First Fruit

On the one hand, spring comes silently, like snow. Bulbs begin to peer over the parapet and buds seem slightly plumper, but there’s no visible growth in the garden, even under glass. The end of winter is played in slow motion.

On the other hand, the birds are going bananas.

February is not many peoples’ favourite month. Maybe I see it differently because it contains my birthday, or maybe it’s because February is, on a good day, the last chance to experience the heart-aching winter light, and to see it more, teased out with the lengthening days.

Friday was the first “Fruity Friday”: from now on, every Friday here at Hawkwood will be devoted to work around fruit. After the flailing, mowing and slashing of bramble to make way for the beginnings of the vineyard, I leant on the scythe and looked out over wooded Yardley Hill, drinking the range of understated hues displayed by naked trees.

The vineyard is in a good spot. It is in “zone 2” of the site, further away from base camp (the tool shed and kitchen) than the vegetables which require more regular attention. Marko, the viticulturalist, reckons that it might even be the warmest spot on the site: it’s more sheltered than most , whilst still being open. He’s noticed that the deer – with whom we hope to strike an entente cordial with regard to which plants they eat – sit just down the slope, in what is to be the “traditional orchard” for late season apples.

These are long-term projects: it’ll be five years before we get a decent crop off either vines or apple trees: they are as twinkles in our eyes. The promise of fruit for this year came in an unpromising brown package at the end of the day: fifty autumn raspberry canes: small, weedy, muddied and snoozing, oblivious to the great expectations placed on them,  the anticipated first fruits of our labours.

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