Monday, 16 April 2018

Still sleeping

The vines are still asleep. I've been digging up docks daily - two buckets full of roots is my limit per day before my back is irreparably damaged. But I am making progress. The ground is very soft and my new shovel makes the work manageable. Alex gave me a beautifully crafted Harmony shovel for my birthday. Some may have thought he was crazy, but my favourite shovel had cracked and this one is a delight -- if digging docks can be delightful. It's actually a kind of zen experience. Maybe a bit of OCD -- I have to dig up every one in the vineyard so they don't compete with the grapes for nutrients. Their root systems are so massive. (I have to remember to order soil test kits.) 

It's been the longest winter on record in distant memory. Farmers are desperate, importing feed from overseas to feed hungry cattle and sheep. The fields are too wet for the cattle to be let out and the temperature too low to enable grass to grow. It's been too cold for newborn lambs to be left outside. I feel for those farmers.

Yet, today, Ireland became the first European nation to be approved for export of beef to China. There is hope. Alex and his mother bought cattle for Ross House farm this week, so we too are hopeful that things will turn around fast.

Buds still dormant.
At least thankfully, this week has been warmer. Right up until Easter we had chill easterlies and frost warnings until just a few days ago. That will likely shorten our season for grape maturation.  At least I had plenty of time to get the grapevines pruned. Who knows what effect this season will have overall. The orchard has not yet sprouted but this week, there were signs of spring emerging. Maggie the magnolia started to bloom, the forsythia all burst into golden blossoms, the tulips and daffodils were in their glory and the bumblebees got their fill at the heather station. Still no cuckoo or honey bees.

The grass did start growing this week and we managed to get the lawn mowed before the rains returned. But the fields are still low on grass and the donkeys can't return to the land just yet. The islanders have already inquired and we've agreed to take the donkeys in again. Love those beasties.

Everything is sluggish and we're about to get a lot of rain today, so we'll just have to wait and see. If our experiment doesn't work, it will have at least been an interesting learning experience. Something to keep the brain cells occupied. Then again, we can still hope for more.

Friday, 2 March 2018

Thomas Fire spurs sustainable recovery

The largest wildfire in California history had case closed on the 28th of February.  The final statistics of the Santa Barbara County fire show:

Acres Burned - Containment:281,893 acres - 100% contained *** CAL FIRE is no longer in Unified Command of the Thomas Fire. Visit inciweb for more information on this incident.
Structures Destroyed:1,063 Structures Destroyed, 280 Structures Damaged

Already, the rebuilding is beginning, even though some are questioning if that's wise and new mudslides threaten.

But one vineyard is doing something different. They are applying everything they learned during the fires to expand and install sustainable and safe energy systems. Stone Edge Farm Estate Vineyards & Winery, in the Mayacamas Mountains of Sonoma, won an award in January, not for its wines, but for its environmental and economic leadership. The 16-acre property was recently in the news for its microgrid system that held up with remote management during the devastating fires in Northern California. The staff was sent off and managed the entire winery and grid from positions of safety.

Sunday, 28 January 2018

World wine production plummets

The Organisation Internationale de la Vigne et du Vin (OIV) in its press release called it "A historically low 2017 production especially in Western Europe due to unfavourable climate conditions."  GLOBAL ECONOMIC VITIVINICULTURE DATA estimated 2017 World wine production  at 246.7 mhl, a fall of 8.2% compared with 2016.

Friday, 12 January 2018

Daria's Vineyard

I painted a sign for our vineyard the year we planted our first grapevines. It helps us remember when we established the place. I think I did a pretty nice job on the signage. Now we need to design some logos and establish names for the wines and design labels for the bottles. Am I getting ahead of myself?

Saturday, 30 December 2017

Licenses & fees

We're not ready to make wines yet, but the time may come this year when we may actually have a crop of grapes to try fermentation. We decided that if we didn't succeed in making wine, we'd go the distillation route to an eau de vie or vodka. So I have begun my research into what it would take.

It is illegal to distill for home use in Ireland. It is illegal to distill without a licence regardless of whether you intend to sell it or not. Plain and simple. In several other countries you apparently can but not in Ireland. Unless you use brewing vodka kits, with no distillation. There are robust yeasts that can get quite high alcohol concentration without distillation. These are just neutral wines which are treated with carbon to reduce smell and taste. Alcohol can be tax relieved in the case of wine, beer or other fermented beverage produced at home for personal use and not for sale, but it must be authorized by Revenue.

Tuesday, 26 December 2017

Clearing the grass

Croagh Patrick, the Holy Mountain
The weather was beautiful today so we took a walk to the summit of our land to see the views, plant a few more trees and enjoy the St. Stephen's Day holiday. The views were stunning but the land is very wet. The trees we have been planting out on about 1/3 of our ten acres are doing very nicely. The leader species - birch, willow, and alder - are growing vigorously. The ash and sycamores are coming along nicely too, but at a slower pace.

Sunday, 24 December 2017

Pruning the grapevines

What a mess!

The job was daunting. We'd been gone most of the summer sailing, which isn't prudent when you are trying to start a vineyard, but hey it's all an adventure isn't it? Meanwhile the weather had been mild and moist until last week when we finally had a cold snap. Frost, sleet, hail and snow finally put the vines to sleep and they dropped their leaves so we could see the structure of the vines themselves. And what we saw was not pretty. I kept going up there and coming back down without having done a thing.