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Does pruning cause madness?

It probably isn’t a good idea to be writing newsletters in mid-winter. Pruning day in day out doesn’t put you in the sunniest frame of mind. The cold is cold and rain is wet. Aches and pains and minor slips of the secateurs get to seem worse than they are, little grievances fester in the mind, insane ear-worms (it’s always stuff you detest: Abba’s Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! A Man After Midnight, some moron yodelling Danke schoen, Darling, danke schoen) shred your sanity. I should never have gone off my medication …

Cold and very wet weather has made the work pretty purgatorial at times, but a series of saintly friends have presented themselves as volunteer helpers. Last week I was out with our neighbour Grant. We were talking about how long on average it took to prune a vine. I suggested 4 minutes for spur-pruning and 5 for cane-pruning (which is what we were doing). I wondered how much faster a professional pruner would do it. ”So, how many vines do you think you’ve pruned in total over the years?” Grant asked. I quickly did the math. “About a hundred thousand. Half a million minutes. Say 350 24-hour days or one twentieth of my life over the last 20 years.” Grant laughed. “I’d say you’re a professional.”

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