Echidna Media Organization project S.N.A.L. (emo_snal) wrote,
Echidna Media Organization project S.N.A.L.

Chapter 3: Almost Tropical

   Okay this got out of order for a moment. It should go Chapter 2: On A Farm, followed by Intermission II, and then Welcome to the Bundaberg Gulag! which takes place Tuesday of last week.

   At this moment it is Sunday evening, which means I'm shockingly up-to-date!

Chapter 3: Almost Tropical

   Wednesday morning at 06:30 Paul, one of the two (?) young indian gentlemen working on the farm, picked me up from the hostel in Bundaberg. He took me to the house I'd be staying at, which I heretofore hadn't seen.
   I learned it was in a little "town" (village? suburb? hamlet? Suburban hamlet?) called Ankh-Morpork Moorpark. about fifteen minutes from the "home farm." And what's more, I was only now told that I'd be living about 150 yards from the beach!! It's literally right around the corner!
   I'd be sharing the downstairs of this small house with the other Indian fellow, Sam. Aaand... I was shocked by the abject squalor of the place. Everything was filthy, there were beer bottles everywhere, the entire kitchen counter was covered in dirty dishes... it was even worse than any dorm room I'd seen in college I think!
   Both the Indian fellows I believe are students at a local agricultural college? Or were? And were and/or are "sponsored" by Trevor (the farm owner)...? They seem to do various projects around the farm, for example Sam's been setting up some irrigation pipes and I think Paul has been doing insecticide spraying?

(the nearby beach as seen at 5am on Thursday morning)

   Next it was time to meet the bees and their interim beekeeper! Paul and I proceeded to the home farm, where Trevor gave me a smoker and other necessary beekeeping equipment, and then Paul drove me to the "Bucca" fields ... which are about 30 kms away!

   Greg arrived there around the same time as us (it was around 0900 by now, not sure where all the time had gone). Now, the farms had formerly had a beekeeper, a Turkish fellow Trevor said was pretty good ... but then one day he was trying to pull on something with a pair of pliers... and whatever it was suddenly came loose... and his pliers met his face at high velocity ... and he ended up with a pliers handle through his eyeball d: Soooo he was out for awhile, and then when he finally did come back I guess it turns out he had brain damage, because he did some things which just didn't make sense.
   So then a little later Greg comes along, who's a retired beekeeper (with a bushy white beard!), and kind of crochety and set in his ways, which I think causes him to butt heads with Trevor a lot. For example he insists that "you should only ever work bees between 9 and 3! It's too cold for them otherwise!" (did I mention we're practically in the tropics (I think we're 85 nautical miles south of the Tropic of Capricorn, the official southern edge of "the tropics"), and he consequently only works from 9-3. I've never heard of such luxurious hours! I, on the other hand, work 0700 to 1700, and would start at 0600 if it meant I could get off at 1600 (but as I do not at this time believe it would, I'm not going to voluntarily work an 11 hour day).
   At first I feared he was going to be the classic crotchety nothing-you-do-is-right beekeeper and make my life a hell, but he turned out to be pretty alright. Come 15:00 on the first day though he departed, leaving his smoker behind, so I naturally put it on my truck ute when I left. The next morning he got there before I did and found his smoker missing, which got him a bit bent out of shape and he was kind of bristley for an hour or so before the soothing sting of bees calmed him down.
   He also, I would find, has a tendency not to try very hard to solve simple problems. Twice we ran out of things and he said "oh, well, Trevor didn't provide us enough! Trevor never provides us with enough. I guess we'll continue that when he does" ... whereas I simply ::gasp:: called Trevor and in the one case there were more queen excluders at the home farm for me to pick up and in the other he said he'd order more of the missing material.
   And in a bit of a baffling bit of behaviour, while we were going through one trailer of beehives, many had queen cages in them (the little cages used to introduce queen bees that have been received from the breeders into the hives), and he said to me "Trevor requeened these, don't go through the hives that have queen cages, but go through the ones that don't" ... as if Trevor would have magically known which hives needed new queens without going through them -- to my logic he either inspected them all or... is psychic. And on any account, hives with recently introduced queens still warrant inspection because the queen doesn't always take.
   So I can understand why Trevor isn't entirely pleased with Greg, and I get along with Greg alright and he does have some pretty good bee wisdom in many areas (he's been a beek for, I think he said "50 years"), but he's not the best for the job.
   And technically, Greg isn't in charge of me. In fact, I have express orders from Trevor to call Greg on any "bullshit" and insist we do things how I think is right (or as Trevor said, "yeah he tried the 'I've been doing this fifty years" shit on me too -- and I told him "bullshit -- you don't have any hives any more, so obviously what you were doing didn't work."). But in the interest in getting along alright with this obviously headstrong and salty old beek I'm going to go the most diplomatic route.

   And on the subject of Trevor, I had been filled with a bit of trepidation about this whole job because I had heard through the beekeeper grapevine awhile ago from "someone who had worked for him" that Trevor was "an asshole." So far, my initial description of him, as having the personality and appearance of famed irrepressible Aussie Steve Erwin still fits. He seems thoroughly friendly and laid back. He doesn't micromanage me at all, and seems to have great faith that I will do what is best. I'm not used to being treated this well!
   In addition to the pretty good pay, he's also providing me this accomodation for free, as well as the use of one of the 4wd landcruiser pickup trucks (utes).. so altogether I think the compensation package is pretty dang good.

   Sam, my housemate, has cleaned up his act a bit I think. I've noticed he's cleaned up a few areas and actually did all the dishes he'd heaped up the other day. As of this moment there are new dirty dishes piled over there but hey. I'm a bit concerned he may be an alcoholic and/or liable to drunk-drive himself to death though. The other day he had at least three beers and then hopped in his ute to drive way out to the Bucca farm at 21:30 to pick up Paul (who had JUST finished spraying over there?).

§2: Return to Bundaberg!
   Saturday was just another workday. I called Trevor just after lunch though because I had just read the label on the pesticide he wants me to use to kill hive beetles, and it says it also kills bees. He said he thinks it will be okay though because the bees can't walk through it where its being placed (I'm still highly skeptical), but what's more, I'm really glad I called him, because he happened to say "hey feel free to knock off early today when you finish that" ... so I was out of there at 15:00, after a mere 8 hours of work! ...and I think I might have left my hive tool there in my glee to escape, which is a serious problem and I'll have to head over there bright and early tomorrow and try to find it...
   As fast as I could get home and get packed and changed I did so and was off to the teeming metropolis of Bundaberg! ...which is actually not even as far from the home farm as the Bucca farm is.
   And though at only 20 km away or so obviously I didn't need to stay there overnight in one of the many bad-review-receiving hostels, After not really seeing anyone other than Trevor, Greg, and Sam all week I craved a greater variety of company.
   So I checked in to the best reviewed hostel in town, the Grand Hotel Hostel, or Grand Hostel, or something like that (7.8 out of 10 stars on, and you know, it wasn't half bad! I had a nice little room with only two bunks in it (or rather one bunk, two beds), of which I was the only occupant. One door from the room opened out to the hall, and opposite it another door opened up to the balcony that wraps around the hostel. Everything was just so much cleaner and more respectable looking than the Cellblock had been. My only complaint is that the dining tables were all gross and covered with sticky bits of food every time I went in there. That and unfortunately the residents didn't really seem to be hanging out much, so I didn't end up meeting anyone. In contrast, the Cellblock, for all its many faults, at least the residents were always hanging out and talkative.
   Went out to the bars and clubs that evening. Its a funny little town because its small and agricultural and sleepy, but then its crawling with backpackers from all over, who come out of the woodwork on Sat night to party.

   Sunday was unfortunately dreary, drizzley and cold all day. Just my luck the one day this week to be like that would be my day off! I wouldn't have minded having my sweatshirt with me even, in the middle of the day. And isn't it supposed to be practically summer?? And Practically the tropics! d:
   For dinner Sat I had had a 300g rump steak for $10 or so. Roaming around for lunch on Sunday I came across a 300g rump steak for $6 that was just too good to pass up! And it really was a very good rump steak. But, throughout Australia, I've been noticing, a decent burger or sandwich, or anytihng decent that will fill you up, is typically going to run $13-$17... but you can often find a 200 - 300 gram rump steak special somewhere for $10 or so. "rump steak" is the cheapest cut, but it's still pretty decent, imo. But I'm practically getting tired of steak! Australia!
   For example in Sydney, the Irish pub across from my hostel had an Irish stew on the menu I often gazed at longingly, for $17 or so, but I could never justify ordering it when they had a $10 rump steak deal. Better cuts of steak run the $20-$30 range, which I think is what they'd go for in the States anyway? Whcih means they're proportionatly MUCH cheaper here, since other food that would be $8 in the states is $17 here.

   Did various shopping in Bundaberg and returned to Angst-Moorpark around 4ish.

   Ended my weekend adventures by going on a long two hour walk down the endless beach in front of my house and back. Started out with the setting sun and ended under the stars. At the far end I had the ocean to my left and a long lagoon to my right.
   On my way out there, it just so happened that as I passed the one point where a road comes up to the beach who should be driving up at that moment but my housemate, with a beer in his hand. He asked me why I didn't just drive down to whereever I was going (being as our vehicles are 4wd and I guess you're allowed to drive on the beach). I tried to explain that I wanted to walk on the beach, specifically, but I think we were on different wavelengths.
   Seeing him driving with one hand on the wheel and bottle of beer in the other felt ominously like one of those foreshadowing scenes in a movie...
   And its presently 22:00 and he hasn't returned home. I'm a bit concerned.

   In eight and a half hours or so I'm off to begin another week of work! I'm feeling a lot better about it than I did before I started, though I'm still waiting for "the other shoe to drop."

( More pictures of the beautiful beach, and also some of "Cellblock" )

Tags: australia, beekeeping, employment, travelogues

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