Time for the dreaded 4 letter word

Here we are in Pinnaroo, a little wheat belt town almost at the border of South Australia (SA) and Victoria, on the SA side. We’re here for a couple of months for that dreaded thing called ‘WORK’.

We arrived last Wednesday and are staying in the local caravan park. To say it wouldn’t win awards would be an understatement, but that’s awards for being the best, or the worst of caravan parks. It’s adequate for it’s clientele which is predominantly seasonal workers. We are luckier than many here for the wheat season in that our caravan is self contained and we don’t have to use the amenities. There’s also a considerable amount of backpackers here working on the potato crops.

We did our compulsory induction last Friday, which is the usual type of box ticking induction to say the company has followed due process in relation to safety training. Paul went in yesterday to the Bunker trainer induction, and is in again today helping to get the bunkers ready for the crops when they start coming into the silos. The expectation is this will commence next week. So, between our on line training, both inductions and Paul’s shift today we’ve more than covered this weeks expenses and our bank account should have altered direction from it’s downward spiral.

It’s up around 40 degrees today and Paul will be outside working on hot concrete in the open. I wonder if it’ll mean a short end to our careers on the wheat silos! I suspect not – he’s built of sturdy stuff is ‘my Paul’. I do feel for him though, it must be a rude finish to that which has been an idealic eight months. I’m sitting inside the caravan with the air conditioning blasting away and writing this.

We are yet to find out what our main jobs will be. Indications are Paul will be operating the Hopper, which we think is where the wheat is unloaded and which then transports the wheat along to be unloaded into the bunker. I think I’m going to be entering the data in relation to the grade of wheat and completing the paperwork for the farmers, and on occasion operating the weigh bridge. I’ll be predominantly in an air conditioned office. As yet though, it’s all about as clear as mud, but time will bring clarification to the process of work on the wheat silos I’m sure.

We’ll be working shifts alternating between 6.30am to 3pm shift for the first week, and 2.30pm till the last truck is processed on the second week. The trucks have to be in the queue by 8.30pm but often it can be as late as midnight when the processing and clean up is finished. We’ll be working 6 days a week. But, it’s only for a couple of months and with shift allowances and penalty rates hopefully it’ll go a long way to paying for our UK and Italian holiday next year.

We each have uniforms, boots, hard hats etc supplied. Mine were the wrong size so I’m waiting for replacements. When mine arrives I’ll post some real ‘glamour photos’ of us both in our top of head to tip of toe, high viz cover up clothing. No reason why you can’t all have a laugh with us, and at us in our cat walk gear!!

The big swim

We’ve been in Robinvale now for almost a week. Robinvale is on the Victorian side of the Mighty Murray. The Murray forms the border between the two states with NSW having laid claim to the actual river.

The Mighty Murray.

The Mighty Murray.

The first few days here were glorious, with temperatures around 30 most days. We went in the river for a dip one day, but Paul was a bit reluctant to venture far from the bank. There can be strong undercurrents here, so it’s wise to be cautious I guess.

Undercurrents aside though, I couldn’t resist the challenge of swimming from ‘Victoria to NSW’. There was a guy in the park who was swimming it twice a day. I approached him and asked of the dangers, explaining I’m a reasonable swimmer but more consistent than strong. He was thrilled to accompany me across and back, and I’m pleased to say we weren’t troubled by any undercurrents. So, I can now boast that I’ve swam from Victoria to NSW. I was elated to have done it, but really it wasn’t that far, or that hard. Paul’s just a bit of wus.

Our van is backed right up to the rivers edge almost. It’s stunning. The first few nights we were very lucky to have NSW retired farmers on either side of us. We shared happy hours and dinners with them on the banks of the Murray under the shade of a big weeping willow. They were wonderful people and we enjoyed their company immensely.

How good is this for a camping spot.

How good is this for a camping spot.

I must say, they blew the stereo type of ‘tunnel visioned’ country folk right out of the water. I’m used to being very cautious when I play the devils advocate and approach subjects such as boat people, refugee camps and length of processing time, drug legalisation and several other topics that have a tendency to create heated discussions on occasions. It was refreshing to meet people with whom these topics could be discussed openly and without reticence. I’m so used to feeling like I’m being attacked by a flock of Hitchcock’s birds most times when I put my point of view forward, so to meet like minded people was like a breath of fresh air.

That’s the real beauty of life on the road. You get to meet so many wonderful people from all different back grounds that you wouldn’t otherwise meet.

We leave here tomorrow for Pinaroo in SA where we’ll be doing a couple of months work on the wheat silos all going well. Hope we can tolerate it, but if we can’t we haven’t lost anything and will have had another of life’s experiences we otherwise wouldn’t have had without this trip.

Leaving Grafton

The paperwork for our wheat silo jobs has held up our start date, so we were able to extend our time on the farm by a few days. Currently, we’re still not sure when we’re going to be starting, but have agreed to get there around the end of next week. The site we’re going to need us to start sooner rather than later, but head office (who doesn’t have to face the farmers) is dragging it’s heals with the paperwork. The idea is that if we’re there, the site managers can then try and nudge head office along. So, we’re now set to leave our lovely little farm on Tuesday morning.

Paul is thrilled that he has managed to get several of the cows eating fresh picked grass out of his hand. We’ve now been here long enough to start giving some of the cows names. So far we have Doe Eyes, Short Horns, Long Horns, and Blue (the four red cows). The two small brown cows we’ve called Murray 1 and Murray 2 – that’s because they’re both of the breed called Murrays I believe. The blacks are harder to identify with the exception of, Testie (so named because he has a huge growth that resembles, you guessed it, a rather large testicle), and the only female is, Missie.

Murray 1 and Short Horns enjoying a hand fill of lush grass.

Murray 1 and Short Horns enjoying a hand full of lush grass.

Short Horns enjoying a bit of a pat.

Short Horns enjoying a bit of a pat.

Sharing a kiss.

Sharing a kiss.

Murray 1, Short Horns and Blue all eat now from Paul’s hand. Some of the others do as well, but those three will always come up for a nibble. Short Horns up until today was tentatively letting let Paul give him a bit of neck rub. Today though he actually seemed to be enjoying it and was making his neck accessible without any sign of reticence. Murray 1 and a couple of the others are just starting to warm to him give their neck a bit of a rub.

We’ve been walking out over the farm quite often and have come across two huge rabbit warrens, both of which the dogs are well aware of, unfortunately. They’ve bought home two dead baby rabbits and two dead adult rabbits. We’ve told them off each time, but yesterday we gave them a right good scolding. We managed to catch Riley and severely scolded her while showing her the dead rabbit, and we put her in the old bird coop (which is now the ‘dog house’, for when the dogs need to be put into the ‘dog house’, I believe). Abbey slunk away and hid under our caravan, so she escaped ‘the dog house’, but not a good tongue lashing. They’re both very quiet today, so I think they’re still sulking a bit that their beloved minders got really cross with them. They thought they had us wrapped around their little paws.

I’m sure they’re only doing what comes naturally to dogs though. Riley, being foxy cross, is a natural for heading into the burrows to chase the rabbits out. And I’m sure Abbey gets excited by the thrill of the chase when one makes a run for it. But they do seem to look very guilty when they’ve forgotten themselves and dragged their ‘kill’ home for us to discover. Ratbags.

We’ve loved staying on the farm. It’s been an experience we wouldn’t have missed. So, thank you to Kaye and Paul for letting us have a share of your little piece of paradise. It’s only been for a short time, but the joy has been immense.

Medicals for work – perhaps as a Rocket Scientist

We had our medicals for work this week. The first was at the Grafton Medical Centre and took close to two hours each. We were weighed and measured. We were tested for asthma. We had our hearing and sight tested. We had our balance tested. This involved standing barefooted in one spot for 30 seconds with our eyes closed – not as easy as it sounds.

We were given a breathalyser to ensure we were alcohol free. All our reflexes were tested and our limbs and joints tested to make sure they all worked well and could rotate in all the directions they’re supposed to rotate in. We had to squat walk across a room, and we had to touch our toes. We provided urine samples which was checked for protein and other possible abnormalities. Our blood pressure was taken, and all our medication checked and noted.

Then the appointment was made for two days later for drug screening. We were separately taken into cubicles where we were required to wash our hands without using soap, then presented with a tray of specimen containers and requested to pick one. They weren’t allowed to hand us one! The cubicles had a toilet one side and wash basin the other which were separated by a curtain. On route to the cubical I had to lock my handbag in a cupboard, I wasn’t allowed it with me in the cubical. We were both required to empty our pockets.

Then with the curtain half drawn we were required to pee into the container whilst the Dr stood about two feet away on the other side of the curtain making sure we didn’t substitute a drug free sample for our own. Again we had to list all medications both prescription and non prescription that had been taken over the last month. We were again breathalysed for alcohol.

It was a surreal type of experience. We think we’ve applied for seasonal work on the wheat silos. It’s usually around an eight week season, the work is laborious, and we’ll be working in hot, dusty conditions. It’s repetitive, unskilled work and is amongst the lowest paid type of work in the country. It’s akin to fruit picking basically. Anyway that’s what we think we’ve applied for. But after the tests we’re not so sure. Perhaps they have us earmarked for something really amazing – perhaps we’ll be working as Rocket Scientists!

How absolutely bazaar. The mind boggles….