Durbanville Hills News - July 2013

Wednesday, 31 July, 2013
Durbanville Hills Cellar
Finally just about everyone is back from their winter holidays and at the cellar we are running at full steam again. After conducting an inspection in loco, I'm happy to report that our wines are now available not only in all the restaurants in the Kruger National Park but also in all the shops.
You will also be delighted to hear that the Big Five are alive and well. So, after this relaxing break in the wild (recorded in some 1 600 photographs) and several bottles of wine enjoyed under the stars, I'm ready to tackle the second part of the year.

Looking at the hundreds of emails in my inbox I was marvelling at how much time it must have taken in the Old Days to write by hand all those memos and letters sent by "snail mail". But in the end they would pile up in the same way in your wire-basket serving as an in-tray, waiting for you to come back from holiday. I remember an old-timer colleague of mine who also saw such a pile on his desk on coming back from leave. This he emptied unceremoniously into his wastepaper basket saying if what was there had any importance, the senders would get back to him anyway. Not long afterwards, sitting in the office next to his, I could hear his phone starting to ring almost non-stop. Then there was a loud clang outside my window. When I looked out, I saw his phone lying on the section of the roof below me. Well, that was at least one way of catching up with your work and doing so without interruptions!

Of pruning and secateurs

Driving through the valley on rainy days you see bright yellow dots moving around in the vineyards as pruners in their oilskins brave the weather, clicking away with their secateurs at the old shoots on the dormant vines.

Wondering about the origin of this useful instrument which the dictionary describes as "a pair of pruning clippers with crossed blades", I went off to do a bit of research. It appears that secateurs – the name comes from the Latin secare meaning to cut - were, according to the 1819 edition of the French gardening guide Le Bon Jardinier, the invention of a French aristocrat with the impressive name of Antoine François Bertrand de Molleville (1744 - 1818). He was the head of the Royal Secret Police and had to flee to England after trying to help Louis XVI to escape the guillotine. Was his invention inspired by the blade of that ghastly instrument, I idly wondered.

A simple but ingenious tool, our secateurs have a spring that opens the scissors after cutting so that it can be operated with one hand, leaving the other hand free to remove shoots or other obstacles. However effective the spring action, a day of pruning takes its toll on the muscles of the hand. Some farmers therefore use a tractor-powered compressor supplying air for the shears of several pruners at a time. It calls for a bit more concentration though, as once the button is pressed the secateurs remove shoots, trellis wires and fingers alike.

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