An anomaly has occurred here in west Texas - we have had rain, cloudy skies and cool temperatures for almost 2 weeks!
Most people would find this a relief from the heat, especially farmers.
But not grape farmers who are waiting to harvest grapes!
When we were contemplating the lifestyle change from corporate America to farm life, one appealing aspects was knowing we would be faced daily with our total dependence upon the Lord - unable to put our trust in a paycheck. That sounds really good doesn't it? But it is harder than you might think!
One huge area that we have NO control over is the weather. From late freezes to thunderstorms with hail to early freezes - all is completely out of our control.
With our underground drip irrigation system, we gladly forego rain because hail frequently accompanies it. In addition to hail, prolonged rain and humidity encourages the growth of molds and fungus. Powdery mildew is one such villain - it works on the grapes weakening the skins and if left unchecked can even kill vines. The thinning of the grape skins could be a real problem with all the rain we have had since the grapes are swelling with all the water. So far, they are still looking good. Here is the Montepulciano:
As you can see from the photos of the Montepulciano above and the Aglianico below, the grapes are increasing in size which is good because it increases the tonnage. We sell the grapes by the ton!
Like the Montepulciano, the Aglianico is just as dark, blue and big - hanging in clusters that weigh up to 1/2 lb:
When the grapes swell with the water from all the rain, the sugar content of the grapes is diluted. You might remember me explaining the pH and Brix testing that we do - these are tools used to determine the ripeness of the grapes, besides our mouths! Ripening is delayed with the dilution of the sugar and the lack of sunshine. Our normally bright sun has been in hiding the last couple of weeks!
We need the sun shining to help ripen the grapes and the heat (temperatures above 90 F) to kill the molds and mildews. We can't do anything about the ripening but, to help curtail the mildew growth, we have had to spray Pristine®. If you look carefully at the photo below (my chief hoe-hand otherwise know as John), you can see the white mist being sprayed behind the tractor and hovering over the vines.
Pristine is a chemical used to combat powdery mildew that can be sprayed 2 weeks before harvest and since we are 3 - 4 weeks away from harvesting, that is no problem. John contacted all the wineries that are contracted to receive the Montepulciano and Aglianico grapes beforehand so they would know the challenges we are facing.
Pristine is not the sure fire answer to our challenges but hopefully it will help!
Farming has definitely increased my awareness of our daily dependence upon the Lord!