Happy Easter! One more week into spring and things could not be lovelier in our bit Devon. As there has been an entirely blue sky parked overhead for the better part of the week, with shirt sleeve style temperatures, the vines have started to get a move on, the entirely saturated soil appears to finally be drying out properly, and the clan Huxbear are utterly chock full of vitamin D and, let’s be honest, Pimms.
I absolutely love this time of year. A day’s sunshine is still that much of a novelty that it seems like a rare and precious treat, as opposed to the summer, when one expects the weather to be clement and complains if it isn’t. Unless your vineyard man took the previous year off, the weeds are still under control as they haven’t really started growing yet; and in our own vineyard, the dandelions that precede the most astonishing display of buttercups have just started to push through in the rows between the vines. And it’s not just your feet being stung by a stray nettle that you need not worry about, for the accursed horseflies*, that are a resident fixture in the middle of the growing season, are nowhere to be seen. All in all, it’s pretty much perfect for vineyards and vineyard related activities at the moment.
*As the only edible thing for 95% of the time in our fields (and those surrounding it) is, er, me, I’m fairly confident that I am currently supporting a breeding population of horseflies all by myself.
Having enjoyed a week or so of doing some new jobs that weren’t absolutely pressing after finishing the winter pruning, the new season’s work is starting to accumulate. If I’m being honest this is actually considerably more relaxing for a man of my organisational abilities (i.e. none, and Lucy has to go to work occasionally so can’t be on hand to tell me what to do). Some weeks ago we had a visit from an agronomist who is attached to the company that we buy our chemicals from. He had a look around the land and at some soil and leaf samples and then left. Promising to return with a brilliant scheme for forcing the vines to pull their collective finger out and make us so busy this autumn that we don’t have time to build a shed or decking or anything instead of picking millions of grapes.
Mercifully, our committed band of saintly pickers are as related to us as they are willing to work for food and wine, but this doesn’t mean that being extremely busy at harvest wouldn’t come as a welcome change. Other than the first one, when we were still building the winery and attempting make wine in it at the same time, which is an entirely different type of problem. No matter, after consulting his agronomist chums in more traditional wine making places, our man returned with a prescription for the vineyard. It includes spreading some goodness onto the soil to replace what has been washed off the land and into the river, along with spraying some more goodness directly on to them during the growing season.
And the net result of that is that I have just about a tonne of fertiliser to spread under the vines in the next couple of weeks. As we are extremely environmentally aware/too tight to buy a spreader (delete as appropriate), this means that I shall once again be doing the work of a machine and maintaining my streamlined profile. Joking aside, this is probably the best way of doing it as tractor mounted spreaders have a nasty habit of tossing the fertiliser here, there and everywhere, so you need to buy more of it. Which in turn means that there is more fertiliser to wash off and into the water courses (which is environmentally dubious, not to mention expensive). It also means that you can’t manually throw the fertiliser directly at the base of your vines, which means that you end up fertilising the weeds, which in turn means rather more strimmer time over summer than I care for.
We have also started to knock our super duper new posts in this week. I recall that I promised to tell you about our genius new treatment for vineyard posts the other week, and I now intend to elucidate. The pressure treated posts that come from most suppliers are rubbish. I’m told that this is because they aren’t allowed to use heavy metals in the gunk that they force into the wood, but Inspector Huxbear smells a rat. A mysterious new treatment has been invented that makes posts last for much longer (specifically, it actually works); all you have to do is spend twice the amount on them. I’m fairly confident that the blue stuff in the cheap ones is food dye and it is all part of an elaborate scheme to make us all buy expensive posts, but we won’t be falling for that.
As the posts invariably break at the point where they emerge from the soil, a company has produced a wrap around thing that you apply with a blow torch, which water proofs the offending area and prevents it from snapping. The catch? You can probably work out what the catch is, it’s not like there isn’t a theme here, yep, they are quite expensive, not to mention that they look really tricky to apply. Wouldn’t it be much easier if we were to water proof the bottom of the posts with special water proof paint that they use for drinking water tanks (so isn’t toxic)? And wouldn’t it be even better if that solution cost a mere 5p per post? Okay so it’s sub-Nobel laureate work and it’s labour intensive (that is also a bit of a theme), but it appears to be moderately fool proof. I shall keep you posted.
You may have noticed that I haven’t mentioned the generator. That’s not exactly a mistake as it has been proving problematic, but I have been calling in favours from everyone that I can think of and I think that we have a convoluted solution that will allow us to fire up the winery again. And I shall tell you all about it when I have rediscovered my sense of humour.