Thursday, April 14, 2011
In the Vineyard Women Are From Mars, Men Are From Heranus
Chemical Ali is alive and well and living in our vineyard, spraying anything green between the rows of vines with Round-Up. In the words of naturalist Barabra Kingsolver, author of Vegetable, Mineral, Miracle, "The more we use pesticides, the more pests have appeared." I subscribe to the principles of the sustainable vineyard, which suggests planting a cover crop to control erosion and naturally replenish the soil. Although the barley seeds I sowed in December's rains failed to take root, I've been nurturing nice weeds such as mustard plants and dandelions but as soon as the dreaded foxtail appears, which is a mortal threat to Bluey the Australian shepherd who swaggers through the vineyard as if he were the Lion King, the Queen dons her backpack sprayer, mask, and gloves, and mixes a few ounces of Round-Up concentrate and heads off to the weeds. "If we didn't have Bluey I wouldn't spray," she says. "The foxtail problem is all your fault. You don't pull out the weeds and you don't check Bluey's paws everyday," she complains. The foxtail is like an arrowhead that can't be pulled out once it enters the skin. It works its way through muscle piercing the lungs and has been known to enter the ear and cut through to the brain causing death. "There's a green patch over there between rows 1 and 2 and in front of row 1 without weeds, so please don't spray there, OK?" I gently suggest. "That green space is good for the vines." And I reminder her, "Please don't spray over there by the fence, because that's where we're going to plant the garden." We're planning to grow our own vegetables and eat better and live a greener, healthier life. She heads off to do her work in her vineyard and I go inside to make some calls and make some sales because there's work to be done in the daytime job to pay for all of the joys of weekend vineyarding. Ninety minutes later I take a break and go outside for a moment to soak up some sunshine and inhale some fresh air and there she is, a descendant of Chemical Ali, spraying the weedy cover crop I asked her to leave in peace. "What are you doing?" And with those are fighting words she rips of her mask and tosses the cap off her head and throws the $219 sprayer to the ground all in a huff and informs me that I never do anything and that she's the one who does everything and that I can go and pull all the weeds out myself. (Fortunately, her English is not good enough to instruct me to perform anatomically impossible and perverse acts with the sprayer nozzle although her tone of voice would indicate a desire to learn such vocabulary to unleash on her useless spouse.) "Calm down. There are no weeds in that area. I told you, I'll knock down those weeds myself with a shovel. Why are you spraying?" "There could be a snake on the ground. I want to be able to see it." "Look, the perfect camouflage for a rattler is the clay earth. It blends right in. But a snake in the short grass will stand out." Do you sometimes think women are from Mars and men are from Heranus? Are we just asses in our wives' vineyards? For the sake of Bluey, for the sake of not stepping on snakes, for the sake of maintaining matrimonial bliss, sustainability can wait. After all, the journey to a sustainable vineyard is a process.