This year has been characterized with a huge focus on hand weeding but I was still floored to learn that we had spent over 400 hours at it this season, and that we aren’t finished. That’s an incredible amount of effort for such a small vineyard. Most of it occurred in the new plantings, particularly the cabernet sauvignon, undoubtedly a result of our disturbing the soils. We dealt with thistles, sorrel, kikuyu, bracken fern, and were absolutely hammered with nightshade, but there was also a smattering of an insidiously clever weed Emex australis, an immigrant from South Africa. I took bins and bins of it to the tip.
It goes by various names-- double g, goathead, cathead, three cornered jack. It’s a low growing annual that sends prostrate stems bearing clusters of spiny fruit. These burrs are three-spined and designed for maximum dispersion, constructed in such a way to inevitably imbed itself in anything that touches it. I’ve run barefoot in the field and been categorically stopped in my tracks like a tank in a tank trap. These babies know how to penetrate and they hurt.
So once the weeds had been pulled, making vast piles at the edges of the vineyard, I decided to reduce the possibility of future proliferation, by deploying six semi loads of ground up tree mulch. I couldn’t have picked a hotter dustier day for this work!
We spread it by hand, of course, wheel barrowing the mulch, section by section, utilizing forks, and rakes and gloves. We were sweating.
And that’s where the double g caught us. That insidious little bugger was waiting to puncture our wheels. Four of us spread mulch for three days and I ended up changing six tires and and four inner tubes before I finally found some industrial strength tires as replacements… If I had started with those tires in place, though, I wouldn’t be as proficient as I am now in wrenching the wheels off the wheelbarrow, popping tire off the rim, yanking the inner tube, replacing a fresh one, pumping it up and ratcheting it back on. In the Indy 500 of wheel barrowing, I’m king of the pit crew.