Three Whole Phases

I’ll confess to feeling slightly disappointed at returning energised from our brief Cornwallian adventure and expecting to drive into a field chock full of vines with foot long shoots, only to discover that things were still very much at the tiniest bit of green on every tenth vine stage. Can we blame this lack of activity on the hysterical white knuckle frost ride that we endured last week? The cold certainly seems the most likely candidate for causing the vines to universally stamp on the brakes with both rooty feet. Well, it’s either that or I have forgotten how long it takes for plants to grow since last year, either way, the difference is the same.

No matter, while enduring yet another white knuckle ride yesterday – attempting to pilot our falling to pieces (yet surprisingly resilient) pickup sideways across a slope in our (empty) middle field – I discovered that rain showers as opposed to frost are now very much the order of the day. As one might reasonably expect at the start of April, before six whole months of unbroken sunshine and lashings of rosé and barbecues on the decking.

And as the rain gives with one hand, it takes with the other. You may or may not recall that we have a reasonable amount of wine in the tank from a strange and difficult season last year, and that it remains temptingly delicious but infuriatingly unfiltered on account of the broken generator. This remains the case, but we are now taking great strides towards getting the wine out of the tank and into a bottle. We discovered that the self same rain that destroyed the roads and the railways (now fixed) of Devon (and much of my remaining sanity), had inveigled its way into the canopy thing of the winery generator, causing it to fail. In fairness, it’s as well that we didn’t discover this at the same time as the storms were remodelling the estate, as I’d probably be flogging copies of the Big Issue in a doorway in Exeter and vowing never to step foot on a vineyard ever again.

Ahem, moving on. We have two generators here, one that we use to top up the batteries that run the house (and winery lighting) when the solar panels and mostly useless wind turbine are unable to provide us with enough gratis energy, and another much larger one to provide the special three phase food that the machinery in the winery eats. Needless to say, the domestic generator is nearly as old as I am, was very cheap and has never caused us any problems and the winery one is much newer, cost exactly ten times the price and has been quite temperamental, before becoming absolutely dead.

Having taken some professional advice, it was clear that having it repaired was going to cost more than the old girl was worth. This left us with a few options for making enough special power to magically transport our wine into bottles and into the clutches of our adoring customers. We could sell the engine (that was still working) and buy a whole new generator. This was the most expensive option and, as it would be a second hand one, could fall to pieces at any time. A cheaper option would be to sell the old generator and find another one that would sit on the back of our tractor and would be powered by the tractor’s own engine. This would have the advantage of being new, but would require me to pull up the tractor and attach it every time that we wanted to turn something on in the winery. The final option was to buy this cheap alternator that I have just found on the internet and have a bash at making it work with the chap from down the road.

Having discounted the first option, Lucy and I mulled over the other two. A tractor attached generator would have the advantage of being mobile, so we could theoretically use it for the house if there was ever a problem with the venerable old girl that keeps the lights on. The flip side of that was that the tractor is even more venerable than the house generator. And, er, if you have read even one other entry in the never ending drama that is this electronic diary, there wasn’t even the slightest chance that I wasn’t going to rope someone into letting me have a bash at building a generator given half the chance. As an added bonus, I also get to build a little house for it (to keep the swinish rain at bay) on the side of the winery and have found a whole other person to help me with that. It doesn’t get much better than building two whole things.

Excellent news! With the winter pruning and tying down done, we are moving into easily the best time of year. Not spring, although it is undeniably spring, the period of doing jobs other than winter pruning and pruning associated activities! Yesterday, in one day, we did three, count ’em, three, different jobs in a single day. One moment I was tossing slug pellets around in a vain attempt to thin out the legion of snails that are lying in wait to nibble the vines, and the next, I was electrocuting myself on the electric fence that I had just repaired. After three months of fairly constant winter pruning, this is just the shot in the arm that I’ve been looking for. We even had time to prepare the replacement trellis posts for their new and innovative treatment that I devised with a vineyard owning chum from down the road. But I can’t tell you about that until next week, once we have collected our Nobel prizes and huge cheques from big business for being such utter geniuses. That’s right, it probably isn’t going to work terribly well, but I didn’t get where I am today by not being recklessly optimistic.

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