Well, we've made it back. And we're exhausted. We've decided, since there is a ton to blog about these last two weeks but we haven't had the energy, we're going to do individual posts regarding our trip. It should be okay, since we're not planning on doing anything for the next few days.
One thing we'd promised to write, in a blog post on which only Jake commented, was a dessert we had called Pavlova. What happened was this: Dizzle had been working on his resumes for a few days prior to this job opportunity, and Baby G had been working part time at the University to help make some cash for a trip to the South Island. Barnsey had approached us about doing some vineyard work, so we figured we should probably go. After all, it was free accommodation for a week as well as being something we'd told people back in the States we'd like to try. So after Leigh's birthday, we packed our bags and jumped a ride with Barnsey over the Rumetaka Hill back to Martinborough, where we'd spent a weekend before (remember TK Day? Same place). We think Leigh had a premonition that the coming week would be exceedingly difficult for us poor, soft Yanks, so she sent us along with a cookie tin and instructions for it's contents. When we were ready, we were to “flip it upside down on a plate, smear whipped cream all over the pastry inside, and top with passion fruit pulp, strawberries, and slices of kiwi fruit.”
We arrived in Martinborough with enough time to get settled in and relax. Barnsey told us we'd be getting up at 6:00am in order to get to the vineyard by 7, so we should call it a night early. Because of the timing, we needed to wait a day for the Pavlova.
The next morning, we got up and groggily showered and put on our Monday worst, anticipating a dirty day. We were right. Baby G spent the whole day counting vines, tying up those that had been windblown (so they stand upright for further growth), and weighing bunches of grapes that had already started to show. These statistics, in combination with data from previous years of the same time, should afford the winemaker a general idea of how much wine he/she will be able to make in the coming harvest. Dizzle, on the other hand, spent the day tying wire.
What happens here, in “netting the vines”, is that you are physically attaching spools of wire to the back of a tractor, running the machine along the entire row (the longest of which, on this particular vineyard, is 300m), and then tying the ends at ankle height on both ends. If you do this every four rows, you end up (later) throwing a net over the rows and tucking the edges under the groundwire to be staked down to the ground. Theoretically, this provides a canopy under which the plants of those four rows will still receive light and moisture, but birds will not be able to feed on the fruit they yield. At this vineyard, Redbank Estates (it's new – no need to google it), there are vines covering 25 acres of property (approx 35,000 vines!). It's small enough to only need 4 or 5 employees at a time, but large enough to insure a hot, dirty day for 4 or 5 employees at a time.
Tying the wire is an interesting thing. Barnsey had asked Dizzle the morning of the first day if his hands were “soft”. He replied, that by Kiwi farmhand standards, they probably were, even though he'd done manual labor in the past, and had calloused his hands up with drumsticks and guitars before. Good thing he said they were soft, because otherwise Barnsey wouldn't have provided him with the one, flimsy little cotton glove he had on site to help protect his hands. Why would his hands need protecting? We'll show you.
Right now, as you're reading this, get up from your chair and go to a closet that has hangers.
Grab one made of wire. If you don't have one made of wire because you are so uber-classy that plastic, metal or wood are the only way to go in your abode, go to one of your neighbor's and borrow a wire coat hanger, and then hang your head in shame for being such an elitist. Go. We'll wait.
Okay, having your hanger in hand, unbend it into a straight line. Again, we'll wait.
That done (right.), now tie it in as tight a knot as you can. Anywhere along the wire will do, but it must be a small knot, not much bigger than a nickel.
Now do it all again in 90-degree heat for eight hours until you've completed approx. 800 of them. Maybe that's an exaggeration. It only felt like 800. It was probably realistically closer to 1800. Our bad.
This is a good time to make two points: 1. We are not ungrateful for this opportunity. As you'll see, further in the blog, we made friends with some very interesting people in Martinborough, and solidified friendships we'd already started. This is simply the tone of the description of the first day because it was, in fact, a really difficult day. At least we had the Pavlova to enjoy upon our return home, right?
2. It's time for everyone to meet Chris.
Chris is a freelance vineyard worker. He is all of 5'5", and is more solid muscle width than height. Barnsey had told us he might blow up at us on occasion, and we'd hear foul language coming from his lips on a regular basis, but swearing is common in the restaurant scene in Washington, DC, as is getting yelled at, so we were unconcerned. As it turns out, we'd been mislead. Chris, though reminding us a great deal of this guy, ended up being a straight-up hard working guy, capable of waxing politics and music, but also just trying to make ends meet in an honest, ethical way. We took a liking to him immediately, as he was inspiring to us to 'get through the day working for the man'. It might be imporssible to keep in touch with him when we go back home, but we won't ever forget him, as he was a gem to work with and if any of you ever make it down here, we'd point you his way in a NY minute.
So the whole wire-tying thing was Day 1, after which Dizzle's hands looked like this:
Those are blisters. Seriously. Not trying to gross you out - just trying to paint an accurate picture.
After being so torn up (and Barnsey was sympathetic - he really felt badly, we think), we needed something to take our minds off the soreness. As has been an ongoing trend with this blog, the saving grace, the one thing that could heal all wounds and make everything better: Leigh's cooking. Hello, Pavlova!
...and let us tell you, it's really, really good. We don't know how it's made, as Leigh is keeping that a closely-guarded national secret, but it's main ingredient seems to be liquid sugar. We could've demolished it with three forks, we think, but ended up eating only half, knowing that we'd need the other half if Day 2 was anywhere near as hard as 1.
We emailed the above pic to Leigh with apologies that we couldn't find any fresh strawberries, but she said it looked like a 'classic pav' anyway, and we should be proud. :)
Over the next day or so, Barnsey took Dizzle off wire detail (showing him his hands did the trick - we think Barnsey was ready to boot all over the car when we showed him) and threw he and Baby G together on stapling. This involves using a hammer to secure the groundwire to every third post via staple. The first half was hard, but after we told Barnsey it'd be way more fun if we had our iPods, we started to get the hang of it, and probably could've kept stapling for a few more days if need be.
That seems like a good place to stop for now. Thanks for reading thus far. We are going to spend the next couple days blogging and relaxing, so keep those emails/comments coming. We miss you and have thought of you all regularly.
Until next time.