The Fall Vineyard

Perhaps there is nothing more gorgeous than the 60 tons of aged manure we apply to the vineyard every October/November. This compost, which had the Biodynamic preparations inserted last October, has been aging under our oaks, in a shady location, for a year. At the point of application, it has a moist, fluffy crumble that sits lightly in your hand–as if it is made of air. It is not dense, hard or stony. Really, it is the most pure and beautiful form of “dirt”, or soil, I’ve ever seen. And the aroma carries none of the manure qualities that were present a year ago: it is now sweet and earthy. It is an amazing part of “life” that is formed, and nothing you buy from the garden shop labeled as “compost” compares.

This year we added dandelion seeds to the compost as it was being broadcast throughout the vineyard. We hope to have them growing wildly throughout the vineyard, to once again aide in regulating the relationship between silica and potassium in the vines. Perhaps we’ll be able to have enough dandelion flower heads to pick them, dry them and use them for various teas when needed. We are very happy so far this season, we had an early 4″ of rain in October, but Phillip was able to get in the vineyard to chisel to prepare the soil before the rain. We had no
run-off whatsoever throughout the vineyards, the earth was so ready to receive this rain! Then we were able to get into the vineyards again to broadcast the manure…to apply our natural fertilizer (compost) to the earth. As of this typing, the weather forecast for this week is rain/snow and more rain! Needless to say, bring it on El Nino!
Our family took a two week sabbatical to our favorite place of rest after harvest, only to return to another harvest: olives! As we turned into our vineyard, the olive trees lining the road were full of beautiful black olives. We harvested the Picuals and Lechen de Sevillas: the olives themselves are plump and big, nearly double the size of last year’s crop. We have yet to harvest the newer trees, especially the Arbequinas–we anticipate a major crop from these prolific trees! They are still ripening, making the change from green to black (FYI, all olives begin green). All said, again this year we did not get enough olives to make olive oil due to the June winds knocking off the flowers before fruit was able to set, but we do have enough to brine. We prick each olive, one-by-one, with a toothpick before submerging them in a saltwater bath. The olives remain in a saltwater brine for up to 4 weeks before we jar them and perserve them in olive oil. For the recipe, shoot us an email!

In our home garden we’ve set out seed for our lettuces and hard greens (kale and chard) as well as onions, fennel, leeks, carrots, radishes, cilantro and dill. As a novice gardener, I let quite a few things go to seed last year, and this Fall, after our rainfall, all of those lovely seeds have set themselves and I have wild dill and fennel and lettuces growing everywhere, as well as sweet peas and borage. I love it! I love that as I walk through our landscaping and gardens, I see these little leaf forms growing voluntarily, placed there by the wind and pollinators. I check on them all daily, I feel as though they are my special babies. Yes, this year I’ll be a bit more diligent when I let my plants go to seed, but I also appreciate so much the cycles life goes through: seed to plant to flower, back to seed in the form of another/new plant–amazing!

Right now, we look out at the vineyards and have the beautiful Autumn display of golds and reds throughout the Grenache and Grenache Blanc blocks. All of the other varietals have shed their leaves for the year. You can see from the photo above the stunning leaves of Grenache in Mark’s Vineyard and our lovely, lovely blue Paso Robles sky. This will all change tomorrow, as we have a rainy week ahead, with lows in the 20’s. Our citrus and avocado trees have Christmas lights strung on them to protect the leaves against frost. The dogs will be sleeping inside, begging to be let out to run and carry-on with their daily routines. The fires are lit, I think it’s time for a glass of red wine…

New Compost Pile; Seeds & Citrus Trees

Phillip and Gustavo spent the day yesterday importing fresh manure from Charter Oaks Farm to AmByth, to begin the process of manure maturing into a beautiful compost for next Fall. We bring in about 50 tons of cow manure a year, but this year we mixed in less than 5% horse manure as well. We keep our pile under the Oaks, this way it never dries out and stays nice and moist to age perfectly. We will wait until we have more rain before inserting the Biodynamic preps into the pile, and then cover the pile with hay.
The compost pile is an integral part of Biodynamic farming. You may think to yourself that organic farming utilizes compost as well, and you are right. The major difference between the two is the insertion of the preps into the pile. Steiner was very forthright in how to apply the preps, the amount of preps per square foot, the spacing and the importance of their overall role in the pile. Here is a very basic description of the individual preps placed into the pile:
  • BD #502 / Yarrow–permits plants to attract trace elements in extremely diluted quantities for their best nutrition
  • BD #503 / Chamomile–stabilizes nitrogen within the compost and increses soil life
  • BD #504 / Stinging Nettle–stimulates soil health, enlivens the soil
  • BD # 505 / Oak Bark–provides healing forces to combat harmful plant diseases
  • BD #506 / Dandelion–stimulates relation between Silica and Potassium so that Silica can attract cosmic forces to the soil
  • BD #507 / Valerian–stimulates compost so that phosphorus components will be properly used by the soil

This week has also brought about changes around the house. I’ve planted so many lettuce, chard, kale, beet, cilantro seeds–all certified Biodynamic from Turtle Tree Seed Company. It’s exciting to put each seed out, to see the different shapes and colors, and then to anticipate the first growths. We also planted 4 citrus trees: lemon, lime, orange and grapefruit. We’ll see how those like this growing area. Many say Paso isn’t good for citrus, but we don’t get regular frost near the house, so I think they’ll be just fine. Our landscaping is in!! Albeit, nothing fancy…just good ole California natives from Las Palitas Nursery in Santa Margarita. I’m thankful and relieved it’s in, another item I can cross off the list and mentally be “done with”. I’ve ordered over 30 fruit and nut trees to plant this January, all heirloom varities from an excellent source right here in Paso Robles, Trees of Antiquity. Next on the list, bees!