We dove right into work in the fields. An average work day starts at 5am so we can get to the fields by 6. We work as the sun rises, until it is too hot to continue. Lunch is the main meal of the day, and it is always followed by a siesta.
Two dogs and three geese pile into a work van with no side door, and we take off down the gravel roads the lead out of the village. Aline has somewhere around 6 vineyards. They are not all together on one plot of land, but are scattered around the mountainous valley, patchworked with half a dozen other winemakers' land. I've been to four so far. One has vines over 100 years old (1905). Another is so new, it hasn't had its first harvest yet (but it will by the end of this season).
Anyone who has driven on the 101 in Northern California is familiar with the entrancing rows of vines. All neat and orderly. Well they don't just grow that way, duh. Of course there are posts and wiring to guide the vines, but ultimately, towards the sun is the only direction they care about. Which brings me to the actual work done in the fields: vine wrestling. Literally taking the vines growing out in odd directions and weaving them back into the rest of bush or along the wires that stabilize them. It's not conceptually difficult work, but when it comes down to it, I spend my mornings fighting with plants. Elbow-deep. Both arms. Teeth clenched.
Stinging nettles and other sticky weeds grow in between the rows. I was no longer bothered by the pokes and scratches from them by the time the sun rose above the valley. Five rows down, two more to go. Aline and Flora worked on either side of me, making sure I didn't miss anything (it being my first day and all). Flora is French through and through. We try to talk a bit, but Aline is usually needed for proper clarification. Last row. I step towards it only to be stung again.
"Fuck, that one hurt," I said in my own tongue. It must have punctured all the way through my pants. Aline calls quickly to Flora as I roll up my pant leg to scratch it. I didn't realize their attention was on me until Flora was kneeling by my side. The butt of her cigarette had left its usual home of lazily hanging on her lips and the ember was slowly moving towards me. "What the hell? That's going to burn more!"
"No, it's a wasp sting," said Aline, nodding at Flora to continue. "The heat will help with the poison."
I held still as Flora circled the sting with the burning ember of her hand-rolled cigarette. The heat and the poison burned the same, and I couldn't tell the difference until Flora stood up, cigarette back in its proper place, and walked away. C'est tout.
Still confused by what just happened, Aline pointed to a crook in the post I was working on: wasp's nest. One step too close.
The pain honestly dissipated quickly. Had Aline not told me it was a wasp sting, I would have just assumed it was another stinging nettle--only a bit worse from the rest.
7/10: not bad; will probably be the first of many this season.