It took what seemed almost forever for the weather to cooperate so that we could start the needed prep work for the Block 2 expansion. This part of Virginia had the worst weather it has seen in years, and even though we didn't get walloped with the deep snows that D.C. saw, we did get just enough inches of the white stuff to freeze the ground.
Pounding poles into frozen ground is about the same as trying to pound a nail in a concrete surface. There would be nothing left of the equipment or the operator after just a few posts,
So we waited, and we waited, and now in mid-March it is time to get going. But the problem is that we waited so long that Block 1 now needs immediate attention......bud break occurred last year on April 1st and there is no reason to believe it won't be about the same time. We are watching bud swell and it appears we have a little time but not much.
For those that have gone through my previous blogs you may remember that one of my major themes (when times are tough, days are long, and mother nature is testing my determination) is the weeds, and what am I to do about them.
During the winter we came up with a strategy that includes tilling, spraying a pre-emergent herbicide down, and then following-up with some post-emergent herbicides as time goes on.
Bud break announces that Spring is here, and with that is the eruption of every little dormant weed seed that is in the field. There is no time to lose, and last year's debacle of getting to it one or two weeks too late amounted to seasonal anguish (and near suicide !).
Soooo, priorities have changed and we now have a full-court push to prep Block 1. Jerry and I (well, really just "I", more on that later), started the tilling and after 2 1/2 days we have completed it. It does leave a 6" strip directly under the wires that needs to be hit with some herbicide, and the pre-emergent stuff will be in Wednesday for us to spray the tilled earth.
It is past the traditional time to prune, though pruning takes place throughout the season, so we have to get that done too. This is the 2nd year for serious pruning, with each year moving forward requiring a game plan in regards to what you want to achieve. For our French varietals, this year we are setting up the vines to establish cordons, those are the 2 arms that go out to the left and right from the trunk which are located about 36" off the ground. From these the canes will be developed. For our Nortons, an American grape, we are using a Geneva Double Curtain trellising method, so we are training these using a double-trunk method, which requires these trunks to reach all the way up to the top wire that is 6' off the ground before we start allowing canes to develop. Just getting more upward growth is the goal for this year for the Nortons.
So, this week is dedicated to Block 1, with its tilling, its various spraying, and pruning. It is time intensive, but the weather is good, and in some ways it is soothing and medicinal if you can allow your brain to wander and chill out as you go through the mechanical motions of pruning and tieing.
Well, forget the time to day dream. I have a major problem I am trying to resolve, and even the pruning won't allow me escape it. Jerry has been sick lately, let's just say I think it is self-inflicted, and with that he has become a complete loss at being reliable, and available, during the most important time of the year. He has showed up to work one day, and hasn't called in on any of the others. For all practical purposes he has only worked a couple days over the past month, which is why we are so far behind on Block 1. Therefore I am doing all the previously described work myself. I don't mind doing it but we would be putting posts in already had we shared in the Block 1 effort. I've given up on him.....I've given him way too many Uncle Charlie speeches, called his cellphone so many times that I think I have personally filled his voice message center, and given him way too much slack (or benefits of doubt) where it is now affecting the work that needs to be done. I have put a want ad in the local paper and we'll see if I get any qualified candidates to help on the vineyard. Putting in the posts on schedule has suffered regardless, and as a result I have already pushed back planting the new vines until May 1st.
On a lighter note, I have been asked to speak about setting up a vineyard at an upcoming Virginia Tech Growers Meeting being held in the county in early May. They seem to think that I will have a captive audience even after they learn I've never really farmed before and I'm a Yankee. You figure. It is the desire of the local ag agent to have other vineyards in the county that could help replace, or at least supplement, the traditional crops grown in the area. Setting up a vineyard is a tough nut to crack for farmers used to a century of growing corn, cotton, soybeans, and peanuts. This is not throw down the seed and forget about it farming; this is farming that requires constant attention.
Next up......hopefully posts.