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Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Grape Expectations, a Pop, and a Pip of a Kid

When you buy a house, it always comes with extras.
We were lucky.
Along with the usual host of homeowner-nightmare extras,
That Old House also came with antique grape vines.
Summer 2010

Locals, who are even older than I,
say these grapes were growing here when they were mere sprouts themselves.

Summer 2010

Like a lot of things at That Old House,
these grape vines know how to thrive on benign neglect.

No fertilizer, no insecticide, no pruning, no watering.
Tough love, baby.  We don't pamper our plants.
And still, the vines popped out thousands of adorable chubby offspring.
2010, and I spy a couple of nascent raisins in the bottom of this shot.

The grapes are at the end of our driveway, 
where they get every bit of sunshine Mother Nature frisbees our way.

Sunshine is what lets these happy green guys:

turn into these happy purple-y blue guys:

 It prompts these sad looking near-nekkid sticks:
2010. I can tell by the cars in our driveway, and the still-yellow house.

to turn into these lush leaf-covered beauties.

But you already know that.

So what's this post about?


Below, my family - my siblings and their spouses -
harvesting the 2010 crop of grapes on a perfect September day.

My Dad, then 90, was supervising.
And snacking.

Pop was very fond of these grapes.
He'd check on them at least weekly, waiting for them
to reach the stage where he could just pluck them right off the vine,
for a taste he remembered from his childhood.

"I could eat a loaf of bread, and a jar of my Mom's jelly after school,"
he told me.  ". . . but I don't have a sweet tooth."
Sure, Pop, because there's no sugar in jelly!

After I made jam out of the 2010 crop of grapes,
I wondered how my grandmother kept her patience.

My Dad made a valiant effort to eat most of the jelly I made in 2010,
sometimes right out of the jar with a spoon.  But I've still got some 
in the refrigerator in our cellar; we aren't big jelly eaters,
and my best customer passed away in February of 2011.

I have what my Mom called "a heart picture,"
kept in my memories, of my Dad getting out of our car,
and detouring to the sagging trellis to check out the growing grapes.
That memory makes me smile.

But for the next couple of growing seasons, we ignored our grapes.
They made me sad.

We left the harvesting to the birds.

Aggressive foreign vines moved in on the grapes' turf, and by this year
the grapes were very nearly choked out by the weedy vandals.  

I have no pictures of the grape trellis so overgrown with squatter vines;
not something I was proud of.

Clearing out of so many vines seemed impossible.

Enter Anne.  Our designer daughter.
Anne has a love of knowing how stuff works
and a can-do attitude that is very much like her Pop-Pop's.
She likes Scientific American and Popular Mechanics as much as ARTnews and Vogue.

Anne doped out the grape arbor, took the loppers away from her Dad, and set to work.
Below, just one of the piles of vandal vines she cut off at the roots and hauled out of the trellis.

In less than 4 hours, she was done.
Watching her is one of those heart pictures that I'll keep forever.
Because I know that while Anne took this on as a challenge,
she also did it for her Pop-Pop, who loved these vines.

The grapevines have been liberated!

The grapes are almost a month behind in their development,
compared to pictures I found of previous seasons' growth.
They should be well leafed out by now, with nice big green leaves.
They need to put their skates on and get growing!

Everything seems tardy this year:
tulips, forsythia, all the usual harbingers of spring
took their own sweet time to get into the harbinger-ing business.

So that's it for this post - a tale of deep-rooted grapevines that have passed from
family to family as part of the legacy of That Old House,
and a tale of the deep roots of a family,
with its love, with the traits that are passed from generation to generation,
and with the memories that stay rooted in our hearts.

Sunday upcoming is both Mother's Day, and what would have been my Dad's 93rd birthday.
My mother used to take it as a personal affront, and his fault, that his birthday
sometimes fell on Mother's Day.  I still don't know if she was kidding.

-- Cass


  1. This post made me smile and bring a tear to my eyes. My mother was a gardener and I'm preparing her house for sale, tending her gardens, and bringing home plants. Her asparagus is coming to live at my house. Good for Anne, much love there and her own heart pictures she is holding onto. Happy Mother's day!!

  2. What a wonderful post. I am sure your pop pop is smiling down at your daughter for tending to his grapes.
    Good for Anne - she is sure a doer.
    Happy Mothers Day and happy Bday to your pop pop looking down on you! Wonderful memories.

  3. Cass, I really liked this post. It speaks of a lot of things but mostly of love for your dear father and how a good pruning will improve the vine. This grape vine will no doubt take right off now that it's rid of the offending vines blocking it's growth. My late Mother-in-law had a large grapevine that is also so overgrown it's sad. We always say we're going to tear it all apart and build a proper arbour but haven't done that yet. The grapes last fall were small and few to be found. It maybe too late. I'm glad Anne took at the vine. The vine will be pleased. ;) Pamela

  4. This is a wonderful post! Kudos to Anne for working to restore the vines.

    Too, it made me cry. My childhood home was sold in 2009. My parents had done much to get the basic landscaping installed ..climbing roses across the entire back of the property, lilacs both purple and white, snowball and forsythia bushes, and my dad's favorite cannas. Over the years after his death, my mom and sister worked hard on gardens of all variety of flowers to bloom in very season. It was a beautiful yard, admired and photographed by the neighbors. Mom and my sister are gone now, too. A young couple bought the home. I was up in the area a few weeks ago and did a drive by. Then I found a quiet place to park and cry. The new owners have pulled up every bush and flower. The yard is totally naked and wide open to view from all directions (corner lot). I'm told they did that within weeks of moving in. Never saw most of the plants bloom so have no idea of what they've missed. I won't be going back. Thanks to the neighbors behind the house, I have a lovely set of photos of the roses in full bloom, tho none of the mockingbirds who nested there and attacked anyone coming out the back door. :-)

    Shirley Robbins

  5. Loved reading where your mind and heart traveled today. Thanks for inviting me in. Looking GOOD! I shit you not!!! (((hugs))

  6. I read your post and saw a children's book in my head, The Grapevine. You should write it and maybe your daughter could illustrate it. Make up the history of the vine that you don't know. Each family who has lived there and what they loved about the vine. Kids love those stories. Grown ups do too.


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