Summer’s End 2012

For the technically minded it is still summer, it just doesn’t feel like it, and the pool in particular is not for the faint of heart like myself. Ann will persevere though; on the principle that once you have been through child-birth you can handle anything. I don’t particularly want to do either.


We have had a good summer this year so we can’t complain. The grapes appear to be doing quite well although with at least 6 weeks to go before harvest it is early days yet. The vastly different weather conditions from last year have led to a number of new problems like cut-worms, leaf-hopper a few plant crashes and random berry shrivel. As usual, I over-react to all these phenomena, but the sky hasn’t fallen yet (who even remembers Chicken Little?). I think we will get a crop of around 2.5 to 3 tons, but we may yet drop more fruit on vines that are a bit stressed. This is a bit of a judgement call because some of our vines are over-zealous and need the extra work while others are weaker and need a bit more TLC. Of course judgement comes with experience and since we do not have any experience it becomes a bit of a crap-shoot.


Testing The Weedkiller

We are trying to experiment a bit with home-made weed killers. You can make quite an effective weed-killer with vinegar, soap and orange essence, but vinegar isn’t available commercially in sufficient quantities or concentrations to be a practical solution so we are trying to make our own. The harshest critics of my old home-made wine will be pleased to know that I have used up my entire supply of close to a hundred bottles in the name of science. John Lawrence will be less pleased to know that I have added a few bottles of his infamous ’08 Chardonnay as well, and if that doesn’t do it nothing will. This is not really a long-term solution either, because supply is limited and I am now eyeing all the fruit which is dropped on the ground, as there is plenty of that, and it should be high in acetic acid which is the key ingredient of vinegar. We will see how it goes.


The Vinegar Still

Our other experiment this year will be with bird netting. This is a bit of a nightmare for us without a tractor and although Earlco is more than willing to send in a team to do it, I estimate it will take about a day and cost about a thousand dollars to put them up and then another thousand take them down. As you can imagine, this will put us in the red in short-order. Actually I just mean a deeper shade of red because we are there already. With Sean’s brilliant insight, I have successfully made a rotating swivel out of a toilet flange (go figure that one out) and with it we can unwind the nets about as fast as the tractor can, and with less damage to the nets.  A patent is pending on this innovative piece of equipment. Taking the nets off is a different kind of problem altogether because you can’t roll the nets back on. Motivated by sheer laziness again, we have decided to roll them down like an elongated tube and attach them to the irrigation wire during the period they are not in use. Having talked to a couple of vineyards that do this, they confirm there is little downside to this strategy.


The visitors continue to stream in, but I am losing my grip on putting them to work. Along with Mike and Sean, Dani and Andrew were here for the July long weekend and dutifully drank scotch on the deck with me. For the record, this does not qualify for the “Adopt  a Row” program, pleasant as it was. Hayley Owens was next. She was on her way to some sort of retreat where you aren’t allowed to speak, read or surf the net for a whole week. Based on her time here, I have difficulty believing she lasted the distance.


John & Morag on the KVR

Morag & John Goldie arrived next, and immediately claimed the “Tweedie Exemption”. This is an unsanctioned free pass from doing any vineyard work. The concept was pioneered by Ian Tweedie and works sort of like a “Get out of Jail Free Card”. This loophole needs to be plugged. Nevertheless John & Morag made up for it by regaling us with the stories of John’s sartorial elegance and in particular how he inadvertently became a cross-dresser by donning his daughter’s pajama top.


Jo and Friends Brian,Timea,Alex, Julia, & Essi

Joanna and Alex arrived next (without a note from their parents I might add) with friends Essi, Julia, Brian and Timea. It was Jo’s 30th birthday weekend and she wasn’t going to spoil it by doing any real work either, although she did make a half-hearted attempt to hedge her row before succumbing to the lure of alcohol and the swimming pool. This barely retained her status as the owner of row 30 which she had earned on an earlier visit. However her promise to make her famous cinnamon buns tipped the balance in her favour. Needless to say she reneged on this promise claiming we didn’t have the right kind of flour. A pretty weak excuse if you ask me!

Duncan (Row 28)

Close on the heels of Jo’s party came Duncan Browman. Duncan was not aware of the Tweedie Exemption, but was fresh from saving the environment by planting 100,000 trees in some god-forsaken place in Northern Alberta, fit only for mosquitoes. He tried valiantly to look busy, but he wasn’t fooling us. I would have to say Duncan also dazzled us with his intellect and his knowledge of pretty much everything except his own capacity for alcohol. Duncan is now the proud owner of row 28.


Helen & Alex – 40th Anniversary Dinner

Hot on Duncan’s heels, and determined not to be outdone, Helen and Alex stormed into town next to share their 40th Anniversary with us. They were, armed with all sorts of recipes for environmentally friendly weed killers as well as meals they wanted to cook for us. I could picture them getting confused and feeding us weed-killer salad dressing, but fortunately they got it right. They completely ignored the fact that weeds are part of the environment too and put on a full court press. Helen, encumbered by a dislike for hot weather (what normal person doesn’t like hot weather?), set up a laboratory in the kitchen and created samples of varying strength. We then tested them on patches of weeds so we could compare the results. Unfortunately she mixed up the samples so the results were tainted and we were forced to conclude they all worked about the same anyway. Alex and I meantime collected up all the grapes we had already “dropped”. We tried to crush them in an old garbage bin but they were as hard as rocks and all we could squeeze out was about a thimble. Alex nevertheless re-affirmed himself as the poster child for visitors to the vineyard (more like a poster horse actually) by doing anything and everything he was asked and then turning his energies to cooking our meals and cleaning the house. As if that wasn’t enough, he then took me to the gym and worked me over mercilessly. I think he needs to increase his Ritalin ® intake.  Helen and Ann seemed to have lots to talk about, but ever the multi-tasker,  Helen was as equally active as Alex in the kitchen and between the two of them they have done serious damage to my weight.


That’s enough for now. Coming in our next thrilling installment you will hear from Mike and Sean on what they are doing (or more accurately not doing), Roy Thompson on the risks of smuggling Bovril through Canadian customs, Kurt and Dominika on the romance of picnicing in the vineyard, and Simon and Cathy’s efforts to reclaim top spot from Alex as the resident work-horse. Watch this space.

1 Comment

  1. Duncan Browman

    Engrossing reading! And here I was thinking I’d had everyone fooled! Helen & Alex should thank me for not setting the bar too high for them to avoid being outdone. It sounds as if the race was already over before it had begun anyway.

    Just by way of suggestion from an old lab hand, perhaps Ann could get her hands on some glacial acetic acid which can be diluted down with water to the desired concentration.

    Also, it seems as though my row has moved. Was this a demotion due to my lackadaisical work ethic? I was supposed to be slotted for Row 28, however, perhaps I should be assigned to the mealie row since there are fewer vines to maintain!

    Good luck and let me know when you might need a slacker to get in the way of the operation during harvest season (seriously, let me know when you harvest!).