The Grapevine, or How We Got Started

The Grapevine, or How We Got Started

The story of this grapevine is actually the story of how the garden got started.

Shaggy grapes grow over a glider
Shaggy grapes grow over a glider

Cool sea breezes blow through the shade of this grape arbor on hot sultry summer days, and it feels like heaven to sit there and watch tomatoes grow fat and red.

Presently, the weeds around the arbor are winning. I am yet to create a floor for my garden space. Most of what is underfoot is landscape fabric or sheets of plastic covered with old straw, now rotted and ironically supporting weeds. I am almost ready to establish a floor, but still, nothing seems right. Crushed shells would be beautiful, but sharp as broken glass. Pea stone is loud to walk on. Grass requires mowing. If I ever do find a flooring, it will be a huge visual upgrade. Meanwhile, I look at the plants and not the weeds. I am only writing about weeds now because they are so prominent in the photos.

The grapes bushing out atop a metal arbor have been in the garden since the beginning. This garden space was created by an odd sequence of events. Because My Master told me I had to, I told one neighbor that I intended to cut down a massive pine tree growing at the foot of my driveway. She asked if I could clear away the scrub oak because she was allergic to oak mold, and the acorns damaged her car. What could I say? And then, a second neighbor objected to me cutting down the pine tree, because she said it hid a transformer, and the street would be ugly without the evergreen camouflage provided by the pine. So I abandoned my plan to remove the huge pine tree, but I felt committed to removing a hundred foot by ten foot boarder of scrub oak.

This objection to removing the giant pine came the day before the landscape company was scheduled to arrive with their big trucks. I sat and thought about my conundrum, promising one neighbor I would cut, and promising a second neighbor I would not cut. This is land that was let go after a hurricane. There was nothing here but scraggy weeds over rocks and stumps. Establishing a lawn at this point would be prohibitively expensive. Lord, light my path. And a light went off. In my mind’s eye, I saw the garden. (Of course, there is a third neighbor we have not mentioned, UM for unmentionable. Oh, Persephone, how you have fun, but UM is a story for another day.)

Anyway, in my mind’s eye, I could see that if the land were leveled, and then covered with mulch from the shredded scrub oak, I could build raised beds, fill them with premium compost, and create a garden for not too much money. Both neighbors would be happy, and my property would be improved. Once the idea began, chasing it became a labor of love.

Back then, my Dad, an armchair expert on gardening, would pull into my yard in his gray truck, set up his lawn chair, and cheer me on. My dog Spot guarded the perimeter. I almost cry with joy when I think of the fun we had in those happy days planning and building.

That was almost ten years ago. The garden has had many revisions. Overall, it has provide me with exercise, entertainment, beauty, nourishment, understanding, and more joy than I could ever say. Even now, I look back at old photos and recall happiness I had forgotten. Thank you Lord for this fabulous play space.

Getting back to the story of that fateful day when the tree company came to take down the giant pine, they leveled the side yard instead. They removed all vegetation, and covered the area with a foot of tree mulch. Not a speck of green was left. But the next day, there was a soft trail of the grape vine, which would not disappear. I kept pulling it out, and it kept growing back. And then I asked myself why I was trying to get rid of a healthy, hearty fruit producer. So I set about to build a wooden arbor to support it.

I bought rough hewn pine 4x4s from R D Williams, and with the help of an electric drill, deck screws, and what I could remember from college Vector Analysis, I built a four legged, eight foot high, four foot wide frame. I added strapping to the top, and a little cross bracing on the sides. It stayed up for a few seasons, and then tipped over in a storm. I asked my carpenter, Lee, to stand it up again, and he fortified it a bit. It finally collapsed beyond repair two winters ago, in a pretty big no-name storm. We had to cut the massive vine to the ground, yet still it grows back. Rebuilding an arbor is on my list, but I have a long list.

Here we are today. In a temporizing move, I set up a metal arbor I bought to put over the fish pond (unsuccessful). Now the vine grows all over this round three legged frame, and grapes are everywhere. I have never seen so many tiny clusters of grapes. The crop will be massive. I am on the look out for recipes.

LL with Grapes in background
LL with Grapes in background
Looking out from Inside the shade of the grape arbor out onto the garden.
Looking out from Inside the shade of the grape arbor out onto the garden.
Tiny clusters of grapes are everywhere
Tiny clusters of grapes are everywhere

Barbie Burr

Barbie Darwin Burr was born in La Jolla, California into a Navy family. Moving every year made gardening difficult, but not impossible for her father, a disciple of Scott and Helen Nearing and a man with a vast ability to imagine and create.

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