The upgrade we have done on our vineyards have proven to be useful. This involve adding an extra clip at least a hand span below the fruiting wire to hold the middle canopy wire. The middle canopy wire is lowered to this new clip before winter pruning starts. The idea is that the prunings will fall off easily without putting up too much of a fight.

Why? There are 4 canopy wires on the trellis, 2 on each side, at peak vine growth, 1 on each side will be clipped at the top of the trellis and  remaining 1 on each side will be clipped in the mid level of the trellis. When it comes to winter pruning, they are either left as it is or the 2 middle canopy wires are lifted to the top clips along with the top canopy wires. If left where it is without being lifted, it creates a confinement to the canopy and obviously makes it hard for prunings to come off. If all canopy wires are clipped at the top, 2 on each side will be sitting on the same clip and very often clamps the top of some canes and make them very hard to be pulled off.

Are there much innovation done? Yes, the are vine stripping machines, Klima Stripping and Langlois Vine Stripper, as well as the Barrel Pruner. They are all amazing machines, unfortunately they are not applicable in certain situations or unable to service certain areas. If so, why hasn’t any other simpler innovation done to ease the labor? Grant and I have been thinking this over and we came up with the conclusion that nothing is done because the owners or the management are not the one who is doing the labor work. All they do is to outsourced to unethical contractors who pay minimal contract rate and ignoring the minimum wage law.

It is just like slave labor. I know because I have been through that system, I have been a victim, I filled a complain with Department of Labor and the contractor decided to defame me with “unable to communicate in English”, “run away with pruning tools and has lodge a police report”. I know I China but I from Malaysia we talk England everywhere, I even go over the sea to Sydney do university bachelor degree on business. I also rang up Hastings Police Station and they confirmed no police report has been lodged against me. Liars liars pants on fire! The contractor faked a time sheet to submit to DOL which claimed that I worked for 4 hours a day instead of 8 hours so that he don’t owe me any minimum wage. But he is very generous to state that I worked one of the days where I was actually walking around town eating Burger King. Anyway, despite disputing all of that, I lose the case as DOL sided with the contractor.

There’s a whole scheme going on in the main wine regions. Contractors tying up with backpackers. You have to stay at the backpackers accommodation to get a job, if you leave the backpackers accommodation, you lose the job. Its not a bad deal, but when you don’t get paid minimum wage, most people I talked to only make $50 in an 8 hour day instead of $108 as required by minimum wage law. To make it worst, they have to pay rip off price for backpackers accommodation. The truth is out there, just talk to any backpackers who have done pruning work at a vineyard in the main wine regions in both North and South Islands. In my case, I even received a call from the accommodation owner telling me to back off and that I am out of my mind to think that I can save enough money via Working Holiday Visa to fund my travel around NZ!?!?!? Talk about rotten apples in the tourism industry eh.

Remember this, every time you pay for a bottle of commodity wine worth less than $10, you are supporting this exploitation scheme. If you can’t afford to buy responsibly produced wine, do settle for a bottle of beer or just drink water.

I hope I don’t get into trouble with this post. I still do have all the documentation regarding the case. My objective is not to defame the NZ wine industry, but to raise awareness so that a correction course could be made. Out here at our 2 vineyards of 11 hectares, we set reasonable contract rates, we make sure our staff get paid according to the minimum wage law, we patiently teach them the correct techniques and skills, we offer cheap accommodation with free firewood, we treat our staff like human. We innovate within this mindset by constantly seeking out ways to increase the effectiveness and efficiency of work. The upgrade we mentioned above worked and our senior staff Cory who has been with us for more than 3 years agree it makes the job a whole lot easier and faster. The prunings literally fall off by themselves!

It is not very hard nor expensive to do the upgrade, we install the clips every other posts. It’s a one time process and every year, just go through and lower all the middle canopy wires before starting winter pruning.

We are also making changes to our multi-row vineyard netting on Okana Vineyard from 7 rows to just 4 rows so that the nets are easier and less stressful to everyone to apply. We are also figuring out how to make the annual bud rubbing job less back breaking, traditionally you have to bend down or squat down at every vine and give the bud union a good jerking off to remove the buds and shoots at that region. Imagine doing that for 37,000 times for 2 vineyards, in the baking heat of Summer. I learned that contractors pay $0.02 per vine, that means bending or squatting down and jerking off 5,400 times a day, 720 times an hour.

We are not the only responsible vineyards around, but every time you buy cheap wine, you are one step closer to putting us out of business.

That was intense, now let’s go on to the more chillax Orchard Cottage.

I finally put the mikroclima onto the strawberries boxes. The original plan was to build double lids (mikroclima on top of bird net) for them but that proofed too costly  for such a small operation. This will help get the season started. The plan is to open the mikroclima up in hot days for the bees to pollinate the flowers. I will change over to bird nets after Labor Weekend and the bees will have free entry but not the birds.

I have started my first round of seeds sowing for the ground covers all over the Orchard Cottage. Alyssum Painter’s Palette, Marigold Favourite Singles, Basil Sacred, Borage White, Chamomile German, Chives Broad Leaf, Chives Garlic New Belt, Dandelion, Hyssop, Lovage, Mexican Coriander, Sage Common, Valerian, Wormwood, Yarrow Common White, White Alyssum for Orchards goes onto the tucker patch.

Alyssum Painter’s Palette, Bellis Habanera, Bellis Pompoms, Calendula Dwarf Colours Mixed, Candytuft Flash mixed, Celosia Fresh Look Mix, Cornflower Tom Thumb Mixed, Cosmos Kaleidoscope, Gazania Silver Leaves, Marigold Naughty Marietta, Marigold Red Marietta, Poppy California Jelly Beans, Scabiosa Blue Diamonds, Sweet William Indian Carpet mixed, Viola Heartsease Miss Helen Mount, Viola Historic Pansies, Zinnia Lilliput mixture, Parsnip Guernsey, White Alyssum for Orchards goes onto the area around the strawberries boxes as well as the entire wildflowers meadow.

Hibiscus Flower of an Hour, Marshmallow, Wildflowers Low Grow Blend goes onto the wildflowers meadow.  Its quite an extensive list and I actually had an Excel spreadsheet for them!

I am getting Caesar acquainted with bunnies. Its just a soft toy, the red dot on the arse is the label. House rules dictates that raw meat or bones don’t go on the carpet. Come Spring he is going to be in-charge of keeping the Orchard Cottage bunny free.

The idea of a pet dog is that he will lay down beside me quietly while I enjoy a book in front of the fire. The picture above illustrates that, it only happens occasionally, most of the time he is bouncing around the place chasing after his ball.

This is the bonding exercise I do with him every night. To have him laying down on his back against me. I think its to build trust.