Thursday, December 6, 2012

So what do you do in the winter?

One of the most popular questions I get is "so what do you do in the winter?" It changes every year. For the past few years, we've been clearing out around the fields. Since we're starting to use fields that have been abandoned for 30 years, we have a lot of smilex, honeysuckle, and ligustrum to destroy so we could get our fields to the optimum size. We finished that major project last year, so this year, we'll just be doing a bit of weed eating and bush hogging to maintain our progress.

This year, we have two major projects in the vineyard: 1) removing the Pierce's diseased vines and 2) cleaning the carpet.

The Vidal blanc was great while it lasted. It made a delicious, high acid wine that received great compliments. Nevertheless, we know that it has Pierce's disease and that it won't last much past next year. A good portion of the vineyard has already died. We've decided to remove it now so that we can  move on to our next variety more quickly. We're trying Villard blanc, a grape that was widely grown in France into the 60s. It's fairly rare here, but its resistant. I'm looking to taste as many different companies' Villard as possible so that I can get a good plan for how to make the wine.
decapitated vines, awaiting removal

So the first step is to cut down the top parts of the Vidal. After that is finished, we will pull back the landscape fabric that we use to keep the weeds down, attach the vines to our ATV, and pull them out. We will then go back, add some P and K, and put in the new Villard vines. And start over. It's going to be tedious, but we have almost one month to get them out.

Before (notice you can't see the black plastic)
The second job for the winter is cleaning the landscape fabric that covers the ground between the vines. Since we don't use herbicides, this is our best tool for giving our vines a fighting chance against the weeds. Over the summer, the weeds start to take over the fabric, so now, when the summer weeds are dead, we're hoeing the vineyard. This is tedious work too, but it's much easier to do this now rather than in the summer. After we get the whole thing cleaned (it will take about a month),  we will blow off the plastic with leaf blowers and then spray it with a weak solution of citric acid. I'm considering broadcasting some clover on top of it in the early Spring.
After (gorgeous work Liuba!)

So by the time we get the vineyard cleaned and cleared, it will be time to put the new vines in and get started on the Spring crops. It will be slow and steady work, but I'm glad I can provide work for my employees in the winter that will cut down on the work we have to do in the oppressive heat of summer.

I'll be making a trip to the Dallas, Houston, and Austin areas in late February. They grow two different types of Pierce's disease resistant vines down there: Lenoir  and Blanc du Bois. I'll do an update from down there as I journey to find the best varieties of grapes to grow (sustainably) in NC!!

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