Vineyard maintenance

Yesterday was too nice a spring day to sit in front of this computer, I thought. I put on sunscreen, a long-sleeved shirt, my muck boots, gloves, found the Felcos and then tromped outside.

Normally, I trim the vines during a January thaw. There was none this year, nor one in February, either; with this warm weather, I knew I had little time to get out there and get trimming before the leaves arrived. We have 44 vines. They’re old. REALLY old, at least as far as American grapes go: they’re almost as old as the house (80+ years). They’re slipskins, meaning the skins slip right off the pulp when they’re ripe. They’re sweet, too: concords, whites.

Trimming is something of an art. I am no vineyard artist, though. I pull, I attack, I cite a mantra (“No mercy no mercy no mercy”); I stand back, appraise, start again. It’s not tough work. It’s confusing at first, but like most things, you get a good groove going.

I listen to the migrating cranes trilling overhead. I step around my scratching, pecking chickens (whom I have released and whom, I assume, enjoy my company) as they follow me from row to row. I scan the skies, looking for the golden eagle I saw earlier (from inside the house: I ran to the back yard to verify if the chickens were safely in their coop, and they were). I can hear the first of the peepers, and also hear other frogs looking for love. I think, this is so much better than working.

And I also think about how what I am doing ties me to all who have gone before me. The vines were cared for by someone else before me. The vines came from other vines, a long time ago. Viniculture IS culture, one of the oldest ones we practice. And it feels good. Snip, SNIP.

7 responses to “Vineyard maintenance

  1. Where in SW MI are you from? I’m from Berrien County, now living in Mobile Alabama. My brother grows grapes and works for a winery. Just wondering.

  2. I agree, pruning grapes can be confusing. You just have to get started and go for it. I have just TWO vines, but you’ve reminded me I’ve got to get too them soon, or it will be too late!

  3. Crunchy Chicken

    That’s so cool. What do you do with your grapes? Can you make wine from them? Or are they just good for eatin’?

  4. Hi Jules. The closest town to us is Riverside. Otherwise, we’re about 10 miles north of Benton Harbor. What winery does your brother work for? Winery-hopping is a hobby of mine…

    Carol: get busy! That 80* day didn’t help you!

    CC: We make jam and juice out of them. We could make a really sweet wine from them, too, I suppose!

  5. I envy you your vines. I planted two when we first moved here but I think they succumbed to the overzealous lawn guy that I’m married to. I should think about planting some more. I just love the look of them. Is it true that you should bury an old leather shoe with them when you plant them? Something about the decomposing leather that grapes like I recall.

  6. I like the poetry in this entry … you and the cranes doing what each species is supposed to do.

  7. farmer, vet and feeder of all animals

    Hey El:
    I must have missed this post. Lucky you with all the vines. Though I really don’t envy the trimming. Do you do wreaths with the leftovers or just compost them?
    We had a lot of scuppernong/muscadine here when we came but he planted all of them within feet of the fruit trees and house (?!?!?) so we had to take most of them out. Nothing like a fresh grape—or muscadine in my case. Yummy.

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