Monday, February 6, 2012

Vine pruning

We have decided to prune our hectare ( 2 ½ acres) of Sauvignon Blanc vines ourselves , after having a British couple tutor us on the finer points, they left and we started, well to date we have one third done after three days. There are six rows, running east to west or vice versa if you want. Each row is about 900 feet long, or the equivalent of walking down the side line of a football field, crossing the end zone, then back up the other side of the football field, then across the end zone, completing the perimeter of the entire football field. But it is all one length, and it’s more of a sideways shuffle. This morning after suiting up with the obligatory three layers of clothing, coveralls, jacket, and then an outer jacket, I made my way through the snow flurries the 300 meters away and started cutting. I continued; with each new vine you present yourself to it and stare at the structure, identify the two young growths that will carry next year’s crop and two other shoots that will be the reserves. It seems to me each dormant vine is unlike another, they all present their own set of attributes; there is a focus that is required for each pruning. Yesterday after six hours in the cold, solving each vine, it started to flow nicely. To start, after cutting the twenty or so shoots that will not be required shoots, and trimming off dead growths from the previous year, you cut the two winners at the sixth bud, and the two reservists at two buds. Then you shuffle sideways four or five feet and you present yourself to the next vine. This being my third day, I walked up the second row of six, as it was almost completed, and looked down the row to see how much more there was. After a half an hour I looked down the row again; and it seemed longer, hmmm. After another half an hour I looked down the row and it again seemed longer.
One of my favorite stand-up comedians is Stephen Wright, his irreverent humor cracks me up, I thought of one of his lines while I was looking at the vines.
“I’m not afraid of heights, I’m afraid of widths.”
I was out in the rows, not believing how they kept elongating with a weird foreshortening and then hypnotically stretching out. It was like Jimmy Stewart and Kim Novak in Vertigo, Jimmy’s character is chasing a suspect across a roofline along with his partner, the partner slips and while hanging on Jimmy Stewart’s character kneels down to help save him, he loses focus and the height extends and shutters visually, he gets freaked. Well I got to tell you that row of vines was rough, so I kept chipping away, and finally made it to the end of the second row. Packed up the tools, and like Quasimodo as the hunchback of Petit Clos, I meandered home.
Then the snow hit, so we are of vine duty and returning into the house to start punchlisting the semi-completed rooms. Cheers all, hank

Sunday, February 5, 2012

cutting edge

As soon as I put the razor in my mouth I knew I had made a really, really stupid mistake.
Two hours earlier; Cindy and I had awoken to a nice snow storm swirling outside our windows. The prairies and vineyards were blanketed with two inches of powdery white snow. We had moved upstairs to one of the two completed rooms, they had efficient wall mounted electrical heaters. I’m not sure why we had been living in Ice Station Zebra for the previous few months, but we were warm finally. Cindy braved the arctic corridor that connected the upstairs bedroom to the downstairs wing of the house that housed the kitchen and living room. After feeding the domestic animals, she brewed up some piping hot coffee and returned to the warm bedroom. After slowly waking and admiring the view outside I dressed, finished the coffee and got ready to start the day. We had targeted the southwest for its mild temperate weather, with that warm thought I made my way to the cold kitchen and got to work on starting a fire in the fireplace. With the fire starting to take the chill off, I made my way to the Living room and started a small fire in the cast iron stove. “Isn’t this romantic?” Was the last thing on my mind, being low on firewood required me to make the trek through the winter wonderland, to the barn furthest from the house and load up the wheelbarrow. Getting that required task done I went to the kitchen sink and tested the faucet, fearing the waterlines may have frozen. In baseball batting .500 is unheard of; to have the cold water running but not the warm water running would be .500 but could be catastrophic. And that’s what it was, so I went through the house testing the faucets. The good news was the existing copper lines that served the old bathroom worked, the bad news was the new plastic lines serving the hot water to the new bathroom and the new kitchen had a frozen block it them somewhere. The ugly news was that there was a hint of septic odor in the first floor. There were a couple lines that had not been insulated so they would need to be checked, and then wrapped with some excess foam insulation for piping. The foam insulation look like the swimming pool noodles except they are hollow, and need to be sliced so that they can be slipped over the water lines. First things first, off I go to the wine chai where the septic holding tank is located. I open the wooden barn door to allow light in to the septic area, and promptly plug in the orange extension cord and listen for the pump, nothing. I open the lid to the holding tank and with a stick, stir it up to ensure the pump isn’t lodged in frozen, well let’s just say frozen. Nope it’s O.K., so I walk back to the plug and as I’m looking at it like a third grader trying to solve E=Mc2, it dawns on me. The extension cord is for the chop saw I had been using it to cut baseboard for the nearly completed hallway (Arctic Corridor), the black cord on the ground was for the pump, righting that wrong I plugged it in and was relieved to hear the whirring sound of something semi-liquid being pumped. The drawback to this chore is that it being an older system there is unfortunately an aromatic blowback that permeates the first floor for about an hour. With the septic being done I unplugged the pump and headed over to the workshop in the big un-insulated barn. I gather up the three lengths of the pipe insulation and search for the utility knife that I will need to slice the pipe insulation. Ah not to worry, there is a package of brand new blades, so I manage to slide one free from the stack of blades and slide it out of the holder. O.K., now to go to the annex and insulate the water lines, as I’m reaching back to close the door, I don’t have a free hand so I instinctively place the new razor blade between my lips.
As I feel the cold metal touch my lips it dawns on me how fucking cold the metal feels, not tastes, feels. Just as I’m clasping the razor with my lips I realize that the razor and my skin are fused as one, cold welded as it were. I literally stop in me tracks, having closed the door behind me during the whole 2 second escapade. I look off to where a camera should be filming me for Americas Stupidest Videos and glare. I think well just heat it up and it will detach. I again without thinking, start to lick the inside of the razor in my mouth, FUTCH, I mentioned it was a new razor right?, well the inside has sharp edges as well, CHRESST, I cut my frozen tongue. So I march into the house, did I mention we had no hot water in the kitchen, so after a couple minutes of running the sink, I make my way to the first floor bathroom. There the water is slightly cooler than lava, after botching the initial razor removal; I managed to retract it from my lips.
Now off to the wine chai to insulate the frozen water lines, passing Cindy in the hall, I think she gleefully said how beautiful it looked outside. Only smelling the septic reflected my attitude at that particular moment.