The Miracle Water Village. An amazing story on many levels about an Indian village which became self-sufficient in water after facing acute water shortages. This story resonated with me in particular because of one of the management strategies they employ; slowing water down. The idea is that the longer the water stays on your farm, the more time it has to percolate into the soil and into the aquifer.
This is an all important tenet of dry-farming! Keeping the water around for as long a possible for the plants to enjoy throughout the dry growing season. However it is my observation that most farmers speed water up, preferring to get the water off the land as soon as possible. Dry soil is necessary for tractor work, and what does it matter if one has “unlimited” access to irrigation anyway…
Not only do we pay close attention to the volume of rain we receive in any given season, but also to the amount of time that the rain falls. Last season at this time we were at 24 inches with most if the rain falling in December during three heavy storms. The 15/16 season has only produced about 13 inches of rainfall so far, it has fallen slowly, in increments, over at least a dozen storms. While the totals are significantly less, the slow and steady precipitation has soaked into the ground. At this time our cover crops are lusher and the ground is more saturated than last season. While I love a good atmospheric river that dumps buckets of rain and fills reservoirs, our vineyard is wetter today than it was at this time last year and with only half the rain! And it does not hurt that the forecast looks very promising. (this post was lost in my drafts folder, thus the publishing date…)
Spring pruning the Bambino. Prune at the last possible moment to offset climate change
An Old Vine not long for this world. One of my favorites.
It will go to Old Vine Heaven
Been working on a complete redesign of our label. I am not sure what will become of it…
Kid in a candy store.
Very excited to pick our first crop of Mixed Whites!
Pet peeve, sorting in the winery. Efficient, effective and easy to do it in the vineyard.
What does it mean to be an “ancient vine”
Just dirt? Nope. It’s alive! (more to come)
We just got new solar installed and a used electric work cart. Very fun!
NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE SAN FRANCISCO BAY AREA
443 AM PDT SUN AUG 30 2015
.SYNOPSIS…A DRY UPPER TROUGH WILL REMAIN ANCHORED NEAR THE WEST
COAST THROUGH MOST OF THE WEEK. TEMPERATURES NEAR THE COAST WILL
BE NEAR SEASONAL NORMS…WHILE INLAND AREAS WILL GENERALLY BE
COOLER THAN NORMAL OVER THE NEXT SEVEN DAYS. NO RAIN IS EXPECTED.
It appears that we might get some rain finally! I am guessing that 2013 will go down in the history books as the driest year on record. We have had 3 inches since January. In a “normal” year would expect more like 15 inches.
With little to no rain in January or February, we started to cultivate the vineyard in mid-March as the ground became dry. April was windy, warm and dry. Buds started to appear by the first week and by the end of the month, everything was out several inches.
This was in spite of the delay tactics we employed, what old timers call “long pruning.” Long pruning is a technique to delay early bud break as a means of frost protection. We don’t usually have much frost but I use it as a hedge against climate change. My hope is that if I can delay bud-break then I can lengthen the growing season as the grapes are more likely to be hanging during the shorter and cooler days in October.
The process is as it sounds, we simply leave more buds on the plant than we actually want at the first pruning on March 12th, leaving a longer spur. As the ground is warming the freshly cut plant bleeds sap which is what delays bud break. We returned on March 27th, just as the buds are starting to push to remove more buds, each time inflicting a small wound and hopefully delaying the bud-break.
Things moved very quickly and by May 1st we were basically done with our spring work load well over a month earlier than a typical year. We began to speculate that might begin harvest in late August. However, as fall approached, the weather became more seasonable, and things slowed down. September and October were downright gorgeous, with a few light and early dollops of rain, but mostly dry and seasonable weather. Harvest began on September 13th, exactly two weeks earlier than 2012.
The quality of our harvest seems to be fantastic, but ask me in a year. The acids in the grapes were a little unbalanced with high malates (due to the short growing season I suppose) and low tartarics. Given the dry year and the dry-farming, the yields were quite respectable. We probably dropped more fruit than we would have if there had been more moisture in the ground, but it was the right thing to do and we still ended up with just under 3 tons to the acre.
It is now mid-November and it appears we may get a little light rain but the forecast is still very quiet. I am very anxious to get some moisture in the ground so the cover crops can germinate and lift my mood away from the threat of a looming drought.
Tax Day is about when I usually expect to see buds swell-up, looking like pop-corn, with an occasional leaf showing too. Cabernet is our earliest variety to start the growing season, with Zinfandel being one of the latest. This year we appear to be right on time, or what we would call “normal.” If you had asked me two Months ago when I thought bud-break would occur, I would have told you it was going to be much much earlier than now because we had such a dry and warm December – February. I don’t think we had much more than an inch of rain over those months. Back then I was checking the National Weather Service web site several times a day, hoping for a sign. Then on March 3rd they reported:
“We are keeping an eye on the long range portion of the forecast … We usually do not put a lot of weight in forecasts this far out…however in this case the models … show a small spread stretching from the coast across the Pacific … There are signs that the storms could just slowly progress over California and be followed by another one later that week. Again…this is very far out…however it is one of the most encouraging signs we have seen for rainfall in a long time.”
On March 15th, temps began to cool and the rain started. Over the next month it rained about 12 inches on Old Hill Ranch, filling the streams, saturating the soils and watering the very peaked cover-crop. Today everything looks lush and gorgeous. What a difference a month makes!