Still Alive in Blenheim

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November 28th 2010
Published: November 28th 2010
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Hello everyone and sorry I have been so remiss in updating but until now the internet was hard to come by here. I got the job at Talley’s worked for 3 and a half weeks before spinach ran out and got another job! I worked on the afternoon shift from 4PM to midnight and couple times a few hours later.

Talley’s processes a lot of different kinds of food, our factory specifically does spinach. It comes in on dump trucks at about 5 tonnes at a time and is then dumped into a large hopper on hydraulic masts. The hopper is lifted up to the conveyor belt that leads into the factory where workers pick through the spinach coming in and remove all the bad leaves and weeds, it then travels through several water sprayers where it is washed before going through the steamer, which is a perforated metal tube with screw fins on the inside to direct the flow of spinach as it turns and cooks. Once it leaves the steamer it goes over another conveyor where people pull out any nasty (nastier since all cooked spinach looks like and has the texture of snot) looking cooked product before it goes to the cubing station and freezers.

I work at the loading hopper with a pitchfork that has had it’s prongs bent forward so that it looks like the rake from Hell. I have to pull the spinach down onto the conveyor belt and make sure that it’s raked out evenly and that the flow is constant. It’s a pretty physical job considering that we usually get 4 to 5 trucks a day and I have to rake all of it. It’s not bad though, I enjoy working outside the factory where it doesn’t reek of cooking spinach.

Now that that’s done I’m working in a vineyard about a 5 minute drive from the hostel (but also sometimes at the Seddon location which is a 30 minute drive over a treacherous New Zealand mountain highway). The job is pretty easy, we started off shoot thinning for the first week and moved on to wire lifting the second week. The reason for thinning the number of shoots is so that there is less fruit in at harvest time so that the fruit that does grow is sweeter and of better quality. The main vines that do not get trimmed at the end of the year are called canes and are supported by fixed wires that stay in the same place for the life of the plant, but there are a second set of wires that are lifted to support and guide the new growth and need to be lifted several times as the plants grow.

Most of the plants that grow here (about 75%!)(MISSING) are Sauvignon Blanc, followed by Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, and only one type of Pinot Noir. The majority of New Zealand’s red wine comes from Hawkes Bay on the north island. The boss fills us in on some of this stuff, but I learned most af what I know about the finished product stage after I went on the hostel’s wine tour the other week. I always though that I would be a bit more partial to red wines but I found that I don’t really like them at all. I prefer Sauvignon Blancs and sometimes Chardonnays.

I work with 3 other guys from the hostel (Benjamin, Yanik, and Thilo ) and we’re working for $15 an hour! That is after holiday pay but minimum wage after holiday pay is only $13.50. Our employer’s name is James and he owns a few vineyards, though he only has a small private label himself because going large scale is a lot of work. He contracts most of the fruit out to other vineyards who produce much more wine than they do. He’s a pretty good guy to work for, one day when the temperature got up to 30 something he stopped by at the end of the day with a cooler full of ice and beer for us which is something you would never see the bud rubbing contractors do.

My poor car Helga (I decided on the name because it isn’t exactly a pretty name and no one would accuse my car of being that, though it is a strong name and I hope that she can remain so) has some more problems and I fear that it may be the gearbox. We barely made it home on Thursday because by the time I made it into town I was down to only 1st and 2nd gear! We did make it home though my water temperature was almost redlining and I haven’t driven it since. I will find out what the problem is for sure on the Monday, it’s just a good thing that Ben too has a car.

While I was working at Talley’s I met 2 Australians named Ben and Melika (brother and sister) and Melika had just returned from an 11 month working holiday in Canada where she spent most of her time in Calgary and Banff. It was strange to hear someone saying things with a hint of a Canadian accent after so long. I went to a Halloween BBQ at the place they rented out along with 6 other Germans who work at the factory. We had a lot of burger and pasta salad and stayed out until about 3 in the morning!

Following the Halloween party there was a company sponsored Christmas party held on the 12th of November! It was most probably held so early because the spinach was to be completed the following week and most of the employees would no longer be working for the company closer to the actual date. It was nice, there was tons of food and they had a open bar which I still can’t fathom the cost because there was something like 150 people there and it was a damn hot day (not to mention that most of the employees are backpackers and no backpacker worth his or her salt will EVER turn down a free beer and the rest were Kiwi’s who drink a lot of beer anyway).

I bumped into Britta again who I had met before in Tauranga and in Taupo. She’s working with some of the other people in the hostel here on the bud rubbing teams. We all went out to a couple clubs a few weeks ago because some of her friends were going to be in town and she wanted to introduce me to them, as it turns out, I worked with both of them before in Tauranga kiwi fruit picking and for a brief time at the fish factory. That night I also ran into Luisa and Tim as well as Daniel (one of the 2 Irish guys I hung out with in Auckland and Piahai, they have both been working in town for the past few months).

There have been a couple of birthdays in the hostel since I arrived, one of which was a bit of a potluck style dinner where we each (the 8 attending) brought our own dish. Having a 10 kilogram (22 pounds for you North Americans reading) bag of potatoes I made some awesome potato wedges that a ridiculously easy to make, you just cut the spuds into 8ths, coat with oil and seasoning, place in baking pan and let it cook in the oven for 30something minutes. Bam instant filling meal for cheap and if you cut them right it looks like you know what you’re doing.

I’ve taken to baking my own bread now, most German backpackers do it because rye bread is very expensive and the other stuff available is either $4 a loaf or really thin white bread. I just make Whole meal bread myself but its so much easier to do than I thought! All you need is 4 cups of flour (any kind), a heaping tablespoon of baking yeast, and 1-1½ cups of warm (important that it is warm and not hot for the yeast) water. Mix the dry components together in a bowl and start adding water and mix until you have dough. Knead until thoroughly mixed and at consistency (thick and only slightly sticky, if too sticky because you added too much water just roll and mix in a tiny bit more flower) and cover and let rise for an hour. Grease bread pan and place dough evenly inside, cut a 1 cm deep line in the centre along the length of the dough so it can expand properly and bake at 180 degrees for 40-50 minutes. Presto! Freshly baked bread!

I have been trying to upload pictures to my previous post to no avail, so I will forgo that for the moment just to make sure that this text actually get up there.

Apologies for the gap in communication, but I will be talking at you all again very soon.



29th November 2010

Future Vintner?
Good to hear you have not fallen of the bottom of the globe!It sounds to me that you will have a very good understanding of agriculture in the field as well as the processing of it. Your travels are the envy of all of us that you left behind. Keep trying all the new jobs that come your way, it sounds like the perfect place to be treckking about. Keep safe and well! Stan

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