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Sunday, 10 January 2016

Attack of the Rock Roses (Part 2)

(continuation of Part 1 of the Attack of the Rock Roses)

So I did some physical exercises for a few days, in preparation for my counter-attack against the rock roses; a few press-ups and some abominable crunches in the morning, and some hand, finger, ankle exercises whenever I remembered during the day.

I had intended to start at the crack of dawn, but no plan ever survives contact with real life and my morning ended up full of distractions and complications. It was only after lunch that I was able to get out to the vineyard.

The was no way I was going to tackle the main 'briar patch' on the first day! It was far too daunting. I started with an easy part, working my way down the nearside boundary, where there weren't so many rock roses to uproot, only two or three every row. The going was good, and I even managed to work my way along the bottom boundary for a few meters. But the days are short at this time of year so it soon got dark and I had to stop.

The densely populated main 'briar patch'

Next day I was back, this time bright and early in the morning. But I still didn't feel like starting on the 'briar patch' so I just continued what I was doing - working my way along the bottom boundary, uprooting the sparcely spaced rock roses. Crouch down, grab the stalk near the ground, pull out, put in a pile; repeat all day long!

The sparsely populated bottom boudary

I finished the bottom boundary and started working my way up the far boundary towards the main rock rose patch. When I got to the edge, I stopped, and I went to to the top of the far boundary and started working my way down until I reached the other edge of the main patch. Then it was time for lunch. Perfect timing. I would do the final assault after lunch!

The southern edge of the briar patch

So after lunch (short) I dove straight in to work. I was bearing up well, physically, nothing was too sore. Yet! It was tremendously boring work, as it took me ages to clear each square meter. I seemed to be constantly in the same place and not making any progress at all. There were hundreds of little rock roses in each square meter, and medium sized ones, and large ones too. The tiny little ones were the easiest to pull out, obviously, but they were also the most boring. They were infinite!

so many rock roses

Now everything was starting to get sore, just like I had anticipated: quadriceps, back and fingers mostly. I would alternate squatting down on my haunches (that way my back wouldn't hurt) and when my quads complained I would stand up straight and bend over to grasp and pull (that way my quads wouldn't hurt). In the end though both back and quads hurt like hell! There was nothing I could do about the fingers though, I just had to keep grasping and pulling.

It was now a race against time. I really wanted to finish the uprooting before sunset, otherwise I could have to come back another day to mop up. Not only are the days short in January, but the vineyard is in a valley surrounded by high mountains, so the sun actually 'sets' earlier than usual.

In the end, I managed to uproot all the rock roses before dark.

neat piles of uprooted rock roses

But I had to go back another day after all - to remove all those piles of uprooted rock roses that I had neatly piled up.

more neat piles 

So on the third day, with great satisfaction I threw all the piles of rock roses over the vineyard boundary into the neighbouring pine forest where they would decompose.

But another unexpected task came up which took me the rest of the day to deal with: there was quite an extensive area of the vineyard that was covered with pine needles, fallen from some neighbouring pine trees. I don't think that an excess of pine needles can be good for a vineyard's soil. Nothing much can grow in a pine forest becuse the pine needles are very acidic and don't allow other plants to thrive.

Piles of pine needles, and pine trees at the vineyard boundaries

I spent the rest of the day raking up pine needles and returning them to the forest. But again darkness fell and I had to stop before I could finish properly. I don't know when I'll be able to finish that task.

That was an extra, unscheduled and unexpected three days spent in this vineyard. Other tasks now beckon. At the top of my list of priorities, I have to bottle up ten barrels of red wine. This has to be done soon, because 1) the wine has been in the barrels long enough, and if it stays too long it will taste too much of oak, 2) the wine has to age a while in bottles before I can sell it, and 3) I have to free up the barrels so I can put new wine into them. Next on the list is the pruning - and I have five vineyards now to manage: Airén/Tempranillo in Carabaña, Malvar in Villarejo, Garnacha I and Garnacha II in El Tiemblo, and now Chelva in El Tiemblo too. So the sooner I start, the sooner I will finish, hopefully by March/April. Further down my list of priorities, are a whole load of other tasks and activities, some more fun than others, which I'll deal with too, when the time comes.

But I'm not happy about those pine needles. I wonder if they've even been raked up and removed before. The poor vines affected (around 50-60) must have been suffering for years if not decades. I really ought to give them some lovely manure this winter. We shall see. But other urgent tasks beckon too. Stay tuned.

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