Pickin' oranges and strummin' a $50 guitar

Trip Start May 31, 2012
Trip End Aug 08, 2013

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Flag of Australia  , South Australia,
Monday, August 13, 2012

We've been in Waikerie, the "Citrus Capital of Australia", for the past week for the last part of Kara's orientation and the first part of my education in orange picking. I figured, if I can't get a picking job in the "Citrus Capital of Australia" goshdarnit then what the heck am I doing with myself?! Amiright?!

Waikerie is a very cute little town, with lots of cafes and second-hand stores, situated on the Murray River, meaning it is a part of the Fruit Fly Free Zone. There's a bakery called the 'Waikerie Bakery', my kind of place. We got into town on Sunday night and it took me awhile to get a lead on any fruit picking, but by the end of Monday, I had a number to call and a name... a woman named Cathy. So first thing Tuesday morning I rang Cathy up, hoping to start work that day, but she told me to come by at 4 o'clock. She lives 6 km out of town, close enough, but I needed the car. So I drove Kara to work, worked on the book a bit and then drove out there at 4. She's a nice little Asian lady who organizes the work force for over 30 farms in town. She's very strict about drinking and drugs on the job and even administers a breathalyzer on Saturday and Sunday mornings! Anyway, we got along well and she told me to come back the next morning at 9. I left there and went straight to the hardware store to get me some pickin' gloves and a pickin' hat. I was going to buy a pickin' bag as well, but they were 90 bucks, so I thought I would just put down a deposit and rent one from Cathy.

I showed up the next day at 9 and had to fill out some paperwork. We were to pick Navel oranges that day, but the thing with this type of orange is that you can't pick them when they're wet and it has to be at least 14 degrees. So, if it started raining, we'd all be sent home. Or if it got cold. As it was, we had to wait around until 11 before it was warm enough to pick 'em. I didn't actually start picking until almost noon though, just because organizing a large work unskilled work force (there was about 70 of us) takes time. I was picking with two other guys from England who had also never done this before. Between the 3 of us, we picked 4 bins. A bin is about 3 feet deep and 4 feet by 4 feet. You get paid 25 bucks a bin, so I made about 33 bucks my first day. Not bad for 7 and a half hours of physical labour, right? Right guys? What... it's not good? It's pretty lousy, you say? Well, in that case...

I had pretty much stacked up that first day for learning purposes anyway and didn't figure I'd make much money. On Thursday though we switched over to Valencia oranges, and these can be picked at any temperature and even when it's wet/raining, so we got to start first thing in the morning. I got 3 bins done by myself, due to the fact that we started much earlier but also because there was less than half of the amount of pickers on this farm. Also, the day before, all we had left to pick from were the tops of the trees, which meant positioning and climbing ladders and picking one-handed all day, but on Thursday I had the whole tree to myself so I went to town. It's pretty hard work and so when I got home that day, I made use of the jacuzzi tub in our spa suite at the ol' caravan park. I continued where I left off on Friday as well and filled 3 more bins, so in all I made bit of cash this week. Not quite as lucrative as I was hoping, but if the jobs keep coming then I'm sure I'll get faster at it.

There was a friendly supervisor there who liked to sit around and chat while we picked, and he told me I was doing a good job so that was nice to hear. I also didn't get bit by any spiders, so that was good. I saw a few but kept my distance. I tried not to psych myself out too much. I was wearing long sleeves and gloves so you just gotta' get right in there and do your thing regardless of any potential angry, drooling, poisonous, rabid, fang-bearing, crazy-eyed, fear-inducing, vomit-promising, diarrhea-generating, piloerection-arousing (it's not as dirty as it sounds, look it up!), venomous spiders lurking about. I just wanted to pick some goshdarn oranges. And pick them I did. And then I took a couple home for my lovely Kara.
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