By February I was tired of talking about pruning, so at the end of the month, on a relatively warm Friday morning, we hit the vineyard along with our friend Carlos who was more experienced than we were with pruning grape vines. This year, because the vines are in their third year, we were able to leave two budded spurs, that will aid the canes in heading up the trellis.
We thought we had plenty of pruning shears, but when we hauled out our stash we realized that while Jed and I each had a good Felco pruner, all the others were basically junk. We had learned the hard way during the whole planting process that crummy equipment can really slow you down. So Jed headed off to a nearby farm supply store to remedy the situation.
I consider myself a reasonably experienced pruner of vines by now, but I am careful and take my time, particularly if I’m dealing with a single trunk and want to start a second one. I study, and I step back, I count buds, and I weigh my options. For Carlos, the whole process is very intuitive, and he zips along, doing two rows for every one of mine. Jed returned with more pruners and joined the crew, quickly becoming as fast, but not as good, as Carlos.
Each time we repeat a task in the vineyard we find some small improvement in the way to do things. This time, our friend Bob Cassidy, (founder of Salem Oak Vineyard & Winery) made the suggestion that speeded things up. “Toss all your clippings into piles as you go. That way you’ll have fewer stops when you go to clear out all your clippings.” We were two rows in before he stopped by, and we felt a little foolish that we hadn’t just figured that one out on our own. But at least we got with the program for the bulk of the vine pruning.
It took us just three days to finish the winter pruning. Carlos brought his brother on Sunday, to help with tying up loose cordon vines. Of course, no project can go from start to finish without Jed and I disagreeing over something. This time, Jed had brought home a box of small white twist ties from the office.
Jed: Look at what I found in the basement at the office! We can use them up in tying up the cordon vines.
Pam: They’re too short, and they’re made of paper so they’re not suitable for use outdoors.
Jed: Oh you worry too much. They’ll work just fine.
Pam: Jed, we have two perfectly good gizmos for tying up vines, and we have rolls of the tape made specifically for this task.
Jed: Yeah, but I want to use up these twist thingies and I can’t think of anything at the office.
Pam: Well, I have my belt with the pruners and the ties we bought all ready to go.
Jed: That’s fine. I’ll just give these extras to Carlos and his brother. It works out great.
So by the end of the day Sunday, all was pruned, and little white twists had replaced many of the nearly invisible green or brown twist ties imported from France. (My sense of aesthetics was offended, but I knew that it would not be long before I would surreptitiously be replacing them.) We had enjoyed this first chance to be back in the vineyard. and were feeling ready for spring. All that was left was to gather all the clippings up.
Monday it snowed, reminding me at least that we were doing this winter pruning in the middle of winter. But the snow was gone by the following weekend, so Jed drove the pick-up out to the vineyard, and Becca and I walked behind tossing the clippings into the truck. It didn’t take long before the truck bed was overflowing, so Jed drove to the back of the barn with Becca and I riding on the tailgate to help unload.
Jed: Where should we drop these? There will be at least four more loads, so there will be quite a pile.
Me: Should we save some of them for wreaths?
Becca: Let’s have a bonfire?
Jed: I’m not making wreaths. I think we should just burn them.
Becca: Bonfire! Bonfire! Bonfire!
Bonfire it was. We hauled out the cut vines to a place away from the barn, and away from the woods. After four more trips, we had a pile of clippings that was pretty impressive. Becca and I were happy it was done, and Becca thought that burning the fire during a LARP (Live Action Role Playing) even that was scheduled in a few weeks would be the perfect time to burn the vines. We all agreed.
Here are some pix of the LARPers and the bonfire. Pretty good fire. Pretty good ending to the story.