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Friday, June 11, 2010


It's mid-June now, and I have just finished my 1 1/2 week stint on the vineyard. I remember last year going to work in Virginia a week at a time, usually once a month. This year the workload has grown (no takers on my job opening yet) and I visit with an open-ended schedule in the vineyard. I love working the fields, but I hate wasting 12 hours of driving each way to go to and from. That is another problem to address, but it doesn't help on the workload.

This latest trip was a success in as much as alot of "must do" projects were completed. I was visited by my brother Ron and his wife Barb who realized at the onset that that I would put them to work, especially on 2-man projects where I needed the extra hands. They had come up to Virginia to visit relatives in Maryland, but ended up putting some time in with me as part of a "working vacation".

I taught Ron the finer points of driving a farm tractor with its 3-point hook-up as we pounded in the last of the wooden posts in the Block 2 expansion. From there we used the gas auger to drill holes for planting the balance of the Cabernet Sauvignons that had been stored in a refrigerator from last month. In case anyone asks, a refrigerator can hold 625 grafted vines max.

During the week it was rather hot, so outside work was restricted to early morning and late evening, when the sun wasn't as glaring and a slight breeze made working the vines tolerable. I taught Ron and Barb how to prune 3 year old vines, establishing the cordons for next year's cane growth. We would go back in the field around 6 p.m. and work until 8 or so when light was too dim to make good cutting decisions, and when we were just exhausted enough to call it a day. There would ALWAYS be another day....there would always be more vines to prune too.

We concentrated on the Seyval Blancs while they were there. I have 10 rows of them, somewhere around 500 vines. They had grown so much since their first pruning that it took nearly 3 minutes a piece to cut off the unwanted shoots, not to mention all the fruit clusters that the vines had already allowed. Normally we would remove all these clusters but there were so many, and the vines were growing so well, that we left a couple on average on each vine for a Fall harvest, allowing us to get warmed up on wine production 2 years ahead of schedule.

Ron and Barb eventually had to leave, and after they departed I planted the 625 Cabs and worked on the spray systems for the next visit. The Japanese Beetles are out in full force now, and they love grape leaves. I also have to consider all the fungus issues that come with hot humid temperatures. Prudent spray use is necessary just to keep even.....I don't really know how the "organic" guys do it.

My next visit can't come soon enough. My mind is already back in Virginia and I know I still have the Viognier, Cab Francs, and Nortons to prune a 2nd time. I also have to tie in the irrigation system into Block 2. We have been rather lucky lately so the need to connect all the drip lines hasn't made it a priority (at least not with everything else that needed to be done).
It had been so dry in the Spring that my back fields still haven't been planted. We had soy last year, and it is getting a little late for corn. Maybe we'll get a grain in ?

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