My grandfather grew grapes. Each Summer I stayed with him for a few weeks and amongst many compelling (to a young lad) grandfatherly tasks, he'd show me how to tend them, how to tie them into the roof of the greenhouse; and how to pick them. There always seemed to be so many, hanging down into the head space of the greenhouse, leaves illuminated with sunlight.

I'm not sure what happened to them. Grandma maybe made jam (not wine, both members of the Temperance...and the Co-op). Or they were traded for other summer produce that their small garden hadn't offered up that year.

Decades later I inherited a tumble down greenhouse myself. I fixed it up and a couple of years ago was given established vines by a neighbour. I don't expect any grandchildren just yet but I have copied my grandfather in preparation. The grapes are ready if and when the grandchildren appear. Or so I thought.

Around May time, the fruits began to grow; tiny, hard pea-sized clusters emerging along the vine. That's exciting. There's something wonderful about things growing on their own, with only the slightest helping hand from humanity. It's nature's constant in our human chaos.

I visited them each day I was home, but like the watched kettle, they grew no bigger. For weeks and weeks, and as the summer sun began to shine, they stayed stubbornly small. I watered them and watched them and watered them again but nothing changed.

Green fingers reading this already know the answer but I took my time with a bit of research and creative thinking. You see the plant itself was growing. Tendrils were groping out into all corners of the greenhouse, leaves became A5-sized and covered the roof glass. But I didn't notice all that; I was only focusing on the stunted grapes.

The leaves had done such a wonderful job wallpapering the roof that sunlight was well and truly blocked. And one thing teenage grapes like very much is direct sunlight. The plant's striving to grow was denying it the very thing it needed to do what is was supposed to.

Its eagerness stifled its purpose.

So I pruned. Tendrils, leaves and even some of the smaller bunches. It felt cruel and being a true amateur's amateur I'm not sure I cut in all the right places. But after the slaughter, sunlight began to hit the grapes directly and daily and within a week they were off:

Grapes 2

I guess the message here is that we can grow too fast, be too eager. We spread out our leaves and reach up with our tendrils, but forget to give thought to our grapes.  Maybe the summer vacation is time for a little bit of professional pruning.

grapes 3