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Sunday, July 18, 2010


It is now early July and I am back on the vineyard.......or let's just say I have just left and am reviewing the work that has been done.

As I mentioned in my last blog we had several things to accomplish in order to make serious progress during this trip. I was able to rent a Ditch Witch and dig the trench to tie the water lines in Block 2 to the main system. Digging down into hard pack was really tough...not only were the cutters having a hard time ripping out the earth that was as hard as granite due to the drought, but as it was trying the wheels spun in the soft top sand and dug themselves in. Try moving a Ditch Witch that has dug itself into the easy task.

It took a day to dig the trenches needed, and the following day I had to go in with a trench shovel and clean out spots that I couldn't go deep enough with using the machine. In one spot I had to avoid slicing the telephone wire, which surprizingly was exactly where DigSafe (or Virginia's equivalent) said it was.....24" down. Of course I ended up slicing through another wire that wasn't identified, but it must not have been juiced or I would have lit up.

The day after I tied in all the irrigation lines that were preassembled (Diane flew down to help here, along with some pruning....more on that later) and called it a day. I didn't have the energy to test them that late in the day. In case there was a problem there wasn't enough time left to fix it anyway.

Changing subjects.....guess who showed up ? Jerry, of course. After his months (and months) of disappearance, he said he wanted to continue now that he had nearly fully recovered from his stint with depression, migranes,, etc. Well, Jerry owed me hours ( I had paid him in advance some during late winter when the weather wasn't great but he needed rent money) so who was I to say no, at least for now. So I used Jerry to test the system out and once we took care of only one gusher where a coupling failed, it was working fine and was ready to be backfilled. At that point I was mentally and physically fried (it was at the end on my 2 week stretch) so I just delegated it to him to do. While I was there he also started doing the tie-in work for the Petit Verdots.....drilling the bottom wire holes, running the wire, putting up the drip lines and installing the drippers. Hopefully this all will be done by the time I return. Really I hope earlier than my return so we can turn on the water to Block 2 has been very very dry and the grapes need the water for basic survival. Some of the grapevines look rather sad...dead leaves that seemed so promising when planted are completely browned or have dropped off. Oh, the life of a farmer ! Cross our fingers and pray that the roots and trunk are still in good shape. We will know in the next few weeks our survival rate....once we get some water on them and see how they respond. There just isn't alot of rain in the forecast.

The other projects included some pruning, and some spraying. As mentioned , Diane came down for a few days and she was able to pry me away from the vineyard for a night on the town. We went over to Colonial Downs for some horse racing and fireworks on July 4th. They have a nice setup......the best that loser's money can provide. We bet on 9 out of 10 races....we lost on 9 out of 10 races. Now they weren't able to expand their facilities with the money we lost at only $2 a race, but come on, how can you lose a race betting Show on the most favored horse ? Ah, the gamblers nightmare; once again reinforcing why I don't do the Lotto, the track, or go to Vegas. But the fireworks at the track were first class and we had a great time. Of course there was a dark moment. After the show we raced to the ferry landing, got there in time only to find out that the ferry was full and we had to wait an hour (until 1:30 a.m.) for the next ferry to arrive and take us across the James. Bummer.

Diane helped with the pruning. I put her on the Cabernet Francs while I tackled the Nortons. All had become bushes by now and the 3 minutes it took for pruning vines to establish cordons last month now took double or triple the time this month. After a couple of days Diane had done 1 1/2 rows. I was on the Nortons and they bordered on a nightmare. These are being trained with a twin trunk, therefore double the amount of hedge to prune back, not to mention their ordinary vigorous behavior. I got through maybe a little over half of them before my 2 weeks were up and I had to return north. I can't imagine what they will look like when I return again. And those poor Viogniers.......they have yet to see pruning sheers since the initial cutting.

Lastly I did some spraying. I had reconstructed the boom system on the sprayer the last time I was there. It is now capable of spraying sideways at 2 levels in both directions as I ride down a row. It worked quite well actually. Testing out a speed / spray usage earlier in the week I was able to spray exactly 25 gallons of diluted spray of fungicide and insecticide in an hour doing Block 1. Previously this was a 5 to 6 hour job. When you have to rely totally on one person ( a.k.a. moi) you get pretty smart as how to get the work done faster and more efficiently. Now how can I be more efficient at pruning ?

That was my stint at the vineyard in the 1st half of July. I have been home now a couple of days and have gone through my period of decompression. I have already reserved plane tickets for a return trip in August. A one week stay devoted to finalizing the irrigation for Block 2, and more pruning, and seeing if Jerry finished the assigned tasks.

On a more intersting note, Diane tested the grapes we have hanging on the Seyval Blancs and they register a 5% sugar level. They have a long ways to go but we have many more sunny months to bring them up to the 25% Brix level we need at picking. Looks like a late September or October harvesting is on schedule. Maybe we'll have all the other grapes pruned by then !

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