So, it’s about time I got around to writing a second blog post (how time flies!). It was lovely to discover that so many people had read the last blog post, and to get such lovely feedback – thanks to everybody that took the time to comment, it is appreciated.
Well what has been happening since? First and foremost, Spring has most definitely Sprung. It’s hard to imagine that just a few weeks ago we were wrapping up to go outside, lighting the stove most days, and the site was largely bare of new growth. What a difference those weeks have made though! Not only has the weather improved dramatically (last week we went swimming in an outdoor pool, and we have already tested out Pete’s 40th birthday present – a new BBQ – a few times), but the site has come alive with blossom and greenery. The blossom may be fleeting but it is absolutely beautiful, and a joy to be surrounded by. More importantly from the perspective of the vineyard is the fact that budburst has happened. This is when the buds that have been lying dormant over the winter start to grow, producing new shoots on which the grapes will (hopefully) grow. Once the buds have burst they are very vulnerable to stresses such as frost so we are crossing fingers and toes that we do not have any more frosts to come. The new shoots are also very tasty, and suddenly we are not so happy about seeing cute little bunnies, not to mention a pair of stately deer, exploring the vineyard! We are reasonably confident that the multitude of other tasty plants across the site will mean the vineyard is not too badly affected, hopefully our theory is right…!
Warmer temperatures are not all good news though…..suddenly we are very busy keeping all that growth under control! We have invested in a ride on mower to mow the grass in the vineyard alleys and elsewhere, and already that is proving invaluable as it is so much quicker to use than mowing with the tractor. However no mower can mow underneath the vines themselves, and the grass and weeds are growing thick and fast here. We continue to have a debate about how to manage this. The most common approach to dealing with this issue in English vineyards is to spray pesticides, and perhaps to strim as well. As we are not keen on using pesticides any more than necessary, and strimming is very labour intensive, we are looking at alternatives. Our current top choice is to sow cover crops (that do not require mowing) under the vines. This will be a huge job, and one that we will most likely leave for the coming autumn, but hopefully by next Spring/Summer we will be in a position to be pesticide-free across the vineyard; something that we would be very happy about.
We have also been focusing on setting ourselves up to grow lots of fruit and veg on site, both for ourselves but for the café when it opens. To this end Pete has been busy (when not being busy with his consultancy work….he’s basically always busy these days!!) covering the second polytunnel, and constructing a series of raised beds. Having found some good local sources of manure and compost, we will be filling these up in the coming week, and starting to transplant seedlings out. I have started a ‘Practical Horticulture’ course at our local agricultural college, which is providing us with invaluable information about how to do all of this. It’s great learning something new and being able to put it into practice immediately. We can’t wait for lots of zero-mile fruit and vegetables to be ready to eat!
On the café front, we have had some challenges appointing builders but hope that this will be resolved soon, so we can start work ASAP. We have also had an initial design back from our landscape designer, James Alexander-Sinclair, for the walled garden. We are delighted with the concepts he has come up with and very much look forward to receiving the full specification so we can move forward with developing this area too. The farm track is now complete and is a very helpful addition to the site. Our two year-old boy Sam was very sad to see the diggers leave though as he had enjoyed having them on site! We have also been busy selling wine and are pleased to be able to say that we are now stocked in several local farm shops (and of course here on our website!). We are looking forward to tasting and taking delivery of the still rose wine that is currently being produced from last year’s harvest; it will be great to have both still and sparkling wine as part of our range.
Finally, we spent the Easter holidays hosting family. It was great to see everybody and to spend time showing them the local area….it can be too easy to get bogged down with developing the site and not take time to enjoy living in this lovely part of Devon, so it was as much a holiday for us as our guests. Nonetheless it was good to get back into the routine and to get back to work…I’m sure the May half-term will be here before we know it!
P.s. just a quick note to say that we have (finally!) started up an Instagram account for Heron Farm, where we will be uploading photos on a regular basis both of the site in general and of the various projects that we have going on here. Look us up if you are interested (heron_farm)!