When I discovered powdery mildew in the Chardonnay I was in shock. I cascaded through the stages of grief, all in the course of an afternoon. After denying it was anything significant, I got angry with myself for letting the canopy junglify, bargained with my trusted vineyard workers about it, got depressed and eventually accepted the unthinkable – that something unwanted had found it’s way into my precious pristine temple of a vineyard. Immediately I reconciled myself to a course of action.
First, radiation. I lopped off the tops of the vines and vigorously hedged, shoot thinned and leaf-plucked, exposing the grapes to the intense direct rays of the sun. Truckloads of vine material were heaped on the compost pile and an autumn of leaves carpeted the floor of the Chardonnay. Having let the sunshine in, I watched as here and there grapes became sunburned, shriveled up and dropped off, casualties of the treatment. You kill some good cells along with the undesirable ones…
Next, chemo. I upped the frequency of sulfur treatments in the hopes of creating a climate that the powdery would find undesirable. After a while, it smelt positively volcanic. I smelt positively volcanic! I’d walk the vines in freshly laundered work clothes and return home smelling like Old Faithful. Swimming in the sea, showering with Dr. Bronners cut it somewhat, but always the faint odor of Hades lifting off my skin. My clothes, despite repeated washings, had the stench of, well, skunk. And miraculously, the mildew was dialed back -- it didn’t spread.
So I flagged the grape bunches that had it, decided to watch them, to see if it proliferated, and checked the vineyard to see if it metastasized elsewhere. The sun did its work. The hot winds dried the tender grapes. The sulfur, sulfurated. And the powdery was stopped in its tracks. But it remained in those flagged lumps of grapes.
So today I got radical, and pulled on my surgeon’s glove, beginning the process of cutting out the afflicted bunches, sob. And in farmer mind, I’m assessing, second guessing, remembering, postulating, hypothesizing – had I done this, seen that, if only this, but what if that… In the final analysis my vote is for getting radical, for an immediate unemotional surgical strike. After all the effort, expense and anxiety, I’ve ended up cutting it out, leaving nothing but healthy vibrant, delicious fruit. I’m a radical at heart.