This, technically, is my June blog but we’ve been so busy actually working in the vineyard I haven’t quite got round to writing about it. I have heard it said that vineyards on average require a day a week’s work for every acre of vines. Well we have half an acre planted in our experimental vineyard as we like to call it to allow for complete failure. This should mean half a day a week but, at the moment, we are putting in 2 or 3 days a week on tasks, like planting new vines, de-budding, de-suckering, tying down and up, pruning, strimming, raking grass, weed killing, fertilising ground and leaf and now adding a new strand of wire to most of the rows. OK, we didn’t do much at all during the winter other than pray our vines would survive and of course praying can be hard work but basically that average all mounts up and about now it’s heavy going. Hence not having time to write about what’s happening.
I had planned to write this blog about being very excited about my new item of vineyard equipment. This being my wire pliers that you can see in photo above. This piece of kit promises to do all manner of tasks in the wiring department. It cuts, pulls out staples, knocks them in, twists the wire to improve the tension of each wire and all for £8 plus £3 postage and packing from Amazon. I can assure you that the packing alone was worth the £8. I don’t know whether they had run out of the right size boxes but this one was like the first round of pass the parcel while the pliers were the last small gift that the lucky winner receives. If you’re not a fan of Amazon or waste in the world of unnecessary packaging then you will be unimpressed but I was ready to be very impressed indeed, possibly the first purpose built tool I have bought for the vineyard – bound to be an exciting moment.
Buying the pliers was all to do with actually realising that our vines had grapes. They hadn’t although what we had certainly looked like small grapes but they were, in fact, only the flowers. Our ignorance in this vineyard project knows no bounds. Anyway the point is that we thought we had grapes which meant that we thought we needed to seriously review our wiring arrangement. We have thus far put up only as much wire as we needed at each stage, no point spending large sums of money on wire we might never need because, given our location, we would never get any grapes. But now we do, or rather don’t, but think we do so we need another strand of wire nearer to the bottom wire. At the moment the gap between the bottom and top wire is about a metre. Too big for the vines to make the leap. So we’re in the process of putting a third wire (see right, just about if you look closely) about a foot above the bottom one. I hope you’re following this.
I have to say that stringing (if that’s the right verb) the wire is one of the most unpleasant jobs I’ve done so far in our vineyard especially as I’m doing it alone. Mrs Summerhouse is employed on other tasks which urgently need doing like tying down / up the vines new growth before the wind gets hold of the delicate shoots. So it’s a lonely and difficult task. The wire is the most uncompliant, irritating, difficult, unforgiving material I’ve ever worked with. Unravelling it from the roll, freeing it when it gets caught up as you pull it along the row, trying to get the kinks out, pulling it tight hurts my hands and wearing gloves isn’t much of an option because extracting the staples (which always stick in my finger ends) as I grope in my man pouch for them, is impossible wearing gloves. As is holding the staple to the post with the wire ‘inside’ the staple, these are not tasks which can be accomplished wearing thick heavy gloves the like of which would make handling the wire so much kinder on the hands – I may never play the piano again. Then there’s the tightening of the wire. Quite difficult even with the pliers which I use to put a kink/s in the wire to take up as much of the slack that is inevitably left, no matter how tight you try and pull the wire with your hands. So you get the picture.
But let me finish this particular vineyard blog on an up-beat note, if that is what it is. I had thought I was going to be writing about the pliers as my exciting addition to my equipment but then something happened. Last Friday I, and other WVA members, received an email from a chap who was selling off a de-stemmer / crusher (see right, and an impressive beast it is too) and a wine press (not shown). Now this came hot on the heels of us – mistakenly – thinking we had grapes and so my thoughts turned to actually making wine. Ambitious I know particularly, as it turns out, we don’t have grapes but, no matter, I thought the juxtaposition of having grapes and this email offering second hand equipment, was clearly significant. It was Jupiter being in line with Mars or something. It was meant to be, all £200’s worth. So I rang the phone number, the email didn’t work, maybe fortunately as it turned out and spoke to David. It turned out that David was in Rothwell, another clear sign that I should go ahead and purchase this equipment. The fact that there was a vineyard in Rothwell (if you know it you’ll know what I’m saying) was remarkable. Apparently the land was being sold so David had to give up his vineyard enterprise. The vineyard has been there for 14 years so a bit sad really. Still one man’s loss is another man’s gain as they say.
Transportation wasn’t quite as easy as I had imagined because the shredder / de-stemmer was huge and would not fit in the back of my Defender 90 and I had to go back for it using number one son’s Defender 110. Imagine if I’d gone all the way to Kent or some more likely place and it didn’t fit. But we got it home and then up to the vineyard and there they (press and de-stemmer) are. I also bought a refractometer which is a little gadget for measuring sugar levels and a thing I had wanted badly since I first saw one (see right). Oh and I bought 3 books on wine-making, so I was very pleased with myself and £200 seemed like a very fair price for all this. I was even more pleased when I found out, at our Yorkshire vineyards gathering last weekend, that I had beaten another member to the draw. As Vidal Sassoon or was it Gore Vidal, reportedly said, it is not enough that I succeed, others must fail. Yes indeedy.
So we had our vineyard owners meeting which was pleasant and even more so for the above reason and, as a final bonus, it turned out that we’re not having a website after all so any worries I might have had about being the news editor for the website and not having any news to publish, were removed at a stroke. It doesn’t exactly speak well of cooperation between us but never mind. So there we are or rather I am and Mrs SH is right in the middle of a lot of vineyard tasks at the moment. As I’ve said elsewhere I never thought we would be so busy in retirement.