Wednesday, October 1, 2008

It's the most wonderful time of the year...harvesting Sugar Beets

This morning I woke up to a familiar sound, but one that only happens about the first of October each year! Just as hunters listen for that first sound of a goose heading south in the fall or seaman's widows waiting for the first faint blasts from the ships horn announcing that it soon will be appearing out on the horizon.

It's a combination sound usually starting off with the revving of a powerful diesel engine followed by a clunk,clunk clunk, clunk clunk clunk clunk, and then a constant stream of bumps as thousands and thousands of sugar beets are dropped from the conveyor chains into waiting truck boxes. It's called the campaign and it is always scheduled to start on October the First, midnight, October 1st. Why they start at midnight I'll never know, but I do know that it sets the stage for the coming 3 weeks as thousands of Diurnal men and women, for just a few weeks become Nocturnal. Trying to go to bed and get a good rest at nine in the morning just doesn't work for most of these people and so it's a time of tiredness, eating food out of lunch boxes, and mega amounts of coffee/hot chocolate and these new premium energy drinks.

My cousin Paul didn't get married till he was past 40. When the announcement was made, aunts and cousins all scrambled to find the perfect shower gift! A steel/tin box about 18 inches by 14 inches by 12 inches tall with two handles on it, much like a picnic basket. This box could NOT be made of plastic, or look like a back pack, although it resembled a picnic basket (handle wise anyway) it could not be woven of wooden strips, that would let the dust has to be of a thin tin, much like the storage boxes that farm women kept open chocolate chips, and brown sugar (tightly wrapped in plastic of course).

And so the hunt was on to find the perfect dinner packing box. I believe the prize went to my sister who found an authentic one on ebay which exactly fit the bill. Although it looks like a wicker picnic basket it's all metal with wicker handles and is an exact copy of the box that his father used for decades! Now Leah is complete as a farm wife (he says smiling!) They are big enough to hold a couple of thermos bottles of coffee and or hot chocolate, another 1/2 high thermos that hold hot food hot for many hours. Many sandwiches in plastic bags, home made cookies, and a few energy bars round out the contents. This is enough "fuel" to keep a hard working farmer going, sometimes for 18 hours at a time.

So the sugar beet harvest is on. Waterfowl season opens on Saturday, but for sugar farmers, that is only an item on the morning news. Their chance at harvesting some goose or ducks must come later.

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