Monday, March 23, 2009

Spring in Photos - What's up at the Winery

Unless otherwise noted, all materials on this site are (c) 2009 by Madeleine Vedel.

Spring is most definitely here, and the first flowers of spring are bursting out at every turn. The almond trees have already passed to leaf, but the large orchards of apricots and plums cover the landscape in various shades of pink.

At the winery, JP has a wonderful mimosa tree just by the balcony, a joy to behold as we take our post-lunch coffee and chocolate on the terrace. In the vineyards, the tiny four petaled flowers in yellow and white make a gorgeous bed beneath the vines.

However, with all this growing greenery and plant life, the next stage of the winery calendar is in full swing. It is time to pull out the tractor, with its special hoe that uproots the weeds around, between and amongst the "souches" (roots/individual vines/feet of the vine). JP is a master of this art. And truly, an art it is. For anyone contemplating switching from regular or "reasonable" agricultural practices to organic, he/she must first of all cease using Round-Up and other noccive plant killers, and begin working the land physically/manually. And in the place of a couple visits of chemistry sprayed from a vehicle, there is a minimum of six passages through the vineyards to uproot the weeds.

The art lies in the timing - tied closely to an intimate understanding of the plant life growing in your vineyards--, and the manipulation of a sensitive machine that must be adapted precisely to the spacing of the plants, and, which cannot work without the guidance of a person walking behind it. For many, this is a lost art, and even contemplating the physical labor necessary is a deterant to working organically.

To this end, JP will be offering hands-on classes at the Mas to his ever more numerous colleagues who would like to attempt working organically (and who are being encouraged to do so with special financial incentives from the European Union). With more than 25 years of experience under his belt, and a deep and abiding love of nature and the rich bio-diversity that is present in his vineyards, he has much to share.

You have to look closely now to tell the difference between organic and reasonable agricultural vineyards. In general, the latter are identifiable by the lack of weeds at the feet of the plants. However, it has become general practice to leave greenery (that they mow) between the vineyards rows. This is definitely better than killing all the weeds, but it also tricks the eyes. The organic vineyards are those that probably still have some weeds at the foot of their vines, and that also have the clear presence of actively turned dirt. So, salute your organic neighbors when you see them, and nudge the others, or suggest they come to Provence for a lesson or two, hm?

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