Autumn has arrived in Moldova! After a couple rather warm weeks at the beginning of September, the weather became more chilly and the last several days the air has been crisp and cool. We even had frost yesterday morning!
Autumn in Moldova is the harvest and wine-making season. My host parents have spent the last several weeks harvesting corn and grapes. The corn husks are removed and the corn ears are placed on the ground outside our house to dry. Later, the corn will be put through a special machine that removes all the kernels, which are then crushed and used for animal feed. The remaining cobs will be placed in a lean-to and used throughout the winter months as kindling in our wood-fired stove.
The grapes are picked by the bundle and any dried or damaged grapes are removed before the bundle is placed in buckets, which are then emptied in a large basket and wheeled home in a wheelbarrow. The grapes are then dumped in a large cone and a special apparatus crushes the grapes, which fall into the wooden barrel below. The grapes then ferment for a couple of days before they are further developed into wine. We’ll drink this wine throughout the upcoming year. Other grapes are used to create grape compote, which is a homemade juice.
At school, quite a few students were absent this week because they were helping to harvest the rest of the grapes before we get a hard freeze. Our school has been cold this week as it is too early to start heating the building, and when all the teachers sit or stand in the teachers’ lounge bundled up in coats and sweaters and wringing their hands to keep them warm, someone is bound to say, matter-of-factly, “Iarna vine.” (Winter is coming).
The gorgeous sunsets of Moldovan autumns have returned, painting the sky pink and orange. Each night I look out my window to watch as the sky turns color.
Everyone is busy getting everything ready and finished before winter hits. Three of the four seasons are busy with plenty of work outside to do, but in winter, little work can be done outside other than shoveling snow. My host parents tell stories over our pre-bedtime cup of tea about the past, and share that when they were children, the women would keep busy in the winter by using large looms to make rugs and by sewing and embroidering and knitting. But these days, those traditions have largely died out and winter is quiet and sometimes a tad bit boring.
For now, I’m relishing the cooler temperatures after a far-too-hot summer and bundling up with layers of sweaters and warming my hands with hot cups of tea. I’m appreciating my favorite season and documenting it as best I can, because this is the last autumn I will spend in Moldova. Next year, I will be home to see the hills of my hometown turn bright with color, drink apple cider, and go to the pumpkin patch with my family. But for now, I am enjoying the traditions of this culture and learning to pick grapes and make homemade wine.