Thursday, August 27, 2009

An August Update

Pruning is finished and the task of burning the cuttings off continues.
Some people just run their slasher over the cuttings or maybe use a side cast slasher mower which throws the chopped up canes onto the row as mulch.

I don't particularly like this method as I am concerned that any residual disease remaining on the canes could flourish next season. Fungus spores are very hardy and a bit of warmth and moisture in Spring will have them starting the growth cycle all over again.
We have to get all burning off done usually by the end of August, including that on other parts of the property eg. hazard reduction burns, because of fire restrictions that come on early Spring. The Rural Fire Brigade monitors the situation very closely and although permits can be obtained out of season, any illegal fires, apart from causing potentially property damage and even death, can land you a heavy fine or even a jail sentence. Certainly we would never want to see a repeat of the disaster that happened in Victoria earlier this year.
Other vineyard duties include spraying off winter weeds, tying down replacement cordon arms, monitoring and spraying for scale if necessary and repairing torn netting. The new vine shoots will be very attractive to the local kangaroo and wallaby population so the nets really need to be secure at ground level. The drought seems to have brought in additional numbers of these animals, some of them quite large, so we are paying special attention to keeping them out of the vineyard. A property just down the road seems to have inherited about fifty which have taken up residence in one of the paddocks and are visible most mornings. The Rural Lands Protection Board and National Parks have discussed a culling program but whether that happens this year is not clear. They are concentrating on getting rid of the feral dogs at the moment which are causing a few problems with new born calves and lambs.

The feed situation for the cattle is now critical as it is at this time every year. We have increased the level of hand feeding to get them through until September when the grass usually starts growing again. A 'by product' of this situation is that the cattle put a lot of pressure on the boundary fences looking for feed. This not only can upset the neighbours if they suddenly see a herd of strange cattle in their back yard, but any escape onto the busy highway would not bear thinking about. This means a constant vigil on boundary fence condition and monitoring of additional electric fences in the more critical areas. Trees and branches down over fence wires or the electric tape is a constant problem. August and September are our windiest months.
We also have to make sure electric fence batteries are well charged. I use heavy duty 12V car batteries which with the help of an energizer can put 5000 to 6000 volts down the line. This is usually enough to deter the most determined bull. Having being zapped a few times by accident (or carelessness) and nursed a sore arm as a result for a few days I can sympathize.
For the first winter ever we have not been troubled by mice in the house. We had baited substantially outside this year in Autumn but I think there is another reason. Winning trainer Bob, our neighbour (now known to some as seldom winning trainer Bob, as his success with his stable of horses at the track lately is minimal) has a farm cat who lives in his barn. She has taken to visiting our place on a regular basis having probably diminished the rodent population at home and in our stables. The few times I have been in charge of feeding her when Bob has been away, she has always lashed out and has clawed me a few times. I had christened her 'Horrible' because of her attitude problem much to the bemusement of both Bob and Judy. But it would seem she has redeemed herself somewhat this year. But not enough for a name change.

And talking of bush fires, one has burnt out about 220ha (600acres) of rugged mountain terrain about 4km (2miles) behind us. We had thought it might have been a National Parks controlled hazard reduction burn getting away from them but apparently it was deliberately lit. The fire has been pushed along by 40-60km hour westerly winds during one of the warmest, driest Augusts in history. We had three days of water bombing helicopters overhead plus lots of smoke.
It seems to be under control now. But it is worrying that we have had a fire threat this early in the year. It doesn't auger well for the summer.

1 comment:

Yira said...

I have to say that I'm exhausted just reading about the to-do's. Every time I drink wine I will think about all that had to be done to get it to my table.