Project Harvest, Go!

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If the time spent picking grapes in the vineyard and making wine last week weren’t enough to tell us that harvest is over and done with, one need only look at the apocalyptic scenes on the news (or maybe just take a look out of the window if your power lines have been blown over and the television doesn’t work) to work out that harvest is over and done with and that winter is on the way.

This time of year is always one of mixed emotions. It’s usually a big relief to get the grapes into the relative safety of the winery (we obviously still retain the right to make a mess of them while wearing our winemaker hats) away from the legion of diseases and creatures that would just love to make a mess of them. It’s usually also lovely at this point to be able to start ignoring the weather forecast again, but as it’s headline news at the moment, no such luck this year. Set against the unbridled joy at the prospect of the occasional weekend off and not having to worry about the vines is the inevitable downturn in the weather and the prospect of six months wrapped up in water proof clothing slipping around in the mud.

And it’s all happening so quickly this year! It was only yesterday that I was very nearly rolling the pick up into the hedgerow after sliding down a hill in the mud, and today there is garden furniture rolling past the window* on account of the Storm of the CenturyTM.

*Because I am wonderfully efficient, I wrote this the day before the Storm of the CenturyTM, convinced from the news stories that there would be cows, tractors and people cartwheeling past the house. In reality, the litany of destruction wrought by last night’s storm includes one vine guard blown off a tree in the garden and not much else.

And what of the harvest? Although not even nearly on the scale of last year’s total loss, it was a little disappointing again. We aren’t entirely sure what has gone wrong this year. The start of the season was extra cold, and the vines certainly didn’t start growing until about six weeks late, but summer was sufficiently warm to ensure that flowering was successful and the vines were able to ripen their grapes. We also know that all the rain in 2012 will have reduced the number of the vines’ potential flowers, it might also have removed some of the goodness from the soil and deposited it in the river at the bottom of our hill. There was also a little downy mildew last year, well, quite a bit by the close of business, and the weaker vines roughly correlate with where the grapes were scarce this year. Whatever the case, we have our tame agronomist on the case and we hope that he will be providing us with answers to ensure that were are a lot busier with the next harvest than we were this year.

And do you know what we do with a house full of willing workers for a week when there isn’t an awful lot of picking to do? Projects! We harvested the grapes on the drier days of the week in just under two days and although the fruit was a little thin on the ground, the grapes that we did have were excellent. I’m going to tell you all about what we did – and continue to to – with them next week. There is a little too much to ram into one entry this week, so I’m going to split it to ensure that you are all still conscious when you finish reading.

We were hoping to finish the second coat of varnish on the back side of the house that has been waiting since last year, but the weather wasn’t exactly conducive, so we decided to do boldly attempt to rescue a shed from the undergrowth behind the winery. And not since the raising of Lazarus has a hope so forlorn magically risen from the ashes, phoenix like to stand totemic as the mother of all mixed metaphors. For a spot of context, this is the same shed that was mostly flattened by a foot of snow that we had in 2011 and has been held up by a motorcycle that a friend left here a couple of years ago ever since. Lesser people would go out and buy a new shed, and I thought that we were going to be amongst their number when five of us dug it out of its resting place and moved it to its new home in front of the winery. The trip was very interesting indeed, more than once I thought that it would fall to pieces in transit, but when it arrived it was pretty much in tact.

As it is the sort of shed that doesn’t have a floor (the discount sort), it was suggested by one of our engineering visitors that we make one before the land underneath it turned into soup over winter. We stood around discussing it for a while and decided that we could make a mockery of the winter mud if the shed was raised up above it. It’s now sort of on stilts. And once we had laid some floorboards, it’s conversion from home for mice to executive chemical store and tool shed was complete. We even had time to knock together a work bench and some shelving, so all of my tools are in one place and not scattered around the land and winery. Which promises to be an enormous time saver for me as I spend at least a dozen hours a week looking for tools and being chastised for not looking after them by Lucy. It still brings a tear to my eye when I see all those rusted and knackered little fellows all in once place.

And if you were to sit on the deck that we built when we were not picking grapes last year, would you fall off the end of it if you had a gin and tonic too many (this is a very real prospect if you spend more than five minutes here)? Absolutely not! Your over indulgence would be completely covered by our amazing safety rail. And while you are there you can also admire our garden gate that is hung from its newly concreted post and actually opens and closes and everything. We even had time to nail a bit of wood along the bottom of it to prevent the dogs from climbing under it and irritating the people down the road in their exclusive holiday homes. Okay, so it’s not a bumper harvest, but this is absolutely the next best thing.

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