Monday, December 09, 2013

Here Comes the Coffee!

We have been picking coffee for approximately two weeks.  The first week Roberto, Don, Stephany. Jeffrey and I did the picking.  On December 2nd, we were joined by two sisters from San Ramon.  That day, Don made a run to San Ramon to find a gas cook top and 3 large pieces of foam to be used as beds for the new pickers, AdaLuz and Maritza, who would be staying in a concrete structure (picker's house) owned by a friend of ours. That Monday was also my birthday and ended up being a very busy day.  The pickers usually start about 6:00 a.m. and I usually start about 9:00 after walking to the finca.   Don came home from a frustrating day in San Ramon, in time to get the coffee to the recibidora before 5:00 p.m.  We helped to settle the ladies, AdaLuz and Maritza, into their new home.  Unfortunately, we were unable to hook up the cook top because we needed the hose and attachment which was in Palmares.  Don found the foam for their beds but they needed to be covered with sheets that Don had purchased at the Ropa Americana (Costa Rican Thrift Store).  Putting my nose to the grindstone and my new sewing machine, the beds were ready by 7:00 and we even had time for a quick dinner!  Since there was no cook stove, the ladies created their own stove out of cement blocks and a wood fire!  We find Ticos very resourceful and happy with so much less than us Gringos.  The bright spot of my day was a beautiful arrangement brought by by Eileen and Valaria, our special neighbors!  Their thoughtfulness made my day!!

Preparing to pick the coffee, Don is attaching his basket (Canasta).

Here Roberto is creating a strap for my basket with an "S" hook, some plastic string and a sack. I'm forever being impressed at how resourceful and creative Ticos are when doing a job.  

Our canastas are plastic but they also have natural ones.  We have a number of little natural ones that we use to put fruits and vegetables in at home. Someday I hope to have a natural one to use for picking.  It looks like they are made with a vine somewhat like a grape vine but I am not sure and could not find any relevant information.

Don is holding up suckers to give us a boost.  Picking is difficult, especially at this time of year.  Much of the coffee is still green and we want only the red berries picked.  The process of picking is a three stage process.  The first and last pickings are the slowest and least productive while the middle one produces the bulk of the coffee. 

At the end of the day the coffee is measured.  Each picker has his own sack or sacks of coffee and gets paid per Cojuelo, the metal box pictured here.  Each Cojuelo is worth 1,000 Colonies, approximately $2.00.  Jeffrey is setting things up ready to see what each person picked.

The coffee has been measured and is now being tied shut ready to be put in the back of the Galloper.  At this time we are not picking enough to require our trailer.  

Loading up to go to the recibidora where the coffee is measured once again!  The person working at the recibidora measures how many Cojuelos we have brought.  It takes 20 Cojuelos to make a Fenaga and we are paid by the Fenaga.  The price is not always the same and is actually set by the market in Brazil. 

Packed up and ready to go.  Everyone climbs in and off we go!
Don has decided that he is not fond of picking and has plenty of other things to keep him busy.  I like picking but I have a lot of respect for full time pickers.  They start their day at 6:00 a.m. and work until 3:00 p.m. with a heavy basket of coffee strapped around them all day and do the same thing the next day.  Their week is 6 days long, although a little shorter, 12:00 noon, on Saturday.  On the other hand, because we only have one vehicle I walk to the finca and work from about 9:00 a.m. (6:00 is a little early for me) until 3:00 p.m. and then walk home as the car is full of coffee and pickers.  Actually, I love the walk!  I get to see all kinds of interesting birds, butterflies, flowers and you just never know what!!  Unfortunately, 5 miles a day is rough on my feet and I'm only good for 4 days of picking!  What a light weight!!

Meet Didier!  Didier works at the recibidora where we take our coffee.  Each sack is opened and poured into a Cojuelo.  The large green box with the handles that the Cojuelo is sitting on holds 1/2 Fenaga. When we have more coffee, the sacks will be dumped directly into the bin.  Unfortunately, when we have less than a Fenaga each Cojuelo needs to be counted!


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