My baptism with the Ikarian Earth

My baptism with the Ikarian Earth

I did it. Finally! I took part in harvesting on Ikaria. This had been on my “bucket-list” for a long time, but so far I had not succeeded, because I always left the island before the harvesting season started. But this year I planned it in detail. I came later to have a chance to stay longer in September and when I arrived, I spread the message that my hands would love to volunteer at grape picking. I got my chance at the beginning of September. Ι got a call to be ready early on a Sunday morning (Ikarian time!). Clear instructions followed concerning clothes … and don’t forget the hat!

After a couple of coffees in the platia and waiting for other people to arrive, we finally headed off to the mountains. Somewhere in the area of Christos Raches we got into the vineyard and joined a group of people who have already started the work. An area covering a few acres was waiting for us. Red and white grapes were cultivated under strict organic rules. Due to the strong mountain wind it is a difficult place to grow grapes and a lot of work was needed during the year to take care of the plants. It was a dry summer and a great number of grape vines didn’t have any fruit.

Tools for the wine harvest

As the sun was getting stronger, we didn’t waste time with further discussions, but started immediately. Tools were distributed, I got a knife and a bucket and a short introduction to the work. I felt some doubts, whether I would manage. How should I tell them that I am coming from a family of strong women who are used to taking decisions and can work hard in the garden and in the house? I decided against commenting further and walked into the vineyard to find my place. I was put into a group who was harvesting white grapes and after a short time I found my way to check the grapevine carefully in order to cut all the grapes. I got into a routine and the chatting of the people around me was like a nice background music to the work. I filled bucket after bucket and after a while I found myself a bit apart of the group, working on my own. As I was surrounded by nature, the beautiful view over the mountains and to the sea and with the monotony of the work, I felt a deep quiet inside me. All of a sudden, I knew that I was in the right place, with the right people doing the right work. I felt like one with my surroundings, no further explanation necessary. When I held the grapes in my hands I felt a great tenderness for this earth and for the people who worked on this land during the year to prepare it for this harvest. While cleaning the grapes I got an understanding for the hard work and patience that is needed to cultivate this dry soil on rocks. I felt a high respect for the generations of Ikarians who have worked these fields in the past and for those who don’t give up today.

Just a little pause

As I was travelling like this with my thoughts and feelings I only realised after some time, that a group of other harvesters had come closer. It was like a choreography of a Greek dance …. little by little, I was surrounded by “the family”…  taken care of, not left outside alone. Nice feeling. As more and more people were coming, we were able to finish the harvest in a matter of hours. Even without understanding much Greek, I was able to feel the happiness about the good result. There were plenty of baskets filled with good quality grapes. The men set up the machine and little by little the harvest was put into it. It was a quiet kind of work, different from other Greek working groups I had experienced so far. There were no big discussions on how to proceed. These Ikarian men knew what to do. No unnecessary talk.  At the end, the first samples of the mash and the juice were taken. The big smiles of the men were the best proof that the harvest was excellent … they would be able to produce more than 1,500 kilos of good quality wine. This will bring some decent money, but above all, it will bring joy to the tables, when they all sit together during winter, eating, chatting and remembering this day in September, when we were all together working hand in hand…. just the way it should be. (@ Birgit_Urban)