1Weeping Vine

Making the Cut

Winter has finally relaxed its grip. In the space of seven days we’ve gone from daily downpours to cloudless blue skies, 25 degrees in the shade and over 40 in the sun. I doubt that Mother Nature has finished with her wintry wand but for the time being, I’m delighted to accept her unseasonal gift.

There’s work to do in them thar vineyards.

Grapevine pruning is an ancient skill, mastered over decades and handed down from one generation to the next. Watching from afar, clipping a few withered vines looks easy enough. Up close and personal, it’s a completely different story. Stretching out across the vineyard is a tangled mass of last years fruiting canes. A keen eye and a pair of razor-sharp secateurs are all that separate success from failure. Mistakes at this stage will be costly.

Despite this dilemma, grapevines have a very forgiving nature. No matter how badly a novice wields his shiny new secateurs, the vine will inevitable survive and give the clueless vintner a second bite of the cherry; and a third, and fourth, and…you get the picture.

1Vineyard

This year marks my eleventh attempt at mastering this ancient art. Over time, my apprehension has waned as my skills have improved. What was once a nerve-racking chore has become an exciting challenge. Confidence and competence walk hand in hand from one vine to the next. The result is a well pruned vineyard eager to grow.

Viniculture is not a romantic pastime and vine pruning is not a task for the faint hearted. As I near completion, my body counts the cost. Aching ankles, sore knees, back spasms, heavy arms, tired wrists and stiff shoulders show little outward sign of the ferocious battle but look a little closer and you’ll see the scars: hands covered with blisters, nails broken and bleeding, and dozens of minor flesh wounds. To the victor go the spoils: the vines are left to weep.

1Canabal church

Grapevines were not the only ones to shed a tear this week. On Tuesday the 4th of March, our friend and summer neighbour, Mariano Sánchez Ramírez died. Mariano had been in poor health for some time. At the age of 83, he’d lived a long and fruitful life. He and his wife Isa spent most of the year in Madrid but every Easter they would arrive in Canabal and stay until the end of summer. Such was his love of the village that he chose Canabal as his final resting place.

The service was well attended. Looking around the church, I couldn’t help thinking that over the coming years I might well be attending many more of these solemn services. Given their average age, I very much hope so; but a far wiser man than I, once said, ‘Live every day as if it were your last because one of these days it will be’. That’s one philosophy I intend embracing.

Copyright © 2014 Craig Briggs

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