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The real vineyard work lowdown

Having worked for 2 years towards coming to New Zealand, I thought I had enough money to last me a couple of months before I had to look for work. I was very wrong! When my friend and I arrived in Auckland, we were disappointed. Not that Auckland is a horrible city, but we’d just been (more than) slightly delusional to think that all of New Zealand would be like a spread from a National Geographic “Real Natural Beauty” edition. And it wasn’t; it was just a city like anywhere else.
We had both completely underestimated the jetlag, I don’t think either of us realised until two weeks or so after landing, just what an effect it had had on us. We decided after a couple of days roaming the streets of Auckland to head up to the Bay of Islands. Sadly, we’d booked for 2 weeks at Base Auckland, and could only get Base vouchers for their other hostels. Paihia was nice, overhyped but nice and pretty and we happily frittered our money away on fudge and ice creams and sky dives (Definitely recommended, although try not to pass out like I did!) Two weeks later, we returned to Auckland, nearly penniless and desperate for work. By chance we saw an advertisement online for vineyard work in Blenheim. This was Friday, we contacted the man (Swampy, owner of Swampy’s Backpackers, Spring Creek) who said we had to be there by Sunday at the latest. We jumped on a 12 hour bus to Wellington the next morning and were in Spring Creek but mid morning on Sunday.
There were various people starting on Monday with us, and all the information we could find was “It’s very hard!” Informative. The real blow came when we learnt we were starting at 6am! 6am! I hadn’t even had to get up for school at 6am! But we bit the bullet, and at 5.15am the alarm woke us, bleary eyed and dreading what was to come. It was raining! Pelting, soaking rain! But our little posse, (us two Brits, 3 Czechs and a German) braved the storm and drove to the railway station where we were told to meet our employer. He was there in his truck, waiting to tell us to “Go home, we’ll try again in a couple of hours when it’s not raining.” Brilliant! By the time we were back in our warm beds, he text to say the rain had stopped, time for work!
It wasn’t that bad. We were wire lifting; As self explanatory as it sounds. Involving lifting metal wires along rows to raise the vines so that the grapes have room to grow. Some people are paid per post (anything from 3c to 12c a post) but we were on hourly, around $13.80. Which wasn’t brilliant but at least we could potter along at our own pace, and as it was nearly always sweltering, that was a definite bonus! Although we started at 6am, we finished between 2 and 3 pm, so we were back at the hostel before anyone else took over the kitchen and it gave us a lot more time to relax and do washing etc.
Now wire lifting was fairly easy, but bud rubbing nearly broke us. 10 of us spent 2 days on one block, doing the dreaded bud rubbing. If you’re on contract it’s supposed to be easier, as you’re more motivated to move forward. Hourly, we must have looked ridiculous. Bud rubbing involved rubbing off the lower growth on the vines, which means being bent double the entire time. By morning break (10am) we were like old hags, groaning and aching. The following morning I felt surprisingly good, until I jumped out of bed and my legs buckled beneath me!
After a month working for those contractors, we felt we had enough money and they had run out of work so we were jobless, but wealthy! However, we stayed at Swampy’s for 3 weeks over Christmas, that was 3 weeks of rent ($130 p/w) boozing and Christmas based cooking and presents! We were poor again! Having vowed never to work on a vineyard again we were forced to go back. This time for different contractors; wire lifting was finished by now so we were “ripping and tucking” – pulling off low hanging canes on the vines or tucking them under the wires if they had grapes on them; “second setting” – cutting off the second set of grapes which don’t ripen on time for the harvest and make the wine sour; “fruit thinning” – taking off excess bunches of grapes so that they ripen on time and the vineyard doesn’t go over it’s quota for that variety of grape; “colour thinning” – removing still green, unripened grapes from the ripened ones and “net clipping” – fastening long black or white nets around the vines with tiny plastic clips to prevent the birds eating the fruit. All in all, not very exciting work, we varied from contract for the ripping and tucking, and hourly for the rest ($13 p/h after tax) some days go quickly, when it’s not to hot and the work’s quite fast, other days when it’s sticky and sweltering and you take 3 hours to do a row make a day feel a week long. There’s something rewarding about it though, in the end. I’ve never worked so hard in my life and I feel proud that I managed to work for such long hours for 3 months in total.
However, I’m still in New Zealand, and I’m still dog poor, so the vineyards may be calling again…

 





Submitted by: Holly Snowden, Wales UK
Date submitted: 11/03/2011 9:46:29 p.m.


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From the big city to the field of kiwi fruit Thu Mar 24

Working with Kiwi fruit Thu Mar 24

The Christmas rush Mon Feb 29

Packing kiwifruit in Motueka Mon Feb 29

Asparagus picking Mon Feb 29

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MY JOURNEY FROM $350/HR TO MIN WAGE: LOVING IT IN NEW ZEALAND Tue May 27

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hanging nets at isabel vinyard Mon Mar 25

Farm stay Tue Feb 5

Berry-Picking and Ice-Cream Making Tue Dec 18

Vineyard Work in Blenheim Sun Nov 25

Working As A "Milkman" Sat Aug 4

Being an au-pair Thu Aug 2

Grape harvesting in Central Otago Thu Aug 2

Whenever Wed Jun 6

Picking up the oil in Tauranga Mon May 21

Onion grading Sat May 12

Omarama, Place of Light Tue Apr 3

Napier or the job war Sun Apr 1

Some helpful tips Wed Feb 29

Fruit picking in Central Otago Mon Feb 27

Some useful tips Thu Feb 16

Fruit picking in Motueka Wed Jan 18

Where Do We Go From Here Tue Dec 20

Picked it, Packed it, Buggered Off! Tue Dec 20

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I work to live, I don’t live to work Mon Dec 19

I only had $100 to my name Sun Nov 20

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Peach thinning working experience Sun Nov 20

The young vines were frosted over Sun Nov 20

The work found me Sun Nov 20

Working for Watties Factory Mon Oct 24

Working New Zealand from a different perspective Mon Oct 24

I had always been dreaming about coming to New Zealand Mon Oct 24

My first job in vineyards was stripping Mon Oct 24

My happiness was indescribable Tue Oct 18

Working in a Packhouse in Auckland Tue Oct 18

Working on a vineyard in Blenheim Tue Oct 18

Cycling in New Zealand not friendly Tue Oct 18

Fruit Picking Tips for New Zealand Mon Aug 22

Whale and Dolphin Watching Sat Aug 13

Cherry Picking in Central Otago Sat Aug 13

16 Argentinian people living there, it was awesome! Tue Jul 26

No one got payslips, really crazy Sat Jul 23

picked apples at first Sat Jul 23

In 18 months I have worked with kiwi fruits, apples, two epic ski seasons and a travelling carnival Sat Jul 23

cash-in-hand odd jobs Sat Jul 23

A rugby team we’ve beaten twice at the Rugby World Cup? Let’s go teasing them! Sat Jul 23

Talking to strangers about charity Sat Jul 23

Fresh out of college Sat Jul 23

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Vineyard work in South Island New Zealand Sun Jul 17

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Wilding Pines Sun Jul 17

boss was very nice and friendly Sun May 8

Vintage in Central Otago - Working in the Wine Industry Sun May 8

Mr Apple packhouse experience Mon May 2

North Island Notes Wed Apr 20

Fruitpicking in Napier Wed Apr 20

blueberry harvest season Thu Apr 7

bbq on the beach and if you lucky see some Dolphis too Thu Apr 7

Mate! You are on fire!! Sun Mar 20

The real vineyard work lowdown Fri Mar 11

I had pretty much run out of cash Wed Mar 9

The Land of New Zealand Mon Feb 28

Work in backpackers in exchange for accommodation Sat Feb 26

heard cattle on motorbikes Fri Feb 18

Traditional Maori hangi Thu Feb 17

Fortune Fruit and spitting cherry pits competitions Tue Feb 15

When I got to Whangamata... Sat Feb 12

I could romanticize it… Tue Dec 7

I thought it sounded interesting Tue Dec 7

My New Zealand adventure :) Wed Nov 3

Well I am from Mexico... Mon Oct 25

~New Zealand has no bandits and the relaxed lifestyle is second to none~ Fri May 14

New Zealand's got cheap banks!! Mon Apr 26

Tips from Latvia...yes not Russia ;) Tue Mar 16

First Job Thinning Apples... Mon Mar 1

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Loving New Zealand.. Mon Feb 8

From aircrafts to vineyard work in New Zealand.. Mon Feb 8

A Czech in New Zealand.. Fri Feb 5

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