September is the Vendimia month – the month when those people with vines, pick their grapes and hope for a decent harvest.
We helped our neighbour pick theirs last year and we offered to help this year and it was gratefully accepted.
I’ve been in training for this. I workout every other day, with hand and ankle weights and my knees are very well supported by the quadriceps muscles. I’d suffered no painful dislocations or arthritis pain and my biceps and triceps are looking good.
So, yesterday was the day and we awoke at our usual hour, got out of bed and realised that we could hear our neighbour’s tractor being started up, so we looked out of the bedroom window and there, below was our friends’ daughter, waiting for us to get into their car. Panic!
We gulped tea, cleaned teeth, applied deodorant and jumped in the car. Yes, we got dressed as well.
We arrived at their vines, which are known as ‘Cepas’ in Gallego, pronounced ‘thaypas’ and had a few minutes to get our bearings.
The vines are situated about 100 metres above the very large dam, the Embalsar de Pesqueiras and we were surprised to see that there was even less water than in the previous months.
Then we noticed a new tunnel below the dam. This has been recently excavated to install two new electricity-generating turbines, in the hope that the next time the reservoir, well, it’s a canyon really, is full.
I can climb up hills with few problems, but have problems descending steps and hillsides, as I have little depth perception on my right side. This is residual damage left from my last Multiple Sclerosis attack in March 2009.
I have help though, in the hands of my husband, who reminds me ‘right foot first’ at each step.
This is difficult as my right foot can’t really get to a stone without considerable guess work – I can see where it is going, but can’t judge where or how far the object or goal is.
As my right knee doesn’t bend much, then I have to put my right foot down first, so that the left leg can help shift the centre of equilibrium. It’s as hard to describe, as it is to carry out the action.
Having arrived at the bottom of the vineyard, without disasters or heart-stopping wobbles, we began picking, placing the grapes in plastic buckets and transferring them to a large plastic sack to be carried up to the lane later on. Not by us, I hasten to add.
We have pruning cutters to clip off bunches of grapes at the stems. There are three types of grape that are grown – the Mencia, Grenache and a white sherry grape. The bushes are about chest height, with the bunches of grapes varying in size, from enormous, to just a few on each bush. It’s easy to guess how old each grape vine is, as the oldest grape vines have twisted, a knobbly, woody trunk. The soil is sandy and poor, which is perfect for grapes.
By the time we stopped picking, it was 1 pm and the time had flown by. Even more surprising was the amount that was picked – over a metric ton of grapes.
When we stopped last year, I had quite bad cognitive problems and a lot of knee pain. This time, the muscles in my right hip were going into small and uncomfortable spasms, but the knee pain was minor and my cognitive fatigue wasn’t too bad at all.
I felt better than I did the year before, which is a huge gain for me.
We got home, had a quick shower and then waited for lunch, which was, as ever, wonderful. Empanada, steak, tomato and onion salad, lots of wine and then dessert….ice cream and liqueurs (chupitos).
We left at about 4 pm and wandered up the road, stopping as we heard a tractor approaching.
To our horror, it was the gorgeous Aitor and his red tractor pulling our firewood. No resting, snoozing or relaxing for us, oh no. The arrival of firewood means two hours of intensive log throwing, stacking and moaning.
Still, we slept well that night.