The vineyard in its overgrown state is happy and healthy. The 2021 season was a Sabbath year for us. With the exception of some trunk training necessary in the Prairie Star block, the majority of the 2 acre vineyard was left unpruned. Grapevines have a way they like to grow but that way is not often favored by man. Untended vines will continually grow from the ends making lots of leaves but little fruit. Vines gone wild may cover the ground or climb a handy tree for support. Pruning keeps the vine growth closer to the trunk, creating more robust canes, and fruit better positioned for harvest cutting. A trellis-trained vine with regular annual pruning is desirable to maintain a predictable growth pattern of fruiting canes.
So why do we have a Sabbath year? After 6 years of focusing hard on producing fruit, the vines need a little break. On the 7th year the unpruned vines create more leaves that enable them to nourish themselves. It’s a refreshing year for the land and the vines. It allows the birds to nest undisturbed in the vineyard. It gives the vine keepers a rest as well.
This year we have the added perspective of dealing with the pandemic as a business and as a society. Perhaps the lockdowns of 2020 were a type of Sabbath rest. Although it was unwelcome – once a person could relax into it – many families enjoyed special times together, playing and eating at home. Pets relished more attention from their people. Some things were left to grow wild, like grass, hair and fingernails. It was a great chance to catch up on some sleep and yes, there was a slight baby boom 9 months later.
Now we are in a transition from our rest to getting back to work. Like pruning in the 8th year, it’s a little more difficult than if we hadn’t taken the break at all. We have to change our strategy and look for the new normal.