The story below is an excerpt from our March/April 2016 issue. For the rest of this story and more like it subscribe today, log in to read our digital edition or download our FREE iOS app. Thank you!
"The fair-weather gardener, who will do nothing except when the wind and weather and everything else are favorable, is never master of his [her] craft." - Henry Ellacombe
I am looking forward to the end of winter. My favorite sign of the beginning of spring is the sound of peepers singing from puddles. I also love to listen to the robins as they wing in from the south. They have a variety of calls: the peek and tut of an agitated female, the “wake up birdy, wake up, wake up birdy, birdy” of a happy one, and the shrill chirp of a lusty male claiming territory as he announces that spring is finally here. He’ll be wrong, of course. The weather is always fickle at this time of year, but those early robins remind me that I had better get the grape vines trimmed before it’s too late.
I learned to do this from my neighbor Rudolph. He grew up in a hollow across from our house. He used to call me in early September, when the grapes were hanging heavy on the vine and invite my family to share in his mother’s bountiful harvest. Her vines were always loaded with more grapes than she could use because Rudolph was so careful in the trimming of them.
While we picked, Cliffie, who was by that time legally blind, would sit on her porch in the afternoon sun and entertain my two toddlers by barking like a dog. Even though she could only see shadows, she always insisted on coming down the steps to help with the last of the picking. The grape juice from her vines always seemed sweeter because of her happy laugh.