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Finally done with the grape harvest. Machine harvesting is so easy. However, it is a significant disadvantage to the wine grower.

First of all, only the grapes are harvested, leaving the stalks on vine, that’s quite some weight there on the stalks combined. So if the buyer is paying you by weight, you loose out compare to hand harvesting.

Second of all, the machine harvesting did not shake everything off the vine, yet again, loose out on the weight which usually gets counted when hand harvesting.

However, one will only know once a cost-return analysis has been done.

That aside, I’m glad that its all over. And I can add that experience to my portfolio. Who would have thought I could pull it off?

I’m supposed to take a break tomorrow and spend the day in my garden. However, some big rain thing is coming this way and I can’t leave the nets sitting out there. A wet bundle of net is a heavy and yucky thing.

Now its the time to refocus the efforts back to the Orchard Cottage. To continue with the project that I started. To build a set of steps the patio. To build the raised vege beds. To build the microclima greenhouse.

While cleaning out the loft on Saturday, I stumbled upon some treasures. A huge 4 pane glass window about 2.4 by 1.8. What can I do with it? And a smaller 2ft by 1ft glass window, which I can do up a cloche. Am I going to do it? I doubt so.

Chooks are coming to the Orchard Cottage come Spring! I’ve decided to get some books from the library and see what it takes for me to build my own coop. I’m definitely building one for the broody hen and its chicks. I also need another one for the rest of the family.

I’m so necked. I’m going to sleep.

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What do you do when it rains, and it looks like its going to be pounding?

Sow wildflowers of course!

I have been really busy… We have had a wonderful harvest, more grapes compared to last year. One vineyard down, one more to go. It felt like an achievement. I have never been given this kind of responsibility before. We have a great team too! On average, everyone took in about 300kg of grapes each for a day of work.

There’s plenty of holes in the nets on the other vineyard. Those bloody old nets. I had to release a hawk trapped underneath it on Friday. I tried to talk it into calming down, so that I can lift the net and it can fly out. It sort of did, but it never sort of say thank you when it flew back out into freedom. What am I expecting? Perch on my shoulder and ruffle up my hair?

I’m planning to have the guys do the chasing birds out everyday from now until the harvest. Those birds. Chase the birds in the morning, go check the nets in the afternoon, and I felt like I am back in enchanted forest once again. Surrounded by birds. How did they get in? Oh… the holes. What about that pheasant? A rabbit hole maybe.

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This is the magical product that I am talking about. Cod liver oil and high vitamin butter mixed together into capsule form. How simple life is when you can have Weston A Price in a pill?

I’ve also been thinking, that there, is a product, perfect for a multilevel marketing scheme. $72.50 for 60 days. How would you like to invest $1.21 a day for good health? Totally beats the price of Body Balance of $6.39 for a singles-to-go stick a day.

Side note. Now, there’s also the plan to rename this blog. Maybe to “The Orchard Cottage”… Or “Justin’s Almost Organic Garden”.

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What would Caesar say?

Check out the Paraketia potatoes!

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Its not a lot, its my first time growing them. I’ll do better next year. On the plus side, I like how small they are! Feels like eating baby potatoes all the time!

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That’s the story of 3 giant beet roots fitting in a 3L jar. My first time bottling something. And I really love pickled beetroots. Here’s to a good start in preserving things.

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Was reading newspaper while at work. I can’t help it. This newspaper was printed even before I was born!

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Those were the days when good old milk bottles are still in use.

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Sex sells. Its a proven concept.

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I found this too! That’s 29 years of history there…

We moved everything out of the loft onto pallets in the yard, so many of them. I even had a nightmarish dream, lying in bed in my dream, same bed that I am sleeping on, in the same room as my actual room, but surrounded by crates of them history, all around me, and mice scooting and scratching about… And I didn’t realize it was a dream… Until I woke up, and got out of bed, took a piss and brushed my teeth.

Come Tuesday, we will start harvest our final vintage on the vineyard. I am very nervous and excited at the same time, I’ll be fully in charge of the whole process for the first time, uncharted waters in my own life process. What makes a man?

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I tried to put the strawberry and yogurt in the blender. The taste was not too bad, but its a stark reminder how much sweetening has actually been done to commercial yogurt! This will be my last batch of yogurt as I have ran out of the pro-biotic starter. I’ll be embarking on blue cheese making next. That salty stinking stuff, yum!

I am also on to this Royal Butter Oil/Fermented Cod Liver Oil Blend Capsules from codoil.co.nz. People who follow Weston A Price will know what I am talking about. And to be able to obtain it in capsule form in NZ is just bliss! Living in a world surrounded by food that not only do not nourish us, but degrade our body and soul, there’s only that limited amount of things that we can add to our diet to truly balance the scale.

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Caesar has been having a feast on possums out of the possum trap! I found out that DOC have tested the possums in the area and find them to be free of  TB. Now, that’s a cheap source of dog food. Will probably shoot some hare and rabbit next time for Caesar too.

 

 

Well, last week’s entry has been a bit late. I’ve been busy.

Now, coming into the final month of Summer, the rain is returning, while the heat is still holding up, and the sunshine uncompromised.

I have also finalized the blueprint for the forest garden.

Orchard Cottage Basic 130206

Not a major change really. All that is changed is, one less olive tree. I’ll start shuffling and planting trees, those that I have on site after my vacation with my family.

Starting with the dismantling of the three strawberry raised beds, which will be used to build the 3 raised vege beds. Transplant the 3 health apples, then plant the pears in from the pots, then apples. Strawberries that are in the way will also be transplanted. That’s the start of it. This will technically relieve me from spending a single dime. 😉

Orchard Cottage Full 130206This is what it will be like if I am going to extend into the back paddock. No elaborate planting, 3 majestic pecan, some alders, more olives, more hazelnuts, more almonds, a crabapple, a sour cherry, 2 rows of cherry on trellis, and lots of manuka trees.

I am really keen to try out the cherry on trellis system that I came up with. It was vineyard inspired.

A lot of dynamics is happening at work right now, I am not even sure if I would be able to complete this project. There’s also the question of why would I even want to start on this project due to this uncertainty?

Well, I do not think this will be a wasted effort. This is after all an experience for me, to be able to create a forest garden. And it will also be a gift, to the future tenants, and the neighbors in the valley who has been enjoying the process and its outcome.

After all, how often do you come across group plantings where most cultivars are more than 2 centuries old?

I shall trot on like a proud horse!

The PYO season concluded today, instead of next Saturday. We have about 600 Sweetheart cherry trees due for next week, today we put up tapes around it with signs that says “Do not pick! Not ripe! Thank you!”, along with a large “Horticultural Spraying In Progress” sign. Our customers couldn’t care less, and they walked out happily with bucketfuls of pink unripe cherries. I could have raised the per KG price. Its one of those moment when you want to take a shotgun down into the orchard and chase people out with a few warning shots.

We tried to hang around and tell people about it, but we realized people couldn’t care less about what you tell them. I even had a debate with a lady about the fact that the Sweetheart cherries are not ripe for picking, yet she insist they are ripe. Now… who is the grower? It almost seems like I can get a bird eye view of what’s happening in the world just by observing the dynamics in the orchard. It’s a grim outlook. A part of me wished that something would have happened on the 21122012, so that these folks would be more conscious about things.

Definitely going to write a book about that. Need to think of an interesting title.

Now that the cherry season is over, its time to focus on the grapes. We have been keeping at it quite well this time. There’s always one to two person in the vineyard ticking along. Again, hiring good staff is the key. Now, I truly believe in second chance.

And I am really happy to return to the usual routine, no more working overtime, no more working weekends. And holidays! What am I going to do during the holidays? I’ll probably spend time gardening, and taking some really long walks, and meditation.

I’ve also been toying with this idea of one week of poverty. If its a good experience, I might do it for a month. The interesting question is, what will I do, what will happen to me, when I have nothing material?

Wishing you a Merry Christmas!

Frost sensitive plants can go in after Labor Day. Heed those words. After! It poured hail and frost on Labor Day. I wasn’t please. 35mm of precipitation.

My impatiently planted out tomato plants took the wrath of my seemingly lack of patience from the hail, which later froze the ground. Almost every plant in the garden look like the picture above now, bruised leaves. The hail even managed to dismembered one of the smaller dwarf tomato plant. I did not hesitate to give them a spray of Nux Vomica C30 followed by Silicea C200 the following day.

Spring is definitely here. More and more colors are starting to show up in the wildflowers meadow!

I thought I will have some dwarf sunflowers while the saffron corms are lying dormant. However, I accidentally forced them, and they are coming up too!

The heirloom Paraketia Potatoes are coming up nicely, and mounded of course. I have to figure out what to plant on the other side of the cloche soon.

Here we have the virgin peas of Orchard Cottage. Probably the only peas I am ever going to eat for this season.

I mentioned about my liquid manure before. The ultimate home brew. Using worm juice as the base. Add in Bio Dynamic weeds, and other goodies. Make it bubbly, and the stink probably helps to keep possums away!

I am a sucker at impulse purchase. I got this straggly lot of Camarosa strawberry from Country Gardens for just $3, its the leftovers of the season! I treated them with Ignatia C30 and they look good already. Psychologically speaking. The plan is to nurse them back to health and hang them!

And of strawberries, something has been taking nips at my unripened strawberries in the beds! I guess I could procrastinate no further to build the bird netting lids over them. I have finally figured out a design where I could easily incorporate the frost cloth over it. Stay tuned for the un-patented design finale!

Did a short grafting course yesterday. We gave the apple tree heaps. It is definitely a confidence booster, to be shown the ropes by seasoned expert. There’s only that much detail a book or the internet can provide…

At the orchard, we have started work in the vineyard, thinning out shoots so that we get about 12 shoots per vine.

The cherries are looking great too. However, at some blocks where we thought its going to be a bumper crop had a poor set. We would have to link that up with poor hive placement and gloomy weather. I read somewhere that bees will first look within the first 400m radius, which is true to the logical path of least resistance. Don’t take the beekeeper’s word for consolation when he tell you that bees can travel more than 1km to do their job, that’s what bees do when there are nothing to eat within 1km radius. We will probably try our hands on some bumblee bee hives for next season as well, they are a lot more hardworking than the usual honey bees.

Here’s some orchard drama. There’s only 2 of this tractor in New Zealand. One of them had been written off and parked away perpetually because it was under-power and kept breaking down. The other one, well, it got stuck at the top of the vineyard because it was under-power. Mind you, not all inheritance are good. We managed to pull it out, almost tipping it sideways in the process. The steering is acting up too, refusing to turn, something to do with the hydraulics which the entire tractor works on. The half tank rule up the slope no longer applies, its a quarter tank from now on.

Caesar is still undecided about the young bulls. I did some amateur fencing work in the afternoon to patch up the South fence. Now, he can no longer squeeze his way through the fence. Hopefully, he wouldn’t be able to find another way out of the Orchard Cottage.

We learned something new this week. Vineyard pruning is hard work after lime sulfur is sprayed on. Lime being Calcium Carbonate, essentially lime stone, being sprayed on the canes, is bad news for the hand and the secateurs. It’s like trying to cut stone. Our hands were sore within half an hour. I had to sharpened my secateurs with the file every 2 hours! Next season we are going to get electric pruners.

Taking a walk in the orchard this morning brings to my attention that the cherry buds have swollen to green tip. We will be spraying oil and pirimicarb on this week to control the aphids. There’s no aphids in sight, none has hatched, nor any eggs sighted, but according to modern agriculture, you spray, just in case, the politically correct phrase would be a preemptive spray. But think, if you have a Phacelia and Alyssum sward flowering right now, all the aphids predators are there, waiting to stuff themselves crazy on baby aphids, that will save you a couple grands on this so called preemptive spray.

 

I have a lot of reading to do. Being Chinese, my pursuit of ancient agricultural wisdom has invoked me to study ancient China civilization. After all, ancient Chinese have been amazing farmers feeding a huge population with intensive farming techniques. My past lives had me as a farmer and a scholar studying 天文地理 (astronomy and geography) as well as a foot soldier. All this fueled my desire to learned more about the ancient knowledge, being Chinese and finding myself on this agricultural country of New Zealand.

I went to Le Bons Bay yesterday to meet up with Colleen to have a walkabout around the old properties of her family. We are on the hunt for very old fruit trees and berry plants. We found this huge black/red currant tree, yes, a tree, it’s taller than both of us! It has gone feral beside an abandoned hut, and it is covered completely in fragrant blossoms, we are ecstatic! We collected wood of pears, apples, peaches, walnuts, raspberries, and so on. We checked out 2 properties and both are amazing with very old trees and a little river flowing through them, just amazing. I’ll poke the cuttings into sand come Wednesday when Moon is in Capricorn, a root day to promote rooting. Now I have them sitting in a bucket of mild seaweed juice.

A tired dog is a good dog. Last week I had Caesar follow me to work early in the morning where I ride around the orchard in a quad bike with him following behind at a jogging pace with the occasional sprint. He can keep up with me easily at 20kph! After that, he hangs around at the vineyard while I worked till lunch time before I took him home. He is a very sober dog for the rest of the day! I am starting to socialize him with the farm dogs, he is quite clueless not knowing what to do when I brought him up to meet Rachel’s dogs, even her sheep and cow is not afraid of him but the other way round!

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.

Winter started off well with plenty of rain in June. Somehow things ran out of steam in July, we have only like 3 rain events so far and none have been quite as meaningful. I was expecting quite a few does of 10-20mm rain. It was quite warm for a bit too! One of the trees in the orchard yard is now in blossom!

I went down to the orchard and check the temperature logger. Based on Richardson Chill Unit calculation, we have accumulated about 700 chill units so far. RCU is also called the Utah Model.

  • 1 hour below 1.4°C = 0.0 chill unit (CU)
  • 1 hour between 1.5-2.4°C = 0.5 chill units (CU)
  • 1 hour between 2.5-9.1°C = 1.0 chill units (CU)
  • 1 hour between 9.2-12.4°C = 0.5 chill units (CU)
  • 1 hour between12.5-15.9°C = 0.0 chill units (CU)
  • 1 hour between 16-18°C = – 0.5 chill units (CU)
  • 1 hour over 18°C = – 1.0 chill units (CU)

Some of the varieties in the orchard would have accumulated enough chilling now and if we happen to have 2 weeks of consistent warmth, they would wake up and start flowering. Which I hope the good weather will not be here until Spring! Else we will be having frosted flower petals for salad for the rest of the year.

We are going to change the pruning method from VSP to spur pruning in Okana Vineyard this year. The benefits are an obvious reduction in cost, at the same time, the bunches of grape generally don’t develop secondary shoulders which means you now get a more consistent fruit maturity and less work in bunch thinning. I really like this method as you don’t have to wrestle the canes off the wires, the barrel pruner will do it for you!

I have got my new season supply of seeds all lined up! 3 varieties of corns companion planted with 3 varieties of climbing beans.

 

 

8 varieties of tomatoes companion planted with 2 varieties of basil.

 

Red mesclun mix, 4 varieties of dwarf beans, soybeans, 3 varieties of carrots, beetroots, and swedes as a combined community sowing.  I go forth this with confidence thanks to my rather successful trial in my scatter seeds 1.8×1.8 cloche.

 

2 varieties of brussels sprouts, and onion for mid-late season follow up.

 

Baby carrots, and leeks for mid-late season follow up.

Zucchinis, eggplants, and bell pepper mix.

Most of the varieties are chosen with hardiness and heritage in mind. Otherwise, novelty. Much like the many black tomatoes I have got lined up.

I might operate on the wildflowers meadow next week. The idea is to put the lawn mower on high and run it through the meadow to cut things up. It will help to speed up the decomposition.

I have also done my final tree planting yesterday! Koroneiki Olive, Monovale Almond, Alexandra Hazelnut, and White Heat Hazelnut. They are planted at the back of the wildflowers meadow, when they mature they will start to help with as a minor windbreaker.

Devouring agricultural books have been my main focus in Winter. The latest book I have read is The Biochar Solution by Albert Bates. I have been trying to piece things together as there seems to be a division and separation among the authors, as if each is trying to show that each individual efforts is just good enough that you don’t need combined knowledge.

The charcoal from The Biochar Solution, the compost tea from Teaming with Microbes, got me thinking about Rudolf Steiner’s Preparation 500. The charcoal used in agriculture served as a sponge with tons and tons of micro-pores which serve as home for microbes, it is like a high density residential block. Applying this into the soil essential increased the surface area underneath the soil, therefore increase the population of microbes greatly! I would think of the cow horn of P500 as the charcoal, buried in the ground, it invites microbes to come and take up residence. Then with the cow dung stuffed inside it, became food for the microbes to digest. However, when the food runs low, the microbes will probably go dormant or set spores. We take this fermented cow dung and stir it in a bucket for an hour, which essentially aerates the water much like the making of compost tea. Perhaps, through this stirring, we wake the dormant microbes and spores up, they quickly multiply, and we apply them onto the ground. This is however a mere scientific theory and has yet to incorporate the cosmic forces that entered the preparation via the tip of the cow horn, and the vortex of stirring, as according to Steiner.

My upcoming project is to make my own Cow Pat Pit, and make an aerated tea out of it! There will be some special ingredients involved.

I took Caesar out to meet the sheep yesterday. He wasn’t quite as enthusiastic.

 

Caesar is taking things in strides at the Orchard Cottage. Having 3/4 Border Collie blood in his veins pretty much means he is 3/4 as active as a Border Collie. At just 9 weeks old I noticed his herding instincts whenever we are walking on grass. It’s good that he gets the message I don’t want him on my tucker beds.

I took him for a 45 minutes walk yesterday and that worn him out right away. After all, he was running and stopping and running and stopping. In the end, he was running and laying down and running and laying down. This is the puppy that learns how to run before he learns how to walk.

We have a minus 3.4 this morning. The mustards looks like they are ready to give up. I hope they do, then the blue lupins will have their opportunity to come through.

We are starting work on the vineyard now. In a bid to improve winter pruning efficiency, we are installing additional clips a hand span below the fruiting wire to hold the middle canopy wires. Doing so gets the middle canopy wires out of the way and allow pruning to fall off easily as now you only have to deal with the top canopy wires instead of both of them.

We’ll also trial some spur pruning this season on selected rows as we have been doing VSP all along. During the recent Bio Dynamic Conference 2012, I spoke to some winegrowers who swear by spur pruning. This method has its merits where it takes the wrapping of a new cane onto the fruiting wire out of the equation, thus making winter pruning faster. You can even do it with the barrel pruning machine, which essentially becomes a one person job. The argument against that however is that as the fruiting wood gets older, it will be a place for spores to reside in its cracks. In that, its a judgement call based on disease pressure in the area and vine health management. Ultimately, it is a cost saving measure and with the added benefit that bunches don’t develop secondary shoulders that ripens later than the primary bunch. My trials with the vineyard will be on the first row, last six rows, all end bays of the Okana Vineyard. I have a gut feeling that spur pruning on the end bays might have its plus.

I just finished reading Teaming with Microbes (Jeff Lowenfels and Wayne Lewis 2010) and How to Grow More Vegetables (John Jeavons 2002). Both are amazing books which I picked up from Kay Baxter’s recommendations.

It interesting how rototillers are invented based on the notion that plant roots have mouth to eat the soil, so you have to break the soil into fluff so that it is more edible, and thus enhance plant growth. However, every time we put the machine through or double dig the soil we disturb the soil structure which can be detrimental to the microbes living within it.

What alarms me is to find out that the current agricultural practice uses 16,000 sq ft to feed one person a year. However, the Biointensive method introduced by John Jeavons only utilize 4,000 sq ft per person. Talk about international food crisis. I also like the idea of hexagonal planting instead of tight inter-plant and wide inter-row spacing method. The Biointensive method is a combination of French intensive techniques (1700s-1800s) and Biodynamic techniques (1920s). It also claims that 100% sustainability is impossible based on the Second Law of Thermodynamics, all systems proceed toward a state of entropy or disorder, but instead strive for 99% sustainability, which ultimately means that one day, we will starve to death, just not as soon. However, the current method does not involved any Bio Dynamic preparations (incorporation of cosmic forces) at all, which I believe is the true essence in creating abundance. Still, for its growing method, its a book to be read and put to use.

Was the BD preparations taken out because it is meant to be a very logical method to ensure wide uptake and acceptance? That the incorporation of the forces will just put it as out there weirdo stuff? I personally felt that Biointensive method has bastardize Rudolf Steiner’s Bio Dynamic techniques reducing the philosophy to mere “holistic growing environment for plants”.

However, it is totally up to us to recombine both methods to try to achieve true sustainability and abundance. Intensive Bio Dynamic Agriculture perhaps.

Woot! Finally finished weeding my wildflowers meadow of grass! Its a forest in there, if I faint no one will find me for weeks. Quite a task indeed to wade through meadow, but it also allow me to get closer to the meadow, to the soil, and the life within. Look forward to doing it again next Winter.

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