Replenishing

Every season in the vineyard is beautiful. When I wrote this, the vines were losing the last of their leaves. The lanes were lush and green and the caramel-coloured canes awaited pruning. Autumn and winter is a time of relative inactivity. There is no need to spray and in the weeks left before pruning all that needs to be done is mowing and weeding. We walk the dogs through the vines every evening with a glass of wine, admiring the added sturdiness of the vines after another year. The Olive trees at the south end of the block are starting to look like trees and we make renewed promises to look after them better. They need almost as much care as the vines.

Also, in the winter, we look for spaces to plant more trees. When we put the vines in we had to remove many trees that we had planted and so painstakingly nurtured. Now we look for spaces to compensate. We have planted another twenty-five yellowwoods this year and are starting to plant shrubs for colour. We are penetrating the thickets in the south-east corner of the farm to get at the remaining wattles and soon we will have to go down into the gorge to take down the scrub pines that are infiltrating the indigenous forest. We have bought a new, smaller chainsaw for this: to descend the gorge, and come back up again with a chainsaw in hand is difficult. A big saw makes it almost impossible.

The forest here varies greatly. In the shelter of the gorge, on the banks of the Buffels river, the trees are huge. On the north-facing slopes the vegetation is thin, scraggly fynbos, and on the lip of the gorge is a tight tangle of thorny bush and scrub. As we clean we are planting trees that, freed from the frantic competition of a natural landscape, thrive and create a garden or park-like feel. The effect is a higher, lusher canopy with grassy spaces between. We’ve also made an effort to plant some deciduous trees that mark the seasons. The white stinkwoods, nuxia floribunda, wild mullberrys, and erythrinas make a great show. And although not everyone is of the same mind on the subject, we have planted some alien trees as well – oaks, a couple of tipuanas, and of course the fruit and nut trees.