Today we are mulching the grapevine prunings. The uncommon shriek of a four ton mulching machine splits the vineyard’s calm. A pair of white-tailed black cockatoos dip in for a gander squawking, curious about the din. My earplugs are no match for it, nor is my philosophy.
Armloads of prunings are placed in the hopper and shredded into fragrant bits. A stalwart crew of three threads a steady snake of vine and trunk and bud. They enter the machine taupe and salmon and auburn and exit transformed into smaller green and tan bits. The ubiquitous rain dashes in for an appearance, the shimmer of rainbow indicating treasure to be found, here in the vineyard.
Normally the prunings are burned, as this particular type of effort is inefficient and expensive, way more expensive. But in keeping with the notion that everything from the vineyard belongs in the vineyard, I’ve decided to mulch the vines and return their nutrients back to the soil. And since I am already in the practice of composting the skins and seeds and stems at the time of vintage, it means that the only thing removed from the vineyard is the juice of the grapes.
The mulch is dumped into a sweet-scented pile and I wheelbarrow a load into the block of new plantings. I still have to pick my way among some boggy places, but the ground is actually drying out. The enormous winds have had a massive desiccating effect. A lone white-tailed black cockatoo wails through, dunking down to investigate as I place the mulch around a newly planted cutting.
The winter rains are well behind us – it’s high time to get the remaining cuttings into the ground while there’s adequate soil moisture to support them. And it’s time to turn my attention to weeding. The rain has given the weeds a great boost and oatgrass is carpeting the Cabernet Sauvignon. I dream of herds of guinea pigs gently gobbling tender stems. It’s the beginning of another big idea...