Seasons of the Vineyard - No. 1 - The New Year

The vineyard has been quiet and vacated for the last months. It is the stillness of dying leaves and dormant wood. There is a soft “Aha”, a sigh after a hard, hot, dry year. The cover crop of legumes, barley and rye, planted before the gates creaked closed at end of last year, poke up tiny sprouts that seem so non-existent when close up but from afar are streams of fresh spring green running down the hills between skeletons of gnarled, bark shedding trunks and curly fingers of tendrils holding on to wires that make the winds whistle and hum.

Now begins the beginning. A new year, the chatter of meetings, plans and hopes. No more fitting is the phrase “Man plans, God laughs” than here. We all know it in our hearts. It’s nature, by God, but we still must have a plan. How many spurs and buds to leave? What yields are we striving to produce? What are the economics? What should be pulled and what replanted? “I am the vine and ye are the branches...” flashes before my eyes. It is in the manipulation of the vine, the cutting and taking away, that we produce.

We talk of individual blocks and what specifically is needed. We encourage each other, reminding ourselves that this is a new year. Forget last year and the loss of crop that California felt due to the drought. This year will be different. The rains will come heavy and early, the timing of bud break will be perfect and the sun will be consistent and kind.

We supplement nature. We prune as late a possible, add compost teas and additives for health, secure the trunks and mend the wires and nature rules. We marvel, we joy in expectant bud break, we savor the smell of the earth and the fresh air and laugh with the birds as they thread their flights between the wires. We will watch with anticipation knowing that each year we are given a clean slate, another chance to start over. What grace!