March 30, 2011


SPRING is coming!! The weather has begun to turn warm – 60’s during the day and 40’s overnight. Frost is, hopefully, behind us, because the vineyard is starting to wake up. New green buds are beginning to sprout at each of the spurs we cut off last winter. So it looks like I got my winter work done just in time! I have been spending the last weeks getting the vineyard ready for the new season – spraying with weed killer and anti-germination products to make sure the weeds do not take over and keep the vines from getting the rain water and nutrients they need for good growth. I use the old, old tractor for the ‘spraying’. It carries a tank on the back and a series of hoses and spray nozzles for putting the products right around the base of the plants. This is the small area which is impossible to reach with the plow because to run the plow so close to the vine risks either catching the vine and uprooting it or cutting the vine underground and killing it. The nozzles sit in front of the front tires and spray to the sides and down – to get the solution around the vines as the tractor passes. I’ve been lucky in that with the warmer weather and sunshine, there has not been much wind – so the solution goes just where I want it to go. After doing all the rows of vines, I can then re-position the nozzles to cover a strip that is the entire width of the tractor – then run it around the outer edges of the vineyard to make sure I get all the dandelions that are close by ..they would love to re-germinate out in the vineyard. It takes about 2 days to cover the entire vineyard and the surrounding areas. After the weedkiller, its on to fertilizing. I use a chemical mix that is suited for the specific soil content – to make sure the necessary nutrients are still in the soil after last year’s growth (which pulls the nutrients to feed the vines) and the winter rains (which causes leeching). I get the soil analyzed every other year to make sure I am tracking what elements are needed – such as nitrogen and potassium. I use the big blue tractor for spreading the fertilizer – it works just like the kind you use on your lawn – except it holds a LOT more (about 150kg), and you don’t have to push it!! The spreader is designed to cover 5 rows of vines at a pass, so it only takes about 3/4 of a day to cover the entire vineyard. It takes as long to stop and refill the spreader (a full load is good for about 1 pass down the long rows) as it does to drive down the row. I am seriously considering moving toward bio-dynamic farming. I have been observing the neighbors, and while there is little more work, the yields are still good, and their results suggest it is worth it. In addition, of course the environment will be better for it. I can apply for Bio-dynamic farming – but it takes three years to become certified. What it means specifically is changing from chemical to bio-organic fertilizers and composts and stopping the use of both herbicides and chemical pesticides. Use of organic compounds for mildew resistance, etc. is still ok. I think it really makes sense, so I am thinking to apply later this Spring. That way, by 2015, the wine would be Certified Biodynamic. On the wine side, both the 2010 IGP Vaucluse rose and the 2009 ‘Ombre du Chateau’ Cotes du Rhone rouge are now labeled and ready for sale. With the help of my neighbor’s son Alan, I have been out schlepping these new wines around town. So far, the rose is being well received – it has been picked up by a couple of shops and restaurants. The ‘Ombre’ is making a good impression, though because of its higher price point it is a tougher sale. But, I have been able to get it into at least one of the local restaurants – l’Arts des Mets – here in Sorgues, and others have expressed interest. All in all, I now have wine in two wine shops and 5 restaurants in the area, with a few more that have shown interest for later in the year. On the personal side, I did get my new passport from the US Consulate in Marseilles – took just the 2 weeks they promised. So now I am legal again…sorta…My Carte de Sejour (Identity Card) that I have here has to be renewed every year. Mine expired in January – just as it had the previous year. And so, like the previous time, I went to the local Police station in November and submitted my request for renewal. It takes about 6 weeks, and so they will not accept renewal requests earlier than 2 months before expiration. So I gave them the application package and waited (my old Carte expired January 28). January 28th came and card. So back to the Police I went and asked, and they inquired, but had no answer other than…’they would let me know’. So I waited 4 weeks, and went back on 2/23. Still no word. So I waited a couple more weeks, and went back..AGAIN..on 3/6. And then I told them that I planned to make a return trip to the US in April, and I really really needed an unexpired residency permit to get back into the country !!! After another weeks’ wait, and no word, I went back ONCE AGAIN (4th visit), and the lady there, who has been very kind and helpful, told me that if I provided my airplane ticket that perhaps they could at least get me a ‘receipt for renewal’. So I did that, and a week later I got my ‘Receipt’ for a renewal of my residency card…so now I am legal for another 60 days….and then…I guess we’ll see…. All for now.