It’s that time of year again – vendimia! I’ve been expecting and dreading it in equal measure for months now. We have vineyards quite close to our house, and every time we drive past them into town, I’m examining the vines. Are they healthy? Are the grapes abundant and plump with juice? I’m like an overprotective mother, I worry when we have a storm just before the grapes are picked!
We don’t have vines ourselves, but help our friend Manuel pick his crop every year. We do it partly as an exchange for all the help he gives us throughout the year, and partly to participate in this big community event.
But it certainly is not fun! It’s absolutely (and literally) back-breaking work. The vines are low to the ground, so all day we’re bending over, cutting each bunch of ripe grapes with secateurs (the ‘new fangled’ way) or with a knife (traditional way).
The bunches go into plastic crates, which are then are carried by mule to locations where they are stacked to be picked up our local go-to guy for all mechanized farm work around here – Francisco.
This year, the crew is larger than normal, mainly because Manuel likes to give extra people work when the economy is this tough. The crew is: Ildefonso, Raphael, Jesus, Ann, Pedro, Andre, Antonio and Antonio. No, I didn’t repeat myself, there really are 2 Antonios picking this year!
The day begins at 8:30, and we cut grapes until breakfast time (10:00). Manuel provides the food, and we all tuck into bread, cheese, tomatoes, ham and salchichon. I stick to water, but most of the guys also partake in a glass or two of Manuel’s ‘vintage’ from last year.
Half an hour break for breakfast, then back to work. This is when it really starts to get hard! You know you have 4+ hours until lunchtime, and oh man, does that back start to ache!! And it starts to get hot. And you’re thirsty. And the wasps come out. But do I complain? Well, not to the guys, but I certainly am complaining to my own little self!
Around 2pm, Manuel arrives back to cook lunch. Again, he provides all the food, and he cooks it, too. It’s always a one-pan meal, full of carbs, meat and veg to keep hungry workers going throughout the afternoon. Today, it’s cazuela – a mix of vegetables, rice, broth, pork ribs, salt cod, and potatoes.
An hour’s lunch break from 3-4, and we’re back to work. I don’t mind this time of the day. Although it’s hot, and you still ache, there are only 2 hours left until quitting time, and I’m already thinking of that cold beer!