Monthly Archives: June 2011

Flowers, Petioles, and Bird Eggs

Today we did maintenance, and not very much of it! Too hot…my kinda dog day afternoon where everything moves at a slower pace and the ground under the big oak is just the right temperature.  We limited our time outside today. On the agenda was followup on the petiole analysis (more on this later), watering 5 baby replants in the established vineyard, and line flushing in the new block. I have already told you all about line flushing (wet and nasty), and watering is watering so we’ll talk about petiole analysis.

Here is what grape-vine flowers look like. Tiny little things (click on the pic for a better view) that determine size and set of the berries on the cluster. Tiny little things that my Mom just happens to be allergic to! (Boy is she out of luck on this one…for a week there cannot be enough kleenex boxes in the house! This year it also corresponded to a nasty cold.)

Every year when the bloom gets to a certain percent, usually 100%, we have to take a random sample (75 to 100) of the petioles in each of the blocks of vines. Petioles are the stem of the leaf and we have to take the sample right across from the first grape cluster on the fruit bearing cane. They are then sent to a lab for analysis and the lab sends back recommendations for additions to the soil or foliage. For all you chemistry people out there, they are checking for N, P, K, Mg, Ca, Na, Fe, Mn, B, Cu, Zn, and NO3. For all you non-chemistry/non-gardener people they are the trace minerals needed for good solid growth.

Here is the assembly line of petioles lined up and ready to go. Notice there are not any leaves, just the stems. They are wrapped in paper so that they get lots of air and don’t mildew. Then they are labeled and sent overnight to the lab in Fresno…the results to come back usually within the week. Then we can adjust our fertilizer and foliar sprays to add anything that is deficient. The package was sent out on Saturday and today we checked on its safe arrival.

We are now sitting in the house, Mom is on the computer and I am waiting patiently for dinner. Just a few minutes ago I showed up expectantly and now begins about 15 minutes of campaigning for dinner. How is it that my food clock is so right on?

Lastly, amid all the sweat and toil and absolute boring repetitiveness of the task of running an “agricultural enterprise” as my good buddy Joe calls it, occasionally you find something that stops you in your tracks. Today while Mom was inspecting some vines, she found a tiny nest and was very surprised to find some tiny residents! These are the small things that make it all worthwhile…that and the good pinot noir that comes out of this vineyard.

Happy  dinner everyone! I am about to enjoy mine!


Did you ever walk into a room and forget why you walked in? I think that is how dogs spend their lives.” – Sue Murphy

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Fried Dough (one of my other favorite things!)

Abelskivers, beignets, donuts/donut holes, what is people’s fascination with fried dough? For one thing it tastes pretty darn good if it is done well. Mom and Dad had dinner last night at a tapas place called Andalu in the Mission. Good solid tapas: Ahi Tartar Tacos with Chili and Lime and Mango Salsa, Cambazola Cheese Fondue with Fuji Apples and Asian Pears, Crispy Mac and Cheese with Herb Tomato Vinaigrette to name a few. But the crowning glory and one they were happy they saved room for was Fresh Donut Holes with Castillian Hot Cocoa.

Can you say yummmmmmm! Perfect little fried balls of dough, liberally dusted in powdered sugar and served with the most amazing espresso cups full of rich, creamy hot chocolate. Question is to dip or not to dip. Up to you…Mom and Dad had them both ways. Remarkable!

How about these babies:  Beignets from Just for You Cafe in SF at 3rd and 22nd. Add chicory coffee…heavenly! Also, cornmeal pancakes to die for and they make a mean scramble.

Another strong  showing is the Bacon Beignets at Frances restaurant in the Castro. They were only the beginning of one of the best meals ever!

If you are really into all things fried dough try this blog: Looks like this rage will be around for awhile.

Mom and I are off to the ranch today. Tomorrow we have a visit from Ann the vineyard consultant. We will also be putting up the second wires and tending to the veggie garden. Ciao!

“If you get to thinkin’ you’re a person of some influence, try orderin’ somebody else’s dog around.” – cowboy wisdom

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Let’s Talk Irrigation!

The entire vineyard has irrigation lines that hang from a wire under the cordon. Every year Mom has to flush these lines to clear all the nasty things that grow in them and possibly plug the emitters that water each vine. Although watering doesn’t start until sometime in July, we will need to fertilize the vines through this system even before watering starts. Below is a short video on YouTube showing the flush. Dad is featured in the video so that Mom could film it. There are no videos of changing the emitters because Mom is usually mad when she does it.

Click on this link: Flushing Water Lines to see a video of line flushing (watch for the black goop that is flushed out) and hey, if you watch this video through to the end you can see a video of me with two of my best friends, Graciebutt and Annie in Montana a couple of years ago!)

Let’s look at the whole picture.

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The pictures in the slideshow represent the sequence of the operation: Pumphouse, tanks, timer, manifold, emitters, water to vines (and sometimes Mom!). Here is how it works: the pumphouse sits over the well which pumps water into the tanks and when the timer is turned to a specific block of vines it will send water to the manifold which will water the vines in that block through the emitters that may need to be changed and Mom gets wet. (And the knee bone is connected to the hip bone…) There are five blocks of vines and depending on their size are either watered alone or with another smaller block. All together in the mature blocks we have about 6,600 vines. That’s 6600 emitters that need to be checked. There are 115 rows in the mature blocks that need to be flushed. So…that’s all there is to it! Except…

…for the flushing of lines and replacing the emitters. From the manifold there are a series of pipes that lead the water to individual rows of vines, then to the emitters. You can see an emitter in this photo. Imagine trying to change it when the sytem is under pressure! Water flies everywhere! It’s a nasty job, so when Mom is hard at work I usually stay out of the vineyard because she tends to get a little crabby and a lot wet! Her shoes fill with water and she wears protective glasses. She must be crazy!

This picture shows me guarding her wet clothes that she put out in the sun to dry. After all, she may need to put them on tomorrow and finish up the job…I think she got fed up today and went in for a big glass of pinot noir! And now I am resting because it is hard work waiting for Mom to come out of the vineyard to play with me!

“Very good Honey. I knew it was just a matter of time before dogs will take over the world”John Forton (Uncle John)


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