Feeling the ghosts of grapes gone by…
Our 300 year old house is surrounded by land that used to be a vineyard.
It was probably deeply loved by Italians who knew the land well.
I love that sometimes I can feel these people here…
When we purchased the place, there was evidence of this vineyard past everywhere. When we were clearing the land, we exposed terraces hidden under the jungle. We also found old grapevines that had continued to grow long after they’d been abandoned. Every year for many years, these vines had faithfully sprouted canes, which flailed as they tried to reach for a wire that no longer existed. The canes had no choice but to rest on the ground, where they took root again…and again…and again.
Our property was such a mess of ‘baby’ vines that we couldn’t find the originals!
We also found rusty bottle-washing gadgets, an old grape crushing tool and many bulbous green bottles adorned in fragile cane coverings.
Like many Italians, the previous owners also maintained an orto (vegetable garden). Around the shed we have found rusty ends of once oft-used gardening tools. An ancient holey wheelbarrow now sits in the giardino (flower garden) and carries bright pink flowers rather than firewood.
Every year a wayward crop of asparagus reaches out of a corner in one of our paddocks, along with a pumpkin vine!
I love that I am forever reminded of the property’s history…and its previous owners.
Locals who know the history of the property have told us that the steep hillsides immediately around the house used to be covered with grapevines that stood in neat green rows along the terraces. They have also told us that times were hard. Once, during a particularly hot dry summer, the farmer had carried loads of water on his back to the vines just to ensure that his precious plants survived the season.
Sometimes, when I’m working outside I can feel the farmer’s presence. I imagine him waking early in summer (perhaps to the sound of a rooster), donning his old brown stained work clothes (perhaps stiff from the previous day’s sweat), gathering several heavy tools from the shed to balance over his shoulder. I can see him setting off across the creek then taking a deep breath before he starts the uphill trudge to the vines. I imagine him staying there for hours in the heat, only returning home for siesta.
He would go to sleep that night with sore ankles and feet from the constant fight to maintain his balance on the steeply sloping hillsides.
Sometimes, after an afternoon spent on the terraces the previous day, I wake in the morning and sit on the edge of the bed for several long minutes struggling to flex my own ankles and feet.
I love that sometimes I can feel the pain of these people…it brings me closer to them…