It’s Chardonnay Eve. The crew has been briefed. The winery is ready to receive grapes. Stacks of picking buckets wait expectantly at the head of the vineyard. Two trailers decked out in sky blue omni-bins are parked strategically alongside the blocks. Preparing the nets is all that remains.
I walk each row with arms outstretched above my head, lifting the nets clear. Leaves pop off with a satisfying tear as the net rises up from my fingertips like a trampoline. The leaves bounce for joy. Sporadic shoots have grown through and I snip them off from below with my secaturs. They must be freed from the net or risk tearing the nets. Occasionally I do find gashes, presumably from birds and I pause to repair them. This stitch in time will save nine when we net next year.
The leaves are wet from today’s lovely downpour, but the grapes are dry. My skin is coated in fine bits of comforting, relief-giving wet. The water is both blessing and benediction. I dig into the earth noting the rain has barely penetrated the mulch. The grapes have had a shower but will not be absorbing any water. The situation couldn’t be better. We will be able to pick these perfectly ripe and clean grapes at a cool temperature. If all goes to plan, we should be finished by mid morning before the day heats up.
The sun slips beyond the ridge when I begin to free the nets from the wires. I’ve waited till the last minute for this last task as I don’t want to encourage any birds to come snacking with harvest mere hours away. I can hear silvereyes and a honeyeater and a wattlebird somewhere in the surrounding trees. And as dusk falls, the vineyard is ringed by a large flock of white tailed black cockatoos They racket away in the marris. I can hear honky nuts dropping to the ground as they feed and squawk.
I pull the nets free of the wires and begin to roll up the inter-wires. The trick is to go with the coil and to get a good grip with each turn. In a flash of tired insight I decide that there should be a Farm Olympics and re-coiling wire should be an Olympic event. Coiling black pvc irrigation pipe will be one as well. These tasks take terrific skill to do properly and greater skill to do quickly.
I have little of such skill. Each task takes me a comparative while, but I perform each one properly. If I cut a corner now it will take me longer to fix it later. Doing it correctly the first time round is always my aim.
By the time I’ve finished, the light is fading into iridium and a very full moon has floated up, with Jupiter as companion. There’s nothing more to do. We are ready for harvest.