During this 3rd week of this sabbatical, I’ve been thinking about vineyard trellises. If you are not at all interested in the design of a vineyard, then simply skip to the bottom of this blog post to see what rich lessons the vineyard has taught me this week.

Every vineyard today uses trellises to grow grapes. Grapevines love to grow and they grow fast. Even in ancient times, according to the history of vineyards I’ve been reading, people used various forms of trellises to grow grapes, including poles and existing trees. The most common grape vine for growing grapes, found around the world, is vitis vinifera, a plant related to ivy. It loves to climb up poles or wires or anything it can wrap its curly tendrils around for support. Vines, like humans, need sunlight and space to grow. In the vineyard where I’ve been helping, my friend uses a “vertical-shoot-positioned” trellis (VSP).VSPAs you can see in the image above, this trellis system uses a “cordon wire” running just under 3 feet high along the vine rows, along which the fruiting canes are trained once they are pruned in February (see blog post from April 8, 2015, “How to train a grapevine”). Then the wonder of greening growth begins in March-April. Each bud along the fruiting cane sends out a shoot which grows vertically, up past the next three trellises. The middle pair of trellis can be moved up or down to catch the bulk of the growing vine. The top pair of trellises are stretched tight between the end posts, and thus are only about 5 or 6 inches apart. In this photo, you can see these top pair or trellis wires running along the row of grapevines in the vineyard where I’ve been helping. IMG_2643 copyThis week, on Saturday and again today, I took time going down a row on one side, tucking all the growing shoots inside the pairs of trellises, to keep the green growing vines vertical, out of the rows. A single row took me about 15 minutes to tuck in. This activity does several good things for growing good grapes: first, it exposes the grape clusters to sunlight, found along the bottom side of the green growing mass of vegetation, along the fruiting cane. When allowed to flop into the rows, a grapevine will overly shade the fruit, stunting growth, especially once the fruit begins to change color in late July to early August. Second, the elevated or vertical vine shoots reaching towards the sun draw the good gift of sunshine into the plant, sending greater amounts of good things, such as sugars into the fruit. Here’s what a row of grapevines looks like before it has been tucked into the trellis.

BEFOREIMG_2637 copyOnce I’ve gone down one side of a row, and back up the other, tucking in all the flopping shoots back into the pair of trellis wires, here’s what the vine row looks like.

AFTERIMG_2670 copyThe vineyard has taught me important lessons this week. The lesson I’ve been reflecting upon while tucking grapevine shoots into pairs of trellises in a hot July vineyard (Saturday, temperatures were running 98 degrees!) involves tucking our lives, all the growing shoots of our lives, our whole self, body, mind, and spirit within the pairs of trellises God has given to us: love God, love others. A strong pair of trellises, able to carry the weight of our lives, helping us to grow upward toward the divine Light, and thus become more fruitful than we thought possible. But we grow best and grow most when we allow our Vine-Dresser to walk into our lives, and do difficult work, moving us within the pair of trellises of Love. Outside these pairs of trellises, we seem to grow fast and long and we may seem impressive to some with all our greenery, but there will be little fruit, and what fruit we have will not be as sweet or ripe when harvest time comes. Most of us would rather not have some else tell us where to grow, how to grow, where to put all the various “shoots” of our lives, including our recreation, our hobbies, our computer time, our finances, our eating habits, our prayer life, our relationships with others, our family life, and so on. This week, I’m spending time at two different monasteries: three days (this past Friday through Sunday) at Our Lady of Guadalupe Trappist Abbey near Newberg, Oregon, and then four days at Mount Angel Abbey, where this blog post was written.


IMG_2626 copyIMG_2659 copyA few fascinating notes on this Trappist Abbey.

First, this abbey is the first place I ever made a contemplative prayer retreat, back in October 1986.

Second, the Trappists are one of the great family of Benedictines, a reform movement back in 1664 reforming the Cistercians who began back in 1098 who were a reform movement of the Benedictines who began back in 529 when Benedict founded the first Benedictine Abbey of Monte Cassino, south of Rome, Italy. The Cistercians mother house is in the heart of Burgundy, France, smack in the middle of one of the most famous vineyard regions for growing Pinot Noir grapes in the world. The second most famous region for growing Pinot Noir grapes in the world is Yamhill County, Oregon, exactly where Our Lady of Guadalupe Abbey is situated. From the abbey, you see (or can easily drive to) rows upon rows of famous Pinot Noir vineyards, such as Eyrie, Erath, Lange, Sokol Blosser, Rex Hill, Adelsheim, Argyle, Elk Cove, and Domain Drouhin.

Third, the Trappists financially support themselves at Our Lady of Guadalupe Abbey with a huge wine warehouse on their property, where 2.5 million bottles of some of the world’s finest wines are aging, awaiting distribution worldwide. I like to think of the wines which have aged on the property of the Trappist Abbey will taste better and move more souls towards God simply because they aged in the presence of daily, 24/7 prayer, from the prayer benches in the oratory of this beautiful community of brothers in Christ. I know, my life has always grown closer to Christ and to other followers of Jesus because I’ve spent quality time on prayer retreat at this Trappist Abbey. When we draw close to Christ, allowing our lives to be tucked in by our divine Vinedresser, tucked in between the love of God and the love of others, then our lives truly will become fruitful and beautiful for God.

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