Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Grapes, grapes, where are the grapes?

My family likes all fruit and we eat a lot of jelly, but Andy's all time favorite jelly is grape. I haven't really had a good crop of grapes in several years. I live in the suburbs and the grapes were planted before I lived here. Two different grapes grow (concord and red swanson) and both are on fences shared with neighbors.

On the side with the concord grapes, the neighbors put in a retaining wall a few years ago - they only had rocks on it and didn't care if the grapes grew down because they provided a great privacy screen - they only complained if they grew too long and went all the way down into their yard. Then 3 years ago they started planting veggies there and I had to trim the grapes way back several times a year to keep them out of their veggies. The pruning during the growing season pretty much destroyed any chance of getting any grapes on them. Then another neighbor told me that I wasn't pruning them back far enough in the winter and if I prune them back much much further then they won't grow down in the neighbor's yard and I would get some grapes. So I did that this year - didn't work - grapes got off to a late start, but I was still pruing them away from the neighbor's tomatoes. And while it did set a few grapes, they were set so late they are still green now while they should be purple. There will be no concord grapes this year. And I think it might be time to cut the grapes down totally. They are more maintenance than they are worth if I'm not going to get any grapes from them.

On the other fence shared with different neighbors are the Red Swanson - a sweeter eating grape (but it still has seeds, I don't know of a seedless variety that grows this far north). The first couple of years that I lived here the vines were still too young to produce much. Once they started producing, Andy and the little boy that lived in that house were big enough to discover them. The boys ate them as they ripened and I have rarely been able to get enough for a batch of grape jelly. I finally got Andy trained to leave them alone so we could make jelly, but the neighbor boy kept picking them green and using them as weapons. For that reason and countless others, I was not all that sad when they put their house up for sale. Andy was very sad to lose a friend so close in age, but I was secretly very glad to see them go. So this year we have new neighbors. Neighbors without any children. And the grapes were looking beautiful. They started ripening and I was watching them thinking about grape jelly. Then one day - I noticed that about half of the grapes were missing. They were missing from both sides of the fence - if they just disappeared from the one side I would think the neighbors picked the ones that fell on their side of the fence (which would be fair), but they were gone from both sides. I questioned Andy - he had not picked any. Perplexed, I started checking the grapes daily - planning to harvest them all the minute they were ripe. One day about two weeks ago I told Dan, I'm picking grapes tomorrow - I'm going to make some grape jelly. The next day when I went to pick grapes they were all gone! Where did they go? Dan thinks I should ask the neighbors, but I don't know them at all and I think that would be a weird way to open a conversation. They don't appear to be the gardening types at all - don't have anything planted - flowers or veggies - and these are seeded grapes - I just can't see someone taking them all unless they are going to cook with them. So, I'm wondering if squirrels eat grapes. That some sort of animal got them makes more sense. I have also seen raccoons in the yard from time to time (we are not very far from the Mississippi River and they come up from the river) - perhaps they took them. So, another grapeless year.

But this tale does have a happy ending. I went to my brother's house in Wisconsin this past weekend and his grapes (which my father planted years and years ago) were loaded. He is too busy with his new restuarant to do much canning this year. So I picked enough to make two batches of jelly and still left plenty for him or for any other siblings who might be wanting some grapes (I know at least two of my other brothers also raid his grapes). And I made my grape jelly.

Now, I just have to decide if I want to move the grapes and try and grow them on an arbor totally within my yard (where would I have room) or just dig them up and cut them down. Grapes don't really make for good neighbors when they are on shared fences (the fence is ours - neither of the neighbors have a fenced yard, but the grapes still grow over into their yards) - maybe grapes aren't meant to be grown in the suburbs. I don't really have a long enough section of fence on the two sides that I don't share with neighbors to move the grapes to.

Decisions to ponder over the winter......

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

hey i know my answer is a little late! but yes, squirrels enjoy grapes alot! :) i'm watching one from my window now, i shared my grapes with him, also in summer it's hard to keep him from clearing the whole vine :( good luck defending your crop next time