Pickin’ Coffee

Let me tell you this: If I had to pick all my morning coffee beans myself, I would be drinking a lot less coffee… I’ve just spent 8 days working 11-12 hours daily, picking coffee berries all day long. It’s not really that hard a job to be honest, but it takes a long time. From now on, I will always send a kind thought to the person who hand-picked the coffee that I drink!

Now where did that image go?

This is about 8-9 hours worth of picking…

I had been told by my saviour Andrew, that I could make up to $200 a day, which sounded like an incredibly good deal to me. I guess that it was indeed possible to make that kind of money, but I sure didn’t…

When I got dropped off at the farm by one of the ponies, I went up to the owners house to present myself. He reassuringly said; “oh yes, you must be Andrew’s mate”, but then not so reassuringly continued; “you are here for a day or two right?”. Wrong. I was thinking more like a month! What had happened? I looked at him very puzzled and said that I had been told there’d be work for at least a few weeks… “Well, thing is, we’ve nearly spent all the money we can afford on wages for the pickers, so there really isn’t much work for you… But let’s see how it goes and then perhaps there’ll be 4 days of work…”

“I’m happy to work for you in whatever capacity you may find fit” I replied, feeling like a desperate man, pleading his bank-advisor for yet another loan. But there were no other capacities – only picking – so picking it was…

That first night, I was the only picker on the farm – the others had gone to town for a day off. I barely pitched my tent before a great big storm of rain and wind came rolling in over the beautiful hills of the Bangalow area, and as the nature showed off its muscles outside I took refuge in the old rickety dairy barn where the other pickers had set up a manky make-shift kitchen space.

At least I had brought lots of food and a good cooker, so I carved out a space for myself among all the trash and sacks of coffee beans, and sat down to enjoy myself with a meal and my mandola.

“I ain’t got no money, but I’ve got a soul! And I wouldn’t trade my life or death, for anybody’s gold!” I sang to an improvised blues-riff. One of those evenings where you don’t know if you’re bought or sold and whether you should have perhaps done something completely different with yourself… “Ah well”, I thought to myself after a long time feeling a mixture of disappointment and frustration; “I might as well make the most of it!”.

Now where did that image go?

Believe It Or Not, This Machine Actually Works Just Perfect

It turned out that Andrew had thought that the farmer would end up giving me at least a weeks work and that I wouldn’t have come if I hadn’t been sure of more than a couple of days. Quite rightly so and good on him for not telling me: The farmer did hire me for 8 days, which was sufficient to make it all worthwhile for me.

The next morning, I set out to pick as much coffee as I possibly could, and surprisingly I did quite well. 58 kg I picked, and even the farmer was quite impressed, when he weighed my crates on the old and battered bathroom scale. The whole operation was a bit “ram-shackle” in his own words.

That’s one way to put it. Another is “charming”. You see, in Denmark, there would have been a whole hangar full of hi-tech machines and state-of-the-art equipment to handle the processing of the beans. Every picker would have been issued with matching work-clothes, ergonomic buckets for carrying the pickings, digital scales weighing every gram of coffee-berries, big and shiny new tractors to drive around the farm with and so on and so forth. Here at Bangalow Coffee, it seemed that a wheelbarrow and a 1950’s Massey Ferguson would do the trick. I loved it!

The only thing that made the next 8 days different to each other, was the slight variation in how many kg I picked and how tired I felt. The two things kind of went together, and towards the end I was picking minimal amounts with progressively heavier arms. Oh yes, there was one other difference. I only got a tick-bite 5 out of the 8 days.

Now where did that image go again?

A Huntsman Spider On The Roll…

Those little fuckers, can’t believe how strong their jaws are. It took my co-worker three strong pulls to pry one out of my hair and it felt like my skin would come off too. Not to mention the one I pulled off my left testicle… But beyond that (plus a few snakes, wallabys, laughing birds and giant spiders), nothing much to write home about really – although we did have lots of laughs in the evenings.

Basically, it was me and 3 other pickers who were there full-time. Interestingly, we represented 4 different continents gathered in a 5th; Andrew from South Africa, Xavier from Canada, Fumi from Japan and myself from Denmark. Not that it mattered much; we all had stiff necks and cramped fingers by the end of the day, regardless of our nationality.

Now where did that image go?

My Temporary Paradise In The Himalayas

Another thing we had in common was India. Many a conversation revolved around this incredible country (litterally; hard to believe) and its enigmatic citizens. And for the first time since I left my temporary paradise in the Himalayas in June this year, I actually felt like I might return to India – one day. Definitely not soon. Maybe never. Argh, who knows..?

Anyway, in my last post I wondered how much coffee I would have to pick in order to earn $1000 dollars. The answer is 465 kg. And guess what? As the coffee farmer weighed my very last bucket of beans, I triumphantly threw my hands in the air, happy and proud that I had picked 468 kg in total, thus making just over a thousand bucks in little more than a week!

What next? Well, I’m heading back to Ponyland to rest my arms and enjoy the exquisite company. Hopefully I can find some more work around Nimbin (no ginger-planting!!!) but as it is, I have enough dough to see me through the next month at least. Come what may, I’m ready!

Now where did that image go?

Kicking Back In The Sunset After A Long Day’s Work

Meanwhile, you will perhaps enjoy reading the song that I wrote in my head while picking picking picking away. Whenever I came up with a verse, I would sing it out loud, much to the joy of my fellow pickers. One day, however, I realised the farmer himself was picking away in the row right next to me… So, dear coffee-farmer, if you are reading this, please understand that it was a joyful way of passing time, not some kind of criticism of my job. I am very happy indeed that I got this opportunity!

Imagine a slow and rusty blues melody sung by someone like this guy and with a whole choir of coffee-pickers singing the chorus for him:

Pickin’ Coffee Blues

Chorus: Pickin’ cofffee, pickin’ coffee all day long, pickin’ coffee

I got a job on a farm (chorus)
I got a job on a farm (chorus)
I got a job on a farm,
lost my lucky charm, pickin’ coffee all day (chorus)

My arms they feel like lead (chorus)
My arms they feel like lead (chorus)
My arms they feel like lead,
I’m like a living dead, pickin’ coffee all day (chorus)

I got a tick on my ball (chorus)
I got a tick on my ball (chorus)
I got a tick on my ball,
yeah it’s no fun at all, pickin’ coffee all day (chorus)

I got no money on my pocket (chorus)
I got no money on my pocket (chorus)
I got no money on my pocket,
gotta be a hole in my bucket, pickin’ coffee all day (chorus)

If I was paid by the hour (chorus)
If I was paid by the hour (chorus)
If I was paid by the hour,
I would’ve had time for a shower, pickin’ coffee all day (chorus)

Instead I’m paid by the tonne (chorus)
Instead I’m paid by the tonne (chorus)
Instead I’m paid by the tonne,
ain’t got no where to run, pickin’ coffee all day (chorus)

I might just drink me a cup! (chorus)
Oh yeah, just pour me a cup! (chorus)
Goddammit, pour me a cup,
so I can wake my ass up, for pickin’ coffee all day

BREAK – then triple tempo

Pickin’ coffee, pickin’ coffee all day long, pickin’ coffee!
Pickin’ coffee, pickin’ coffee all day long, pickin’ coffee!
Pickin’ coffee, pickin’ coffee all day long, pickin’ coffee!
Pickin’ coffee, pickin’ coffee all day long, pickin’ coffee!

repeat and fade out…




1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Martin Kargaard Thomsen
    Oct 29, 2012 @ 22:05:35

    Tak for sangen! Godt gået, Mr. Bean 😉


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