There have been a couple of important and necessary purchases here at Chollet this winter – both of which will improve efficiency, speed, and the overall quality of work done in the vineyard – which ultimately will benefit the wine, as ever the most important thing.
The main acquisition is a new tractor – well, new to us anyway – as our old Renault, which has served us well, is fading fast and refuses to start unless it’s in a good mood. Those of you who know dairy farms will be familiar with the semi-retirement of tractors to become ‘yard scrapers’, and in a similar vein our old Renault will still be good for mowing and generally dragging stuff around in trailers.
The ‘new’ one is actually a second hand New Holland which has not been used much so feels pretty new. Resisting the temptation to dive into technical details, suffice it to say there are a bunch more features, for example air conditioning (saves boiling half to death in the summer, or freezing in the winter) including special filters (saves breathing in masses of dust), more power, 4-wheel drive, wipers that work, a radio (wow!), and many more bits and bobs that allow easier and quicker connection of the various tools we use here. Oh yes, and it starts when you turn the key which is quite the novelty.
Hello to and goodbye (well, not quite goodbye).
The New Holland is the blue one, and the baby is now nearly big enough to drive it himself!
Speaking of tools, being an organic farm, we have a fair collection of them we use for weedkilling, in order to avoid the use of chemicals (in France the ubiquitous roundup, or Glyphosate, is used on a huge scale and is controversial due to its toxicity to people and animals, and long term damage to the environment – search “Glyphosate ban Europe” to find out more).
One such tool allows us to turn over the soil in between the vines which creates a long mound of soil a few inches high, thus masking the weeds and stopping their growth for a few weeks. To do this we have been using a rather clumsy blade which flops the soil over in quite large clumps, which in turn is harder to reverse (the soil needs turning back over of course, or we end up with an ever-growing pile of soil). We now have this neat new disk which breaks the soil as it turns it over, keeping it nice and soft. I know this may not be the most exciting news to many of you, but just remember the use of these various disks and blades means we use none of the aforementioned chemical weedkiller.