A personal perpsective of life in our Virginia vineyard... Christine Wells Vrooman



So Long, Dear Winter

Pockets of snow still sit in shady, northern spots on this sunny, 65 degree day.  Our ewes' bellies are protruding, down "in the holler", baby calves are nursing.  We can hear bluebirds chattering and beehives humming, and there is the slightest hint of a sweet fragrance in the air.  We have moved the Martin house back into the vineyard to attract the insect eating birds as they migrate north.  More blueberry and blackberry bushes are planted and sugar snap peas and spinach seeds set in the ground.  Buds are swelling on the peach trees.  Any day now our pond's ecosystem will respond, and the evening air will be filled with the sound of peepers.  
And most importantly, we are in shirtsleeves pruning.  Spring has indeed arrived. 

The Value of Diversity
The diversity of the plants and animals here on the farm  play a vital role in keeping a healthy balance in the vineyard and in helping to maintain a sustainable approach to our farming practices.  An example of sustainability; our sheep graze the vineyard, massage the soil.  The manure they produce helps create the compost that we will add back to the earth from where they grazed.  The chickens we plan to get  again (once we train BoomBoom and Bella that they are not theirs to eat) will peck the vineyard floor for pests and as they graze, they too are loosening and aerating  the soil, enhancing microbial life, adding a bit of nitrogen.  And providing us with our breakfast!  All these elements add to the balance of life here and aid in the practices of organic and biodynamic farming.  As I have mentioned before, because here in the East we deal with humidity issues, we will not yet be able to become certified organic or Demeter (Biodynamic governing body).  But we will continue to practice those principles, except for the occasional spray to combat our nemesis, "guignardia bidwelli", that nasty Black Rot, for which I am determined to one day find an organic cure.

Our Vineyard Sleuth and a Slew of Dogs
We feel fortunate to have Lucie Morton as our consultant this year.  Lucie brings a lifetime of expertise in viticulture, with an emphasis in environmentally sound practices and grapevine diseases, in particular grapevine trunk diseases.
She brought along her little Terrier, Randy, who joined our five dogs and our son's, totaling a crew of seven dogs, and five humans as we strolled, studied, assessed the vineyard's health on a beautiful spring afternoon.
She studied our vines, examining a few with her magnifying glass. She helped to set up our spray schedule, offered nutrition guidelines.  She taught us how best to prune this year, using a VSP (Vertical Shoot Positioning) canopy system.

Under the scrutiny of her trained eye, our vineyard was declared healthy and ready to reproduce.  Let the grapes grow and the wine flow! 
We thank you, Lucie.  You are our mentor, teacher and security blanket all rolled into one.


Next posting... Examining the concept of SAR, Systemic Acquired Resistance and the role it plays in fruit flavor, and perhaps a few pix of some newborn lambs and calves?.

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