Part 38: Cherry Time

In the first warm days of spring, nature around the village turned into an endless white sea of flowers. It seemed as if fresh snow had fallen overnight. Below the edge of the forest, cherry trees blossomed as far as the eye could see.

For decades, the lords of the manor had planted a wide variety of cherries on the red sandy, stony southern slope. Protected from the cold north winds by the forest, the extensive plantation developed magnificently. In the middle of this Garden of Eden stood a log house in Bavarian architectural style, with a rock cellar for cool storage of the fruit. Hidden behind berry bushes was a respectable beehive, where hundreds of bees flew in and out non-stop.

After a few weeks, the white blossoms had ripened into red, black, and yellow cherries. The fruit had to be picked. Who could do that better than the village boys? To prevent the harvesters from slipping off the ladder or possibly treading through their feet while standing on the rungs for hours, sturdy wooden shoes with heels were part of the work clothing. To the willow basket, each picker needed a meter-long strong wire bent on both sides to form a hook and a leather strap with a strong buckle.

The hook wire was used to pull up the often-wide branches on which the most beautiful cherries hung. The leather strap was used to attach the ladder to the tree, as ladders up to ten meters long often had to be attached to ditches and steep slopes. The picking column was supervised by a hale, lively pensioner, who also placed the large ladders on the trees. Working hours began at 6 o’clock in the morning and ended at 6 o’clock in the evening.

Payment was by the hour, only the morello cherries were picked on a piecework basis and paid by the kilo. Breakfast, lunch break and now and then a thunderstorm with heavy rain interrupted the monotonous work. For us boys, it was not the money that was important, but the work in the group and the two or three kilos of cherries that we secretly smuggled home every day.

The greatest fun began when the berry bushes around the apiary had to be harvested. No one wanted to work voluntarily in the flight path of the busy honey collectors. The bees were peaceful, but sometimes one or the other sat invisibly in a currant cluster or on a gooseberry. Reaching for the fruit, the poor animal got between its fingers and stung. The sting was cooled with ammonium chloride, and on it went until the next time.

Regularly every other day a rickety truck came to pick up the harvest. Before loading, the driver screwed on a narrow iron kettle and filled it with fist-sized beech logs from a sack instead of gasoline. As in a charcoal pile, the wood smoldered in a fire and turned into gas to power the engine. I marveled at the ingenuity of people to overcome shortcomings. When the last sour cherries were harvested, the season ended after about three weeks. 𝓣𝓸 𝓑𝓮 𝓒𝓸𝓷𝓽𝓲𝓷𝓾𝓮𝓭

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