A typical retirement day at the vineyard? Not really. Just how manly do I look in my hard hat and hi-vis bib? Yes, I am serious, as you will see in a moment. I bet you thought there isn’t anything to do in the vineyard at this time of year? Wrong, very wrong. First of all its pruning time for vines and willows, more of which in next blog. A check of last year’s records showed we’d done this by now but we’ve been a bit pressed timewise in other life areas so we haven’t started yet. But that’s not to say we’ve been idle vis a vis our vineyard and that’s where the photos come in.
We were pretty casual with the vineyard last year and probably the vineyard suffered as a result. This year we have decided to try and give our vines a little more in the way of TLC starting with a proper soil analysis by an actual agronomist recommended by a fellow Yorkshire viticulturist. This analysis means we get made up for us a balanced fertiliser to meet the particular needs of our vineyard. All good so far, the only slight problem being you can’t buy the fertiliser in a quantity of less than 600kg. I really had no idea how big a bag this would be although the conversation with the guy at the fertiliser company gave me a clue – no, it won’t fit in the back of your Land Rover and yes, you do need to bring your trailer. And so it was, you might be able to see the bag in the photos (right) but it was quite difficult as the place we picked it up was a bit of a no photograph zone. If you look at another of the photos where I attempted to take a picture of just one of many ‘sheds’ with enough bags to, erm, fill a very large ‘hangar’, (see below).
As you might predict, picking up a bag this size and then transporting it to our vineyard was not challenge-free. First, we couldn’t find the place, the sat-nav took us to a country lane in the middle of nowheresville, East Yorkshire, certainly not a wharf in sight, the wharf being where the chemicals arrived by boat/ ship I assume, from God knows where. My big nightmare with the trailer is reversing it in very small spaces. Enter one country lane with very small reversing space and furthermore we were lost. Sat-nav said ‘you are here’ and we said, ‘don’t think so’. Then along the lane came a very old, very wrinkled old lady. A bit like a guardian angel we thought. I said I think I’m lost. You tell me where you want to be and I’ll tell you if you are. Howdendyke, I said. Yes, you’re lost, she said, it’s miles away. I looked at the little old lady and then at the sat nav, old lady at window, sat nav on the seat. No brainer, go with the old lady. She gave me clear and accurate instructions and we arrived at the point of collection in Howdendyke. Thank you, little, old, wrinkled lady.
I checked the post code with the man in the weighbridge (that’s how industrial all this was), yes, it was the right one and no, he couldn’t explain why sat-nav had taken me miles away. And what is your name? he asked. I told him. Sorry, mate, you’re not on my list, not booked in and then ‘they’ should have told you, you have to call here and clear it with us first. I felt my well-being / sanity slipping away. I resisted the urge to say, look you pathetic jobsworth give me my fucking fertiliser or I’m going to kill you (not really all in my imagination). I really, really didn’t want to go back to Leeds with an empty trailer. Keep calm and carry on talking to this man who held my day in his hands. After a little persuasion he got on his walkie-talkie thing and talked to his mate in the shed and yes, here’s your ticket go and collect it. What a nice man. I duly went to the ‘shed’. His reluctance was not based on not having any in stock. In the ‘hangar’ they had the world’s supply of 0 -20-30, as you can see in photo above left. No, I don’t know what it is either but it’s specially designed for me and the 8 million other people it’s waiting for. I’ve included the sheet so you can better understand or not as the case may be, actually I haven’t, couldn’t get the image to transfer so you’ll have to take my word for it.
So we leave, we drive back to my friend’s farm and his barn where I’m storing the bag. He lifted the bag off with his tractor (God, I’m envious of his tractor) then we, with scientific accuracy and his wife’s bathroom scales (he didn’t use them but it gave me great pleasure that he was heavier than me, a fact he explained because he was wearing steel toe cap boots and I wasn’t), measured out one sixth of the large bag into six smaller bags (hence 100 kg in each smaller bag). I’m told that one sixth is all I need for this year. All I need to do is store the rest for 5 more years without it going into a solid mass. By this time I’ve had enough of the country farmer life and go back to Leeds and the civilised life.
Four days later I go back to my friend’s barn, pick up the six, quite heavy, bags put them in the back of my Land Rover, drive further up the dale to the vineyard, take the bags out, distribute them (see photo below) and then try and get the Land Rover out the field where I wouldn’t have normally driven it on account of it being very wet, sure enough got stuck in normal four-wheel drive and had to put it in ‘diff’, no, me neither, get stuck in diff and have to drive slowly back to my garage in Leeds. I tried to persuade the garage in the village to take a look but unfortunately, as he explained, he was going home for his dinner (lunch) and his wife had cooked it, so he better not miss it. Can’t argue with that rationale. So back to my Leeds garage, the one I know so well, my garage chum basically abuses my Land Rover in the car park and gets it ‘out of diff’. What did you do? I ask. He replied, split – lock – diff. I have no idea what you’re talking about, I say. He tries to explain, with each of his ‘sentences’ I understand less. In the end he says think of it like this – quite stuck, pull lever straight back, for very stuck, pull back, to left and then push forward in a U shape. OK, I leave feeling not very manly which is a pity given how I started this blog talking of manly things.
All this and the fertiliser hasn’t been sprinkled (lovely word) on the land. That’s to come this weekend I hope, if I can get away from working on my late mother’s house. And that dear readers was the end of my retirement day relating to our vineyard and the purchasing, transporting, but not quite the spreading of the fertiliser. Who knew it could be so complicated but then this sums up my retirement life quite well. A metaphor you might say if you were that way inclined. If it can be difficult so it will be, retirement that is.