What I Learned Working On a Vineyard in Australia For 8 Months

Back when I was in my early 20’s, thanks to the Working Holiday Visas that most civilized countries offer to young people, I was fortunate enough to have the chance to live and work in one of the most unique countries in the world. The land down under, Australia.

I arrived with very little money from New Zealand hoping to find some work because I had spent most of my cash bungee jumping, skydiving and drinking without finding stable work over there. After spending a few weeks in the metropolis of Melbourne, I hopped on a bus and rode it out to a city called Mildura way out in the middle of nowhere settled along the side of the Murray river. I eventually found myself a place to sleep at Mildura International Backpackers, and they helped me to secure work in exchange for using them as my accommodation. Many good memories were made there with those other crazy backpackers.

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Proof of the Craziness

Well, after a few odd jobs here and there, picking oranges, pumpkins and other general labor type stuff I was finally able to secure a position at the Zilzie Winery. I started off working there with a group of other backpackers trimming vines for a few weeks, it was supposed to be a temporary job for us but because of my strong work ethic, I was chosen to continue working there afterwards on a full-time basis. Most of the work involved trimming mature vines so that the plants energy goes into making nice fruit where it’s wanted along the trellis rather than just all over the place.

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A Nicely Trimmed Grape Vine

It was not exactly a glorious job, but living in another country was exciting enough plus I was able to listen to music while I worked and enjoy the fresh air. On one occasion, I even recall a big kangaroo lounging in the row that I was working on. When I would start to get closer to him, he would hop down another 25 feet then lay down again. It was a cool experience for me as a young Canadian.

I did this sort of work for a few months, trimming vines and eventually that turned into cleaning the tractors after they had been out harvesting grapes all night. On a few occasions I was even asked to help out with the harvest by driving one of the tractors over night. That was pretty fun and just a tad stressful because I wasn’t great with manual vehicles and I hadn’t driven too many tractors but I loved the work. I do remember jumping out of my tractor to take a pee at one point and forgot the parking brake, it stopped when it ran into a post, whoops! I was also surprised to see that quite a few mice ended up in the grape buckets after being shaken off on to the harvester’s conveyor belt, undoubtedly ending up crushed with the rest of the grapes at the winery. No worries though, I’m sure the alcohol sanitizes the mouse guts in there.

 

Yet the most interesting part of my placement at Zilzie winery took place in early Summer after the grape harvest had been completed, and the winery was in need of more employees to help train young vines. Young vines were trained by clipping away excess leaves and shoots, and then by gently curling the vine around a piece of string towards the wire portion of the trellis for when they reach maturity. This was all fine and dandy, but it’s important to note that these young vines were kept inside cardboard sheaths to protect them from being eaten by rabbits. To my dismay those boxes also made a nice living space for some of Australia’s most iconic arachnids.

 

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That spider standing on it’s back legs with it’s front legs up in the air is called a Huntsman spider and those guys were everywhere. They often postured themselves in that way to appear larger and more threatening. These guys were not too afraid of humans the way that other spiders were. They were very quick and sometimes aggressive, preferring to run directly at you rather than away from you when disturbed. They weren’t afraid to bite, and I remember one backpacker being bitten on the hand but fortunately they were also not poisonous.

I remember that I had stomped the first Huntsman spider that ran at me from out of it’s cardboard home, and I felt bad about it but I panicked. Spiders as big as my hand were new to me! Yet after a while I became used to them and even began to play with them a little. I can proudly say that I had only ever killed the one spider while I was there. I mastered a technique of stunning the spiders by kicking dirt at them then just stepped around. Good times.

 

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The Redback spiders which were also living in the boxes in abundance were poisonous but after doing a little research I realized that they weren’t as dangerous as I had once thought they were. They really only posed a serious threat to the young and frail, but the average person may not even need to receive anti-venom if bitten. It is supposed to hurt quite a bit, but they’re not aggressive and tend to only bite if provoked. I thought all Aussies would be nervous of the spiders there, but to my surprise, they hardly thought twice about them. It was the big old poisonous snakes that scared the shit out of them. One of the most common poisonous snakes, the Eastern Brown Snake can drop an adult in as quickly as two minutes according to Wikipedia. Fortunately for me I had never crossed paths with one while I was there, I prefer my flights home outside of a casket.

Anyways, Vineyard work was pretty fun and I enjoyed my time there. It was a mind-expanding experience and I think changes of perspective are always beneficial!

Feel free to drop any questions or comments down below!

5 thoughts on “What I Learned Working On a Vineyard in Australia For 8 Months

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