The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.We are looking at a bumper crop of muscadine grapes this year. Every bit of literature you will ever find on the wild grape of Texas will tell you that they do not bunch – the fruit hang singly, not in clusters. Well, judge for yourself from the photo evidence; these may not be traditional clusters like you will see from table grapes or champagne grapes… but that, my friends, is a boatload of “singly” hanging grapes.
These grapes are on a trellis on our back porch; they come from a vine which volunteered from a huge cluster of vines in the part of our yard we have historically referred to as “The Faerie Ring”, though it is now known as “The Bee Yard” (more on bees in a future installment, we promise!)
For the first three years in which we got serious about the business of growing grapes, our harvests have consisted of a few fistfuls of fruit – delicious, to be sure, but not particularly prodigious. We blamed drought and birds, but the truth was something far more mundane – impatience. We simply hadn’t allowed for the necessity of the two key ingredients to a long-term project: the amount of utterly mind-numbing maintenance necessary for success, and the passing of time.
We have not trained our vines the way vintners do; rather than limiting ourselves to two branches on a T-shaped vine with a limited height, we have “limited” ourselves to a more fantastical assortment of four or five branches, some of which go overhead to form a living roof over our pseudo-porch. Instead of the wooden deck we had originally envisioned, we have opted for a living, breathing space where wooden benches define the area as “useful”, but green grass at our feet, and wild tangles of grapes above our heads and all around us serve as walls.
Meanwhile, this is the fourth year in which we’ve been scratching and clawing to get a grape harvest. And it looks like the first time we will be able to brag about having done so. This leads to our favorite pastime – self-reflection. Philosophical navel-lint-picking would be another way to describe it. However one chooses to characterize our musings, though, this whole journey-of-a-thousand-grapes-starting-with-a-single-vine thing is right up our alley.
There are all sorts of other projects at Big Myrtle’s place which either have taken a long time to come to fruition, or are taking a long time. Our rainwater collection pond took three years to reach its current depth of 8 feet; our second such pond will probably take two more years to get there.
We have been building our privacy fencing in piecemeal fashion, and it will be six more months before we are done. Our raised bed vegetable garden is only about half installed, with ten beds at present; we will probably take another year to get the rest put in. Our pomegranates may produce fruit this year; our olives might produce fruit in another year or two. We are going to plant a good 15-20 more fruit trees (plums, apricots, almonds, huckleberries), all of which will take a good 2-3 years minimum to start giving us a return on our investment.
Successes are welcome; mistakes? They are nothing more than another squashed grape in the must. And you can’t make muscadine pie without squashing a lot of grapes. Whatever mistakes we make with the bees will fall into the same category as all the mistakes we have made with the grapes… the veggies… the herbs… the chickens… And we will keep right on keeping on, because we can’t think of anything else we’d rather be doing.