Thursday, April 7, 2011

Signs of Spring

Having recovered full use of my right arm, I'm back to typing and other activities as usual. Just under 4 weeks to get rid of the stiffness and shooting pains from my elbow down to my wrist. I have a new respect for the complicated mechanism that is my arm. As I recall it, the soreness I used to get from hitting a tennis ball was never this difficult to shake.

We're having another day of balmy temperatures--a real feeling of summer at 25 degrees Celsius (77 degrees Fahrenheit). This evening we plan to head to one of our favorite "Besen." Here in the Heilbronn area, where there are so many vineyards, the vintners run temporary restaurants at different times of the year. The tradition developed to help winemakers sell off older wines to make room for the new ones and also to offer another source of income. At a Besen, you can expect to find a list of 10-20 wines and a menu of local specialties. When the weather's nice, you can sit outside. Last Saturday we spent an idyllic evening (joined by my sister, Julie, who was visiting) at Weingut Drauz (I like the place a lot better than their website, which is one of the more bizarre websites, complete with goofy music, that I've seen in a while). After wine with tasty food (I had Maultaschen--or Swabian Ravioli) we finished the evening with Hazelnut spirits (grappa/schnapps that's clear, not sweetened, and goes down with a punch of flavor).

The word "Besen" means broom, and you literally find the establishments that are currently open by looking for the brooms that hang outside or along the road, like balloons marking the site of a party. The idea being that they are sweeping out the old, I guess. Here's a link to a German wikipedia article on the topic:ßwirtschaft (even if Deutsch isn't your language, you can enjoy the photos).

So, on another topic, I have watched with puzzlement and some horror how the locals go about caring for trees. Especially in February, there was a rash of pruning. Piles of boughs lined the roads next to what remained of the trees. One explanation, I learned, is that February 28th was the last day that tree pruning was permitted. After that, the habitat needs to be there for birds to nest.

Okay, but what explains the amputation-style pruning method? Below are two photos of rather mild examples. As you can see, the main branches have been hacked off at a certain point, leaving the trees to send out new, thinner branches there. I trust there's solid reasoning behind the practice, but I haven't figured it out yet. Here are some of the theories so far:

1) Wine growers trim back the grape vines to two main stalks before the growing season and the practice is carried over to trees (from my British friend Andrew).

2) They do thorough pruning because it's expensive to undertake and you don't want to have to do it again very soon (from my mother-in-law).

3) Restrictions about tree size and/or overhang on neighboring property require the practice (my best guess).

4) Someone went crazy with a chain saw (OK, more a description than a theory, from my sister).

In any case, in my opinion, it's hard to comprehend the practice as something that is driven by aesthetics. If anyone knows something on the subject, I'd be interested to hear from you!