We have a grape vine – it came with the house. 17 years ago when we moved in we were told it was about 100 years old, which means that it would now be about 120. The greenhouse in which it grows it nowhere near that old, so somehow it survived the destruction of the original greenhouse. Last year was our – or its – best year for grapes. Perhaps it finally had enough rain, in which case I don’t mind if it doesn’t do so well this year. Or maybe it was because in the previous year we had felled a couple of trees nearby so that it gets more light, as well as all the water that they would have soaked up.
We prune it twice a year, once at new year, and once in the summer. It probably needs done at other, different times, but this seems to work. The new year pruning feels drastic and harsh. Often I do it on during the brief afternoon light. Sometimes I listen to a play on the radio or on CD.
The summer pruning is more urgent. The long soft branches swoop down in to the greenhouse and start to impede one’s progress. The flowers are setting in to tiny grapelets. There is so much lush greenness that the green house becomes that – a green house. Pruning it feel like a ritual, something that folk have done for centuries, millennia probably, although not under glass in this damp dreich place with so little light and warmth for so much of the time. Cutting away up to half the growth of this year feels cruel, but as the branches fall to the floor, the shape of the vine becomes clear, like a piece of sculpture being revealed from a lump of stone.The tiny bunches that will be grapes seem to grow as we prune, accentuated against the dapples and sky.
The next time we climb the ladder will be to pick the grapes.