Newcastle Cat and Dog Shelter (NE12 8EH)Thursday 28th November, 3pm-8pm.Small entrance charge.
Durham Christmas Festival (DH1 3RW) Friday 29th (10am-6pm), Saturday 30th November (9am-6pm) and Sunday 1st December (12 noon- 4.30pm). Inside the craft and gift marquee, there is a charge of £4, £3.50 if you book early with this link.
Quorum Christmas Market, Neon building (NE12 8BU), Wednesday 4th December, 11.30am-2.30pm. Free.
Cobalt Christmas Market, North Tyneside Council Offices (NE27 0BY), Friday 6th December, 11am-2pm. Free.
I spent time last winter replacing vines, we have a considerable amount of this work to do.
As well as the general loss of vines through wood disease and accidental loss, we have a serious problem with our Mourvedre vineyard at Vayere (Low field) which are grafted on rootstock 161-69C, the vines start to die after 8 years. This vineyard is planted at a density of 5,000 vines/hectare, it is a hectare so there are just under that number of vines.
First you have to remove any wood that is left in the soil to prevent disease. It is also beneficial to de-compact the soil for future root development.
I have removed the trunk and branches of the vine.
You can see what is left of the vine, using this tool on the end of the digger that I had specially made several years ago. It penetrates the soil better and does not disturb as much soil, also breaking it up, less lumps.
Finished removal of soil and old wood. The vines are planted at a distance of 1 metre apart there is not a lot of room to work.
We then put compost in the hole two buckets. My wife negotiated a price of 17€ a ton at the local recycling plant about 30 minutes drive with the tractor. I can get over two tons in the trailer.
Compost in the hole.
The tool I am using to refill the holes.
We planted 700 replacements nearly all Mourvedre (6 Syrah), 450 at this vineyard and the rest at Font du Clos, using 9.8 tons of compost, the vines cost 1.40€ a piece. Because of the very dry and hot summer we have lost some even though we were watering them twice a week.
Checking the machine I had to replace a bearing that had seized even though I checked them last year.
I also replaced three of the shakers as they wear they become less rigid and not as effective, 100€ (!) a piece.
This is a short video (one minute) which shows the harvesting head of the machine working. You can see the shakers in position at the bottom (there are eight of them), there are another two at the top which do not move. I am working in a vineyard which is established with a three wire system with posts 1.4m high, the two at the top support the posts so that they are not damaged by the shakers. You also see the ecailles at the bottom centre, these are plastic blades fitted on a rubber mounting which allows them to move when they reach the trunk of a vine or a post. The berries are shaken off the vine as well as leaves, they either fall on the conveyors, or the ecailles. As the ecailles are forced outwards when they reach a trunk or post the berries then fall onto the conveyors. The conveyors then take the berries and the leaves past a powerful extractor fan which removes the leaves.
As the video plays you will see the shakers start then the conveyors and complete berries being harvested, the variety being harvested is Bourboulenc.
During the harvest I noticed that there was some play in the bearings of one of the extractors which was causing some vibration. I had the machine completely serviced on site by Claas several years ago and one of the extractors needed attention and the mechanic could not do it on site, it was away for several days. This year we had to get the grapes in as soon as possible so I decided to take a risk with the extractor; the vibrations damaged a shroud above the conveyor with which I did a temporary repair.
At the end of the harvest I dismantled (very heavy) replaced the shroud, had a local mechanic replace the bearings. Check the machine all of the other bearings were sound but I noticed some movement on the axles. I contacted Claas to check. They sent out a mechanic to have a look, he informed us that it was a design fault, which has been modified on later machines. There are two stub axles, where the axle is attached to the frame needs attention. People do not normally notice it and if it breaks when harvesting it can cause serious access problems. The machine weights 2.6 tons and when the hoppers are full 4 tons, I was lucky to spot it. It had to be taken by a lorry to their workshop to be repaired.