Tag Archives: maffra

Good People, Good Wine, and Kids With Lots of Energy

It feels like forever since I’ve updated this blog. A lot has been going on and internet access isn’t quite as easy to come by as back home. Where I am, in the eastern part of the state of Victoria, it seems that a lot of people rely on 3G cellphone service for internet access. It works fine, but caps out at 8GB per month, which gets used up pretty quickly. I try to be respectful and not overdo it.

So this week I’m staying with a family of five who run a vineyard called Blue Gables. But before I get to that, let me wrap up my time in Melbourne. I had about four days to fill between the end my Airbnb stay and coming to the vineyard and was lucky enough to find a very cool couple named Simon and Haley on HelpX. They run a native plant nursery about an hour south of where I am now. Simon and Haley were going to be in Melbourne on my last day so it worked out perfectly for me to hitch a ride with them and avoid a $25 train fare. A French traveler named Doris was staying with them so they brought her into the city and she and I explored for most of Wednesday. I really enjoyed having someone else to bum around with, since I’ve been traveling alone this entire time.

I’ve already mentioned a bit about the nursery and Simon’s racetrack. I did get behind the wheel! I was waaaaay slower than Simon but it was still a blast. Shifting a manual transmission with your opposite hand wasn’t bad at all, but I had a few other things (like avoiding trees and ponds) on my mind. I took some cool cockpit videos of Simon driving which I’ll share with you guys when I get back home.

I stayed with Simon and Haley for four days, two of which were on the weekend, so I only worked two days. The work wasn’t exciting but was what needed to get done. Doris and I mainly weeded some “pods” (little tubes of dirt that hold one plant each) and transferred soil from dead plants to a garden bed. The real benefit of staying with HelpX families is being integrated into their lives and meeting friends and family. These experiences, to me, are the reason why you travel. I was fortunate enough to meet wonderful friends of Simon and Haley, Robert and Tony, who are incredibly well-traveled and have great stories to tell. I also met Simon’s parents, who were warm and welcoming and made me feel like part of the family. All of this from complete strangers I found on an internet work exchange website who just ask for a bit of help.

Sunday I got a free ride from Simon and Haley up to Blue Gables vineyard. I knew from the start that this would be a very different experience from the others. For starters, they have three very polite, but very energetic, children; two girls and boy. The kitchen will be spotless before dinner and afterwards it looks like a plague of locusts just came through. It’s quite different than my bachelor life at home! Did you know that some people run the dishwasher every single night? God bless the mom, Catherine.

My hosts at the vineyard require six hours per day, six days per week, which is a fair bit more than I’m used to. My first day consisted of using a benchtop labeling machine to apply labels to wine that was recently bottled. In six hours I labeled 35 cases of wine. That’s 420 bottles. I have achieved expert status at wine bottle labeling.

My view for most of Monday:


Today my work consisted of tinkering with the Blue Gables website, which is more my speed. I spent almost 14 years working in IT but haven’t thought much about my old life in the past six weeks or so. It felt good to sit behind a computer again. You can have a look at their website here. I hope to do some more web work this week and may add a gallery to the site. It’s looking like we’ll harvest grapes early tomorrow to beat the rain so that’ll be an interesting side of things that I’ve never seen. Alistair mentioned that on picking days they recruit up to 10 paid helpers from the local backpackers hostel, which could be a way to meet some cool people from all over the world.

Ok, well the kids are dying for me to play Wii so I’m off!

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