Saturday, October 6, 2012

Beetviille (Sidney, Mt)

Howdy folks.  Here I am reporting from Beetville.  You haven't heard from us recently because for the past two weeks we've mostly just been treading water waiting for the harvest to begin.  I won't bore you with daily details but I will paraphrase some so you can picture our current and upcoming routine.  As beet harvest employees, we won't be working in a beet field (we knew that prior to our arrival).  We are assigned to a site where tons of beets are to be brought from the farmers' fields and dumped.  More accurately, they are piled using a huge piece of machinery called, imagine, a piler.  The piles will be about 18 feet tall, maybe 30 to 40 feet wide and conceivably hundreds of yards long. There are many of these sites in eastern Montana and in North Dakota. Ours is located in Savage, MT about 20 miles from where we're camped. We visited the site a few days after our arrival.  They were just  beginning to set it up.  Our job will include directing trucks, mechanically taking samples of beets to later be tested for sugar content in the lab and keeping the area "clean" doing a little shovel work. I'm told that I may also spend some time as a piler operator.  

Our work site

Sugar beet art on site

Another view of piler
Beet shoot.  The samples we take come down the shoot into a large sack we will be holding.

The start of a pile of beets taken at another site
The catch thus far is that we haven't yet seen a beet at our site so we have no first hand info on what our daily routine will include.  Our work to date includes about two hours completing our employment paperwork and watching a safety video.  In addition to that we've spent about 6 hours over two different days doing some on-site training.   Our hourly wage is pennies less than $12 an hour with time and a half over 8 hours and time and a half all day Saturday and Sunday.  We got paid 2 hours for doing our paperwork and watching the video.  Now here's the really cool part of our beet career. We're also getting paid for 4 hours each for every day since 29 September that we don't work. Beets have been delivered at other piling sites for reasons we don't understand but so far we have not been able to work.  So today is Friday and as I sit here blogging Debbie and I are "earning" about $96!  Not huge money but nice for the old retirees.  To harvest or not to harvest is largely controlled by weather.  The temperature of the beet in the ground has to be something less than 54 degrees.  When we first arrived the daytime temps were consistently in the mid 70's.  But a cold front was to be here by this past Wednesday.  It arrived but so did more rain then they have seen all summer.  So for now we're idle until the fields and piling site dries out some.  The current prediction is that we'll begin with gusto Sunday.  If all goes well our workday should be something like 7am to 7pm. (paid lunch and breaks) and the harvest should last about three weeks. So back to the money. From our point of view, all this sitting around just contributes to our net income.  It costs us nothing to sit here.  We have a free campsite at the fairgrounds in Sidney, MT.

Richland County fairgrounds

Our site

There are about 30 other campers here with many more across the state in other locations.  Our only criteria is that we "need"  to be home in time to be in Las Vegas for a week beginning 10 Nov.

The truth is we have not been entirely idle.  Our friends Bill and Rena are here as well and we have done a little sightseeing.   The local area is dominated with agricultural activity and oil production so we have taken some interest (that means pictures) in that, particularly when see see a beet field .

Defoliating beets      
Digging beets
Loading beets
 One day we visited the Missouri-Yellowstone Confluence Interpretive Center.  This is Lewis and Clark territory, so if that interests you, any mention of the Missouri river is exciting. There were some pretty views of the rivers and the interpretive center was nice.

Adjacent to the confluence is the site of what was Fort Buford.  This is where Sitting Bull surrendered so there is ample info about that event.  The fort barely exists but there is an old cemetery that was morbidly interesting to walk through.

 The headstones told how everyone died.

That same day we also visited Fort Union which is located only a few miles from Fort Buford.

This is a fully restored trading post originally built by John Astor's American Fur Company in 1828.  In the day, they did about $100,000 worth of trade primarily with local Indian tribes.  The staff there was highly motivated to share info so that was a great stop. 

Our only other outing of interest was to the Fairview Bridge and Cartwright Tunnel.

The bridge, built in 1913,  is 2994 feet long and has a mid section that was designed to lift vertically to allow river traffic to pass underneath.

The bridge lifted once for an operational test.  It was never activated again because river traffic on the Lower Yellowstone River ceased in 1912. The views of the river from the bridge were quite nice with lots of fall color.

 Apparently Bill and I found lots to look at while crossing the bridge.

 At the eastern end of the bridge is the Cartwright  Tunnel.  It is 1456 feet long with a 3 degree curve making it impossible to see from one end to the other.

The tunnel was also completed in 1913.  The bridge and tunnel intermittently carried vehicular and train traffic until 1986.  We walked both the bridge and the tunnel.  That was interesting with the tunnel being "a little spooky!"  Of course I hid and jumped out to scare Debbie and Rena..  I'm so mature!

So that's the deal.  Day to day a big outing is the grocery store or, my favorite, going to the Laundromat.  I like immediate gratification.  Dirty clothes become clean clothes.  I''m easily impressed.   We're getting plenty of sleep, read, watch the tube, Debbie researches everything known to man and we watch the weather.  As of this moment we will begin work on Sunday at 11:00am. I imagine soon we'll be beet.

Well, guess I'll beet it for now.


1 comment:

  1. Wow, you guys are ambitious, you sure beet us in that respect! We'll be interested to see how this adventure develops - say hi to Bill and Rena for us!