Winter in the Okanagan

Winter at Thorny Vines

One of the things that people warned us about before moving out to the Okanagan was the winters. Not that it is colder than other parts of Canada, but that the clouds sock in over the valley and sit there for months blocking out the sun. Apparently it makes you want to cut your own throat or travel off to Calgary for some of their famous winter sunshine. Even the locals do all they can to get away from it and many take off in their RV’s for months on end to escape. Ann and I have trouble with proximity in a large house let alone months on end in an RV. I keep one of these little weather icons on my computer and I watch the conditions in several other cities almost daily. At 5.00 am in the morning BC time, I am happy to report:

• In Penticton it is 0 degrees and sunny (actually not sunny as it is too early, but sun expected when it decides to come up).
• In Calgary it is -20 degrees and snowing. Even if the sun was out, it would be difficult to bask in it at those temperatures.
• In Vancouver it is raining (so what’s new?) and about 2 degrees. Big deal. I don’t get wet outside and inside my house is just as warm as anywhere in Vancouver.
• In Capetown, it is + 29 degrees and sunny, but that doesn’t count being in the southern hemisphere.

Today will be our first official day in the vineyard for 2011. We have to prune the vines in the next couple of weeks and with 1750 to prune this will take some time. We had our pruning lesson yesterday, and there seems to be a bit of an art to it. It is a bit of a shame to me that they put all that effort into growing last year and we have to cut them way back again. The process is called “Two budding” and what you do is cut them back to where there are only two dormant buds and wait for them to grow into what I think is called a “cordon” and from which the fruit-bearing canes grow in the third year.

“Two-budding” turns out to be a misnomer as we were advised to leave 3 or four buds in case one or two don’t survive. The other trick is to cut them back more if they are weak and less if they are sturdy. The rule of thumb is that if it is more than pencil thickness it is considered sturdy, and less is weak or spindly. Of course this rule of thumb takes no account of pencils having varying degrees of thickness, and the vines themselves unhelpfully range substantially in thickness from top to bottom. If we ever get a crop it will be a miracle. Apparently it is a good thing we have Riesling which take more abuse than a lot of other varieties.

To get back to winter, my strategy for dealing with is (a) To invest in the cricket channel on TV; (b) to travel and visit friends more often; and (c) don’t get out of bed too early. Ann has got (c) mastered, but I am still struggling with it.