Thursday, December 25, 2014

Merry 2014 Christmas

I wish all my readers the compliments of this festive season.
For those who celebrate Christmas, I hope you and yours have a peaceful and happy one.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Vintage 2015 / Fighting the Fungus

Following up our discovery of fungus in the vines, we severely thinned out the shoots in all the blocks and got them in a vertical position ready for spraying.
Finally, the weather gods were with us.
Despite a negative medium term weather forecast, this was changed on Saturday to a three day window of opportunity (warm and sunny) to get combination protective and curative spray cover on.

We used  2g/L each of copper and sulphur (protectives for downy and powdery mildews), 4mL/L AgriFos 600[1] and 6mL/100L Bayfidan 250EC[2] ([1]a curative for downy mildew and.[2]a possible curative for powdery mildew).
Normally I don't like adding four components to a spray batch due to possible compatibility problems and phytotoxic reactions but this was an emergency situation and there was really nothing to lose.

The fact that we had rain on the Sunday evening (2mm only) did nothing to renew my confidence in the Bureau of Meteorology's forecasts but, thankfully, it occurred well outside the critical 4 hour rain fastness period.
And another lesson learnt during this exercise?

Don't drop your pruners in the mid row long grass, forget them and then mow over them! 
We now need to wait to see how effective this spraying has been.
Theoretically with both AgriFos and Bayfidan being systemic, they should be quickly absorbed through the leaves and stems into the sap stream and translocated to all parts of the vine. We should start to notice small brown spots on leaves where the downy mildew has been eliminated and hopefully the disappearance of the white 'down' on the bunches.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Vintage 2015 in Some Peril

We knew that leaving the vineyard to its own resources for nearly a month unsprayed at this time of year was a gamble.
However total November rainfall was only 17mm over 5 rain days with the highest daily rate of 5mm.
We thought we had lucked out.
But in the first 12 days of December we have had 154mm with the highest daily rate of 39mm.
It has rained every day since we have been home.

So apart from the vines looking like a jungle, the conditions have been conducive to fungus attack.
And there is quite a deal of evidence of this ie.oil spots (downy mildew) on the leaves and powdery mildew on the forming bunches
The downy we can treat with a curative but the powdery is not so easy to combat. There is some evidence that if the infection is not too bad then triadimenol (Bayfidan) is worth a try.

All we need is a couple of days of dry weather to get the spray on.
The forecast is, however, not looking good.
In the meantime we are working on thinning out the shoots and getting them vertical on the trellis so any spray will be as effective as possible.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Sioux Falls Sculpture Walk 2014

Each year we visit Sioux Falls we take time to wander up and down Phillips Ave, downtown, to look at the sculptures on display.
As usual this year they were all pretty wonderful.
Because of the cold (don't let the blue sky and sunshine fool you), we were unable to linger too long but managed to get some representative photos. There are additional displays at the Avera McKennan hospital and the University of Sioux Falls campus.
More details are available here.  

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

November in Mid West USA / Part 2

I only managed one trip to my favourite casino in Flandreau.
Seeing November was my birthday month I was allowed in the birthday booth. From what was said I may have been the first Australian to do this. My driving licence ID was a source of considerable interest to the staff. For 20 seconds, vouchers driven by an air blast swirl around you and you have to grab them, fold them and push them through a slot.
Not as easy as it sounds.
I won $7!
For some reason, that remains a mystery, another $3 was added to my tally and I played the slots for 3 hours with the $10, eventually taking that amount home.
There is a misconception in this country that coffee in the USA is not fit to drink. I think this may come from the days of brewed coffee that sat on a warmer for hours. But certainly we have found that the coffee culture is alive and well especially in the mid west. You don't get better anywhere than at Caribou.
While doing the Sioux Falls sculpture walk, we needed something to ward off acute hypothermia and found Coffea Rosterie on Phillips.
They presented us with a slate tray on which stood a bubbly water palate cleanser, a shot of extra strong but smooth espresso and a cappuccino.

Talking of the sculpture walk we were anxious to do it again. Each year new works are presented and the concept  has now expanded to three venues. Always worth a post of its own (coming soon!), there is a preview below.

We spent the last 3 days in Sioux Falls covering quilt shops, yarn (wool) shops and looking for last minute goodies at Sears, Macy's, Younkers and Kohl's. I managed to sneak off to Scheels, a very large sporting goods store, that has been recently revamped to include a big Ferris wheel as a centre piece.
Seeing we are both now devotees of Amazon Kindle books, we hardly ever go to a book shop. But we made a pilgrimage to our old haunt, Barnes and Noble for old times sake. You forget how good a book store smells. And I bought a hard cover by a favourite author.
It was obvious that Christmas was just around the corner. All the towns had their decorations up in the streets, houses were being strung with lights and front yards filled with icons.
Karen G had the most beautiful tree I have seen in their front room.

Our last night was date night which has always been at Foley's Fish, Chop & Steakhouse. The daughter had got wind of our plans and had called them to organize a gift card as a birthday present.
We got a particularly warm welcome from the manager (I don't think he gets many phone calls from down under) and had a great meal of a crab cake starter and a tender steak entree washed down with some excellent wine. The Clark & Telephone Pinot Noir from the Santa Maria Valley in California was outstanding.
Talking of great wine I forgot to mention that K4 had bought an expensive bottle of Salento Negroamaro, a red wine made from a native grape grown almost exclusively in Puglia in southern Italy.
Get some if you can for a completely different wine experience. Deep red colour, unique perfumed nose (maybe as a result of a small addition of Malvasia Nera) and earthy flavour with fine tannins.

So our time in SD was soon up and we headed for home with our bags jammed packed to the limit with goodies. The flights were the reverse of those coming except we transited through LAX rather than SFO. Again on the long haul across the Pacific we had spare seats beside us easing the cramped conditions of economy considerably. And no screaming kids or disruptive passengers either. It always seems longer flying back but we made it in one, albeit tired, piece. Our bags were among the last out which caused a little concern (who would want to misplace all that shopping?) and we got pinged for a quarantine inspection but, as expected, the AQIS beagle, Axel, found nothing. But he certainly did with the lady behind us. Who knows what happened. We were out of there!
Stirls was at Sydney International to meet us. The first thing we noticed as we headed for the car park was the heat and humidity but no complaints.
At his home we crashed for a few hours before enjoying a steak dinner and a couple of bottles of wine.
Next morning after a good sleep, we were up early and headed for home stopping to pick up some groceries in town on the way. Board shorts and bikinis seemed to be clothing of choice for a lot of people. The Christmas tourist influx has already started.
Welcome back to summer!

Tuesday, December 09, 2014

Thanksgiving 2014

I have celebrated most USA holidays in the country with the exception of Thanksgiving.
This year we had the opportunity to do so.
Obviously it is not a holiday in Australia.
I had asked if I could experience a traditional meal.
K2 and Carin took on the coordination of the event and provided the venue.
All the families contributed to the menu.
The table was groaning with food as well as a good selection of wine.

The Menu:
Deep fried turkey, slow cooked brisket and two types of ham
Cranberry relish
Mashed potatoes, sweet potato souffle, bean casserole, dry and wet corn
Pickle tray: black and green olives, sweet and dill pickles.
Vegetables and dip.
Fresh fruit 

The Pies: pumpkin, pecan, chocolate silk, cherry, caramel apple, key lime and blueberry.
Twenty eight of us covering four generations had an amazing meal and enjoyed a great day.

Monday, December 08, 2014

November in Mid West USA / Part 1

On our first Saturday morning in Elkton, near Brookings SD, we woke up to snow falling.
Despite the cold it looked very pretty to me. Snow is something we never experience at home.
Of course the locals were blase' about it all and considered it a bit of a nuisance.

One of my most favourite jobs (not) was scraping the snow and/or ice off the car each morning before we could go anywhere. The co driver was somehow reluctant to take turns. Her excuse was that she was driving everywhere (more experience on icy and snowy roads), and I had to contribute somehow. So that's how it was. She sitting in the pre warmed up car with the heated seats while I suffered from potential frost bite outside.

Mark, our host, had a number of alternatives for snow clearing to make getting to and from the house easier. Surprisingly it was a local resident who got stuck in a snow drift and had to be helped out by the foreigner. No names, no pack drill.

Our days consisted of catching up with family, eating out and shopping. We certainly found some bargains at the department stores. We managed to visit most of our favourite restaurants and found one or two new ones. To say we may have overeaten is an understatement.
The Gramcracker jam making day was postponed due to weather but reinstated a week later. The 'boys' retreated to Buffalo Wild Wings for a few beers and spicy chicken wings while watching a local derby football match between SDSU and USD. The local team won!
That night was siblings night and the sisters had a late night after a nice dinner at a local steakhouse.
I think towards midnight you could hear them all over Brookings!
We had decided not to do any touristy things mainly due to the weather and our short time frame. But we did go down to Falls Park in Sioux Falls. The falls were almost frozen solid.

Quite a different scene that I am used to when visiting at other times of the year.

K3 had bought a new house a few miles north at Lake Hendricks and we went up there for a look see.
Was quite an exciting drive on icy roads with blowing snow. The waterfront location looks ideal but that day it was blowing a gale across the frozen lake and was probably the coldest I felt the entire trip. The tongue in cheek invitation to go skating or ice fishing was rejected.Will return during a more conducive season for a little fishing off the to be purchased pontoon boat.

After Thanksgiving lunch (see separate post) I was taken to Walmart to experience a pre Black Friday sale.
A seething mass of humanity jammed together with their carts competing for all sorts of bargains.
People traffic jams in the aisles and in the long snaking check out queues. 
But I must say almost everyone was super polite and trying to make the best of the chaos. Can't say that that would be the case at home at such an event.

To be continued....