The Kiwifruit harvest on our Orchard for 2007 is complete! Here's how it happens.
2 fine days. (The pack house has told us we are to be picked ) The machinery arrives ( 4 tractors and 4 bin trailers); the truck driver brings in 2 loads of empty bins[18 bushel size this year ], the 20 pickers ( 2 gangs ) arrive; the outdoor office is set up under the Pohutukawa tree for me the admin person; DH has the staplers ready for putting the cards on bins, food and drink is prepared to sustain us , so let's get going.
Each gang wants their tally kept separate ( they get paid per bin they pick ) and all seem happy pickers this year.( only 1 female picker this year ) A driver and 2 tractors each towing a bin trailer carrying 3 bins go with each gang. The pickers fill the bins from their picking bags till the first tractor load of 3 bins is smoothed level and full then the driver brings that load back to the loading area and the pickers begin to fill their 2nd 3 bins on the 2nd tractor.
The tractor driver carefully tilts the bin trailer and the full bins slide off, where DH staples a card on each. The driver rolls 3 empty bins onto his trailer then back off down the orchard to his picking gang and pulls in behind the tractor with the bins they are filling. So they go on round and round all day. Both gangs are doing this so 6 full bins arrive every 10 minutes or so. My job is completing the paper work - the cards for the bins and a running total from each block for each gang. After the bin cards are on the bins the forklift driver stacks the bins 3 high and loads them onto the truck for their journey to the coolstore. He returns with more empty bins.
As we have good keeping fruit (that had the best high dry matter to date ( for us ) ) the fruit is not to be packed yet but will be stored in the coolstore at between 0 and 4 degrees c , till later and then packed and shipped.
This production line goes on till all our fruit ( they miss a few ) is picked, then the whole show packs up and drives out the gate to the next orchard where they start all over. A hush descends over our property after all the hustle. We clean up and put gear away the heave a huge sigh of relief - it all went pretty smoothly and the worst that happened was a flat tyre on a bin trailer and one stuck tractor against a hedge, (cause a picker got impatient waiting for the bin trailer when it got a flatty and took it upon himself to move the other tractor along - he should not have touched it - as he was not an experienced driver ) Strange how one little incident leads to another. One embarrassed picker!
We picked slightly more than last year and it will probably be our 2nd biggest crop ever. 2004 being the record so far. That was the 25th crop of export kiwifruit from our orchard, so we are quite used to it now, but things and systems change, so there is always more learning to do. Part 2 has some more photos.