Saturday, May 28, 2016

Ploughing - hold your horses!

Is it the time to plough the fields and scatter?

No plough the fields and get rid of the weeds! We don’t want them around as they steal all of the nutrients and water that the vines could get, when they are already having to work very hard on our steep, infertile slopes.

So how do you get rid of the weeds?

Some growers manage weed control with weed-killer but ploughing is a much more organic and natural way of managing the weeds. It is obviously takes a lot longer though.

In the old days the growers would of course do the ploughing with a horse - but as we now have 12 hectares of old vines and with a horse you need to go up and down each row 5 times (and what would we do with a shire horse when it’s not ploughing) - that’s not a very practical or time-efficient solution.

Horses have been replaced by tractors but these are old vines on steep slopes we are talking about, so we can’t just bring a modern tractor in    -  slopes are too steep and vines too close together. A tractor just wouldn’t be able to get down the rows. 

But we did want to do the ploughing properly and so we have bought a small little slim line tractor  - a Chenillard  - from the French for  ‘Caterpillar’! Basically, it's a little tank with caterpillar wheels that can fit between the narrow rows of vines  and reach the parts a normal tractor can’t!  Also it can go up the slopes, it’s small and sturdy and won’t tip easily – according to Jean Marc!!.  But in actual fact the only time that Jean Marc has tipped a Chenillard was on the flat!! So I can’t wait to get out in the vineyards and start ploughing!

But hold your horses ……it’s not that straight forward.

Hold your horses, Jones

A lot of old vineyards haven’t been ploughed in over 50 years. Because of this the roots often go across as well as down - so you can’t just go in and plough as you would cut the surface roots and the vines will die.  This year we have just ploughed on one side of each row of vines and next year we will plough both sides.

Ploughing on one side only this year

So that must be a hard day’s work for you?

Actually Jean-Marc has done the first stint!  But yes I am keen to have a go with my new birthday present soon!  Jean Marc doesn’t  seem to be sharing my enthusiasm!!

Jean Marc used a chenillard in the vines when he first started at the age of about 15 and before he had enough money to buy a tractor.  So he has all the experience needed to teach a novice like me!!

So have you had our first lesson yet?

No not yet! I definitely need a test drive. It looks fun but there’s no steering wheel. So watch out for the first instalment of ‘Tractor Cam’ – coming soon!

Jean Marc has allowed me to sit on it in the carpark