Friday, September 25, 2015

Preparing for Vintage 2016 / Part 2.

And the list of jobs continues:
-Soil Amelioration (Liming / Fertilizing).
Our soil has a relatively low pH (moderate acidity) which means, in theory, that a lot of elements in the soil essential for good plant growth can become less readily "available" eg. phosphorous while others eg. aluminium can tend towards toxic levels.
However, from looking at the vine leaves during the growing season, our vines do not exhibit any apparent nutrient deficiencies. Tests can be run to determine the actual nutrient status of the soil itself or of the vines by tissue tests eg. petiole analysis. But with our small non commercial  operation this would be overkill.
Diagram: A.M.Alston

So we just apply the rule of thumb principle when it comes to vine nutrition.
One way of deceasing soil acidity is to add lime (CaC03). This is not an immediate fix but a long term program. We have been 'liming' the vine areas for 15 years and have seen some small pH improvement.
Fertilizing is one way of replacing elements that the vine use up. We apply a totally organic general fertilizer which contains most of macro and micro nutrients required.

-Repairing Netting.
Our netting was primarily used to keep birds out and installed just before the fruit started to ripen.
But we have a kangaroo and wallaby 'problem' in the area (there are thousands) and they just love new vine shoots.
I initially tried a six layer electric fence system with only limited success so decided to install permanent netting to try to keep the pesky animals out.
This works fine during the growing season but in winter, when feed is short, the green grass in the cultivated inter rows must look very attractive and the 'roos tear the netting to get in. They have very sharp claws which do the damage. And some are tall as a man so they have the strength too.

So sewing skills are needed to repair the holes. I just use cut strips of netting scrap and 'darn' the holes closed.
Wind storms create holes mainly on the top of the netting around the supports so these are attended to as well. We did have rabbits gnawing holes in the bottom of the nets last year but a concerted baiting program (or maybe the calici virus is back) seems to have them under control. 
-Equipment Maintenance.
Sprayers, electric and backpack, need to be cleaned out and 'decontaminated' of any unwanted residual sprays used during winter eg. herbicides.
The electric sprayer trailer was also in need of some remedial work eg. rust treatment and a new protective coating.

Wine processing equipment occasionally needs some work.
This year the crusher and press stand need a good sanding back, some rust treatment and a couple of coats of good epoxy paint.
Then of course we have to make sure our chemical spray stock eg. copper, sulphur etc. is sufficient for the season.
Most of these tasks must be done before bud burst. For the early varieties eg. Pinot Noir, this is usually sometime in September.
And this is already happening albeit a little later than expected due to the coldest winter in 15 years.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Rugby World Cup 2015 / Sept 18th - Oct 31st

                  Go the Wallabies!
Pool A Games
September 23rd  16:45  Australia v Fiji at Millenium Stadium 
September 27th  12:00  Australia v Uruguay at Villa Stadium 
October 3rd        20:00  England v Australia at Twickenham
October 10th      16:45  Australia v Wales at Twickenham

The Finals
Saturday, October 17    
Winner Pool B v Runner-up Pool A
Winner Pool C v Runner-up Pool D

Sunday, October 18    
Winner Pool D v Runner-up Pool C
Winner Pool A v Runner-up Pool B

Saturday, October 24    
Winner QF1 v Winner QF2

Sunday, October 25    
Winner QF3 v Winner QF4

Friday, October 30
Loser SF1 v Loser SF2

Saturday, October 31
Winner SF1v Winner SF2

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Satin Bower Bird

'Way back in 2007 I blogged about our resident satin bower bird.
He is still around and has changed his abode a number of times.
This year he has decided to live under our TV room's window.
He has built a substantial bower and already has a large collection of blue objects.

Some of them are pretty amazing.
There are the usual blue pegs which he steals from our clothes line and some plastic milk bottle tops.
He actually removed the blue cap from the can of personal aerosol insect spray I keep on the back veranda.
There is also a pen, a tube of glue and some package banding
I notice that he has yet to find some girlfriends. But it's early days yet. I hope they keep the noise down (if you know what I mean).
More information on this bird can be found here.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Preparing for Vintage 2016 / Part 1

Here's a list of tasks that need doing every winter:
This is the most important pre vintage job. Fruit is only borne on new growth so most of the previous year's growth needs to be removed. I have discussed the canopy management aspect and illustrated with pictures our pruning method a number of times on this blog.
In summary we use the spur pruning technique on bi or uni lateral cordon trained vines as per the diagrams below.

This job takes a few weeks but if the weather is nice (and winter around here can be) then it's a pleasant way to spend time. It's like working on a giant jigsaw puzzle making sure spurs are positioned and spaced correctly so it's just not mindless work. And it's a matter of taking the whole row into account rather than on a vine by vine basis.
-Repairing Trellis Posts, Stays and Tightening Wires.
A trellis is the structure that supports the grapevine framework. It consists of two end posts between which wires are tensioned. The tensioned wire is supported by intermediate posts down the row.
There are many trellis designs. We use the simple 3 wire vertical shoot positioned (VSP) version.
The loads that a trellis supports are vertical (the vine canopy), lateral, (wind blowing on the canopy) and longitudinal (wire tension).
End posts are a major component of a trellis. There are many designs. We use a modified version of the strutted strainer post below.

Occasionally the strut will rot away and the strainer post leans forward causing an unacceptable loss of tension in the wires with resulting sag between the intermediate posts down the row.
This means straightening the post and inserting a new strut and then retensioning the wire.
Very rarely do we need to replace the entire structure but rot below the ground and the occasional white ant attack on posts will make that necessary.

-Spraying Off Grass & Weeds in Under Row / Mowing Inter Rows.
During the winter we let the grass grow across the vineyard block.
In spring we mow the inter rows mainly for aesthetics but also to make working in the rows easier and making it easy to see our local black snakes that like hiding in longer grass.
The under row is sprayed off with a herbicide eg. Roundup®. The growth here is mainly weeds and they can harbour all sorts of unwanted insects and can be a host of fungal diseases. They also are a 'user' of soil moisture during dry periods.

The dead weed foliage contributes an increase of the organic matter in the rows. Soil organic matter (SOM) exerts numerous positive effects on the soil's physical and chemical properties. be continued.

Tuesday, September 01, 2015

A Week to Forget / Follow Up

I was able to do an inspection of fences north of the creek when the flood waters started to recede.
Miraculously there was no damage apart from accumulated debris around posts and hanging off wires. The eastern boundary fence had debris on the top wire which is 1.2m (4ft) high so it was quite a torrent of water that went through. A major electric fence had been washed away but was easily retrieved and reset.
On Saturday the co driver and I finished off the new 'swamp fence' by installing the additional star pickets. It was undamaged.
Part of the Swamp Fence

We had the chance then to inspect the southern fences. Apart from a small wash away there were no other problems. The creek was still running high and fast and one misjudged crossing saw our gum boots filled with water. But we worked on regardless of cold feet and the squishiness (both of us from pioneer stock, obviously).
The Swamp

On Sunday we got the cattle back from the neighours through the boundary fence cocky's gate, lured by lucerne (alfalfa) hay, without any problems. The creek had dropped enough for them to get over.
We had a little talk to them and suggested that better behaviour in the future would avoid a trip to the sale yard and the inevitable BBQ.
And we took the opportunity to fix the wash away while on that side of the creek.
So that was that.
Back home!

Thanks to the (unknown) alert motorist, who made sure our cows were safe, we averted what could have been a nasty incident.
The greatest loss of the whole event was a big stack of seasoned and split firewood for next winter that I had been collecting for a year.
Gone, never to be seen again.
So now we just wait for everything to dry out.
Today is the first day of spring so with all the recently acquired soil moisture and a bit of warm weather the grass should start jumping out of the ground. That will be even more incentive for the cows to stay home.