Sunday, 30 August 2015

Doing my Regional Farmwork in Australia: Part 1

Doing my Regional Farmwork in Australia | Part 1
It's been a long time since my last post but I have a genuine excuse. I've moved to Bundaberg in Queensland to do my 88 days of farmwork in order to get my 2nd year visa. If you want to be able to work another year in Aus then that's what you need to do. I've been here around 7 weeks and have done around 30 and I've done and seen all sorts.
I decided to stay at a working hostel as doing it yourself can be a bit tricky as there are loads of dodgy farmers who won't pay you or sign off your days plus finding the work and accommodation yourself can be tricky. At my hostel you are guaranteed work and can work 7 days a week of you want.

My first farm job was ripping up long sheets of plastic that was used to grow pumpkins on. I surprisingly enjoyed it. On my second day the guy on the row next to mine found a brown snake, the 2nd most venomous on the planet. I didn't know this at the time and went to poke it. Thank god I was stopped. 
Alas I was fired and I have no idea why but I don't really care. I nearly fainted on my first day from being cold and all the bending over as I have low blood pressure. I think this is why I was fired even though I didn't actually faint. Here you don't get warnings and are fired for any reason which sucks. Backpackers are completely dispensable so most people are fired at least once here. 

I was then put on a herb farm which again I really liked plus it was hourly paid. They had a a couple of cute dogs. One was a mini fox terrier thing and the other was a staffy. When picking chives early one morning the little dog Monty came and sat on my lap. Annoyingly 3 days into this job the farmer decided he only wanted 2 backpackers instead of 3.
Then the nightmare began...

I was put on zucchinis (courgettes). $2.50 (£1.25) a bucket and when I say bucket I mean a huge bucket not a kiddies beach bucket like I stupidly imagined. The pay wasn't the issue though. Zucchinis grow low so you walk up and down rows with a big bucket constantly bent over. The plants give you rash so you have to keep your arms and legs covered even when its warm.
There is no easy way to do it and your day ends when the field is done. On this day it was a 5 acre field between 6 of us which we also had to weed. It took 12 hours!!!! I made $60 (£30) before tax but I also made some good friends. Nothing bonds people together like doing such a gruelling task.
The next day we did a smaller field with more people and were done in 6 hours. Yay!

If you have followed my blog from the start then you may be aware that I have a hip problem from overdoing it running 2 half marathons close together. Your hip flexors are connected to your hamstrings so when you've been bent over picking veg for 18 hours it is needless to say that your hamstrings will be thoroughly overstretched. It hurt so so much!

The day after I was back on the dreaded 5 acre field and guess what? There were only 3 of us. When I started I cried quietly as the pain was too much. I knew I'd have to stop after one row and sit out (AKA get fired. No sympathy from farmers here). Amazingly I powered on and we did it in 9 hours. I couldn't let the others down even though I should have put my health first.

I paid the price as I had a severe limp for a week. Luckily my friends brought me strong painkillers and anti-inflammatory tablets. I took a few days off and Codeine became a close friend. The pain drifted away as I had short naps where I thought I was a bird getting my legs massaged by fairies. I'm not even kidding. 

When I returned to work and I was put on another hourly paid job. Huzzah. This time it was picking rocks. Yep that's right. I was paid to walk up and down a field behind a tractor picking up rocks to prepare it for its next lot of sugarcane. On my first day the farmer actually let me drive his tractor. So exciting. It's very easy too. The clutch acts like a break and you only need to put your foot down if you want to stop.
Filling the trailer, stylish facemask/shirt neck wrap
Filling the trailer, stylish facemask/shirt neck wrap
To add to the excitement of rocks I found a 6 foot long red bellied black snake. Wow they move fast. Poisonous but not too deadly as hospitals have anti-venom for their bites. I pointed and shouted to alert everyone and walked on the other side of the tractor for a while. 
The fields are full of ash as the sugarcane gets burnt down when it's all dead. When the wind picks up, you often see dust tornados (dustnado?). As you are in a wide open space, when the sun beats down it feels like you are walking through a desert. Luckily I equipped myself with dustmasks and wrapped my shirt around my head to stop getting burnt oh and 3 litres of water everyday is a must. This didn't stop huge mountains of ash growing in your shoes though.

Farmer Helen
Farmer Helen
So far I've hated and loved farmwork. Early mornings are no problem now and I've met so many great people but ive damaged my leg from it. Hopefully not permantly. Most people I've ney are from various UK cities and as such they hate Bundaberg as it's a small farmland town but I love it. In a proper country girl so love being by the river surrounded by country plus the town is way bigger than any town near me back home.


Read the whole series:
Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

Helen x

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11 comments:

  1. Hope you haven't permanently damaged your leg. Sounds like the codeine made you hallucinate x

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    1. I should be fine just no more picking that involves bending over.
      I was napping when I thought I was a bird so it just gives me peaceful dreams rather than hallucinations. It was good after having nightmares all the time.

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  2. Be careful with those snakes. Sounds like you're having a good time. It does look like hard work, but at the same time fun too x

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    1. It's very hard but hard work is rewarding. It's made me appreciate my fruit and veg more. I think everyone should have to do a bit at some point.

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  3. Oh wow I love the sound of this - what an amazing experience even if it is just to get a visa - I have worked on a few farms while travelling and really enjoyed it - just look after yourself though an watch out for the snakes

    Laura x

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    1. It's certainly an experience. What kind of farmwork have you done?

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  4. I was researching this on google after you mentioned it, although I have a bad knee so after your injuries I am not sure how well I would fair haha, I hope you are okay xx

    BlondeOfCarbs

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    1. My roommate has dodgy knees and she's on the herb farm I worked at briefly where you kneel down all day. Ouch. She's getting a gardening knee pad soon.
      I think regular picking would be fine though as it just strains your back and legs rather than your knees. Still not good longterm though.

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  5. Hope your leg is better now and do be careful around those snakes. In spite of the hardships, you seem to have enjoyed the work, so well done and all the best for the future.

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    1. Thank you. I've seen a few more snakes since and very close up but I know to keep my distance haha. Aus is running low on anti-venom now apparently.

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    2. Thank you. I've seen a few more snakes since and very close up but I know to keep my distance haha. Aus is running low on anti-venom now apparently.

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