It has been 41 days since we got back from Hawaii and today was warmer than any day we spent there. So Spring has Sprung. We even ate asparagus fresh out of the garden today and Cheryl is setting up feeders for hummingbirds. The local deer have gone from mangy and rangy to sleek and spunky. Eagles, owls and frogs are filling the day and night with sound. We stopped feeding suet to the birds and they have spread out to build nests in new territory. The snow has retreated to above 3000 feet. All of this is happening while we are scrambling to get ready for our first Farmers Market.
So what goes on in a vineyard this time of year? Priority one was pruning the grape vines. I usually try to do that as soon as the snow is melted. This year I pruned especially heavy leaving only one bud for this year where the best canes grew last year. Too often in the past I was leaving 2 – “just to make sure” – and that left too many weak canes. There will still be too many new shoots, but I’ll go through again to open up the interior of each vine.
This is also the time of year that I start new grape plants from cuttings. During the winter I did a lot of reading about grapes and soil. A really good guide to organic grapes is The Grape Grower, by Lon Rombough. In it he discusses mycorrhizal fungi, organisms that dissolve mineral nutrients from rocks and sand in exchange for sugars from living plant roots. By inoculating my grape cuttings with fungal spores and promoting new roots ahead of leaf growth, I doubled my percentage of rooted cuttings that are taking hold. In some cases to nearly 100%.
Mycorrhizal fungi are a key component of the emerging practice of Regenerative Agriculture. On April 15th I gave a talk at our local Slow Food meeting on the many ways these methods are changing the world. At the same time I am putting my money and energy where my mouth is by preparing to lay down layers of compost, biochar, manure and shredded prunnings between the rows of grapes. There will doubtless be more about how that is going in subsequent blogs.
I was worried about my bottle supply since it depends on friends who recycle their corkable fifths with me. But not any more. Now my poor bottle shed has more than it can handle, which makes me all the more aware that I have not kept up with bottling wine. Some of the new additions in that realm include Siegerrebe 2016 from Downriver Orchards certified organic grapes. It is a refreshing white wine, not too tart and not too sweet with what some describe as a strawberry flavor. Along with that is an Orange Muscat (also
from Downriver Orchard) that is way too easy to drink. Our Huckleberry/Apple combination is back in stock and more Dark Cherry is on it’s way. There are plenty of reds in the works too including a Lucie Kuhlman Rose that I’m sure will sell out fast. We had a tasting today and folks drove away with a bottle of almost everything they tried.
It’s turning into a scary Spring. Almost 80 degrees today. We are only burning a little firewood in the mornings. Last year the cold and wet weather stopped suddenly. The grass grew high and dried out for another nerve-wracking fire season. I didn’t start watering the whole vineyard and garden soon enough and things died. There is some rain in the forecast but it feels like the same thing is happening. Maybe it’s weird to be worried when trees and flowers are blooming, the grass needs mowing and you can wear shorts and T-shirts outside. Yikes! Now I’m worried about being worried. Forget about it. Enjoy the weather while you can.