Sunday, December 25, 2016

Christmas 2016

Update 25/12/16:
A beautiful Christmas day on the south coast of NSW.
Sunny with a maximum 24°C and a cooling sea breeze.
We had pancakes and maple syrup for brekkie (thanks Aunt Jemima) with a cappuccino.
Christmas lunch was Sydney rock oysters and tiger prawns (with soy, wasibi or sambal oelek) washed down with a nice bottle of champagne as entree (starter).
Main course was BBQ’d Atlantic salmon and salad accompanied by a special bottle of Margan Reserve Verdelho.
Dessert? Traditional plum pudding and brandy custard for me, home made pavlova with berries for the co driver.
Roll us outa here!

Monday, December 19, 2016

St. Andrews Cross Spider

I have mentioned numerous times that I have never used insecticides in the vineyard which has enabled the build up of a great number of predators who feast on the bad guys who could do damage.
One of these is the St Andrews Cross spider.
She (the male is a lot smaller and duller) is a colorful lady who spins a quite distinctive web.
The web catches numerous flying insects particularly the grapevine and hawk vine moths who are intent in laying their eggs on the leaves and stems.
When hatched, the caterpillars of these two moths can cause problems.
The spider normally hangs upside down in the web with two paired legs placed along each arm of the cross. The silken cross may be used for strengthening the web, for camouflage or for enhancing prey catches. It has been shown that the cross reflects ultra-violet light which is particularly attractive to insects.
Walking into a web is a bit uncomfortable as they are quite strong and sticky but the bite of this spider is considered harmless or at most to cause a weak local reaction. I don't think I have ever been bitten by one of these despite finding the occasional one crawling on me after a session spraying or green pruning.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

The New Bawley Point Gantry

Back in June I wrote about the historic Bawley gantry being washed away in a huge winter storm.
Plans were mooted by the community for a complete restoration using recycled timber from it that had been washed up on the beach.
Thanks to the generosity of a Canberra  businessman with a local connection and a grant from the government, the new Bawley Point gantry has been built.
Today kids were jumping off it and people were fishing from it.
It will be popular once more during the upcoming Christmas summer holidays.
All is right again in the world.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Building a Fence

A section of our northern boundary fence has been in a bad state of repair for quite a long while.
We have overcome this by running an electric fence along it.
But this has its own problems eg. maintaining batteries, flood wash aways, fallen branches, high winds blowing the ribbon off etc
So we finally decided, with the agreement of our neighbour who will share costs, to renew it.
Neighbour Bob did this type of work for a living and has all the right equipment to do the job efficiently so we contracted him with me as his apprentice and gofer.
First job was to remove the old fence and clear the fence line.

This meant cutting off and rolling up the rusted barbed wire and pulling out the rotting wooden posts and rusted star pickets with the aid of a tractor. The wire and pickets went to recycling and the posts will be cut up for fire wood.
It also meant pulling up a few smaller trees with the tractor and cutting down a couple of other big ones by chainsaw. More fire wood from some of it, a winter burn off for the rest. Thicker bush was cleared by a neighbour's bobcat.
Then the fence line was slashed and strainers (large round deeply seated posts with a stay) placed at each end.

A plain wire is then lightly stretched between the two to give a template for post placement.
We decided on wooden posts 10m apart with two star pickets in between. Wires were from the top, barbed, plain, barbed and then three plain. My neighbour has horses and didn't want barbed on the lower level and my cows will easily be kept in by a six wire fence so it was a good compromise.
The post holes were dug with a tractor driven auger to a depth of around 1m and then hand 'cleaned'. Posts are placed in the holes and soil tamped tightly around them. The steel posts were rammed in by hand with a picket driver.

Then the six wires are strained one by one and then attached the correct distance apart to the wooden posts by staples and onto the pickets with tie wire. Where the fence had to cross a swampy area and a small creek, the post/picket pattern was altered to suit.
All was done with minimal injuries (barbed wire always tends to 'get' you) and only three snake encounters.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Vintage 2017 Update 1

So far, so good.
Weather has been relatively kind during the first three months of the growing season..
September: 77mm rain; 10 rain days
October: 32mm; 6 rain days
November: 33mm; 5 rain days
Temperatures have been fluctuating considerably which is typical of spring.
September: 9 lowest min - highest max 21 (°C)
October: 7 - 30 (°C)
November: 8- 37 (°C)

Growth has been unusually vigorous. Shoot length and leaf size is above average. Numerous unproductive  water shoots have appeared. We have had to start thinning out the canopy to improve air movement and let the sunshine in.
Fruit set has been average to low except in the Cabernet Sauvignon where it is excellent.
We have been able to keep up a good protective spray regime using alternate copper/sulphur and copper/triadimenol applications against downy and powdery mildews.
Due to a higher density of canopy than expected, we have used Agrifos 600 in the last spray, a systemic downy mildew curative as a precaution.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

A Prairie Home Companion 2.0

A PHC is a radio show which began in 1974 and is broadcast live on Saturday evenings by public radio in the USA.
It is a mid west based copy of the Grand Ole Opry and has been hosted all that time by the show's creator Garrison Keillor.
It is a mixture of music, comedy, social comment and regular features eg. faux adverts.
I first became aware of the show when I saw the movie of the same name back in 2006 while living in Tucson.
I was immediately hooked. It was quirky, the music nearly always my style and GK's observations on life in general and the mid west in particular had resonance.
We have been lucky enough to have been to the show twice, in 2011 and 2015, at its home at the Fitzgerald Theatre in St. Paul, Minnesota.
In Australia I have access to it live every Sunday morning our time on the net via either audio or video versions and lately have been able to Chromecast to our TV. I can also listen to it later via podcast.
In early 2015 GK announced he was stepping down and that Chris Thile would be taking over as host post the 2016 summer break.
Garrison Keillor                                          Chris Thile

I initially had my doubts whether the transfer of the reins to Chris would be a success.
He has a completely different personalty which didn't seem to fit in with the vibe of the show.
But when he was a guest on the show we last attended, I changed my mind.
Subsequent guest host appearances confirmed that he was going to be fine.
Now that he is fully in charge and the show has begun its current season, and is a few shows in, reviews are positive.
I will still be listening/watching although I am sure I will miss Guy Noir, Mom, The Lives of the Cowboys (Dusty and Lefty) and News from Lake Wobegon.
The show's format has basically remained the same with a few old faces remaining but the music is different  and the comedy updated and less host centric.
I think there is enough of 'the old' to keep the PHC 'lifers' around and 'the new' should attract a new generation of audience.

Friday, November 11, 2016

On Turning 70

Being 70 is, to many, some sort of milestone. To me, like 50 and 60, it's just another number.
We did have a small celebration with a lovely lunch at the Milkhaus in Milton and a good steak and a few bottles of special wine for dinner at home.
And I did take some time out to contemplate the past.
I grew up for the first 10 years of life in Melbourne before moving to Brisbane.
I used Google Street View to have a look at the old house. It was built for my parents by two of my uncles.
It still looks about the same although the garden doesn't look as well kept and the beautiful street trees have gone.

 My now fuzzy memories of early childhood got me thinking about all the life changes that have taken place over the last seven decades.
First off, my mother was a stay at home mum. Married women weren't a major component of the work force then. I think she had to resign her job when she got married. I know this frustrated her and she did considerable volunteer work as an alternative. The up side was I was not a latch key kid or farmed out to child minders. That has certainly changed now.
I remember the big deal it was to get our first car (Austin A40), a refrigerator (no more ice deliveries) and a washing machine (no more copper and wringer). We got bread delivered by horse and cart. Milk was brought the same way by the milko and dispensed from churns into our billy cans. Eventually bottled milk did arrive.
There were grocery shops (biscuits by the pound from big tins, butter cut from big blocks, flour and sugar scooped out of big sacks), butchers, green grocers, milk bars and fishmongers. Most of our fruit and vegetables were grown in the backyard.
Then, a precursor to what would become a supermarket opened down the road and the way we sourced food was changed for ever.
Electronic household gadgets were pretty much unknown but now we have plenty to play with. What would we do now without the microwave oven?
Bread Delivery

Apart from family gatherings, entertainment was the radio. We used to sit around it like a TV. The afternoon serials were a must: Tarzan, Hop Harrigan, Biggles, Superman and of course Yes What!
Friday night was the movies. We had a permanent booking at the local theater and I, like so many kids, would make it through the cartoon, newsreel and B film then sleep through the main feature after interval.
Black and white TV arrived in 1956. It was just too expensive for most of us. However a neighbour had one and some of the local kids were allocated a few hours afternoon viewing one day a week.
So there I got my Hopalong Cassidy, Mickey Mouse Club, Lone Ranger and Cisco Kid fix. Trying to make sense of what was happening in the "Spin and Marty" serial with only one day's viewing out of five wasn't easy.
TV eventually sent the traditional movie theaters into a severe decline but a new attraction sprang up. Drive In theaters! There was one just down the road.
Burwood Drive In 1954

I have seen recorded music go from 78s to 45s and LPs, to reel to reel, eight track, cassette tapes and CDs.
The big old radiogram was replaced by Walkmans, portable CD players, iPods, MP3 players and now the smart phone. Stereo is now old hat with cinema surround sound the go.
Visually there were video cassettes, DVDs and now digital downloads.
I worked for a company, who in partnership with Philips and Siemans, developed the clear plastic that was an integral part of the CD.
I remember first hearing music from that source at the company exhibit at the K Fair in Düsseldorf in the early 80s.
It blew me away.
Transport, particularly automotive and aviation has also changed.
It used to take days to fly from Sydney to London and was prohibitively expensive. Most people traveled by ship. When my parents went to Europe for 6 months in the early 50s, it took 5 weeks with P&O each way.
My first flight was on a propellered Lockheed Electra. Then the jet age arrived with 727s and later DC9s for domestic flights, 707s, Jumbos, briefly Concorde, and now A380s/787s for international which cut travel times significantly. Sydney to London is now under 24 hours and they are talking non stop flights with the newer generation of aircraft which will make the trip even shorter.
My First Overseas Flight / Pan Am 707 / Sydney-Bangkok 1969

Advances in heath care over the period have been substantial. We have seen all sort of vaccines and antibiotics reducing the incidence of terrible diseases. In my childhood polio was a curse. Dr Salk fixed that. TB and smallpox have virtually been eliminated. And of course there was "the pill"
There have been organ transplants as well as artificial hearts, not forgetting CT and MRI scanners and robotic surgery which I have experienced recently.
da Vinci Robot

Communication technology has exploded. Days of the landline phone and letters are numbered. I remember waiting for ages for interstate calls to be put through via an operator. International calls were a rarity. Telegrams were for urgent matters but then came the telex, fax and now email and instant messaging/facetime
My first mobile phone was like a house brick but now one can be held in the palm of your hand. And yes, it has become more than just a phone.
And who would have thought I would witness the demise of film. For us who thought the Polaroid camera was pretty amazing, the digital camera is a marvel.
A Box Brownie

I first came across computers when I started work in 1966. The company had an IBM System 360. It took up nearly a whole floor of the office building, had a huge number of people working with it, sucked most of the air conditioning from the rest of the offices on hot summer days and produced reams and reams of paper.
My first glimpse of a PC was in the early 80s. Our sales division had just one, connected to the mainframe, under the jealous stewardship of the office manager. It did miraculous things and seemed even at that time this might just be the way of the future.
My first computer purchase was a Commodore 64. Still have it with all its games. It may be worth day.

Then came the internet!
There is really not enough time and space to discuss what affect on the world that has had and will continue to have.
I guess I could also rabbit on about plastics, synthetic fibres, space travel, nuclear energy, solar and wind power and a whole lot more.
But that will do from me for now.

Monday, November 07, 2016

The Bushfire Season Starts

It's been a wet winter and there is plenty of fuel on the ground. The mild spring weather has turned suddenly and we are faced with temperatures in excess of 30 deg C and strong dry north westerly winds.
It would seem much of coastal New South Wales is on fire.
We have three near us. The closest is about 5km to the south but moving away.
From our Rural Fire Service App "Fires Near Me"

The other two are 'under control' but this can change dramatically with the vagaries of the wind.Time to dust off our survival plan and make sure we have all our 'essentials' easily located and ready to load in the car for a quick evacuation if ever needed.It's going to be a long summer by the looks of it.
Update 9th November: Rain overnight has eased the situation.

Saturday, November 05, 2016

Carpet and Chemistry

We have been in need of new carpet for a long time. This year we bit the bullet, decided to stay home, and spent our annual travel budget on getting the entire house done.
We used a local family company rather than one of the big franchises. They had a great range and a good service ethic. Dad came out to do the measuring and quote, mum coordinated the business side of things and the two sons had the carpet laid in a (longish) day.
We looked for a product that was stain resistant, long wearing and had a good 'feel' and ended up with Redbookgreen™ from Feltex.
The carpet fibre is made from triexta which is a PTT polyester.
It is a copolymer of PDO and TDA or DMT. All are normally petro chemical based.
But the PDO in our carpet fibre was made from, wait for it, corn sugar.
The clever people at Dupont came up with a way of fermenting corn sugar with a genetically modified E coli bacteria to produce Bio-PDO™ from the renewable source.
Their brand name is DuPont™ Sorona®,
This is not too surprising as DuPont has discovered and commercialized many revolutionary fibers including nylon, rayon, Kevlar® and Nomex®.
Coming from a career in polymers, mainly polyurethanes, thermoplastics and synthetic rubber, and regularly visiting one of the largest corn producing states in the USA ie. South Dakota, I thought this was pretty fascinating.
The carpet looks lovely, by the way.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

More Book Reviews / October 2016

The McCarthy era was hardly a highlight of American political history where paranoia, false accusations and ruined lives were the order of the day.
According the the publicity blurb, A House Divided: The Story of Ike and McCarthy is the story of the political battle between President Dwight D. Eisenhower and Senator Joseph R. McCarthy of Wisconsin for the political leadership of the Republican Party and the moral leadership of the nation

This is about the years when the United States fell under the 'spell' of the right-wing ideologue Senator Joseph McCarthy's so called reign of terror.
It tells how President Eisenhower, although new to politics, used tactics and cunning to defeat McCarthy's irresponsible and self-aggrandizing grab for power.
A particular interesting part of the book is about the Army-McCarthy hearings which dragged on for some months threatening to destroy the US Army. Instead it ultimately led to McCarthy's downfall.
This book is concise and clearly written and, for anyone who wants a better understanding of the Cold War, is an essential read.
Billy Battles bequeaths his great grandson a trunk containing journals documenting his life and requests he compiles them into a 3-part trilogy of which this book is the first. 
Finding Billy Battles results in a rollicking tale of the old West with gunfights and outlaws galore. Born in Kansas in 1860, a young Billy begins his adventures as a reporter on a Dodge City newspaper.
From there his exciting and dangerous life takes off across Kansas, Arizona and Texas.
This book is an amazing blend of historical fiction and fact using famous figures of the American West eg, Wyatt Earp.

I really liked this book. Its well written prose combined with the often humorous, dry and witty vernacular of the period is fun to read.
And we know from the last chapter life will not get any easier for Billy.
The second book of the Billy Battles trilogy was published in June.
It is definitely on my 'to read' list.
It's India in the 1870s and a young boy lives a quiet life in a relatively poor but vibrant river village with his loving family.
His father has a good job in a jute factory and he is getting educated.
But suddenly disaster strikes and his father is dead.
As a Hindu widow, his mother loses her status in the family the day her husband dies. She cannot remarry and is expected to live a life of penance.
As a result her son is sent off to a far away school and eventually to an English University to study law.
There he experiences the seeds of the feminist movement struggling for equal rights.
He returns to India determined to work to improve the lot of his countrywomen.
But this means living in a twilight world, being not fully accepted by his colonial masters and shunned by his fellow countrymen.

Flame Tree Road is very atmospheric drawing the reader into Hindu village life and then contrasting this with the stark reality of western civilization in Cambridge and London. It also exposes the inequality imposed on the population by the British Raj.
And there is also two love stories, one unrequited, the other bound for heartbreak. 
Unreservedly recommended.
The Manhattan Project was a research and development project that produced the first nuclear weapons during World War II. 
As part of that program, the US government established the town of  Oak Ridge, Tennessee, to aid in the construction of the first atomic bomb.
City Behind the Fence is a social history of that town.
It is not a story of the development of the atom bomb itself but provides a detailed account of the social issues and the effects of a secret city on a person's psyche. It relates stories of human sacrifice and class as well as racial distinction while living under Big Brother's thumb in the name of national security.

The fact that the vast majority of inhabitants didn't know what was going on in the place where they lived and worked for years until news of the destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki was made public is testament to the atmosphere that must have pervaded the town.
A fascinating story that would appeal to those interested in a unique chapter in American social history.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Book Reviews / October 2016

10% Happier was selected by the co driver for its meditation discussion.
She thought I might be interested to read it solely because it included the author Dan Harris's journalistic background.
He is a correspondent for ABC News, an anchor for Nightline and co-anchor for the weekend edition of Good Morning America.
Harris has reported on a series of events such as a number of USA mass shootings and has covered various natural disasters around the world. He has also reported on combat in Afghanistan, Israel, Gaza and the West Bank and has made six visits to Iraq.

Domestically, Harris has led ABC News' coverage of faith, with a particular focus on the evangelical movement. He scored one of the first interviews with former pastor Ted Haggard after his sex and drugs scandal.
The book covers all this and his early life dealing with drug addiction and an infamous on-air panic attack on June 7, 2004.
With the help of various mental health professionals, religious leaders, self-help gurus and news industry mentors, he stopped using drugs and discovered the benefits of meditation as a cure for his anxiety.
I must admit I skimmed over the more woo woo parts of the book but enjoyed his career story.
It's a great insight into the competitive nature of the main stream media, particularly TV current affairs, today.
Linda Greenlaw was featured in the 1997 book 'The Perfect Storm' and the subsequent 2000 film adaptation.
She was the first female sword-fishing boat captain on the American East Coast and has written a number of best-selling books about life as a commercial fisher. The Lobster Chronicles is one of them.
In this book she has given up her deep sea fishing exploits and returned to her place of birth, the Maine island of Isle au Haut to fish for lobster.  

This is an interesting story not only about the ins and outs of lobster fishing and the industry as a whole but also the politics and relationships of a very small and somewhat eccentric island community. It is also a another chapter in the author's life journey which continues in subsequent publications.
I enjoyed this book immensely although the author seemed to be in a hurry to finish the book with the final chapters seemingly disconnected.
It's just after the Civil War and straight laced Aurora from Boston travels to Montana to help her uncle document Crow Indian Culture. She meets up with a mixed Mohawk European race major in the US Army whose job it is to protect the wagon train heading west.
She is smitten. So is he.
Jonah's Woman could easily be called 'Sex on the Prairie'

In between graphic couplings there is an Indian war brewing due to the skulduggery of white ranchers wanting to take over Indian land with the help of corrupt army officials. The on again off again relationship between heroine and hero due to his experience of a life of discrimination fills out the rest of the story.
A pretty lightweight book with shallow characterization and extremely predictable plot.
But it's always a gamble and you take what you get with the free offerings on Amazon.
George Thring was orphaned at a very early age due to an incident at a lion safari park.
He is a boring man stuck in a boring job where he is continually put down and exploited.
One day he leaves work and just drives to nowhere in particular finally running out of petrol. Rescued from his predicament, he ends up in a small village of on the eve of their Elvis Festival long weekend.
Here among the quirky population he finds love, gets himself in trouble with an over zealous police officer as well as involved in a bizarre bank robbery.
He also eventually 'finds' himself.

I quite enjoyed this book despite having to suspend belief many times throughout the tale. It is humorously and well written. We just might see a bit of ourselves in George Thring without trying too hard.
Another freebie from Amazon and a good one.
It's the dark days of World War II in Great Britain and a wounded officer from the Tobruk campaign returns to London to take up an desk job to help plan the allied invasion of Europe.
By chance he is corresponding with an American lady exiled by choice in a small Irish village. Intrigue is fermenting there due to IRA plans to unite the two Irelands while the British are distracted by the war.

Cardigan Bay is romantic historical fiction set in great part in neutral Ireland during the war which was an environment conducive to IRA and subversive German activity. It also deals with the lead up to D-Day and the internal plot to kill Hitler by the Schwarze Kapelle.
The circumstances of the relationship between the two main characters may be a little far fetched but the sub plots have substance although it does seem that everyone is talking too much to one another about what was surely, at the time, classified information eg. goings on at Bletchley Park. And the number of passages of religious propaganda adds nothing to the story.
Despite all this it was an enjoyable easy read that manages to capture the essence of the times in rural Ireland and war torn London.

Thursday, October 06, 2016

Vintage 2017 Continues / Post 600!

So I have reached some sort of minor milestone with 600 posts (500, for some reason, seemed to pass unnoticed). This has taken just over 12 years.
Up until this date, according to Blogger stats, I have had just under 120,000 page views. Not a huge amount compared to many others eg, Doctor Grumpy, but the blog has been written mainly for family, friends and as bit of a personal diary. That it has managed to collect a few other regular readers on the way is a bonus.
The top 5 posts have been:
  1. Fish, Milk, Eggs and Nuts in Wine?
  2. Pruning Grapevines
  3. Sulphites in Wine
  4. Ampelography
  5. Some Fish of the Great Barrier Reef
Number 1 has found itself a place in the top 5 Google hits for that subject matter for a considerable length of time.
The top 5 audience countries are:
  1. United States (30%)
  2.  Australia (20%)
  3.  Russia
  4.  United Kingdom
  5.  France
Page Views by Country

Anyway, since this blog has basically concentrated on wine and wine growing I thought it appropriate for #600 to continue with that theme.
As mentioned before, Vintage 2017 has begun. Grapevine growth after bud burst is very rapid.
The various stages of growth are documented. The most common is the modified Eichhorn Lorenz system or modified E-L System.
This provides a simple listing of major stages as well as detailed intermediate stages.
For commercial growers, knowing the growth stage of grapes during the growing season has many useful applications.
If problems arise during the growing season, a grape specialist helping solve problems will need to know what stage of development the grapes were at when the problem manifested.
Communicating this information helps pin-point what problems would most often exist during this stage of grape development.
Culture and chemical applications are often prescribed at certain stages of grape development. For example, bunch thinning/removal is sometimes performed when the berries are pea-size or smaller. Often you will see chemical labels refer to certain stages when chemicals should or should not be applied such as pre-flowering, flowering, and bunch closure. For the chemicals to be effective in controlling pests, chemicals should be applied at stages as specified on the label.

This is not as relevant to a hobby grower like me but for the first part of the season, up until flowering, I am interested in the first 17 of the total 47 stages just for academic reasons.

Our main task during this time is to prevent fungal diseases. In this region, with a warm maritime climate, that means downy and powdery mildews. These are combated with a copper/sulphur spray mix every two weeks or more often after major rain events ie. >10mm.
These are preventative sprays.
Curative sprays are available for downy but not powdery so it is important to keep on top of this.
The sulphur sprays also keep blister mite at bay.
We have never sprayed insecticides here. This has enabled a huge population of 'good guy' predators to build up in the vineyard and they take care of any unwanted 'invaders' at a very early stage of their development eg. grapevine and hawk vine moths. Occasionally we come across the odd caterpillar of those species which has managed to evade our resident army at the egg stage but quick snip of the pruners does the job.

Other tasks in the vineyard include water shoot removal, shoot thinning, shoot positioning, weed control, inter row mowing and the ever present net mending.
All this is never tedious. Being out in the sunshine on our warm spring days is always a pleasure. And now the nets are higher it's even more enjoyable.
I guess this is the time to confess I am more fond of the grape growing than the wine making.

Saturday, October 01, 2016

Taste and Flavour / There Is a Difference

Wine tasting is always fun.
Recognizing the varietal character of the various grapes via aroma and flavour and how these can vary from region to region or vintage to vintage is always interesting.
Then assessing any winemaker input and if this enhances a wine. eg. oak, MLF, bâtonnage can be challenging.
And then of course there are the technical components like fruit/acid balance, alcohol content, length of finish, faults etc.
But to get technical, taste is limited to just five aspects (but usually only two, maybe three, in wine) and we are probably more interested in the various flavours that wine exhibits.
Sweet, sour (acid), bitter, salty were the original four tastes and then umami was added and recognized properly around the year 2000.
Umami is a savoury, meaty and brothy taste dried shiitake mushrooms, Vegemite, kombu seaweed, miso and  parmesan cheese.
In our mouths there are particular receptors that are sensitive to each type of taste.
Sourness and saltiness are about ions going through ion channels. The other three tastes work with G-protein-coupled receptors.
Flavour recognition comes from other sources.

According to Dr. Alex Russell, a taste and smell perception expert, flavour is a 'hedonic' sense involving smell, texture, temperature and expectation.
Let's, as an example, look at a New Zealand Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc.
Gooseberry, passionfruit, capsicum, herbaceous and grassy are the common flavour descriptors used for this most distinctive and easily recognizable wine.
On a molecular level, there are 3 individual chemicals strongly associated with this Marlborough wine that give it this flavour profile. For the chemistry boffins out there they are hexyl acetate, trans-3-hexan-1-ol and 3-mercaptohexyl acetate (3MHA).
But I digress.
When in the mouth, the actual taste of the wine would be acid.
But the actual fruity flavours come from smell.
This smell is not entering the nose via the nostrils at this point. It's entering the nose through the throat.
This perception of odours from our smell receptors via the throat is called retronasal olfaction. Perception of odours through the nose is called orthonasal olfaction..
So when 'tasting', you'll get the temperature of the wine in your mouth, that's the touch sensation. You'll get the acidity. That is the actual taste itself.
And you'll get the fruitiness from the smell through retronasal olfaction.
Put all of those elements together and that's flavour.
By the way, that tannin component of wine (mainly in reds), that makes your mouth pucker is not generally a taste or a flavour although an excess can impart a bitterness. It is normally a mouth feel or a tactile sensation.
Something to think about (or probably not) when taking your next sip of wine.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Vintage 2017 Begins

The Pinot Noir is shooting.
It received its first copper/sulphur fungicide spray yesterday.
The Tempranillo and Semillon are not far behind with a fairly even bud burst occurring.
The Cabernet Sauvignon will probably shoot in the next week or so. Bud swell is evident.

We have been flat out resetting stays and repairing netting. The kangaroos gave the netting a bit of a work over this winter. The green grass in the mid rows was just too tempting I guess.
The house on the property diagonally behind us has been vacant for many months (but now sold) and, with no human activity there, the 'roos have been slowly encroaching on the occupied properties. There are some big bucks among the mob. A male Eastern Grey Kangaroo can grow to 1.5 m tall with a 1m long tail and can weigh up to 85kg.
They can be very protective of the does and their joeys so although they are normally easy to scare off any approach is made with some caution. While they are most active at dawn and dusk, from the amount of droppings around, there are plenty of nocturnal visits as well.
Am sure they will retreat to the bush when the new neighbours move in in October.

We have also raised the height of the netting in the Cabernet to make it more comfortable to work under.
We used surplus electric fencing tape strung between the strainers under the netting. This was raised using 3m x 20mm PVC pipe which was set into 0.5m X 25mm PVC pipe driven into the ground.
This system seems to be working so far and has stood up to a few early spring westerly wind storms.
The weather is warming up fast. I came across my first snake of the season the other day.
So now the the real vineyard work starts.
I hope the weather gods are kind this year.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

The Curse of the Tussock

We have four main weed problems around here. They are bracken, tussock, scotch thistle and blackberry.
We have overcome the bracken problem with the use of metsulfuron-methyl (BrushOff or Associate) which appears to have a long lasting affect. The other three need to be treated annually. We have the latter two well under control but the tussock is prolific, hardy and reproduces easily from seed.
There are two main problem tussocks in Australia. One is serrated tussock (Nassella trichotoma) an import from South America. It is the worst perennial grass weed in Australia which can reduce pasture production by up to 95%.
It was introduced into Australia in the early 1900s, probably as a contaminant in hay imported from Argentina, and was first identified as a weed in 1935.
Poa tussock: Living, Dying, Dead

The other is the native poa tussock (Poa labillardierei).
Thankfully we have the native variety which is easily treated by spot spraying with glyphosate (Roundup).
This can be a tedious task but on a warm spring day wandering the paddocks with a backpack sprayer can be good therapy.
The old saying 'one year's seeds equals seven year's weeds' is particularly true with this plant.
The main problem is it reduces pasture productivity and has little nutrition for stock.
It takes some time for the chemical to work. The mode of action is to interfere with the plant's metabolism eventually starving it to death.
Two to three weeks after spraying a yellowing of leaves is noticed then a gradual senescence.
No matter how many we kill off each year there is always a new crop the following one.
True the overall number is decreasing but there are still thousands so guess this will be an annual job for years to come.
What we like to see
Our glysophate 450 addition rate is 10mL/L. We use a cheaper generic product rather than Roundup.
In cases where we need to improve the rain fastness of the mix (from 6 to less than 1 hour) we add an organo-silicone surfactant at a rate of 2mL/L.
This penetrant increases the surface area of the droplet, increases the rate of uptake and, on hard-to-wet weeds, increases the amount of herbicide entering the plant.

Saturday, September 03, 2016

Beach Fishing

Neighbour Bob has recently retired and now has lots more time for fishing. We often head down the beach together when the tide is right (incoming is best) to wet a line and have a small competition as to how many we can catch.
We usually prefer one of the more deserted beaches in our area. The best one is about 10 minutes drive away.

Fishing off the beach allows us to target a number of species including tailor, bream, flathead, whiting and Australian salmon. The latter is the most prolific and, although not a great eating fish, is  great to catch.
They put up quite a fight occasionally leaping into the air in an effort to shake the hook. Successfully landing them through a heavy shore break can be a tricky business.
Occasionally Bob will take one home for Jude to work her cooking magic but generally we have a catch and release policy.
Despite the common name, Australian salmon are not related to the salmon family of the Northern Hemisphere. They are a member of the Australian herring family and can grow to nearly a metre in length and weigh around 10kg.

Arriving at the beach we always look for holes or gutters. These usually form between a sand bank out to sea and the beach. The ocean waves break on the sandbank and then wash into the deeper water of the gutter  to reform as a shore break. It is in these holes we find the fish, sometimes very close to the shore as they feed on prey stirred up by the wave action.

So called surf rods are usually 3 to 4 metres in length and are matched to a spinning reel although some fishermen still prefer the older side cast reels. I use a 7kg breaking strain mono-filament line.
Everyone has favorite rigs for targeting specific fish. For the salmon we use a running sinker with 3/0 double (rather than triple) gang hooks at the end of a metre trace. Gang hooks are merely normal hooks linked together. You can buy them linked or as open eye hooks and make your own.

For bait we use fresh frozen Western Australian pilchards (sardines). These are attached to the gang hooks in a special way and then 'tied' to them with very thin wire as the pilchard is a very soft fish. The salmon find them irresistible.

We seldom come away from 3 to 4 hours at the beach without success. Some days the fish may be few and far between, other days there's a bite every cast.
But we both agree it's not the fish we go for, but the fishing.

Monday, August 29, 2016

"Our" Beach is Coming Back

Back in June I lamented that our beach had been devastated by a huge winter storm.
But now, things are looking rosier.
The sand is coming back.
Nature is doing a great repair job.
June 2016

August 2016

Meanwhile the local community has come together to replace the washed away gantry.
Some of the old structure will be recycled and donations of new material and of offers labour have been made.
It sure is strange looking along the headland and not seeing it there.

Monday, August 08, 2016

The Daughter's Iceland

Due to unforeseen circumstances, the daughter and Nicko found themselves in Iceland.
This country has always been on our bucket list so we were interested in getting a personalized preview.
Although very expensive, it seems the vibe and scenery is well worth it.
Below are a few pics of their travels.
They have now returned to USA and hope to get their New York plans back on track soon.