There's a breeze out of the North and the sun has prevailed today over our customary winter rains. I am gleaning cuttings from the first Chardonnay prunings, seeking straight, healthy wood amongst what were the new canes from last year's growing season. I've been cutting the bottom of the canes across the bud itself, as instructed by the old timers, marking the top ends with a diagonal cut so that I can easily tell which way is up.
Margaret River has not experienced grape phylloxera (the sap sucking insect that feeds on grapevines, responsible for the plague that destroyed the European wine industry in the late 1800's), and so it is possible to root these cuttings directly, rather than first grafting to rootstock. The cuttings are placed in a sandy nursery where they will form a white tissue called callus, and the roots will grow out of that. These will be transplanted into the new vineyard blocks. However the cuttings taken today will go directly into the ground, as replacement cuttings for some transplants that didn't make it last year. It's one of many ongoing experiments. Callusing occurs in warm conditions and is necessary for root formation. These replacement vines will remain relatively cold in the ground until Spring, and thus will most likely not callus up until quite a bit later. But I can easily shove them into the soft ground now, without digging, whereas planting the rooted cuttings will require considerably more effort. So I'm experimenting to see how well they take.
I'm alone, and taking my time with it, listening to music with my headphones as I wake up muscles that haven't been used for a while. I listen with the volume turned low enough that I can hear the magpie choir and the leaves chuckling in the breeze. There's a lot of work in front of me, and I'm getting together a plan of how to accomplish everything. Seems like just about every time I come up with a big time and effort saving idea though, I end up expending more. As for this experiment, heavy winter rains have drenched the vineyard. When I place a cutting into the ground I'm met with plenty of water. The rains will continue for several months and there’s a risk that these cuttings might rot in the ground. Am I too early?