Friday, March 7, 2008

Scuppernong Arbor

The Old and the New

There have been two scuppernong vines in our back yard since long before I can remember. They were located out past the chicken house in my younger days, right near the lonesome apple tree. Oh the days when we would see a little apple on that tree and we'd watch them grow. But, we seldom had the patience to wait until they were ripe before we picked them and ate them in their sourest state! But, that's another story.

Daddy did some fence relocating and finally the vines needed to be relocated. So, he and Mother decided to put them in the old chicken yard; one about 200 feet from the house and one about 150 feet from the house. Well, they just sat there! Very little growth and seldom any fruit was produced for several years. Then, Mother convinced Joe and Fred to get some chicken manure, spread it all around the base of the vines, then "dig it in" all around. Wow! Did they ever decide to grow!

Again, for many years before I came along, there was a "cattle gap" in the driveway made from four inch diameter boiler pipe. A new livestock law had been passed in the area prohibiting the free roaming of cattle, horses, hogs or any other livestock, so Daddy took down the old yard fences which made the old cattle gap unneeded any longer. So he took nine of those pipes, had them welded into a "U" shape and made supports for scuppernong vines. After setting them in the large holes in the ground, about three feet deep, he poured concrete around them to keep them erect. Then he stretched net wire across them providing an arbor for the vines to grow. The arbor was about six feet wide and about 40 feet long.

That worked pretty well, but the vines kept growing so much that more arbor space was needed. So, Daddy added another six feet to the width of the arbor with wooden posts. The major drawback to this arbor was that by the time the vines had intertwined into the net wire it was almost impossible to get your hands up through the wire and vines to pick the fruit. Also, the metal pipes had rested out and some of the wooden posts beginning to rot. So, it was time to rework the old arbor.

I had gotten an old greenhouse frame made of two inch diameter arches and the necessary straight piping to hold a greenhouse together. When my brother-in-law and I started to take the greenhouse down, there were tow "shelves" built out of 1 1/4 inch pipe that was 20 feet long and four feet wide consisting of five long pipes and five short pipes to make it into a "frame." The shelves were used to support "flats" of new plants. I got to thinking about how to replace the old arbor and it dawned on me that I already had the perfect arbor already assembled.

I got busy, cutting the old vines back, and the cutting the old rusty net wire off the frames; being careful not to cut the main large vines off too short to weave into the new frames. I called my cousin who owns a florist shop in town and asked if she could use a big bunch of grape vines to make wreaths with. Of course she could. She wound up with two huge pickup truck loads of vines. That was good as I didn't have to haul them off and they were useful to her. Then i tore out all the framing and was able to retain four good posts to use on the new arbor.

I decided not to build a new vertical frame type arbor to make it easier to pick the fruit. I had gotten an old power pole that was just the correct length to make three posts long enough to put them deep enough to be sturdy and still leave the tops of them eight feet tall. I spaced the posts 20 feet apart and hanged the frames on the posts. Then I took the four good wooden posts from the old arbor and spaced two of them between the large posts and anchored them to the frames for support. This made a great, vertical arbor.

I fertilized the vines and we had about a month or so of fairly frequent rains in the spring to disolve the fertilizer and got the vines off to a great growth start. Then dry weather came during most of the 2007 summer season. I was concerned that there would be no fruit due to the dry weather. I guessed wrong! We wound up with a bumper crop of scuppernongs as well as a great crop of pecans. It amazed me that the whole areas of South Alabama, Georgia and Mississippi had super fruit crops as a result of the dry weather. This did not occur with the cultivated grain crops in these areas.

Okay! I have a new arbor; easy access to the fruit; lots of sweet, golden scuppernongs. Did I harvest the grapes for the making of the best jelly you can put on a good hot biscuit? No! Each day for about 3 weeks, I would walk very slowly around the arbor at least twice a day picking a couple of double hands full of scuppernongs and EAT EVERY ONE!!!!!!!!!!! YUM! YUM! YUM!

I don't remember when I have ever enjoyed scuppernongs so much as I did in the 2007 season.

I have just pruned the vines back and hoping that I can have another good crop this year. Maybe we will have enough that I can get JoAnne to make us some of great scuppernong jelly to put on some good, hot buttered home made, cat head biscuits with a good glass of cold sweetmilk!!!

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