I have some news and some good news.
First the news. I have spent a lot of money on the vineyard this summer. If you're thinking about starting a vineyard, think long and hard. As the old gag goes, the best way to make a small fortune with at it is to start with a large one. I think I've already carped on somewhere in this blog about the hefty start up costs involved; the ongoing ones are quite interesting too.
Our 3500 vines take up around 3.5 acres. They are planted 1.4m apart, totalling (when you include the row ends) over 5km from beginning to end. Mowing the rows takes a couple of hours, but it leaves a strip either side of the line of vines as well as between them. For a couple of years we've been strimming these bits. Having to do either side of each row of vines means strimming 10km while you walk. The care needed not to snag one of the vines means in a day you might strim a little over a kilometre: taking 8-9 person days to strim the entire vineyard. Doing this 6 times a year means paying for over 50 days of time just to keep the vines clear of weeds. We could, of course, spray the backside out of the ground with weedkiller - but that'd be beyond what I'm happy to do and (apart from the other costs) would still set me back £2500 a year. So I've found another solution, this:
It works like a dream, even on these less-than-robust year old vines. It also costs a lot of money.
Look carefully and you may be able to see that the circular swing mower that pokes out from the main body of the mower has a thin metal arm that sits ahead of it. When it comes into contact with an object it sends a signal causing the side mower to retract inwards, then come back out again when the object is passed. It means the grass by the vines and nbetween them can be mowed at the same time as you mow the main avenue between the lines of vines. It's a thing of pleasure. I guess I can mow the whole vineyard in maybe 5-6 hours, with no need for strimming.
However, as with most 'solutions' it first spawns the odd problem child. If the object the arm comes into contact with isn't sufficiently robust or gives way the mower doesn't retract - and if the object just happens to be a bamboo cane that the vine is attached to, that just happens to be rotting a little or has a crack, the mower will simple carry on mowing and wipe out the vine. That buzzing sound you can hear around 14 seconds in is the mower hitting the plastic guard that's not secured well enough. It just missed the vine.
So, to be sure of not hitting any vines it means replacing the bamboo canes with stainless steel ones. 3500 of them. To do this involves snipping the 3 or 4 bits of tape tying the vines to the bamboos, undoing the wire ties keeping the canes held to the wire trellis, popping in a steel cane and tying it in with a new wire tie and taping the vine to the new steel cane. 3500 times.
It's been an expensive fortnight.
Now the good news: Bloomsbury has commissioned A Year at Otter Farm. Bloomsbury does these books ridiculously well. I am extremely chuffed.
As if you care, but: borage flowers; the rose that clambers over the pergola; orange thyme.
Tuesday, July 19, 2011 at 9:31 PM
I have some news and some good news.
LOVE the new machine...the 3500 new stakes don't bear thinking about though. Hurray for the new book - really pleased for you - well done. xx
Congrats on the book old boy; I look forward to reading it. If half as inspirational as your Taste of the Unexpected we'll all be in for a treat.
And just when I had mastered strimming the Otter Farm vines I get replaced with a bit of machinery !!! Is there a Union for strimmer operators.... To be fare it was a bit like painting the Forth Bridge. Good on you for taking the gamble on the mower, it,s certainly a trick bit of kit!
Fun eh a vineyard? Could you give me the type/brand of the mower? In France they also have ploughs that work more or less the same way. Now I'm not convinced plowing a vineyard is necessary but nice system to watch.
Im with My Dirty Life on the tractor envy only I am weirdly good at driving them. I once reversed one WITH TRAILER down a winding slope. Peasy. Many opportunities to show off this obscure skill in central Bristol, obv.
Great news about the book. It'll be lush.
Arabella Sock said...
Is a 'Year at Otter Farm' going to be like 'A Year in Provence' with lots of anecdotes about drinking cider with the local peasants and how to cook local cheeses in the ashes of a camp fire? Bound to put property prices up in your area the same way Peter Mayle did for the Luberon. I should get investing now...
Please reserve me an advance copy.
Preseli Mags said...
Crikey that's a lot of work. I've shelved any plans I had for planting a vineyard in the Preselis. Admirable bit of kit though.
Hooray for the book news. 'A Taste' has been such a useful thing for presents and I'm sure they'd all like a copy of 'Year at' too.