After last year’s total crop loss attributable to smoke taint from wildfire, we begin our 19th year of vineyard farming with renewed hope. The sky is clear, the grass is green, the afternoons are warm, and the new shoots are beautiful.
This is a typical vine in our vineyard. It has 4 spur positions on each side of the trunk and each spur position has 2 shoots. If the growing season progresses as we hope, each shoot will grow into a 5’ tall woody cane by mid-June. Two long and tight grape clusters should be hanging from each cane. That’s a lotta hope.
Our vineyard management crew pruned the vineyard over several days beginning March 26. That’s a skilled task we’re not allowed to do for 2 reasons. We’re not skilled and it would take us about 3 years to prune our 4600 vines.
The photos show all of the prunings on the south and north aisles of the vineyard. The crew carefully cut each of the approximately 73,000 woody canes that held last year’s grape clusters.
Our vineyard work always begins with removing the prunings from the vineyard and hauling them to the burn pile. We may not be skilled but we’re acquiring better judgment. In the past, the crew left all the prunings in piles in the rows and we carried the piles to the aisles. This year we decided to act our age and asked the crew to carry them out. We’ll get our cardio and strength exercise some other way.
Barb declares the start of happy hour. Never mind that it’s 11 am. She’s never been constrained by conventional happy hour start times.
Each spring we hang about 25 frost tarps on the mountain sides of our vineyard. Each tarp is 30’ long and 8’ tall. Barb is using the tractor as a moving platform to attach the tarps to the top wire of our deer fence. It’s an unskilled task but we never do this after happy hour.
Our frost fighting machine sits in the lowest part of the vineyard. It has a giant propeller in the cylinder that draws the accumulating frost layer to it and exhausts it high above the vineyard. If the machine can keep the frost layer below the buds until the sun warms the ground we should avoid frost damage. More hope.
The tarps are a necessary barrier to keep the frost that forms on the mountain from moving into the vineyard. The machine starts automatically when its thermometer falls to 34 degrees. It has already run 2 nights in April.
The third element of frost protection is keeping the permanent cover crop mowed to a maximum height of 2” until the frost season passes, usually around June 1. Gravity slowly moves the frost layer toward the frost machine. A tall cover crop impedes that movement.
Gerry isn’t wearing a mask to protect himself or the vineyard from Covid. He wears it to avoid inhaling pounds of dust, especially when he mows over piles of dirt the size of a soccer ball created by tunneling vineyard varmints.
Our April work is complete. Now we wait … and hope.
Barb and Gerry Sieck
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