WIESBADEN, Germany - A long line of cars rolled slowly up the winding hill overlooking Wiesbaden-Breckenheim Oct. 31. Word had gotten out - Americans were invited to help pick apples.
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Dietrich KrAfAPger stood off to the side and smiled as the convoy containing about 60 Americans fanned out all over the tiny strip of asphalt, vehicles squeezing in wherever they could find a spot or parking in a nearby grassy area.
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"This was a lot more than I expected," KrAfAPger said. "Two years ago, we had two families picking apples. Last year, one family showed up. It's wonderful to see them all."

Before unleashing the horde on his orchard, KrAfAPger stopped them short of it and gave them instructions. "I need quality control inspectors." Their job: cut bad spots off the apples. The rest would pick up apples from beneath six to eight trees jutting out between two fields, and take as many home with them as they wanted.
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KrAfAPger said he has 30 trees in that particular orchard as well as several in other orchards. He has been working with Americans for several years on a few different projects in the orchards. One of those Americans who has helped on several occasions is Jeff Stone, who works in airfield operations at Wiesbaden Army Airfield.
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"I got involved with this several years ago with the Eagle Scouts," Stone said, while carving bad spots out of some of the apples. "I grew up pretty much as a city kid, so this is always nice being out here."
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Stone and the Scouts realized KrAfAPger's orchard needed some tender care, was in dire need of pruning and weeding that first year, so they rolled up their sleeves and got to work pruning back the branches and weeding around the trees.
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As these and other German-American relationships developed, KrAfAPger, an engineer, soon linked up with Department of Defense Dependents Schools in Wiesbaden to combine his engineering skills with his love of apples. He started taking apples down to various kindergarten and elementary schools to provide the students with a lesson in pressing apples into apple juice.
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"I do this because it's fun," KrAfAPger said, after stretching a large tarp around one of the trees to catch falling apples. On the other side of the tree, Shane Barone, a 102nd Signal Battalion technician, raised a long pole with a hook on the end to a branch high in the tree and began shaking the branch. Apples and leaves peppered the tarp to the cheers of children.
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Some of the children who had showed up at the apple picking event found themselves getting another lesson in apples from KrAfAPger the next day, when he arrived at Aukamm Elementary School with the apples in tow along with two pieces of equipment: a shredder and a presser.
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Lines of students took turns shredding apples, then helping KrAfAPger crank a vice that squeezed every drop of juice from the shredded apples into pots on the ground. Their hard work paid off as they received samples of the juice before heading back to class.
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Reactions appeared mixed, although most eagerly lined back up for a second sample. "A toast," said Hector Rivera, as he walked down the line of students, tapping cups and drinking the sweet nectar. "This juice is good."

Page last updated Wed November 10th, 2010 at 10:22