Vineyard news: April 2017

March 24 2017

March for me now means sheep. I like to borrow a small flock of sheep from one of the local farmers to get the rough, matted thatch of grass that has developed over winter nibbled down to within an inch of its life.

March for me now means sheep. I like to borrow a small flock of sheep from one of the local farmers to get the rough, matted thatch of grass that has developed over winter nibbled down to within an inch of its life. 

There are a couple of reasons for this: the long grass is incredibly tough so can easily damage my mower; and the dense growth blocks the sun from warming the soil beneath. My twelve adult sheep and their lovely little lambs have been busy nibbling and have already reduced a hectare of grass down to a very short length within the space of a week. As well as eating grass they have the delightful habit of fertilizing the ground as they go so it’s a win-win situation all round! 

 As with everything, there are down sides and I do have to monitor their progress a little. As soon as they’ve eaten all the soft grass they can sometimes begin to look elsewhere and start to nibble bark and stems. If we see this happening we quickly move them onto the fresh grass surrounding the vineyard to get to work there instead. Thankfully a simple electric fence keeps them wherever we want and prevents too much chaos descending.

Luckily the vines won’t form enlarged buds or begin growing until mid April so there’s no real threat from the sheep at the moment but you could never have sheep grazing once they have started to grow. 

 We used sheep for the first time last spring wouldn’t be without them now. Some of them were hand reared and behave almost like dogs, running up to greet me and rubbing their big woolly bodies against me (whether I like it or not). They definitely liven up the last few weeks of pruning and I love watching the little lambs skipping and playing around the vines.

Our 2016 Pinot noir rosé is about to be bottled so we’re just finalising label plans and preparing hundreds of boxes. We have a new label illustration by Children’s Laureate and illustrator Chris Riddell, which our designer Helen Miller is busy working on. If all this goes to plan our new wine should be available in the next few weeks, so watch this space!

 

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