Tuesday, August 23, 2005

The beginning

2004 was an easy year in the vineyard. We watched the farmer trim the vines, take care of the weeding and spraying, then picking the grapes with a massive machine.
And early in 2005 we sat back and waited for the cheque from the winery. There had been a brief word from the farmer asking if we could find someone else to do his work, but all we agreed was that we'd discuss it further – after all, we had a contract with him.
So in February 2005 when all the neighbouring vineyards had been pruned, weeded and cleared ready for springtime, I went to ask where my farmer was. “We agreed I wouldn't do it anymore”, was his recollection of the conversation – and apparently the contract wasn't binding – so we had a choice: let the vineyard go wild or do the work ourselves. And that's how we became reluctant “viticulteurs”.
Each of the 6,500 vines was a mass of a dozen or so branches half an inch thick, intertwined around the supporting wires. So the first job was to cut all these back, leaving just one branch with eight or so buds and a second stub of a branch which would grow ready for the following years pruning. This was all explained by Francis, our neighbour, inbetween bouts of raucous laughter at the mad English people attempting to become French craftsmen overnight. He was magnificent, though, borrowing a pair of electric shears from a friend and not only showing us how to do it, but actually doing two-thirds of the work, at the expense of his own farm work. It took about six weeks in all to trim the vines, because after making the required cuts you then have to wrench all the branches off the wires, cut the waste into manageable lengths (“sarments”) and bind them together in bundles you can carry (“faggots”). The faggots then got loaded onto the tractor trailer to be stored for use in summer barbecues and winter kindling. We've still got them all in the shed, so bonfire night will be quite an event.


At 10:17 AM, Blogger Suzie said...

Good stuff, Daddo! I particularly liked the bit about the 'bouts of raucous laughter at the mad English people'. The vine info is interesting, but you could also write more about the people, especially with characters like Francis :) Great to speak to you just now, I love you loads and loads and I can't wait to read your blog on my return (there'd better be something for me to read!)
Big hugs, SuzieQ xxx


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