Week 18 – Orchard work – test of endurance


Hello there!

Thanks for sticking by once again. Today is week 18 and time really flies ain’t it? Right now, I’m in my 3rd job, 5th accommodation and i’m sitting by in the living room waiting for the Rugby match to start. It’s the semi finals and it is New Zealand vs England tonight. Would have loved to watch it at a bar/pub but I’m feeling kind of lazy to get out tonight and I guess I should save some money and urm, finish up the alcohol that I have bought.

This week, I started work at an orchard, continuing my goal towards collecting 12 weeks of agriculture/horticulture payslip, which would allow me to extend my visa. After I left my plant nursery job back in Christchurch, I was still short of 3 weeks of payslip and to be honest, I should count myself lucky for securing a job despite it still being somewhat of a low season.

I’m currently in Clyde (somewhere near Alexandra), doing apricot thinning.

What is thinning you may ask?

(To be honest, I have no idea what it was when I agreed to the job) It is the removing of excess fruits from a tree, to allow enough space for the remaining fruits to grow. In New Zealand, the fruits here are focus on quality rather than quantity. This is why they spend so much man hours on tiny details to ensure that they can grow the best crops – which explains why they are so expensive. Oh wells.

Left: Before; Right: After

So, what happens in my regular work day? We are assigned to rows of apricot trees and we are each given a ladder. Everything else from footwear, waterproof clothing, raincoat, caps, sunglasses and gloves had to be self supplied. Thankfully, I had everything (from my previous jobs) so I didn’t have to buy anything (yet). Using our hands, we will have to flick the excess fruits from the branch. Of course, we were taught (for barely 5 mins) to identify the weaker and less desirable fruits to get rid of but in reality, when you’re speeding against time, you can’t be too picky or choosy of which fruit to flick away. To the best of my ability, I still try to do it some way or another.

When the trees are too tall or perhaps you’re not tall enough (or hands not long enough) to reach for the branch, you will have to use the ladder. The worse part of ladder work is not the climbing but the moving of the damn bloody heavy ladder. The ladder is the cause of all our blue-blacks on our legs but I hope I’ll get used to it as time goes by.

This job is exposed to weather elements and it feels shitty whenever the sun is too hot, winds are too strong or when it starts raining. In my first 5-days of work, I have experienced all of the above. Despite the heat, I still continue to wear my long-sleeve as I want to protect my skin from the sun, though it is likely to still be exposed.

After working for 5 days, I concluded that the speed you are able to ‘chiong’ for is heavily dependent on the row of trees that you have been assigned to. It can be very fruitful (more work required) or fruitless (almost no work required). They will put you on piece rate after you learn the ropes and you will be paid per tree that you have ‘attended’ to. If you’re gifted with a row of fruitless trees, you will still get paid for doing nothing much. At the end of the day, speed is one factor, luck is another factor. I’m not sure if I get to earn more than minimum wage for my week’s work but if I do, I would be really happy and thankful that I haven’t given up yet. It’s hard work but I’m pressing on.. for now.

I found a way to make time pass faster. I re-started the listening to audiobooks and it is working out pretty fine if I do not have to speak to anyone.

Work aside, I’m feeling slightly a teeny weeny bit lonely in this new town. (I should get used to this soon enough right?) Well, I’ve moved out of the backpackers (where I met two lovely girls who have since moved out too) and I’m staying with a nice couple in their beautiful house. For now, I’m the only tenant and their rooms have yet to be rented out so I’m pretty much on my own for most of the time. The type of ‘life’ I had for the past week reminds me of the first few weeks I had in New Zealand, where I had time a lot of me-time. Did quite a bit of blogging, internet surfing and finish chiong-ing a 13 episode drama. I even took an afternoon nap this morning.

To be honest, I’m still not comfortable with doing nothing. To the best of my ability, I’m still someone that prefers to have plans and get out of the house but I’m kind of lost for places to visit in this really small town. I don’t have friends that will invite me over to their house (yet) and there ain’t much entertainment over here. On Saturday, I went to visit the one and only ‘track’ in Alexandra which was to climb up the hill to see the clock. Went grocery shopping and went back to watch the rugby. On Sunday, I visited the Cromwell farmer and craft market plus headed to wanaka which was raining pretty much the whole afternoon. I felt so comfortable in Wanaka and thankfully I still have a few friends still living there. I had a wonderful dinner too with some friends that were doing a road trip.

Anyway, on my road trip out to Wanaka, I discovered that one of my car tyre was losing air and I spotted a screw punctured into my tyre. It was risky, but I managed to drive 1 hour back home. Planning to go to work tomorrow for half a day and settle my tyre in the second half. Praying hard that nothing goes wrong and that my not so good luck with cars will end soon. Seems like I’m gonna have to spend unnecessary money again. Oh wells, such is life.

Anyway, I’ve been thinking on when should I head home. Should I go home before or after Chinese New Year? Undecided; as always.

I should sleep soon. Gonna have to wake up in less than 8 hours for work ><

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