Journal | May 21, 2018

Hardscrabble Journal

Biblical Rains

“Biblical” may be a bit of an exaggeration for five inches of rain in one week. It certainly seemed that way as we helplessly watched the unabated growth of the grass, weeds and vines. While we have some concerns about mildew growth on the leaves, the timing of this week’s rain is fortuitous in that the vines are not yet in a highly susceptible stage.

Bloom is the very critical period where the new growth is highly susceptible to disease. It looks like we will see the first flowers open in the first week of June, with full bloom by the second week. This is when we hope for dry, warm weather.

My more immediate concern centers around the farmer’s “one day” adage. “What’s the difference between a good farmer and a lousy farmer? One day. The good farmer is always one day ahead in the timing of the work at hand and the poor farmer is always one day behind.” Last week we were one day ahead and feeling relaxed as the timing of shoot thinning was perfect. Each block, depending on variety, vine age and soil, was worked as the tender shoots reached about four to six inches in length. At this stage we can see a shoot’s newly exposed clusters (some will have no clusters) along with the orientation of each shoot (some will grow down or sideways, but we prefer to retain upward growing shoots that easily attach themselves to the trellis wires above). Additionally, at this stage the shoots are easy to remove with one’s fingers. Too late and one needs pruning shears, which doubles the amount of time required.

So the race is on this week. Last week was a bust, as we couldn’t get into the vineyard much because of the rains. We can’t fall one day behind! The goal is to have each vine thinned to the proper number of shoots and then transition to the next task: shoot positioning.