Lexie Candy is a volunteer life review coordinator with the Mercy Hospice Auckland
Shortly after my 21st birthday my friend Wendy and I started our new jobs on an apple orchard.
We lived in a bach on the property, provided by the owners. It was dirty. The place hadn’t been used since last season and everything was dusty and there had been mice about. We scrubbed the inside from top to bottom with Jeyes fluid before moving in. Although it was supposed to be fully equipped, we used our camping equipment, which included pots and an electric fry pan and slept in our own sleeping bags. There was an 8° frost in the first week of February. I was so cold we went into Nelson and I bought an electric blanket.
The toilet was an outside dunny with a leaking roof. We unsuccessfully tried to plug up the holes. When the dunny can was full we would carry it down into the orchard and try and dig a hole in the clay and empty the contents. A shovel was provided for this purpose but the clay was so hard we never succeeded in digging a very deep hole, so we always made sure we buried it well down the orchard, away from the bach least there was seepage.
We worked from 8.00 am to 5.00 pm Monday to Friday and from eight until midday on Saturdays. We were paid 57 cents an hour and if it rained and we didn’t work we didn’t get paid. We worked mainly in the pack house, grading and packing apples. We also made up the cartons and knocked up boxes. Occasionally we helped the boys with the picking. This was quite hard work and we often had to climb up inside the trees, wearing our bags in a harness fashion. The type of apples we picked were; Albany Beauty (a type of Gravenstein), Cox’s Orange, Golden Delicious and Jonathans. Later we picked Winter Cole pears. The orchard was overrun with blackberries that even climbed into the trees and made picking hazardous. We only worked on that orchard about six weeks.
Please submit your story via the Contact page and it will receive a gentle edit from Deborah.
Deborah thanks Rangimarie Kelly and Pikau Digtal for website design and artist Karen Jarvis for her image ‘Writers at the Devonport Library,’ (2023)