Looking back. Photo by my Mom.
A question I am sometimes asked is: Do you miss the vineyard? The answer is often the same: I don't look back. (One exception is when I am going through the blog archives, and come across a lively story like today's....)
le sanglier (sahn glee ay)
: boar, wild pig
A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE... by Kristin Espinasse
I was surfing online, looking for information on how to discourage wild boars from gobbling up our grapes, when I stumbled into a forum at aujardin.org wherein a poor soul, one with the same dilemma as my winemaking husband's, wrote:
Ici les sangliers font de véritables carnages dans les vignes : ils reconnaissent les meilleures grappes et nous les dévorent juste avant qu'on les vendange (d'ailleurs, ils ont même la délicatesse de ne manger que les grains puisqu'on retrouve les rafles de la grappe encore accrochées à la vigne) !
Here, wild boars make a veritable carnage in the vines: they recognize the best grapes and devour them right before the harvest (what's more, they have the finicky tendency to eat only the fruit, given that we find only the grape stems left on the vine)!
Jean-Marc would sympathize with this downhearted farmer--given that we spent a part of Saturday morning out in the field, among the vine rows of ripe grapes, testing a solution to The Gobbling Boar problem.
"Mais, regarde ça!" Jean-Marc pointed to the grape clusters, which were still intact--yet missing several bites full of fruit. Putain de merde! Ils mangent que les meilleurs!
Seeing the butchered fruit, Chief Grape was hopping mad, and his vengeance would come soon enough, only, in an animal-friendly way....
ACME Transitor Radio Repellant
(would Wile E. Coyote approve?)
Jean-Marc reaches into a bag that he's been carrying and produces what looks to be like talkie-walkies, but, to my dismay (for it might have been fun to shout "Over and out!" in French--not that I know the translation) turn out to be transistor radios.
"Marche par là," my husband instructs, and I walk south, passing one, two, three... seven, eight, nine vine rows. My job is to march until I can no longer hear the sounds issuing from the transistor radio that Jean-Marc is holding.
As I advance, I occasionally become distracted--for the nearby garrigue (from which all the wild pigs issue) is draped in bright red berries! There are little white flowers which set off the tiny crimson balls and I'm about to reach for a bouquet of flower-berries when my husband shouts:
"Tu entends toujours?"
"Oui, oui.... j'entends! Oui, oui, je t'assure!"
As I walk on, I fall into further distractions, wondering, this time, which radio station we are listening to? What if the current program (some sort of noisy political debate) ends... and the next program contains classical music? Wouldn't, then, Jean-Marc's experiment backfire? I pictured the wild boars arriving en masse, lulled forward by Mozart and the inspiring symphony in the vines....to some sort of sanglier Shangri-la, where they would "find the light"... and a bounty of grapes to boot!
Never mind. It isn't my job to question Chief Grape; my duty is to go along with his latest inspiration or invention: this one being The Wild Boar Buster (after the Dust Buster, which was invented by some other lucky duck, else why would we be trying to scrape together a living on a boar friendly fruit farm?!)
When I can no longer hear the static voices on the radio, I stop in my tracks, turn back, and flap my arms suggestively, or in a way that suggests that even a boar could hear no more. I watch as Chief Grape sets down one of the cheap transistor radios--just beside the gnarled and woody base of a very old grenache vine. Voilà, repellent number 1 is en place. Our mission continues in much the same way, I, advancing in spite of distractions (this time I just had to reach for une poignée of romarin... and it was too tempting not to bend down and study an impressive ant colony).... each time Chief calling me back to the present étude with "T'entends? Est-ce que t'entends?"
"Oui, oui... je t'assure. J'entends!"
As I walk on I wonder about rain, about wind, about any number of kill joys--make that kill ploys--that might carry off or damage the repellent radios that Jean-Marc is leaving throughout the parcelle. But these concerns are nothing compared to my next souci. It occurs to me that hunting season begins next week and that this field will soon be alight with chasseurs! These hunters/locals might have snickered when learning about the music played in Chief Grape's cellar (a comforting concerto with a positive influence on the wine that rests there), but what will they think this time--when they discover that the renegade winemaker is planting radios in his vineyard?
It's no use fretting about my husband's reputation. Besides, I know what he would say: "Laisse les parler!" Let 'em talk!
Meantime, between the cheap radios and the chasseurs, I'm done worrying! Up to the poor wild pigs to fret this time--though I secretly hope, next time I look out the kitchen window, to find them dancing a jig, or swaying a slow waltz.
* * *
Our first golden, Breizh, protecting the grapes.
French Vocabulary & Audio File:
Listen to Jean-Marc pronounce the French words in the story: Download MP3 or Wav file
mais regarde ça = look at that!
putain de merde = @$!#
ils mangent que les meilleurs! = they're eating only the best!
le talkie-walkie = walkie-talkie
marche par là = walk that way
la garrigue = wild Mediterranean scrubland
tu entends toujours? = do you still hear?
une poignée = a handful
le romarin = rosemary
le souci = worry
Smokey was born on our first vineyard, nine-and-a-half years ago. Yesterday he received an early Christmas present from my Mom. Meet Biscuit! Smokey held Biscuit in his mouth for the longest time, his tongue wagging as an audible groan of thanks welled up in his vocal chords. Have you ever heard the gratitude of dogs? If happy tears had a sound, it might be this!