The Grapes of Wrath…and Cool Shade.


The bounty is upon me gentle reader. I am bursting at the seams with seemingly boundless grapes. I am like a lazy Roman in a toga lounging poolside as hand maidens feed me grape after grape. Except I have no more hand maidens. Stupid unions.

This visual has given me a flashback to a portrait I took in college. About a million years ago. To be more specific, this one.

Chris as Nero
My oldest and bestest friend, Chris. Who will of course forgive me for shamelessly posting this old photo on Mind Your Dirt. I hope.

Apologies Chris for posting this. Although, I have always mentioned to my models that at the end of the day, the photographer retains portfolio and display rights. So…

Just as an odd segue, if you’d like to see a completely outdated website with some photos and published illustrations by me, here is the link. Just be forewarned, there is some subject matter that may not be suitable for children. It’s “art” people so there’s some creative leeway. Also, the political cartoons were paid commissions and do not necessarily reflect the views of the author. Although many do. Only the ones that don’t make you angry. You have been warned! Also, the reason I stopped working on this Wix site was the general shabbiness of its smartphone app, so use your desktop to see all the drawing etc. Sorry.

Okay, back to the grapes. As I always seem to do, I apologize for the digressions.

So, several months ago I posted an article on how to repurpose an old unused clothesline as a cheap $50 covered patio. Check it out if you missed it, it was kinda genius in its cheapness. Well, things have been going gangbusters over here and someone has replaced my normal grapevine with some kind of mutant. I will never be able to eat all of these and I am not set up for making wine (yet). Take a look at what I’m talking about…

Grapevine Patio_Feature

Grapevine Patio_Shade Portion Detail 1

Grapevine Patio_Shade Portion Detail 2

Grapevine Patio_Shade Portion

Grapevine Patio_Wall of Grapes 2

Grapevine Patio_Wall of Grapes 1

Grapevine Patio_Wall of Grapes 3

Crazy right? My chickens are getting a lot of grape treats these days! The Chardonnay grapes are okay to munch on but not nearly as good as the Concord grapes are! Those take a bit longer to ripen, so for now I’m stuck with, quite literally, hundreds of grape bunches. I also get a kick out of the way my garage now looks as though it has a bad ass green mustache! Just like it’s owner. Well, not green. And not so laden with fruit. There’s only a little fruit in my mustache and it’s all for me! A peck at most. Again, I digress.

This next fall/winter I plan on drastically cutting back the Chardonnay grapes to make room for more Concords. I’ve also recently planted another Concord vine on the opposite end of this makeshift shaded oasis from the blistering sun. The two should meet by the end of this season and then my plan will be completed.

For those of you that don’t know, I’m living in San Diego, California where we are entering our fourth year of record drought. This summer is projected to be even worse than the last. Which is precisely what they said last year, and the year before that etc.

Many of the bonsai I had created when living at the cooler and shadier beach have suffered greatly since I moved inland. I can only equate it to living on the surface of the sun. It’s hot and dry nearly all year round. Until the shade trees I planted three years ago grow, I am desperately trying to create as much cool shade areas as possible for both my self as well as those plants I have that need some partial shade during these long hot days. It’s a race against time here and I plan on winning!

If, in the meantime, I am able to put some food in my belly and the bellies of my chickens, then all the better. I am not a wealthy man, and I am always looking for ways to get things done creatively and inexpensively. I also had a section of fencing that needed a bit more privacy so I set up some trellis’ and planted a passion fruit vine. Again, function over fruit. Or fruit over function, you be the judge.

Does anyone else out there on the interebs have any cool ways to create some natural living structures? I’d love to hear about them! Hello? Are you out there?


23 Replies to “The Grapes of Wrath…and Cool Shade.”

  1. those grapes really took off, how wonderful. We have some concord grapes here that ripen in September, and the flavor is curiously strong and sweet, almost like what I recall grape kool-aid tasting like. They try to climb up an apple we have, and I am always yanking them down and trying to figure out a better structure to train the vine on (was here before we moved here). You may want to try trellising things up on bent over or hooped cattle panels, which are about $20 each at TSC here, about 18 feet long, then forming a hoop, with each short end of one panel fence-stapled to the side of a wooden frame on the ground. Or living willow structures are another idea–not the tree type of willow, but the bush, like the variegated “haguro nashiki.” Willow slips root crazy easy and grow fairly quickly–but in my experience even willow shrubs take about 5 years to attain any actual size and the disadvantage to willow would be frequent hard pruning in order to keep it manageable). I wish you good shade luck and happy growing!

    1. Thanks Daphne! I’ve looked into the living willow recently actually. Are the willow bushes as thirsty as the trees? If so, it may not be viable. I did plant one willow in the yard though. I couldn’t help it, it’s one of my favorites and in my youth I used to lay under them back in Buffalo all the time. It’s my ode to that which has led me to planting on in the “desert” here. I also was researching their ease in rooting recently. Did you ever hear about making willow water as a rooting compound? So clever and fascinating.

      Cattle panels sound interesting, do you have a link you can direct me to? I am indeed shade desperate.

      Thanks for your tips!

  2. The grapes are looking fantastic – and they certainly hide that old clothesline. I think the El Nino that’s developing may finally ease your drought – the weather here in Australia is really starting to dry out which usually means Christmas deluges for you guys…hopefully the bonsai will last until then!

    1. Thanks Matt. I hope you’re right about the easement. I thought our past winter was going to be an El Nino deluge. It never seemed to come. It’ll snap back one of these days. You know what they say, if life gives you lemons, you say “Hey life, where’d you get the water for that lemon tree bro?”

  3. We have a west window that is in bad need of grapes. That’s a project on the list, and you are inspirational.
    So you are confessing that you don’t use your earth friendly clothes dryer? Tsk, tsk. 🙂
    LOVE the living antiquities.

    1. Always tickled pink to be inspiring! Once the grapes are established, they grow like mad! Pruning them properly every year is the key.

      I do still have two available clotheslines here, they’re just hidden from view until needed. Secret clotheslines! Spared every expense! I’m no fool when it comes to dry undies.

    1. Those are fantastic! Thank you so much for sharing. I’ve read that willow is insanely easy to root as well. I have a willow tree that I could get clones from so I think I’ll give this a try. Hell, I’ll weave a entire sky net over the whole property if I have to. I simply must have more shade. Thanks again!

  4. Good grape trellis building timing James. I am going to get clippings from Isabella grapes (red). It is a heirloom variety and one variety that doesn’t get mould. Do you have mould issues with grapes? I am planning on having the grapes grow up, onlong the back of our garage. Much work to do beforehand.

    1. In our dry climate, mold is seldom an issue. My grapes seem to thrive here, no pests, little water and fertilizer needs.

      Yesterday I made raisins in hopes to preserve this crazy harvest. I’ll post that soon, they came out great but didn’t put a dent in my surplus! My chickens get tons of grapes too. Soon the eggs will turn green.

      Let me know how those Isabella grapes turn out! I can’t wait for the concords to ripen!

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