No matter where you live it seems each place lays claim to this old saying “if you don’t like the weather, just wait five minutes” – and each time I hear it, the person speaks as though it is the first time I should have heard it. Well, five minutes ago it was twenty-four degrees below zero (and feels like fifty below – like there’s a difference?!?!) and the lower pane of the window overlooking my grape vines has a build-up of ice.
Wicked cold days like these suck all of the moisture from the atmosphere, the house is dry, the air is dry, the snow is crunchy and painfully dry, and I worry about my vines neck deep in snow. During the past year, I have met a couple of individuals in my travels that couldn’t believe we didn’t grow vinifera (traditional grapes, like they grow in California) here in Iowa. Growth is a relative thing. Yes, vinifera can grow here and maybe even produce a small crop every now and then when a grower uses extreme viticulture measures, such as burying the vines each winter. But frankly the amount of work required to keep these delicate vines productive in our harsh, short growing season outweighs the benefit. Fortunately, we have grape vines that are tough, just like Midwesterners, and can over-winter even in these crazy, cold temperatures.
Even with this knowledge I cannot help but wonder, as I look over my first-year plantings of Marechal Foch, if they will survive this cold-snap. But there isn’t much I can do about it right now, so I watch and wait and hope and fantasize about spring bud break. Of course I could just wait five minutes!