Saturday, October 30, 2004

A Vineyard Update

All has quietened down weather wise.
There was not a lot of wind damage to the Cabernet Sauvignon and all looks well in that block. We have finally picked up all the cuttings and they are ready for burning. Am waiting for a windless day to spray off the vine rows with herbicide. The recent rain has produced a spate of weed growth.

New Shoots on Cabernet Sauvignon
Most of the Semillon has reached the top of the vineguards. A few are lagging but it’s still early in the season. String has been attached from the fruiting wire to a foliage wire to help guide the growing shoot. It is important at this stage to make sure that this shoot, which will eventually be the trunk of the vine, is straight.

A Semillon Shoot Emerging from a Vineguard
The Tempranillo is not doing so well. Growth is particularly slow. There may need to be replacements made from the spares in the “greentop” nursery where the same variety is doing much better. But maybe I am being impatient and not taking into consideration the transplant shock factor.
So far it appears that the wallaby fence is doing its job as far as that pest is concerned. Finger crossed!

The Wallaby Fence
However the rabbits are not being hindered. Some vines left unprotected after the wind took away the vineguards were eaten overnight. Will eventually have to go hunting for the burrows (they cannot be far away) and apply the necessary gassing treatment.
The Pinot Noir is also slow which is typical. Growing this variety requires a lot of patience.

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Flood, Tempest and Fire

It’s been a very eventful week. During the “big wet” we received 137mm (5.5 ins) of drenching rain. The dams filled and so did the creek for the first time in three years. In fact late afternoon Thursday, it broke its banks and flooded across the lower paddock. We had a brief respite on Saturday when the sun shone and the sky was deep blue. But on Saturday night back came the rain until early Monday morning. We received another 25mm (1.0ins). I think we can safely say that the drought has broken on the South Coast. The grass has turned a bright green and is growing furiously. I will not need any more hay this season. So now all the animals are on their own.

Although the ground is quite soggy it will only take a week or so for the surface to dry out. I think we have sufficient sub soil moisture now for the growing season.

Murray Grey and Calf
Then today, we experienced extremely high winds from the west, gale force at times.
We lost power at one stage and then, to our horror, we saw smoke billowing from our lower paddock. The wind had brought down power lines and started a bush fire. I called the RFS but someone had already notified them (a passing motorist?) and the bush fire brigade was soon there and had everything under control. It burnt out about 0.5ha. in my and my neighbour’s land and had made its way into the trees by the side of the road. Luckily the wind was blowing away from us and the undergrowth was still quite damp. However if it had jumped the road and gone into the National Park there could have been some serious consequences.
There is quite some damage to the power lines and although the power company was quickly on site I think it will be some time until electricity is restored. This means no water (pump!), no light and no cooking. Guess we will have to go to town for dinner and find some candles to read by.
In the meantime, we have completed the electric fence around the Semillon and Tempranillo vineyard to deter the wallabies. A search of the web found some interesting designs for that type of fencing. Contrary to my thoughts, a fence does not have to be high to keep out wallabies. Research has shown it needs to be multi-stranded with a number of closely spaced low wires complimented with a few wider spaced higher ones. Apparently they graze up to a fence and when confronted with a few thousand volts turn away. No attempt is made then to jump the fence, they prefer to try to get under it. DUH! You learn something every day!
So we constructed a fence with electric tape at 12cm, 18cm, 24cm, 32cm, and 55cm spacings, attached to the trellis end assemblies and some supplementary stakes by over 100 insulators. That’s a lot of hammering! We then connected the energiser and battery and turned the whole thing on. When we attached the tester we were pleased to find 4500-5000 volts flowing through the whole structure. The lower wire may even keep the rabbits out!
Needless to say the strong winds caused havoc with the vine guards. I think once the wind drops it will be an evening of retrieving them from the extremities of the property and reattaching them to the wires.
In the meantime we just have to hope that damage to the new vines as well as to the new shoots on the Cabernet will be minimal.
Work on redecorating the bedroom continues. The ceiling is finished and the woodwork is waiting for a second coat. Then it will be crunch time to see if the selected colour for the walls is what we envisaged!

Thursday, October 21, 2004


What a great start to the growing season. Another 25mm overnight and it is still raining. Good steady soaking rain, not the damaging torrential downpours.
Luckily I had been able to spray the grapes a few days ago so hopefully they are well enough protected. This type of weather is extremely conducive to fungus development, particularly downy mildew.
With some of the grapevines already to the top of the vineguards, it is time to think about the wallaby proof electrical fence.
Have bought a new energiser and battery which will serve up around 6000 volts. I think it will need a four strand high "hot tape" about 45-60cm apart to keep the little fellas out. As soon as the rain stops this will be a a major project.
Have planted herbs (basil, thyme, parsley, sage) as well as a selection of lettuce in the vege garden. Also planted some rocket seeds.
The redecoration of the main bedroom has begun. The walls have been demoulded. Painting is on hold due to the wet weather so this will allow more time for a thorough preparation.
As I type, the wind has increased in velocity an the rain in intensity.
It looks like a really wet day ahead. The BOM radar indicates a lot more to come. There is already water lying in the bottom paddocks and the dams are filling!!!!!

Monday, October 18, 2004


It was good to get away for the weekend. Brisbane is my home town. Well, sort of. I was born in Melbourne but "escaped" to Queensland at the age of ten.
We caught up with old friends, ate a lot, drank a lot and had a lot of laughs.
I toured around my old haunts of Ascot/Hamilton/Clayfield. A lot of the graceful old Queenslander homes still exist. Sadly some have sold off some of their original huge blocks of land and have been built out by what is now considered to be acceptable modern architecture. Some of these edifices are appalling in their bad taste and demonstration of wealth. The "pile" that has replaced "Mayfield" in Windermere Road is a prime example of how bad things can be. Even Walt Disney could not have designed something so horrific.
The Breakfast Creek Hotel still cooks the best steak in town. The Rivercat into the city along the Brisbane River is one of the great ferry rides in Australia and you can buy some of the freshest and most varied seafood in the world.

The Brisbane River Cat
We will be returning for some house sitting duties in January 2005 so am looking forward to that.
It was raining we we returned to Sydney and has continued for the next 24 hours.

Thursday, October 14, 2004

Is Summer Here Already?

Yesterday was the hottest October day on record. It reached 37C (99F) and was accompanied by gusty dry westerly winds.
Needless to say evaporation rates were high and the benefits of the rain a week or so ago would have been somewhat negated if this weather pattern had continued.
Lucklily around 6pm the predicted southerly change came in and the temperature dropped to 19C in an hour. Humidity increased by 200%.
I watered the most susceptible young vines by hand well into the evening.
This morning I checked all the newly planted vines. There was some evidence of scorch but it was minimal. There were no fatalities despite some vineguard damage.
Decided to hand water the entire vineyard which took some hours.
Also reduced some of the stronger Semillon vines to one shoot as growth in the last two weeks had been quite substantial.
These shoots will eventually form the main trunk of the established vine.
None of the Tempranillo are advanced enough yet for this procedure.
Rain was predicted for the following few days so sprayed a combination of sulphur (against powdery mildew) and copper (against downy mildew) on all vines. Both are "preventative" sprays.
Unfortunately some rain has come earlier than expected and it may be that due to the lack of rain fastness of the two chemicals applied (min. 6 hours) efficacy may have been reduced.
As we are travelling to Brisbane tomorrow for the weekend, reapplication may be necessary next week in combination with a "curative" spray.
The established Cabernet continues to demonstrate quite dynamic shoot growth.

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

Spring Is Here

Our daily routine has been interrupted for 2 or so weeks by overseas visitors.
We did the tour guide and entertainment director thing.
The weather was kind except for 4 days of beautiful soaking rain. They may not have enjoyed it but we certainly did. 125mm built up the sub soil moisture, almost filled the dams and certainly filled the water tanks.
It was amazing to see the country turn green almost over night. Not exactly drought breaking but a positive step forward.
The grapevines, both old and new, responded well with accelerated bud burst and shoot growth.
We took the visitors to many of our beaches and although the water is still quite cool enjoyed a swim and a lie in the Spring sun. Despite the school holidays many of the beaches were basically deserted. This will certainly change as the Christmas holidays approach. It was also great that plenty of wild life showed up to keep the visitors entertained. Lots of parrots and kangaroos. We even came across a red bellied black snake sunning itself by one of the dams.

A Visitor
We fished in the surf off the beach a lot but were not too successful. A few salmon and a couple of small flathead were the only prizes. We also took a deep sea fishing trip about two miles off shore from Batemans Bay. It was a great sunny day with not too big a swell running. Again not a lot of fish were caught. The highlight of the morning was the arrival of a whale and calf, both of which came right up to the side of the boat to have a look at us. They stayed quite a while before continuing their journey south.
We also visited Canberra to see the War Memorial and the Australian National Museum.

On their last weekend we visited Sydney where we spent time in the Rocks at the weekend markets as well as few of the old pubs.

The Sydney Harbour Bridge from The Rocks
We then took the ferry to Manly for lunch out of Circular Quay past the famous Opera House.

The Sydney Opera House
So now it's time to get back to work.
The Cabernet needs shoot thinning. The new plantings need to be monitored for shoot growth and eventually the weakest thinned out leaving one to form the trunk.
The cattle are beginning to look better now that there is some grass growth. Their feed continues to be supplemented by hay.