A blog about rural vineyard living in Virginia's Blue Ridge mountains
A personal perpsective of life in our Virginia vineyard... Christine Wells Vrooman
Yet Another Battle in the Vineyard
There is a lovely window of safety for grapes. It is a brief, but cherished time for a vintner. Once veraison begins, the susceptiblity to fungal diseases, such as Black Rot, dissipates and we breathe a sigh of relief. The skins of the grape are thick, and there is a changing chemical composition to the fruit that prevents certain pathogens from taking hold. But not too long after, a few short weeks, another danger appears in the form of birds and other critters who are drawn to the sugar of the ripening berries. One day the grapes are safe, hanging brightly on the vine, transforming sunlight into sweetness, then suddenly the word goes out... Get your sweet berries here!
It goes something like this: a bird pecks the fruit, if not yet sweet enough it moves on, leaving a small hole into which the bees immerse themselves and suck out the pulp, leaving behind an empty shell of a grape. Then the smell of the sweet juices attract the four-legged critters who manage to sneak in under the deer fence and help themselves to whatever grapes they can reach.
I am ready to wage war.
We cover the vines with netting, prop up owls on the line-posts, hang mylar tape that slaps and flaps and shines in the wind.
The netting did an excellent job in stemming the invasion of the birds. The flocks of berry-eating birds literally vanished within a couple of days. I was impressed. The netting was a success.
Or so I thought.
My sweet grapes all tucked in safely??
It became obvious shortly thereafter the birds would not be our biggest concern. Walking through the vines I began noticing some very disturbing evidence.. Varmints were still on the attack, leaving their grape-filled scat everywhere, as if to say... Ha! So there! Take this!
And so we released our snarly, hungry dogs! BoomBoom, Killian, Flippy, Dan and Bella!! A veritable army of canine warriors off to the rescue! If they can't catch'em, at least they will chase them out of the vineyard.
"Sniff, sniff... Don't worry... We'll catch those critters eating your grapes!"...
Until nightime sets in, about the time the critters come out of the woods, which just happens to be about the time the dogs settle in on the opposite side of the vineyard for a good night's sleep! Just a slight curve of the ground separates the scent of the crawling little beasts from the noses of our sleeping dogs. And so a munchin' the varmints go, forcing their noses against the netting and grabbing a nice mouthful of delights. Please just go away.
Harvest cannot come soon enough. Every morning, day and evening, if I am not in the vineyard, I am peering down on it through the binoculars, scouring the landscape for evidence of a new invasion. Of all the weeks in a growing season, I have found these last few weeks to be the most stressful, the most vulnerable. We have worked so hard to get our precious grapes to this point. For this, our first harvest, it has been nearly five years of preparing, planting, tending, pruning, nourishing, spraying, protecting in every way we can, these grapes that I have grown to know so well. Harvest is coming. Soon. But when? Being our first year, we cannot anticipate yet the date of the grand event... the day my vines will give birth... graduate... transform into something greater than themselves. What a day that will be.