of each truck. So far, 3 different trucks, sizes, manual and two types of automatic transmissions and dump operations.
    I really watch out for the piler workers, a tough job no matter how you slice it.
    The farmers also generally let drivers park their RVs or campers at their farms. Three of us at the farm I’m at, the others are very experienced and primarily drive tractors.

    Best of luck, in the remaining days.

  12. Reed Martin October 8, 2017 at 11:34 am #

    Thanks for the update and new utube post. Went back and re read blog post on ageing mentioned at a end of clip. Quite a powerful time for you! As for the job, a fav saying goes ‘nothing very good….or very bad…ever lasts for very long’ !

  13. Marybebth Bowman October 8, 2017 at 2:11 pm #

    I am on Day 4 of the Sugar Beets Harvest at the E GF location. Been working nights despite the long hours and weather its been an experience that I can say that I did. Been following your blog for years and really enjoy your adventures and the info as well.

  14. Dawn in MI October 8, 2017 at 2:59 pm #

    We have tons of sugar beet farms up in the thumb of Michigan. One fall we happened to be up there and saw big augers in the fields pulling the beets up, and even bigger trucks hauling them up to a Pioneer sugar plant where they were, indeed, in piles. Didn’t know they wouldn’t process them till spring, just assumed they’d be processing them immediately. Interesting.

    So you might be done in anywhere from 2 to 6 more days! I hope you get some sort of bonus for sticking it out!
    Dawn in MI recently posted..Just a typical dayMy Profile

  15. Linda Sand October 8, 2017 at 3:23 pm #

    Glad to see you still hanging in there. It seems odd to hope for bad weather but it sure sounds like you could use a day of that. Crystal Sugar is a popular brand here in the Minneapolis area. I wonder if we’ll wind up buying some from beets you harvested?

  16. David October 8, 2017 at 8:42 pm #

    They can’t harvest the beets if temps are above 70 here in Renville MN. Today, was warm, but as the day cooled, the trucks began hauling past my house again this evening. Sugar beets are picky and need cool weather for harvest. Has something to do with how the pulp reacts to high temperatures. Too warm and the beets will begin to rot in the piles vs cooling/freezing which is the plan. One year there was a freeze here followed by a thaw which ruined the beets that remained in the fields. Farmers took the loss – hopefully they all had crop insurance.

  17. Suzanne October 9, 2017 at 5:47 pm #

    My gosh! You are such a positive person! Hang in there…thanks for taking time out to blog. I know it can’t be easy…

  18. Darren October 10, 2017 at 7:42 am #

    Hey Becky! Hope you are getting some rest when you can. Those of us that are keeping up with you are holding you in our thoughts! Take care !!!!!

  19. Traveling Troy October 10, 2017 at 11:39 am #

    Hey Becky. Great posts on the harvest. Seems like exhausting work. I bet it really makes you appreciate your online income streams, but fast cash is fast cash. 🙂

    Brian, over at AdventureVanMan on Youtube was able to get a video of the Truck process of the beet harvest. Interesting perspective:

    https://youtu.be/m-8KpVzpWs4

  20. James October 10, 2017 at 11:44 am #

    I just read your blog. WHAAAT!??!
    You’re not a trust fund kid? And here I thought you RVers just idled the day away while we working folks toil.
    Best wishes to you, young lady.
    Looking forward to your next update.

    • Becky October 15, 2017 at 6:12 pm #

      A lot of us young full-timers work for a living James, some work-camping at seasonal jobs like this, and some as digital nomads working from their computers. I do some of both.

  21. Joanne October 10, 2017 at 5:50 pm #

    Drove be piles of sugar beets at a sugar plant outside Scottsbluff,SD & thought of you and the many workers who worked the harvest. Enjoy reading of your adventures.

  22. Rob October 11, 2017 at 11:49 am #

    Winding down over here, just one crew left on nites now. Got off early this morn so I could both sleep AND do laundry, the 1st off time since the start.
    These 12+ hr days wear me out after awhile.

    Know where you’re headed after being released?

    • Becky October 15, 2017 at 6:11 pm #

      South. The details are still hazy at this point!

  23. Becky October 15, 2017 at 6:10 pm #

    Thank you all for your positive vibes and encouraging thoughts! Finally had a chance to read through all these comments today and they made me smile. Now that the harvest is finally over you can expect to more frequent replies on my end, it’s just not something I had time for working 84 hours a week!

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