Weevils are showing up on the edges of the vineyard. I can see the telltale swiss cheese effect they’ve tattooed into the leaves. Some have made it into the tiny grape clusters, slicing away pieces of developing fruit, an action that demands a response. I crawl on my belly, commando style, performing reconnaissance, searching for these well-camouflaged guerillas. They are bivouacked in the mulch and under the bark and in some cases in the very band of dacron we’ve attached to the vines in order to slow their upward progress. High weeds have thwarted the dacron perimeter, giving the critters a green bridge with direct access to the developing vines. I gather one weevil at a time and pop them into a jar for “interrogation".
The guinea fowl were supposed to stand watch and devour insects, but have been rare visitors to this part of the farm. They’ve become accustomed to the handouts of grain supplied to the chickens. Though I am contemplating ways of enticing them back into the vines, I realize that that will take time and the weevils are infiltrating now.
Meanwhile, five female guinea fowl have nested in a somewhat protected corner near the orchard and are sharing the brooding watch. They are somewhat indifferent nesters, taking frequent breaks to wander off for a feed, and in the process, leaving their eggs exposed. When I approach the nesting site to snap a photo, I’m scolded by a sole bird who noisily, but ineffectually raises the alarm.
Last year Peepling the duck sat on the eggs and mothered the hatchlings, killing several in the process. This year I’m letting nature take its course, and despite being dubious about their reliability as mothers, I’m letting them sit on their own eggs. My expectations are low - we’ve only seen one baby guinea fowl emerge and thrive in this way in our ten years on the farm. And we’ve lost nesting guinea fowl to foxes as well, but this nest is close to our human presence whereas the previous ones weren’t.
There’s an approved organic spray for weevils, consisting of an extract from a root. When ingested, it causes a tummy ache and discourages further munching. Supposedly it’s specific for weevils, but that very claim churns my unease. How could it be? All my trusted experts advise me to “bomb” the vineyard or risk losing a substantial amount of the crop, but I resist. What effect will it have on the life in the soil? What long-term consequences will there be for the many beneficial insects flourishing in the vines? Will it affect the grapes? Will it cause an imbalance I’ll have to deal with later? More significantly, can I manually remove enough weevils to avoid the spray experiment entirely?
Rudolf Steiner suggested controlling insects with the technique of “peppering” – essentially spreading an ash, generally on the full moon, made from burning a quantity of undesirable pests. Done properly, it is said to eradicate the critters entirely. Though I’ve been experimenting with it, I’ve yet to reach any conclusions about its efficacy. At the same time, I’m also wondering if this is too radical. It reflects my ongoing dilemma about farming - every action I take has a noticable effect. And so I’m stalking the vines, staring at weevil-shot leaves and calculating potential fruit loss. It’s my ongoing quandary as I pick a peck of weevils to bake in a pie.