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Working on a vineyard in Blenheim
Making our descent in to Blenheim on a narrow plane with sixteen seats and one for the pilot, it was clear even from the air what this town was about, Wine. Peering out of the window, looking downwards, all I could see were rows. Rows, rows and more rows of budding grapes that were destine to become the Sauvignon Blanc, the Pinot Gris - the Special Reserve that we see on our supermarket shelves all over the world.
Still in the air, of course I couldnít have known how closely I was to see these rows, but I was soon to find out. There was very little time in fact, between my flight and the search for some sort of employment. It had been three months since I had done a daysí work, back in my hometown of Bristol. Since then I had been on the road, which had taken me from Paris to Turkey from Istanbul to India, through Thailand to Cambodia and New Zealand was the final stop. My partner was a Kiwi and so Blenheim was the destination and after months of spending Lira, Rupees and Baht it was time to make myself some dollars.
This town was a haven for the travel-weary backpacker, looking to boost the funds. Marlborough was the home of countless vineyards and at this point in the early summer there were contractors crying out for casual workers all over town. By the time I had unpacked my trusty backpack and slept off my jetlag, I was signed up with a vineyard contractor and my alarm was rudely announcing the start of my first day on the job.
Stumbling sleepily in to a bus full of softly spoken European languages, I learned that our first job was skirting. This involved working our way along the rows, snipping the stray and overgrown branches from the underside of the plants. We were paid just a few cents per plant, which sounded rubbish but there were a lot of plants in a row and the work was easy and swift. The weather on that first day was beautiful, and it never changed throughout the two months I worked in the vineyards. Marlborough is known for its sunshine (which explains the grapes, I suppose) and those continuous bright summer rays didnít disappoint. The scenic mountains and hills that surrounded us added a feeling of place and atmosphere to the days we spent working.
The jobs I did over those weeks were varied. Sometimes the work was hard, the heat was always there and the repeated application of sun cream was important, but none of the jobs were beyond me and the variation of tasks meant that I was never bored. I particularly enjoyed the work I did on a new block of plantings, which involved a number of days in a shed, making up a million green plastic grow-guards, which were put over the tops of the baby plants. We then clipped several miles of irrigation pipe in to place, positioned to quench the thirst of the little plants as they grew. As they matured the grow-guards were removed and the plants were given the support of new wires that we strung in to place. I found this period of work very rewarding because I felt like I had seen the process through from the very beginning.
Later, as the mature fruit were almost ready for harvest, the last of my jobs was leaf plucking. This involved giving the plump bunches of grapes space to breath, by removing some of the leaves from around them. This was a simple and rewarding job, which happened just before harvest. For me though, this was as far as my grape journey went. I was never to see the harvest because my traveller feet had become itchy again and it was time to move on!
Submitted by: Emily Fredrickson Date submitted: 18/10/2011 9:46:26 a.m.