All our posts from 2013

End-of-year Gravity

When they invented gravity, did they really picture two people at the two ends of a hose next to two metal wine vats, one crouching on the cellar floor to get as much a gradient as possible for the flow of wine, communicating with hands and feet and hoping that when the wine does flow, the carefully rinsed and ready containers or vats will be within reach?

If this procedure, which took place last weekend, was comical, it seemed to do the job and the new – “adolescent” I guess – wine is now separated from the yeast, hooray. It can now sit and rest for a while, develop its taste.

And while we were fussing over the wine as if it were a small kiddo about to walk into the freezing cold without a warm coat (“close the lid, close the lid”), the more curious product was that beige-coloured gooey yeast that was left in the emptied vat: It looks like something you might mix up to plaster the wall, yet, it tastes so yummy, of all sorts of wine aromas, that it seems a shame to have already separated it from the wine.

And just in case the wine might feel lonely, naked or out of its comfort zone in its new ‘separated’ existence, the vines out in the field are providing the necessary comfort in doing the same: Separating. From its leaves.

late autumn no leaves


Since there was so much dedication during the harvest to cut out all the mouldy bits, ‘botrytis’ if you want to use the lingo, this collection of green feather photo sets includes one dedicated to what the mould looks like before it gets cut out: squeezed? or starfish-like peut-etre? Judge for yourself._MG_0015

We’ve harvested!

We’ve harvested! Possibly under adverse conditions. If you wake up to a harvesting Saturday that is cold and lacking in sunshine; – If the van that was meant to pull the grape-filled trailer out of the field gets stuck in the mud before a first grape has even been picked; – does a harvesting day of that kind still count as a welcome distraction from desk-based work?
We asked the parrots: and while they generally like nibbling the ground beneath the vines or flying through the leaves with water being sprayed at them, – in this case it seemed they would have happily withdrawn to desk-based work after an hour or so out in the field.

Marzipan back at the office

Marzipan back at the office

Marzipan and Erbse about to get stuck into a harvesting lunch

Marzipan and Erbse about to get stuck into a harvesting lunch

So, a good helping of – not just the tuna-pasta-salad that’s become the harvest signature dish – but also of parrot-patience was needed, as the finish-line for us two (humans) was only reached late on Sunday evening. On late afternoon on Saturday we said ‘good bye’ to those of our harvest-supporting friends who had stayed out in the field to the very end, regretting that our arrangements for processing the grapes the ‘bio-way’ meant that we had no time for an end-of-the-harvest drink.

What followed was a pattern repeated until late on Sunday consisting of: setting up a machine, mucking it up, cleaning it out.

And while the grape juice has now cleared and is fermenting, and the grape pips are drying (for a symbolic drop of grape seed oil), we hope that many more wine harvest enthusiasts will join us next year, – hopefully with nicer weather, ‘easier’ grapes and a ‘well-done’ drink at the end!

Harvesting Collage 1

Harvesting Collage 2

Harvesting Collages

Photos were turned into collages for this public blog, ‘cos friends looking gorgeous or ridiculous in the vineyard is for sharing with those very friends but maybe not for the blog.

In Search for a Harvest Date

A harvest date has to be found. Yet the grapes seem to be unusually pinnikity in agreeing such a date. I have been through similarly indecisive situations with friends where weeks go by and no ‘mutually agreeable date’ materialises, but with grapes?

A change in existence awaits the grapes when our scissors approach, this is clear. But what is it they want to maximise on before that date? Three extra weeks of playing ‘Grand Theft Grape-o”, that they would not have had if the ‘grape pregnancy test’ had displayed ‘RIPE’ now? Or are they on the brink of offering up THE solution for the financial crisis, with Merkel travelling to a distant vineyard to hear them out?

Or are these just made-up excuses? Reminiscent of how friends might cancel on you (sorry, we can’t make next week, our babysitter broke his leg demonstrating how to jump into a puddle)… And the real reason…. could beeeeee…. that … sugar levels are yet too low…. and acid levels are yet too high….. (like in 2010)?

measuring sugar levels last weekend: 60 is not enough. Plus: it tastes of vertjus!

measuring sugar levels last weekend: 60 is not enough. Plus: it tastes of vertjus!

You decide. Admittedly, the picture offers a clue. Yet, as I wander through the rows, I sense there is some communication happening between the grapes: Exciting! –  I give them the benefit of doubt, thinking they want to communicate with me, let me know, genuinely, genuinely, why there’s nothing ripe in sight, with October looming round their corner.  I picture them gesticulating wildly in explaining their thwarted efforts and it puts a tear into my eyes.

But it turns out the efforts of communicating were not aimed at me, but on keeping ‘strike-breaking’ grapes in check, if the current lack of ripeness can be likened to a strike action, in the same way London underground staff might tackle the issue of, not sugar levels, but payrise.

It appears that a section of grapes on the western side of the vineyard had shown signs of ‘going for it’ and dressed up in some ripe skins. ‘Headquarters’ on the eastern side saw this and saw the ‘days left as grapes’ diminishing. So an order was put out to bring those western grapes back in line. But since the ripening process cannot be reversed, more drastic measures were needed….

What shall I say, … the grapes on the western side suddenly looked definitely different, but not the way we would all like: they looked like they had been replaced by Matterhorn-shaped mould cones. Just mould, – nothing grape-like left in them. An unparalleled sabotage act, blatantly inflicted by the secret service of the grape-government, infringing the right to be a grape, the right to ripen, substantial grape-rights infringed in a way we thought could only happen during a detention at Heathrow airport.

How the disobedience was spotted by HQ in the first place, from one end of the vine rows to the other, and how the ‘remediating’ botrytis-poison-arrows were carried to the western end, I will never know. The vine rows flow in gentle V-shapes, so you cannot see the end of the row from the starting point.  The western end only reveals itself once you reach the middle of the row, giving me a sense of mini-achievement every time I have to put some TLC down those rows.

But if the grapes are able to overcome those geographical obstacles and developed a water-tight communication system between the two removed ends – a communication system way superior to whatsapp, twitter, etc -, then all I have to do is infiltrate this system and ‘change the ‘system’ (in this case, the willingness of the system to offer up a harvest date and thus the willingness to turn into ripe grapes) FROM WITHIN. Easy!

If I am successful, anyone keen on poking through some sweet (- as you can see, I haven’t given up hope) mess, should be able to join us for a harvest, – possibly on 5 or 12 October. We’ll see!

p.s.: And if the idea of us communicating with grapes causes concern, rest assured that we spent the weekend doing some amazing communicating, entirely grape free, with visitors and resident artists at the Freitagsladen / Kleinsche Hoefe in Darmstadt, where we had a mini-wine-stall. The recycling art, water art, paper art, retro art, necklace art, etc is still buzzing through my head: it can buzz through yours every friday 12-19.00!

More pictures, more admin


(Click on this link for more pictures!)

I am reluctantly getting online with a compromise-type suggestion:

My reluctance in posting something new roots in something very simple: What’s happening wine-wise at the mo is very adminy, – a lifting device was delivered to the cellar, to allow us to be more gentle with the juice and not pump it.  A freezer was delivered to allow us to freeze the juice we will be adding once the wine is done.  A small press has been found. Oh yes, and we are still trying to work out how healthy or otherwise our grapes are. Ok, the details were sometimes quite funny, – a weekend wondering how to get this lifting machine down into the cellar.

I still thought that for anyone reading this, it would be more exciting to see how the grapes are doing, than to see images of our small cellar.  So, here is a whole lot of recent pictures, – enjoy!  And hopefully the next update, in October or so, will bring news of a harvest!


Baby News

our newly planted vines are carrying grapes....

This post was meant to be called “The good, the bad, etc”, but then everyone seemed to be talking about “the [royal] baby”. The baby, in our case, is not covered in a white blanket. “The babies” in the vineyard are the new plants seven of us planted earlier this year. And the news is that they now have babies, ahhh, sorry, they are carrying small grapes, which, after all the hard work, was an amazing thing to see.

... whereas elsewhere, grapes takes a bad turn.

… whereas elsewhere, grapes take a bad turn.

That good news, however, was easily cancelled out by discovering bad and ugly news, ie seeing individual vines that looked ridden by the feared illnesses. The images in this blog show entire vines dying off or bunches of grapes that we had to cut out. The jury is still out, though, as someone told us that our vineyard looked healthy, despite these ugly images. Fingers crossed.


And if this is too nature-related for you (- a friend from NY visiting our vineyard admired “all that nature”- ), you can read about “the shop” here.

Vineyard update

Our current work in the vineyard resembles a fight with a big octopus (and if you think this sounds like an exaggeration I grant you that). All these long fragile shoots (as in, the octopus legs) have to be fed into an enclosure made of wire, so as to create a ‘wall of leaves’.  A wall that will eventually be home to the grapes (blossom happening at the moment).

spot the two orange heads

spot the two orange heads

I have never tested the fragility of actual octopus legs, but the stuff or shoots we are ‘fighting’ with is pretty fragile, so, yes, there is a fair amount of swearing, if another one bites the dust.  And if we don’t break them, the tractor will: you can probably picture it quite easily how the tractor will rip off any shoots that refuse to go into the wired enclosure and instead try to crawl along the ground.  The ‘wall of leaves’ we create helps the wind breeze through, thus stopping the spreading of the dreaded fungus, and makes the spraying more effective. With any scepticism towards the spraying, bio or conventional, it seems even more important that whatever concoction is applied, it hits its targets, ie the leaves, and doesn’t just ‘enrich’ the air.

The parrots were with me for this task last weekend and seemingly split the tasks between them: Erbse was ‘in charge’ of the ground or the vine stems, whereas Marzipan preferred the leaves. While they might seem like vineyard-pros by now, they have not yet confirmed their participation in the Loerzweiler wine-festival (July 5-8, 2013).

erbse weinberg heften

Green Feather goes Pecha Kucha

The third Darmstadt Pecha Kucha Night on 21 June 2013 at CoWo21 (21 slides of 21 seconds each on 21st at 21h, get it…) offered thoughts on the lives of inventors, philosophers, app-developers, sustainability-in-blanket-wrappers, creatives, development-aid-thinkers, – and dogs. OH yes, and thoughts on wine. You can watch the video of the six Pecha Kucha presentations on the CoWo21 site. But if you prefer to look at the slides, as opposed to the person presenting, a video of the Green Feather 21 June pecha kucha presentation is available here, in German and English.  The parrots weren’t there.  They were busy with the watering can (which is a lie, of course, chronologically). 🙂

Old vine

Old vine – this could be me after turning 40, but in this case it refers to two old vines that have moved from vineyard to our flat, due to old age.  You can read about the replacing effort in the previous post, but here many friends (special thanks to Ina!) came together to turn them into true ‘green feather vines’ ….


Screen Shot 2013-06-04 at 15.00.45

… thus reuniting grapes and vines (or the soil of the vines):

green feather wine 2012 silvaner w label

Vineyard Friends plant vines

Time to reflect on yesterday’s bank holiday when I was joined by a few friends to re-plant missing vines: When I left home this morning, my view of the wing mirror was obstructed by a little red dot: a pomegranate pip as it turned out, still stuck to the mirror, even after a few kilometers on the motorway. A nice reminder of yesterday’s fun action in the vineyard, the pomegranate pip left behind by two snacking parrots climbing around the car, with Marzipan observing our vineyard-hole-digging action from his most favourite perch ever: the steering wheel. Yes, they were also sitting between the vines conducting no doubt a very thorough “ground investigation” with their beaks on the soil that came out of the planting holes, but every parrot needs to take a rest from such strenuous tasks. And their most strenuous activity came at lunch time, as we sat down for a well-deserved picnic: climbing from one person to the next, the parrots tested which human offered them the best chance of getting a crumb of Astrid’s yummy cake; or, for that matter, shoes they could nibble on. (In fact, Frank’s shoes could no longer be nibbled on, the clay-like soil, “Loess” as it is called, had already been the last nail in his shoe coffin.)

gepflanzete rebe hochstamm

Foto by Frank Rein

If you picture what we did all day long to plant 62 vines, you might have in your head the kind of image of a local politician smiling into the camera with his or her foot on a spade to mark the thrive in new development in the local area. Yes, we did that, 62 times, just without the suit and the cameras. (in fact, Jula did take amazing pictures, but my camera could not muster the energy to record them. )

But this day was about so much more than that: a very special day of ‘things’ coming together in an amazing way: ‘people’ coming together in a remote field based on instructions scribbled on a map; ‘plants and equipment’ coming together, ie reaching Darmstadt ahead of the bank holiday (-it was very close).  Time and time again I observed a beaming sensation written into faces looking up while arms moved through soil in zen-mode; and the same sensation voiced several times during the day (“Das ist sooo schoen!), even as our energy faded.

By then we had also driven almost 300 l water and 500 kg planting soil up the hill, had “sucked for England/Germany/Austria/Lörzweiler/Darmstadt” to make the water flow from the big tanks stationed in the car into the smaller containers and had chatted with various passers-by.

It was a day on which I felt supported, by the Lörzweiler community as well as by a digging and planting group of friends. A neighbouring vintner took one look at my planting water set up, disappeared and came back with some essential accessories that smoothened our operations, eased our backs. And whether you like management speak or not (our workflow of digging/root removal/planting soil/fungus/plant/pole/ties/watering/closing-up-the-hole could have easily filled 40 powerpoint slides, never mind the parrot-related in-between-steps), it is a fair conclusion that as a team we “stepped up to the plate to streamline our workflow”  :o).

So much for the many content ‘ahhhhhs’  on the day, which continued over a drink in barely-can-speak-mode, once the last spade was squeezed into a seemingly puffed-up-t0-twice-its-size Kangoo (or Kangaroo, as the car was renamed, thanks to Sam 😮 ). The big question now remains whether the 62 plants sitting right now  in the “wellness pools” we have created for them will appreciate the TLC they received from us. “Success rate” (Erfolgsquote) is the term used on agricultural forums, when they discuss how many plants they had to ‘RIP’ out the following years, due to frost, or because the roots did not manage to penetrate the hard ground surrounding the “wellness pool”. This may sound like a long wait for the last and 41st powerpoint slide to be drafted on yesterday’s venture, but if I can post pictures in 2 years’ time, of leaves and grapes on those new vines (“Hochstämme”), then llka, Astrid, Jula, Frank, Sam, Claus and I will know that the sore muscles were all worth it. Will we then still remember the awning we had to set up to find cover from the rain? The worms (earthworm/Regenwurm) we accidentally cut in halves with our spades? The 30-year-old root-block we capitulated on (“Close the hole again, we’ll never get this one out”)? – We will have to see!

traubenwickler falle einbindig

There is a scientific explanation as to how this moth count (“einbindiger Traubenwickler) from the pheromone traps relates to the health of our grapes in autumn, – I am just not sure you would want to hear it :o)

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