Saturday, 18 April 2015

Harvest Ramblings (rantings, really)

My least favorite time of the year at work.  Usually I get through it on pure adrenaline- work as hard and fast as I can, force myself to at least appear to be in a good mood, and hope for early finishes or maybe even a day off.  I think last year we worked 23 days in a row.  But some of those days were short (four hours), mixed in with the long ones (10 hours).  I haven't done anything close to 23 days in a row this year.  I think tomorrow is 7 days in a row...but honestly, it is too hard to try and remember.  This year seems harder.  More long days without any short ones, maybe. 

To get an idea of what it is like, imagine being on your feet all day out in autumn weather (cold mornings, hopefully warm afternoons).  Working with your hands at about hip to waist height (but sometimes lower) if you are short like I am (if you are tall, you have to bend or squat).  The hands just have to cut the fruit off (without nipping fingers) and drop it in a bucket or tray at your feet.  As you move along, you kick or nudge or pick up said bucket to move it with you (standing back and throwing fruit often results in missing the bucket all together).  Then, when said bucket is full, you heft it up to about chest height (if you are a short ass like me) and push it through the vines to the tractor (which, by the way, is idling along nearby, blasting you with noise and exhaust).  Someone takes it, dumps the fruit in a bin on a trailer behind the tractor, and gives you back your empty tray or bucket.  You walk past several people doing the same to the next available vine and start again. After a couple of days I modified my job.  Now I don't take buckets, I just pick into other people's.  Most people seem ok with this, a few are less than happy about it.  Honestly, I don't care.  It is about self preservation.

Now, as we harvest along, there are people getting grumpy for various reasons (probably mostly to do with being tired and bored and badly needing a day off).  Most of these complaints are extremely petty (someone didn't take the full bucket quick enough, or left too many vines for you to pick, or too few vines for you to pick...I once got yelled at when I helped an older gentleman by taking his fruit to the tractor for him- clearly a capital crime from the amount of yelling directed at me).  A lot of the complaints get personal.  There is lots of snippy talk about who runs the best team, who doesn't know what they are doing, who heard who say what about who.  It gets downright nasty.  Right now I have one woman (a returning employee who is barely fit to work and is in her 60s and hopefully only here for the harvest) who decided after one day that she didn't like me, and has since been talking shit about me behind my back while spending half her time trying to be my best friend and the other half giving me the very obvious silent treatment.  For my part, I would like her to pick a personality and fricken stick with it.  She may not like how I run a crew, but dammit, I run a crew the best I can given my condition.  I run my ass off.  Seriously.  As in I have not gained a pound in the past month and I should be since I am PREGNANT.  And within a day or two of entering the third trimester. 

Which brings me to the bosses.  Usually I like these guys.  But I told them early on I didn't want to be running a crew this season.  I can't guarantee I can make a full day at work (I have so far...but there have been times when I have been close to calling it quits).  I can't stick with a team as often as I should due to the fact that I need to sneak away to pee at least once an hour.  Too much walking or bending and round ligament pain strikes.  Or back pain.  Neither is fun and then I spend the rest of the day hobbling around.  And it is really hard for me to duck under the rows to help out/fix problems (we pick 4-6 rows at a time and the pickers have to move at an even pace on each row or problems).  And yet they have dumped me with a crew to run three times so of which was a 10 hour day!  10 and a quarter, actually.  We worked until dark.  Arg. 

So, main reasons why I hate harvest:

1.) Grumpy people and their dramas.  Seriously, I think some of these people just don't feel like they have lived a day if they haven't engaged in some amount of drama or at least some grumbling about stupid things that don't matter.  And they all complain about each other all the time.

2.) Long hours.  Nothing like getting home after 7pm, racing around to get dinner sorted, get the gear cleaned for the next day, a quick shower and into bed.  Start all over when the alarm goes off at 6am.  There is no time for anything except work and survival.  For about a month.  Everyone complains about this after a few long days in a row.

3.) Sticky everything.  Ripe grapes have enough sugar in them to get wasps and bees dopey, and to guarantee that your gloves and clothes will stick to everything.  And the steering wheel of the car is worse.  And all that juice from the grapes will get everywhere.  EVERYWHERE.  I complain about this.  I hate being sticky. 

4.) Angry/grumpy bosses.  They are under pressure.  That works its way on down the food chain.  Supervisors don't generally have time to complain about this (even being on the receiving end), but everyone else will (cuz they cop it too).

5.) Working in miserable conditions.  Rain, frost, snow...if the fruit needs to come off, we keep on working.  And get soaked and cold for the effort.  Sometimes we luck out and the fruit can wait, and then we get an unexpected break!!  Yay, time to do laundry!!  Someone will complain about the weather.

6.) Nobody knows anything.  As in the plans change so often, that even if you think you have heard the latest plan, odds are good it has changed.  And if you tell anyone what you know when they ask, it is guaranteed to change. And someone will complain about it.

On the bright side, there is sort of a camaraderie of having survived another harvest together, and commiserating about long days and fuck ups of the past.  And at some vineyards the owners or managers shout of us (treat us to drinks or food).  The wallet also gets a healthy boost from working 60 hour weeks.  Some days it can almost be fun (I think that this usually happens about the time we should all be fitted for straight-jackets). 

I am sure there are other things, but I feel I have complained enough :)  Today was luckily a short day for me, so I managed to get the housework done and even sit here and relax and write a post.  I feel a bit guilty if I don't put something up every few days.  Even if all I have is a rant or a nonsense post or some other randomness.  Honestly, my brain is fried.  Hormones and harvest, dangerous combo. 


  1. WOW. That sounds like a LOT of physical labor for someone who's minutes away for her third trimester. Keep drawing those boundaries and don't let ANYONE push you to do things that are uncomfortable. Self-preservation is RIGHT - you need to take care of you and the bubs. <3

    1. It is exhausting! The problem is that I seem able to do it, with only passing discomfort (damn you round ligament pain). I think it is hard for me to know where to draw the line, so expecting others to know...the whole thing is challenging really...either way, I have the DAY OFF thanks to my lovely Moose so I am lounging around with my feet up and LOVING it!! And by the end of the week, the hard physical jobs will be over and from then on out it will be a walk in the park! (walking being the only thing physical about the type of work that I will be doing up until maternity leave, that is!) Gosh, I feel a lot less angry ranty with a day off...