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.