A Year in the Vineyard - October

I will be spending the next 12 months recording the goings on at our Gibbston Vineyard and property with pen, pencil, and camera. Micro and Macro, look through the lens of the observer to get the inside scoop of all the beauty and beasts inside the 1 kilometre of rabbit fencing. "Fencing, fighting, torture, revenge, giants, monsters, chases, escapes, true love, miracles" ……This blog will have it all! I hope you’ll join me.


This is the month where days visibly make a serious commitment to spring. September just wasn’t sure. No flowers, no warm days. Only the willows put their hand up saying ‘That is quite enough of that business’ and start weaving their sleepy fibers and sprouting their strands of golden green. It reminds me of my favorite Robert Frost poem, but after too many days of fog and mud, I am way too optimistic to recite it today.

Another sign of assured spring, if not in the vines, is the absence of the sole paced and patient pruner, working vine by vine, row by row, day after day. The pruning is finished, and the vineyard is empty of human life. Quietly gaining strength, the vines ready themselves.

It is ‘Maintenance Month’ in the vineyard. Odd jobs of fixing, replacing and organizing take the casual precedent. The crew all gather today to run wires, adding strength and stability to the trellis system. Up the rows they walk making the spinning jenny’s work, tying wire knots with confidence to row end posts. With this, all the while observing the tiny buds on the laid canes, who will be first? The tiny buds gradually swell and grow woolly with the intention of unfurling a leaf one day soon. Checking, checking, fixing, checking, checking.

The tractor rolls through in the early hours which seems quite early in the season. And another! Mowing and tilling is today’s agenda. Turning over the earth every second row preparing for our first inter-row planting. Encouraging intentional diversity in the vineyard with a cover crop of mixed plants. Promises of flowers and edibles and attracting more insects hang in the air, but first the tilling. It is a sight to see from up high after it is prepared. Neat little bicolour rows in the rising light of day.

Overhead, an unearthly ‘Charch! Charch! Charch!’ sounds. “What IS that noise?” I look up to see what is a baby Peregrine Falcon on its maiden voyage, and not a very straight or deliberate one at that. Learning how to use its wings and clearly its voice! Other baby birds around the vineyard today are learning about gravity. The trajectory looks like it intended to be aerial but the ground won out. BOP! into the leaves and high grass. With a will stronger than what their little muscles are, they attempt, in a clumsy manner, to take flight. They know it is possible, they have seen it done, their DNA wills them into heavy attempts! I look at these poor little creatures and silently relate. Yes, little bird, that is how I feel after a long winter. I think I probably look like that too, trying to break into exercise and generally moving about. Heavy, and battling gravity with only the inspiration of spring and warm weather on my side!

A Southerly wind interrupts the bouncy rhythm in the district. Mother nature reminding farmers and weather predicters, who is in charge! 2 days of snow and icy wind! Beautiful and quiet, these days are passed indoors catching up on things neglected to enable us to be outside in the sun once it thaws. The bright bulbs that have confidently sprouted and shouted their colour have folded to the oppressive weight of the snow. Daffodils, tulips, hyacinths bowing over, preserving their energy for the melt. When it comes, most have stood back up at attention looking about at their fallen friends with bent stems. A reminder of difficult times, resourcefulness, and resiliency. These beautiful flowers, destroyed at the mercy of spring, will wither and die, but will pop up again next year, stronger (and reassuringly) in ever-enlarging groups and patches. The days following this white event return to the now mistrustful temperatures of 16 and 18 degrees Celsius.

What is Spring if not a tumble?

More warm dry days bring on the bud burst. While other plants and bulbs struggle for water and begin to turn papery before wilting, somewhere deep within the vines stored winter energy pushes these little nodes into tiny bouquets of leaflets. Fresh, green and needing little encouragement, out they come, slowly, slowly, when we are not watching.

And with that, the growing season officially begins!