Sunday, April 18, 2010

The Maccabees of Cerro Prieto


Oops, that's a typo, in that it should have read "McAbee's". The biblical Maccabees were actually a Jewish rebel army who liberated parts of land of Israel from the rule of the Selucid empire. Also, supposedly "Maccabees" gave rise to the word "hammer", with all its implications. Anyway, right now, we are using the McAbee's gopher traps, setting some 36 or more per day. Doesn't sound like much but first you have to find the little scoundrels, then you have to dig until you find a two-way tunnel, and then you set the traps and insert one in each arm of the tunnel. A good idea is to secure each trap to a length of baling wire and then wrap that around a fluorescent orange painted piece of wood. This is so you can find traps(over 20 acres it is easy to lose them) once you have buried them in the ground. Also, the stakes make it harder for coyotes to dig up the traps(plus gopher) and take the gopher trap and gopher elsewhere for supper. The orange paint makes it a lot easier to find those suckers the next day.

Seems kind of silly to go thru all this hassle for a gopher, but one mature 11 y/o vine has a worth of $450 to replace at current status. Naturally, new vines are only $3 each, but the work to get them to 11 years costs about $450. That's why once we plant them, we go to extraordinary means to keep them alive. Poisons are a possibility, an easy one, but besides from being expensive, some are also secondary killers, ie: Gopher eats poison, dies, and vulture eats dead gopher and dies. The non secondary poisons are essentially grain treated with anticoagulant, and gophers need to feed on the grain at least 3-4 times before dying. For a vineyard "going towards green" we do our best to stay away from anything poisonous, as it is just one more chemical you don't have to put into the soil.

Besides gophers, this is also the time of year for re-doing weed control (machetes, hoes, weedeaters), and getting the vineyard ready for any improvements. In our case this is replacing some vines in our cold valley vineyard that altho grafted two years ago, still are stuggling. Having pulled a number of them out of the ground, the failed ones usually have had a root system chewed up by gophers, and the vine is literally hanging on with only a tap root. These are best replaced, as altho they could survive, they wouldn't thrive. Five days hence we will be planting some potted dormant Pinot Noir vines, burying the entire bareroot vine under ground. After the vine breaks thru the dirt, we will put on cardboard cartons to protect young vines from not only late spring frost, but also our many jackrabbits...which look at young vines as a real treat.
Lastly, this is a time for repairs. Right now it is the flail mower, and 42" Bush Hog mower(pulled behind ATV). Both are being welded, re-wired, and sharpened. Making it thru one season is tough on mowers. Making it thru 11 seasons is asking a lot from these contraptions. They will and do break down. Last week it was the tractor tread. Now welded back on our crawler is once again in service, but it sure looked naked for awhile with one tread extending behind and in front of the track-layer. Amazingly our mechanic was able to jack the 10,000 lb tractor up and move the track so it could be reattached, bolted and welded.

Such is our spring...beautiful, busy, and behind. The saying, "the faster I go, the behinder I get", has special meaning each spring. We do get a lull later, but right now it is action packed. Meanwhile our '07 Merlot and Paso Bordo are 3 weeks post bottling, which means we will be trying them out in a mere 9 more weeks. These both got a full 27 months on 1/3 new French oak barrels... Seguin
Moreau, for those of you interested. The other 2/3 barrels were neutral, ie, 2-3
years old, but they don't impart much, if any oak flavor to the wines.

That's it for now, but if you happen to be driving by and see a 6 wheel ATV out in the vineyard, and someone kneeling on the ground burying gopher traps, honk or just stop by for a visit. I would love to give our many wine club members some hands on time learning how to trap pesky gophers.
(Incidentally, the accompanying picture above is titled, "Lots of flowers, lots of weeds").

1 comment:

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    These burrowing critters are savage little beasts, however, it appears that the folks over at Crittergetter have finally accomplished something that has eluded the general public for as long as it has tried to scratch a living from the earth or beautify its surrounding landscape – furnish a product that actually eliminates any burrowing pest!
    http://www.crittergetteronline.com/
    Link to University of Nebraska report: http://www.crittergetteronline.com/PDF/gophers.pdf

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