Sunday, October 2, 2011

Lesson 95: It's Harvest Time

Harvest time in my hometown brings some predictably unpredictable weather.  I spent most of my weekend frolicking in it, mostly because I was owning up to my word, not because I really wanted to.  I registered my girls and I a month ago for the Her Times 5K on the Peninsula.  When the perky blond who reports the local weather cheerily informed us Saturday would have a "nip in the air" at 48 degrees, I felt like nipping at her.  I also knew I wanted to give some props to my farmer friends on this blog and asked a couple of them if I could snag a ride on their grape pickers as they were snagging fruit from the vines this weekend.  I was too proud to cop out on either engagement fearing Eloise would look, well, ahem, wimpy.

For those of you unfamiliar with Erie weather, as the season changes from summer to fall the weather sputters and snorts into autumn like the engine of my first car, The Pickle.  One day is a picture perfect fall day when you feel the need to locate a pumpkin farm and load up the family and go for a long ride to admire the foliage.  The next can be damp and colorless, with the changing leaves turning from vibrant oranges and yellows to a drippy brown against a colorless sky.  When you watch the movie posted above, you will see just how dreary the Great Lakes Region can be, with my home town living up to its name, Dreary Erie.

However, flipping the calendar page to October first every year brings forth a long exhale from Eloise.  Any mom, particularly a working one, knows how tough the September adjustment can be.  In our house, that adds cheerleading and dance lessons and football games and birthday parties and school Open Houses and Book Fairs.  Sometimes it seems all I can do in the evening is clean up one day's mess and get set up for it all over again for the next day.  As I travel down my country road headed off to school in the morning, sometimes I catch the farmers out on their grape pickers.  As the sun is rising and the smell of the fragrant grapes are in the air, I often wish I was a farmer.  Hey, I love to get up with the sun, always take a Memorial Day stab at trying to cultivate my own produce, and enjoy the outdoors.  What a great way to earn a living.  That's what I USED TO think.  I rode the grape pickers this weekend in the wind and rain.  Eloise did whatcha call a 180 on that one.  I think I'll stick with teaching.

A big thanks to Billy and Chris for allowing Eloise ride along for a whopping one row of pickin'.  In both cases it was a bumpy fifteen minute ride.  I hollered question after question over the roar of the contraption while I snapped away with my camera.  The view of the vineyards from that high vantage point is way cool though.  I bet it is breathtaking on a nice day.

Today, was not so nice, but I kind of wanted it that way.  I wanted to know what it felt like on a cold, wet day.  Billy's machine is minus a windshield so the full brunt of the wind hits you smack in the face when you're coming at it.  Chris's contraption had an enclosed cab, but it was a bit tight and Eloise does not like small spaces.  They always leave me feeling like I have to flee them.   He left the door open so we both could fit inside and I was quite relieved.  I did not want tomorrow's newspaper headline to read, "Woman Survives Jump From Moving Grape Picker".  I now know why farmers wear those not so pretty one piece Carhartt jumpsuits.  I thought I was dressed appropriately, but within minutes I was soaked through three layers and shivering.  And that was after one row.  I asked the men how long they typically pick.  Both responded "ten to twelve hours" during the peak times.  I think I teared up just thinking about it.

Finish this analogy, Readers.  Eloise Hawking : proud Pennsylvanian :: Luke Bryan :  proud _______.  Did you guess Georgian?  If you did, you are correct!  Don't get the willies, Slovenians--that is Georgia, USA, not Soviet Georgia. You know it when Luke sings about the harvest in his home town.  'There's peanut dust and corn husks driftin' through the air tonight."  For me, it's grape skins and the scent of the fall--grape juice.  No matter what part of the world you come from, there is always some hard working farmer working the harvest, so this song is more universal than it first seems.  Enjoy the picture movie.  And in case you are wondering, yes, those are MY rose boots, not my guy friends.  I am sure that would raise a few eyebrows in their farming circles if they were wearing rose patterned rain boots with their jumpsuits.  Hey, maybe they'll try a pattern every now and again to liven things up.  Tan is boring (and I hate to break it to you, but it shows the dirt).  Eloise could be a trendsetter.  My sister has always grabbed that title away from my clutches, so maybe it's my turn.  Come on boys.  Throw on a pattern.  It will combat the boredom of going up and down and up and down and up and down those long grape rows.

 Speaking of patterns, check out the polka dots on my daughters' legs.  This is a picture of my girls and Tracy Northern the morning of the Her Times 5K.  These pictures should further illustrate the deary colorlessness we Erieites experience for many months of the year.  Surely, the sun comes up here every day, but you don't always get to see it's glow against a bright blue sky.  That's because there is always this low lying cloud cover full of droplets of dampness that soak into your bones and make your feet cold.  Tracy Southern, my other Tracy-friend who settled south of the Mason-Dixon line, just looked at these pictures and thought Ahhhhh, I don't miss that one bit!  Can't say that I blame her.

Yes, Eloise ran this race, too, but under another name, of course.  If you are checking the race listings, look for Thomas Jefferson, 40 year old female (scroll to bottom picture for proof that I actually do such a thing).  I run under the names of Presidents to mark the races my girls and I have done together.  If you are a history buff, you will know that this one is our third.  Can't wait to get the next one out of the way.  I have to run under James Madison, and he was a twerp--our shortest President at only 5' 4".  I prefer my guys tall and I certainly don't like to outweigh them.

Enjoy the scenes from Erie during our Harvest Time.  Living where I do is not for the weak of spirit.  Weathering the storms makes you all the tougher though.  That's why I took my girls out and made them run in the cold, sideways rain.  What doesn't kill you, just makes you stronger.  That rule holds true for everyone, even 40 year old female Presidents named Thomas Jefferson.

Good night and God Bless America,
Eloise Jefferson

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