After some time of searching for the perfect place to complete my three months of farm work, I couldn’t believe my luck when I found Samaria Farm. Harvest had just begun, and Vicki & Allan were looking for somebody to help pick their amazing Damask roses, the timing was just right. I arrived at their beautiful property excited, a little nervous, and ready for a totally new experience. When the alarm went off at 5am on the first day of picking, I pulled on some warm clothes and headed outside with Vicki, taking the wheelbarrow down to the paddock filled with roses.
The air was fresh and filled with the pure smell of rose, the birds cheeping around us. Vicki, experienced in many ways, showed me the best technique for rose picking, and talked me through what to do – be careful of the other buds, look up at the sky, and of course… stop to smell the roses. The first four and a half rows of roses were our main focus, blooming before our eyes as the sun’s rays coaxed them open. I had to be reminded many times that it was impossible to get them all, no matter how hard we might try! With the bags tied around our waists filled to the brim with roses, resisting picking any hidden bursts of pink petals on the way back to the wheelbarrow was hard to do. The fourth row and the half row became mine to pick, and I developed an affinity and affection for them before I knew it. The satisfying snap of the rose stem between my fingers, the sweet perfume hitting my nose, the work was a special kind of mindful that felt good for the soul.
It only took one early start to learn why it was worth it. Waking up with the birds and stepping outside just as dawn is breaking, the roses waiting for our company, I learnt that the first moments of the day were the best for picking. The sky looked different every morning, casting pinks, blues and purples over our heads depending on the moment. Our early rising helped us avoid the sun’s hotter rays, flies & bees, all keen to spend as much time with the roses as possible – just like us! By mid-morning the work was done for the day, leaving plenty of time to visit the shed & learn from Allan about steam distillation, a craft he’s perfected, and watch rose water and rose oil appear before my eyes.
The roses are amazing, and were enough to tempt me down each day, but there was another reason I looked forward to waking up & picking every morning. The wonderful company of Vicki made the harvest more special than I could have hoped for. We would work together, strolling and picking along each side of a row – Vicki with rapid fire precision, revealing the years of experience that makes her worth three pickers in one! When I was able to keep up with her, we talked about anything & everything, and I learnt a great deal more than how to pick roses. Each day brought about something new to discover about the farm, about myself, and about the lives we lead. It felt as if the harvest could go on forever, as we constantly played catch-up with the roses opening & waiting to be picked. I couldn’t believe my ears when Vicki said there were only a few days left to go, or my eyes when the roses all disappeared, leaving only a few splashes of pink to remind us of what had just been there.
My first harvest was an experience that will stay with me forever, and luck doesn’t do justice to what it meant to find Allan & Vicki at Samaria Farm and have this experience here. It’s a place where the plants and animals are looked after with respect and love, and a home that’s taken care of, where others always feel welcome. It was a real privilege to spend my days in the roses, and I shall remember them with love always for sharing their harvest with me.
Anneliese de Jong