Monday, May 10, 2010

Rain, Rain, and more Rain

This past week the weather has been cloudy and rainy. It all started the Sunday the students came back. Because of this, I was not able to take my camera out with me, because I was afraid it may get wet and ruined. The pictures in this post are all from one sunny day. I will also list a few other things I did but could not document.
Nik wanted to spread some nitrogen fertilizer throughout the vineyard. This could only be done when it is raining to allow the fertilizer to dissolve quickly. As I stated before, it has been raining all week, so we took a day to spread the fertilizer. All plants need to nitrogen to grow and prosper. This is true for a plant in the depths of the ocean or a tree right below the timber line, they need nitrogen. On planet earth, there are 3 ways that nitrogen occurs naturally. Nitrogen is all around us and has been here for billions of years. It is in the soil and the air. Nitrogen is also created when lightning strikes an area. The super heated bolt combine certain atoms to form nitrogen. The last way nitrogen is made naturally, is with the help of rhizobium bacteria. These bacteria form symbolic relationships with legumes (clover or soy) and form nitrogen. To go into more detail about these processes, would take up a post of it own, so I will keep simple.
The chemical fertilizer that we used was created in a factory with a lot of energy input, usually from oil. Once the nitrogen is applied to the ground, it dissolves. The nitrogen naturally stimulates the plants and gives them a boost in growth. This is especially needed for the older vines because they have depleted the soil around them.
The next task also had to be done with all of the vines. We had to go to each vine and take away all of the unwanted leaves. This meant taking off any leaf that was under a certain spot on the plant. You would simply take your hand and place it under the 2nd wire and anything below your hand could be cut off. This allows for the vine to put all of it's energy into the top portion, causing the plant to grow upwards. If there are two vines growing out of one vine, you also take the weaker one off.
Vine before pruning
The unwanted stem
Break off
The 2nd wire, everything below goes
Double eye Double eye
Double eye
I also did a lot of seeding around the whole farm where needed. I used grass seed to help green up some spots that were simply dirt. The grass will provide food for the animals to eat but also slow down erosion, which is important because farms can lose a lot of dirt in these areas.
Grass seed
Hard to see but the grass seed being thrown
Where I had to seed
Seeds on the ground
The drains pictured below are scattered all around the farm and allow water to drain. Although most of the rain will flow downward, it is better to keep the flow concentrated. This will allow less erosion because all of the water is funneled into a few spots. These drains tend to get clogged with debris and soil, some of them have not been cleaned all winter. Plants were starting to grow out of them. This job will have to be done periodically, usually after heavy thunderstorms.
Tool used to clean drains
Cleaned out drain
Two weeks ago I planted some new vines to replace the old dead ones. This week I gave them some protection. I went down to the Gold Muskatellers with a hammer, rebar, plastic boxes and metal clips. The plastic boxes are put around the vine for physical protection from the weed wacker but also creates a small greenhouse affect that will help the plant grow.
The supplies
Metal clip used to attached rebar to wire
It is also important to weed around the new vine before placing the box down
Old zinc poles were used to guide the vine, so I removed these and replaced with rebar
The old zinc rod still by the new plant
Box, with holes to allow rebar to go through
The fold that keeps the box together
New rebar post
It's hammer time
Looking down into the box
The whole set up completed
Close up of the vine in the box
Here is a video I took putting one of those boxes together. I realized after viewing the video it may have been better to talk and explain what I was doing but that did not happen. Hope you all enjoy

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Last week of April

The week was over before I knew it and I woke up today for my one day off. Brigitte, Sizzo, and all of the students were away this week. Sizzo and Brigitte went to the USA, where Sizzo delivered a lecture at a college. All of the students went on a week long trip to Venice, where they learned about Pound and explored the city. The days were spent working long hours and living at Brunnenburg with less people. I will list a few things that I did this week.
Every year it is expected that some vines will not survive. There can be many different reasons but in the end these dead plants need to be replaced. You do not want to waste the space that these plants take up but also you do not want a possible diseased plant to remain among the living. Jane and I were given the task to replace all of the dead GoldMuskateller with some new young vines that Nik purchased. There were about 30 dead vines scattered throughout the vineyard. One of the afternoons this week was spent putting 15 of these new vines into the ground.
Jane and I followed with all the supplies pictured below, including a watering can and blue bucket
To start off the task, Nik went through the vineyard and put a piece of metallic tape above each vine that had to be replaced. He also put some tape above spots that did not have a vine but needed one.
We would first dig up the old vines with a pic and shovel. We would carefully dig beside the vine and go as deep as possible without destroying it. It is important to try and get all of the vine out in one piece.
Once the vines were out, the new one could be put in. The hole had to be a certain depth, so the vines were almost completely covered up with dirt
Pouring water into the hole
Once the hole is ready you put the vine in and add a generous amount of water, filling the hole up. It is important to water anything that is newly transplanted to help give it fighting chance in this new environment. The water also helps the roots to grow into the soil and settle in for the long haul.
You let the soil soak up some of the water and then fill the hole up with dirt. Once this step is complete, you have transplanted yourself a vine. I also did this task at another part of farm later in the week with a different kind of vines.
A few weeks back the Students dug a trench through the apple orchard down to the main house system. Nik was tapping into another water supply to help regenerate their tanks when needed. This meant connecting a pipe from all the way up on the road, right down to the chicken coop. The trench was dug then Nik got the hose. Two workmen from the area, Walter and Alphonse were at the farm to help us with the task. We uncoiled both the hoses and led them down the trench. They had to go under the road and the path leading to Meran. Once all the connections were made, we could then fill up the trench with dirt. I worked on it with Jane and Nik sporadically through out the week until most of it was finished. There is still a small portion that has to be worked on at the very end.
Cement covering the hole on the trial
Hoses being covered with dirt
The trench, apple trees to the sides
Two small tasks that I also worked on were wiring trellising and cleaning up some fertilizer. Some of the trellising in the GoldMusakteller only had one wire going across, while they usually have three. I would stay at the end of the row while Nike went down the row with some wire. We would use the machine pictured below to help with the process. Nik would put the wire where it was needed and then cut it. These are the same wires that I had to clean and tighten last week. Nik also showed me how to tighten a few other wires that I did not know how to do.
The device held the wire and spins as the wire is pulled
The next few pictures that show how you would tighten the trellising, some of the pictures are poor quality.
You first undo the wire and make it loose again
Then you pull the wire tight against the post
After you wrap it around itself, making the wire tight
Here's Nik doing it
A picture of the post and the tractor in the back
A few weeks back we added some fertilizer to the GoldMuskateller, but the fertilizer was too concentrated on one spot. We went through this before with our hands to clean it but it was not enough. So we went through with some hoes and really worked the fertilizer out.
Three big hoes, a small rake, small hoe, and sickle
The vines are putting on leaves and growing
Close up of the vines