When the mandarins on my tree in Melbourne turn sweet and golden I know it is time to start pruning.
What relevance does this have to grape vines? Well, for all the years as I have worked alongside Laurie who has pruned our vines for 36 years I have brought him 5 perfectly ripe mandarins which he has carefully rationed for each day of the working week and enjoyed after his ham and cheese sandwich on his favorite ‘Country Split’ bread accompanied by a Light Ice. Laurie is the best sort of worker to have at a vineyard – he does not drink wine! This year Laurie’s health has, much to his frustration, prevented him from doing the work at which he is so skilled and that he has loved for such a long time.
In the past cold days and freezing winds have just been part of the vineyard year for Laurie as, with the eye of an artist, he selects the canes to lay down for fruit in the season to come and those to ‘spur’ for next year’s canes. This year the cold weather is proving too much of a challenge for him. Recognized as an expert throughout the region our old friend has pruned at many vineyard including Jasper Hill and Mt Ida but has retained a special place in his heart for his vineyard, She-Oak Hill.
Each day in my garden as I walk past the golden fruit on the mandarin tree I think about the enduring impact Laurie has made on my life, the support he has generously offered to our vineyard, the pride he has taken in his work over the years and I share his sense of despair that, at the age of 84, he may need to start taking things a little more easily.