Their faces are blushed and tanned, their long skirts lifted, and brown arms bare. Their sweet laughter drifts on the early autumn breeze as they deftly move between, and along the vine row, using their pruning knives to cut away clusters of warm red grape, then handling them gently into willow or wooden baskets. The men tease, and take the ‘cutters’ baskets to fill their own larger ones swung over their backs, then to the barrel on the cart, which when full is pulled by the donkey to the chateaux winepress. The workers toil all morning, row by row, basket by basket, until they hear the midday ‘Angelus’ bells ring from the village church that tell them it is time to rest. They make their way to the cabane de vigne, a small stone cabin at the edge of the field. There they eat, talk and sleep, until it is time to resume their work.
Relics in the vineyard
Under a stone shelter an old farm cart rests. It was just the right size to carry a barrel of grapes, and hay too.
Across the road, a metal crane rusts from time and misuse. It once was useful, during the early years of industrialised viticulture, to load wooden crates of grape onto a trailer, to be pulled by a tractor.
Cabane de vigne
In every the vineyard, a little house remembers,
The vineyard workers, sheltering from the sun and rain,
Eating saucisson and bread, washed down with a swig of red wine.
NB If interested, you can find a little more to read about the history of wine agriculture here, and winemaking there..
I wonder, where did the ‘épis de faîtage’ originate; those decorative ‘finials’ on roof tops, that I see on old houses hereabouts?
These particular ones date to the late nineteenth century, when interlocking roof tiles crowned with decorative ‘épi de faîtage’ was quite the fashion.
But I’ve learned, that since the thirteenth century, a turned upside down clay pot was used to protect the wooden key post of a roof, and that it was quickly refined into a very decorative ornament full of symbolism and significance. Also, that a house owner could order an original design that he favoured, or one that informed onlookers of his status, wealth, politics or profession.
Yet if I look more closely, I see the finials resemblance to a ‘bouquet’, and then recognise it as the beribboned sheaf of wheat our ancestors placed on top of the wheat cart at Harvest, and then on their thatched roofs, believing it would ward off malevolent spirits, and attract good fortune and well being. The sheaf of wheat symbolised so many things for them; the roof over their head, the home, the family, their sustenance, and by its fatness, their wealth.
It pleases me that our house carries ‘épis de faîtage’ of its own. As in tradition they were made in three parts. Their base, as a ridge tile (faîtage) with a flattened top, on which the central pieces form the vase, and finally the crown or épi (ear of grain).
See there, beside white Lily floating, Under scented shade of Arcacia bloom, Lies the citadel of les Abeilles; And within these walls, with industrious duty, Les Abeilles sacrifice for Queen and young, Alchemic transforming of flowers divine.
Watch how les Abeilles bustle in blossom, Forage deep within fine Chestnut forest, Labour lucidly midst camphoric Lavender, And resolutely gather from Rosemarys flower.
Then ask Les Abeilles, “Will you share with us your harvest? Not too much, yet just enough, Of liquid gold, Gods gift of nature, Sweet fragrant taste of summertime, And in return we promise you, Honour, and love, and protection too”.