Two Weeks (Off to the Tomato Farm: Warragul)

It’s officially been a month since I’ve come to Australia, which is absolutely insane cause the time has flown by! When I last


wrote, I was on my way back to Melbourne from Mildura. I arrived in Melbourne on Friday evening and checked into my hostel, which was the same one Sonia was staying at. We went to a take-out sushi place for dinner and then ate it beside the river. For the rest of the evening, we just walked around Melbourne and checked out Hosier Lane, which is an alleyway covered with graffiti; it was pretty cool! We figured we should probably decide where we would be sleeping the following night so we went back to our hostel to look for airbnb’s in Warragul. However, we were surprised to find out that all of the airbnb’s were booked only for Saturday night! We then looked at hotels and all of the hotels were completely booked as well! Sonia and I both wrote a few couchsurfing hosts during the week to see if we could stay with them, but we didn’t hear anything back from anyone. We decided to just go to bed and deal with our problems in the morning. We woke up early on Saturday, had some pancakes, packed up our stuff, and walked to the station (which was only about five minutes away). We then took the bus at 10:30am and arrived in Warragul at noon. During the entire bus ride, I was solely thinking of everywhere that we could possibly stay. Since all hotels were booked, we were looking up prices of tents online so that we could possibly stay in a campsite. Otherwise, we might have to find a couple of park benches to sleep on! I had a sliver of hope when my friend (Laura) messaged me and said that her family had lived in Warragul a few years ago, and her step-mom would contact everyone they knew to see if we could stay with them. Unfortunately, most of them had moved to a different city or had left the country. However, I am so grateful for their help! About 20 minutes before we were supposed to arrive, one of the couchsurfers had emailed and told me to call him! When we arrived in Warragul, I gave the guy a call and he came and picked us up from the station ten minutes later. Trevor’s wife was out of town for a weekend retreat, but we got to meet his two kids, a 4-year-old girl and a 7-year-old boy. Trevor had some VERY interesting viewpoints and wasn’t afraid to share them with us. He said that when he was 14, he started channeling his Spirit Guide. He then claimed that he has conversations with the Creator (who he refers to as “Source,”) and he remembers who he was in past lives. He said that his purpose in this life is to spread his information to as many people as possible, and those people can do what they want with it. He seemed to know all the answers about any type of religion (apparently Jesus was actually the son of Cleopatra and Julius Caesar), biofeedback mechanisms, vaccinations, lotus births, and many other topics because Source constantly communicates with him. He said that Source tells him when someone is interested in what he has to say… We listened to him talk for 2-3 hours so I guess Source was telling him that we wanted to hear more 😛 While some of what he said was interesting, a few things he said made us question who we were staying with. Anyway, that afternoon, we went to the Drouin parade with the family. Sonia had messaged someone who she found on Facebook who was offering a place to stay so we met up with him and his son, and he said that we could move in the next day.

We got up early Sunday morning to have breakfast, and then the family drove us into town and dropped us off to our new home. Just a side note (and I was debating whether or not I should put this on my blog, as I don’t want to scare anyone), I looked up Trevor online the following weekend, only to find out that he was convicted of 10 charges and spent some time in prison (8 months of 4.5 years) for sexual acts with a minor, before being acquitted in 2003. So that was a bit shocking to read about, and we’re extremely glad that we didn’t end up staying with the family for anymore time than we did. Just something to keep in mind when staying in random peoples’ houses!
The new family that we moved in with was a single dad with a 14-year-old son, and a 7-year-old daughter who was staying with him part-time. The problem with this place was it was in the next town over (Drouin), and we would be working on the other side of Warragul, so it was about a 20-minute drive to work. Since we didn’t have a car and no money to buy a car, we had no way to get to work. Sonia posted on the Warragul Community Facebook page to ask if someone could drive us to work the next morning and she got quite a few replies. She accepted one of them, so all we had to do was count on a random guy to come pick us up and take us to work the next day (talk about trusting multiple strangers!). Needless to say, our stress levels were through the roof for the entire weekend! That day, I decided to phone the lady whose house we originally wanted to stay in (Alexandra) because Sonia had been contacting her all week and she wasn’t writing back. Surprisingly, she answered as soon as I called! She said we could come look at the place after work on Monday, and she’d be home around 6pm. The Drouin family invited us to have dinner with them that evening, which was a good way to break the ice, and Sonia and I got them all hooked on Married at First Sight. 
Monday morning, we got up and ready for the day, and then waited for Ken to come pick us up. He was actually really nice

The sanitizing station

and didn’t accept any payment since he was on company gas. Our orientation started at 8:30am that day, so we went through a bunch of paperwork, policies, and videos about rules at work. It was A LOT more structured and organized than the farm that we worked on in Mildura, and the staff was friendlier as well. After a few hours of learning, we got to go see our department. In order to get into the building, you have to put in a code and then sanitize yourself. Basically you have to walk over a tray of sanitizer to clean your shoes and then put your hands in a big tub of sanitizer and push two buttons at the bottom of the tub, which will then let you walk through the turnstile. Then, you go in the changing rooms, grab a clean shirt and shorts/pants, and change. You have to wear new clothes everyday, and you have to have a separate pair of shoes and hat that you can only wear at work (and they can’t leave the workplace for the duration of your time there). The shoes can’t be worn outside ever. It’s a way to avoid bringing contaminants and insects into the building, and they’re very strict about what you can bring into the glasshouse (only a hat, sunglasses, and a waterbottle). We went through a few more policies and explanations about how to do different jobs, and then we went to work! That afternoon, we had to do clipping, which just involved us taking little clips and attaching the stems of the plants to the sticks in the pots. Usually, there are either two or three stems per plant. After we finished that, we had to put all of the plants in boxes and pile the boxes on a palette. We finished work at about 4pm that day so we had to kill two hours before meeting at Alexandra’s house to see if we could move in. Someone from work offered to give us a ride and then we found out that he was also living in the same house! The house is on a farm about a half-hour walk from work and it’s absolutely huge! It has a pool, tennis courts, and at least 20 horses. After about an hour, the au pair (Katariina) came outside and said she could show us the

Our new home!

house. Sonia and I would be sharing a room and it would be $100/week each, which was $65 less than what we were paying in Mildura. After showing us the house, Katariina took the little girl (Chloe, who’s 7) horse-back riding so we got to wander through the property and see all of the horses. It was pretty cool! Later, Alexandra came home and said that we could move in the following day, which was great! There are 9 Flavorite workers living in the house, along with the mom, au pair, 7-year-old daughter, and 15-year-old son. Katariina was nice enough to drive us back to Drouin after meeting so we didn’t have to walk back to Warragul. That evening, we let the family know that we’d be moving out the next day, which we felt really bad for since they had moved their house around for us.

On Tuesday morning, we decided to just take a taxi to work since we started at 6:30, and no one would likely offer to give us a ride that early. The taxi came at 5:30 and ended up costing us $37. Good thing we wouldn’t have to do that everyday! That morning, we had to do staking (putting the sticks in the pots). They have two different coloured stakes (one green and two natural wood), and we’d have to put the green stake closest to the second highest

The yard

stem. Staking is killer on the back since you’re hunched over the whole time, so it quickly ended up being the task that we despised the most. We got through it pretty quickly, and then during the afternoon, we had to do grafting. Grafting is when you connect a part of one plant to a part of another plant, and then eventually they should start growing together. Keep in mind we’re working with baby plants, so we have to slice the stem of a strong root, slice the stem of a strong head, and connect the two with a 1.5mm diameter clip. The stems have to be the same size in order for it to be successful. It’s very tedious and long work, and I’ve found that it takes me about one hour to do one tray (which is 120 plants). On Wednesday, we ended up grafting for the whole day so I did eight trays, which is 960 plants!! I was positive I’d be developing carpel tunnel in the near future. Our full week involved waking up at 4:30am, getting ourselves and our lunches ready, leaving at 5:30am, walking in the dark to work to arrive at 6am, then getting ready for work and having coffee until we had to start at 6:30am. Then, we’d usually work until about 10, have a 15 minute break and work until 1 for a half-hour lunch break, and then we’d go home at about 3:30pm. The people here have been so generous and usually when they see us put on our high-visibility vests to walk home, someone always ends up offering us a ride. On Friday night, it was Chinese New Year so some of the people who we live with (who are from Taiwan) planned a huge hot pot dinner for everyone, which was awesome! We started running

The hot pot dinner

out of food around Thursday, and really had to skimp out on our meals since the town of Warragul is a 1.5-hour walk from the farm. Thankfully, Alexandra allowed us to borrow her car on Saturday so we could go into town and buy the following week’s worth of groceries. One of the couples who we live with also offered to drive us into town on Sunday, so even though we didn’t actually need anything else, we decided to come along for the ride just to get out of the house for awhile.

This week, we spent Monday and Tuesday morning in the Nursery department and helped with packing up plants in trays. Then we spent Monday and Tuesday afternoon in the Crop Care department, doing clipping. On Tuesday, they found some infected plants in the Crop Care department so they said we could no longer go back to work in the Nursery department in order to avoid cross-contamination. In Crop Care, the glasshouses are set up in 400+ rows of tomato plants, with kind of a railway track going between every two rows. Then, they have a bunch of trolleys that go on top of the rails so we can move up and down the rows. They basically have to kill off every 6th plant in order to create more space for the remaining plants to grow, so our job was to clip every 6th plant to the string that it was hanging off of, so that when it started dying, it wouldn’t droop down on top of all of the other plants. We did that starting on Monday and finished on Thursday morning; it took so long and got so hot being close to the ceiling in a long-sleeved shirt (some of the workers said that when you’re really close to the ceiling on a hot day, it can get up to 50 degrees!). The itchiness also drove us insane, cause we both reacted to the tomato plants and have gotten little spots all over our skin, especially on our wrists! Our other job was pollination, which involved riding the trolleys back and forth while using a baton to hit the cable that all of the vines were attached to. This would cause the vines to vibrate back and forth, and hopefully drop some pollen. We had to do this three times per week, and it would usually take

Me and Leo

about an hour and half to get through one greenhouse. One time while we were doing this, one of the supervisors was talking to Sonia and exclaimed his surprise that we were actually hired because we weren’t Asian (we’re literally some of the only non-Asian workers at the company). He then went on to say that Asians work faster, harder, and don’t complain about it and he’s so glad he doesn’t have any white people on his team. I was completely shocked that he would have said something like that to us! It was the same thing when we were trying to find work in Mildura – people would say not to bother applying to certain companies because they only hire Asians, and multiple job ads said that they would only hire men. We didn’t realize that it would be so hard to find work (and be respected) as white females! Somewhat shocking, in my opinion. Our bodies have taken a toll from work – itchy skin, bruises all over our legs (from the trolley door closing on them, sore backs, ankles, and legs, and feeling completely worn out after work for 9+ hours on our feet (to the point where our minds no longer function correctly). However, I AM getting super muscular and I’ve lost over ten pounds. What they really should advertise for the 88 days is that you may end up getting arthritis, carpel tunnel, back pain and/or hunchback, higher risk of skin cancer and multiple hospital bills for life. BUT you get to stay in Australia for a year! Anyway, it’s finally the weekend again so we went into Warragul to get groceries and treat ourselves to brunch, and now we’ll likely just end up relaxing and recuperating until we start work again on Monday. And now we’re finally done two weeks of work! On Monday, we’re changing areas again and we’ve been told by multiple people that the supervisor is really mean so we’re kind of nervous about what to expect. Hopefully it’ll

Cats, and dogs, and chickens, oh my!

end up being okay though! Hope everyone is doing well! Love always


Two Weeks – Grizzly Bear

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