The last Harvest Day
19 October 1999

okay, here i am again to tell you all about the last day of the harvest. first i want to tell you some things i left out in the previous message: the other people harvesting and a little about the results of the harvest.

we were working with up to 16 other people each day. there was a variety of people that michael has working for him. most are either people he knows from scouts (and their friends) or immigrants that he gets connected with through the local employment office. so some are students at university, some high school students, some people on vacation from their "real" jobs, and some recently from armenia or other places. there was even a guy from sierra leone who spoke english. many of the students spoke english as well. by the end of the harvest we were able to joke around a little with the armenian guys in german. there was certainly an amount of comraderie by the end of it all, even though not every person was there throughout the whole harvest.

this was a good year for grapes. they had a long, mostly dry summer and it was sunny most of the harvest as well. this means that the quantity of grapes was quite high. the best thing for michael is that the quality of the grapes was high as well. the level of sugar (the best measure of quality) was high enough our second to last day to be mistaken for a selection. a selection is when all the best grapes are put into a separate bucket from the majority of grapes. on the last day we did a selection, the first time in 11 years for michael. he was quite excited about it.

so with good weather on the last day (almost frozen fingers but sun in the sky) we started the selection. we only had three rows each for the day so we had time to do the selection. however each row was very, very long. maybe this was just short-timers syndrome, but i think the rows were the longest we had to do with only one partner group per row. in any case, the first row took three hours. this didn't bode well for the rest of the day. we got to have lunch after the first row, though, so that was good.

the second row took a long time but seemed better than the first. it was after lunch so our energy was up. we were pretty tired out after that though.

the last row took forever. i mean it really took forever. after what seemed like long time we would look down the row and it looked like we were half way through. then after a while we would look again and it didn't look any different. this went on as the sun got lower in the sky and our fingers got very cold again (like morning.)

eventually we finished and everyone headed up to the tractors. they were decorated with grape vines and looked very festive. the sun was setting. michael asked me to cut one last group he saw on the vine, "because you still have your shears" he said. so i went back and took the group off the wire it was hanging on, only to turn around to camera flashes because i had just picked the last group. michael went on to explain to everyone at this point that because i "cut" the last group i was the Herbst Muck and i was given a crown of grape vines and was given a bell to ring as the tractors and wagons paraded through town honking horns until we arrived at the winery. upon our arrival i was to give a speech about the great harvest, kiss the winemaker, and drink as much wine as i want. he said, "since we are a poor winery, we have chosen her!" so i was given the bell and the crown and thus began my experience as the Hirt-Albrecht harvest maiden of 1999.

they put me on the front of one of the wagons with grapes, up high. i saved bell-ringing enthusiasm for when we got off the vinyard road and onto the streets of eltville. tractor horns honked, harvesters cheered, and i rang my bell. people came out of houses to see what was happening. people smiled and waved. i felt like the seafair queen, except that i was wearing grubby harvest clothes and was riding on a wagon insead of some expensive car. i think i prefer being Herbst Muck though.

by the time we got to the winery it was dark. everyone drank sparkling wine (except mrk. and i) and they put me ontop of a wine barrel to give my speech (which was quite lame as i forgot to rehearse as we paraded through town.) one person took pictures with a professional looking get-up of camera materials. i gave michael a big kiss on the cheek and the festivities soon ended. this didn't mean i took off my crown though.

in fact i wore the crown all evening, much to everyone's amusement. as michael and others came in to dinner they chuckled at me, but out came the camera nevertheless. pictures were taken of everyone around the table.

it was a very cool evening. i can't wait to see the photos! this was the highlight of our travel experiences so far.

by the way, "herbst muck" directly traslated means something like "autumn slow-poke".

we left eltville for bonn the next day. we left bonn for budapest two days later. now we are in budapest about to leave for transylvania. the next update will be of our adventures in budapest, which have been wonderful!

© Copyright Cheryln Crowl 1999