Tuesday, February 16, 2021

Rain: A little more rain in early February

In the past week, we had some rain again—a total of 1.15 inches of new precipitation. That brings our total for the current rain year (ending September 30, 2021) to 10.30 inches. By this time of year we should have had well over twice that much. This remains the driest winter I've experienced in the 20 years I've lived in Santa Rosa. 

Wines I'm Making: Vines Pruned (February 15, 2021)

Yesterday and the day before, I pruned the 34 vines in our little backyard vineyard. It takes only a couple of hours, but I often put it off more than perhaps I should. Typically the cuts ooze sap because the ground is already warming by the time I get around to the chore, particularly in recent years as our winters have become less severe. Waiting doesn't seem to make any difference, though. There will be nothing to do in the vineyard now until the vines start pushing out new shoots and the shoots need thinning. Here's to hoping for a good harvest this coming season—and a harvest not impacted by wildfires. 

Sunday, February 7, 2021

Wines I'm Making: Labels on the 2019 Cabernet Sauvignon/Cabernet Franc

Finally got around to designing labels for our 2019 Cabernet Sauvignon/Cabernet Franc from the backyard vines. Made about 53 bottles last year. Quality excellent—which is good because the 2020 wine remains doubtful (because of the smoke from the wildfires last summer). 

For those who don't know, "Clos du Val" is a well known winery in the Napa Valley, but, more importantly, it is also the name of a Premier Cru plot in Auxey-Duresses, one of my favorite little Burgundy villages. As my last name is Talcroft, I called our "winery" "Clos du Tal" as a pun on Clos du Val. This is appropriate, though, as the French word "clos" refers to a walled vineyard (our word "cloister" has the same root) and our little vineyard is behind a stone wall. I call the vineyard "Stone's Throw Vineyard" as the vines are a stone's throw from the house.

Saturday, February 6, 2021

Plants I'm Growing: First blooms—Yellow Daffodils, Rhododendron "Noyo Dream"

It's been warm lately for January here, but plants in the garden are starting to bloom pretty much on schedule—that is, in line with their typical bloom times. The first flowers on the Rhododendron "Noyo Dream" in the side yard opened on February 1. The first of the yellow daffodils in the front garden started to bloom on February 4. 

Sunday, January 31, 2021

Rain: End of January Rain

In the past few days, we've had some more rain, although today, January 31 was clear and sunny. Since last reporting, we've had 2.65 inches of new precipitation at my location in northeast Santa Rosa. That brings are total for the 2020-2021 rain year to 8.20 inches--still about ten inches below normal for this time of year. Rain is forecast for tomorrow and the day after (February 1-2). Let it rain, let it rain, let in rain.

[Edit: More rain did come. We've had an additional 0.95 inches since the above was written, bringing our total so far to 9.15 inches. Every bit helps, but we remain further behind normal than I've ever seen before. At this point in the season, we should have had more than twice that amount.]

Sunday, January 24, 2021

Wines I'm Making: 2020 Sangiovese Rosé Labeled


Finally got around to making labels for our 2020 rosé of Sangiovese. The grapes at harvest were dusted with ash from the wildfires in August and again late in September. I was concerned about the possibility of smoke taint, but the wine seems to be fine. I lightly rinsed the grapes before crushing and pressing them and they spent only a short time on the skins.

I've heard, however, that smoke taint can develop over a few months, but I'm hopeful. I'm hopeful also that our Cabernet grapes from 2020 will not have been tainted, but we won't know for sure until next autumn when it comes time to bottle that wine (so far, it tastes fine). Next winemaking chore will be pruning the vines. I also want to post an image of our 2019 Cabernet, which I've just labeled. 

Plants I'm Growing: First Blooms—White Flowering Plum

I've been lazy so far this year about recording the first blooms of the year in the garden, but I did note the date the white flowering plum in the side yard starting blooming—January 14. Although this tree began blooming on December 30 one year, it normally starts blooming around the second week of January. January 14 is a typical date. 

Elsewhere in the garden, miniature cyclamen (Cyclamen coum) and camellias are in bloom, as are a smattering of other winter-blooming flowers (candytuft and mustard mostly). Daffodils are on the way. Spring will not be too far away, but much-needed rain forecast in the coming days will slow things down a bit. Looking forward to the rain. The more the better. 

Tuesday, January 12, 2021

Art I'm Making: Recent (sort of) Work

It's already early 2021 and I’ve not posted any art work to this blog since June of last year. I've not been entirely idle, but I have been working at a very slow pace recently, having finished a total of only six pieces last year and I've posted only three of those pieces so far. In an attempt to start catching up, I post two pieces from July last year.

Below is Untitled Collage No. 221 (Santa Rosa). July 16, 2020. Acrylic on paper, acrylic monotype, graphite, collage. Image size: 34.4 x 25.3cm (13.5 x 9.3 inches). Matted to 24 x 20 inches. Signed on the mat. Signed and dated on reverse.

Above is Untitled Collage No. 222 (Santa Rosa). July 18, 2020. Acrylic on paper, acrylic monotype, collage. Image size: 10.7 x 14.3cm (4.2 x 5.6 inches). Matted to 11 x 14 inches. Signed on the mat. Signed and dated on reverse.

Click on the images for larger views. For more of my abstract monotype collage work, visit my website. https://ctalcroft.wixsite.com/collage-site 


Monday, January 11, 2021

Rain: A Little More (January 10, 2021)

Since last reporting, we've had a little more rain—1.30 inches to be exact. That brings our total for the 2020-2021 rain year (which runs through September 30, 2021) to 5.55 inches. As I keep saying, anything is better than nothing, but we're still far below normal for this time of year. Average rainfall for January 10 is approaching 15 inches. No new rain in the forecast at the moment.

Monday, January 4, 2021

Birds I'm Watching: 2020 Audubon Christmas Counts

Again this year (2020) I participated in a couple of Audubon Christmas bird counts. The groups I birded with covered the Spring Lake and Lake Ralphine area in Santa Rosa on December 20 and the Barnett Valley Rd./Jonive Rd. area, near Sebastopol, on December 27. Didn't see any rarities, but had four Hooded Mergansers on the Martindale Ranch pond on December 27, saw all three local nuthatch species that day, and also all the local woodpeckers (Downy, Hairy, Nuttall's, Pileated, Flicker, and Red-breasted Sapsucker). The weather held both days despite a forecast of (much needed) rain. Pictured is a Cedar Waxwing photographed on December 20.

Saturday, December 12, 2020

Rain: More Rain (December 12-January 2, 2020)

A little rain overnight on the 11th and this morning has added 0.40 inches to our total for the 2020-2021 rain year. That total still stands at only 2.0 inches. Normal rainfall by December 12 is four to five times that. We will be seeing serious drought conditions in the coming year if we don't start getting some good storms soon. Some new rain is forecast for tomorrow morning, but we're unlikely to get the 6-8 inches we would need to catch up. 

[Edit: Additional rain has added another 0.45 inches to the total. So, as of December 15, we have had 2.45 inches or rain this rain year at my location in Northeast Santa Rosa--seriously below normal.]

[Edit: More rain on the night of the 16th and into the morning of 17th added 0.70 inches of new participation. That brings the total so far for the year to 3.15 inches. Still way below normal, but, every little bit helps.]

[Another update:] Rain subsequently added 1.2 inches to our total, bringing the total as of January 2 to 4.35 inches at my location---still woefully low. Normal rainfall by this time in the year is a little over 14 inches, so we're about 10 inches below normal. More rain is forecast for this week. We'll see.]

Thursday, December 10, 2020

Miscellaneous: The 2020 Presidential Election

I just don't get it. There is no evidence there was widespread fraud in the election, no credible evidence of significant lost votes, stolen votes, or altered votes. There were, by all accounts, more safeguards in place this time than there were four years ago, no dispute about vote numbers anywhere except where Mr. Trump feels he should have won. The Georgia vote has been counted THREE times, some of the Michigan vote and the Wisconsin vote counted TWICE with no significant change in the totals. There were Democratic losses in the house and elsewhere, despite the supposed ability of somebody, somewhere to steal a presidential election (somehow, it's always only Mr. Trump who is the victim).

Mr. Trump is a documented liar, a documented narcissist, a documented con artist. These are facts, well known and accepted for decades based on his record of business failures and fraud in the real estate and casino businesses in New York and elsewhere and on the way he has treated the people he has worked with and who have worked for him. This is not news. He's behaved this way for decades.

People complain about how the media are always attacking him, always going after him, never giving him a break. Do they not stop to think that he attracts this relentless negative attention because he is a relentless transgressor? How many times do you have to see the same behavior repeated to accept that there is a pattern there? That is not entirely a rhetorical question; I wish I understood why people are willing to forgive him over and over and over and over and over again despite the obvious.

People still believe his lies about the election having been somehow anything but an honest loss. There's no mystery here, no conspiracy. More Americans voted for Joe Biden where it counted than voted for Donald Trump. It's that simple. If nothing else, it should make people suspicious that suddenly Fox News became evil in the eyes of the president the moment it contradicted him.

I really do not understand why people believe anything he says—why they persist in taking him at his word. I really do not understand. I wish I could understand. But I can't.

Sunday, December 6, 2020

Serendipitous Art: Silver Bubbles (December 6, 2020)

Bubbles forming
 on the bottom of a dark pan set on the stove to boil. Looked like art to me. Serendipitous Art. 

Click on the image for a larger view. For more unintended art, see my blog Serendipitous Art. http://serendipitousart.blogspot.com/ 

Saturday, November 21, 2020

Miscellaneous: Home-baked sourdough bread

When I was in high school, oh so long ago now, I used to bake bread quite often. Loved doing it. Had a great recipe for a Swedish limpa bread (light rye) that was sometimes our daily bread and another for a delicious oatmeal bread. But I haven't baked bread in years. During the pandemic, we've been trading garden-grown greens with a friend for sourdough loaves. After months of doing this, I asked for some starter and yesterday tried baking a loaf--my first attempt at sourdough, never having done sourdough back in high school. Even though I mixed up the order of doing things to some extent, it worked. Behold! My first loaf.

I used this recipe, which is quite easy to follow, but you have to first make starter or get someone to give you some. 

Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Rain: First real rain of the season (November 2020)

Last Thursday, November 12 we had a little rain--about 0.4 inches--but yesterday (November 17) and today we've had a decent downpour. It finally feels like fire danger is over for the year after an evacuation in August (much earlier than usual--because of fires started by lightning in many parts of the state in the absence of rain) and then fire scares again in October. 

The last rain we had was on May 13, in the 2019-2020 rain year. This new rain is the first of the 2020-2021 rain year, which goes from October 1, 2020 to September 30 2021. So far there is 1.20 inches of new rain in the rain gauge, bringing our total to 1.60 inches (way below normal for this point in the year), but it looks like there will be at least a little more rain today.

Sunday, November 15, 2020

Birds I'm Watching: Bald Eagle at Howarth Park, Santa Rosa

Out for a walk this morning looking for birds. Not enough birds and far too many people walking, running, and biking without masks. Along the trail several people volunteered that they had seen a Bald Eagle earlier in the day near the lake by the parking lot I had parked in. As I rounded a corner near the spot he was supposed have been, there was no bird. Then someone said he'd flown away down the edge of the lake not long before, where I spotted him in the distance. Shortly afterward, he flew in much closer. I spent about 45 minutes getting some decent photos. First time seeing a Bald Eagle in Sonoma County, CA, which is about the southern edge of the Bald Eagle's historical range.


Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Went out for a short walk along a creek trail not far from home on Saturday (October 17). It's the autumn migration season for songbirds, so this is a good time of year to see warblers moving south for the winter and sometimes to see exotic strays not normally present in our area. Didn't see anything exotic and only one warbler species (a pretty Townsend's Warbler), but I did see a busy Pileated Woodpecker working on making a hole in a tree branch. North America's largest woodpecker species (Dryocopus pileatus).

Wines I'm Making: 2020 Cabernet Pressing

It's that time of year again. On Saturday I pressed the new 2020 wine (October 17). We got about 150lbs of Cabernet Sauvignon/Cabernet Franc grapes from our little backyard vineyard (25 Cabernet vines, of which four, or 16%, are Cabernet Franc) this year. I fermented the grapes this year using Rockpile yeast after a two-day pre-soak. As we harvested and crushed the grapes on October 3, fermentation took twelve days. We ended up with 11.4 gallons of pressed wine (and last week four gallons of rosé from our nine Sangiovese vines).

Next step is to inoculate the new wine with malolactic bacteria to induce malolactic fermentation, which converts some of the malic acid in the grapes to lactic acid, which softens it--standard procedure with red wines. This wine will be ready to bottle in about a year. The 2019 wine is ready to be bottled now--the next wine-related task that awaits me.

Sunday, October 11, 2020

Miscellaneous: Unusual garden visitor

We had an unusual garden visitor today (October 11, 2020). I spied this little butterfly, a skipper, in the garden today, but it's not one I've ever seen before. Looking it up, I see that it's a Common Checkered Skipper (Pyrgus communis). Not common here, apparently. According to what I found online, it's normally found in the Orange County, California area, well south of us. Very pretty, though, with its bluish body and checkered wings.... 

Saturday, October 3, 2020

Wines I'm Making: 2020 Cabernet Sauvignon/Cabernet Harvest (October 3, 2020)

Just finished harvesting and crushing our Cabernet Sauvignon/Cabernet Franc grapes. It was a novel situation this year. Ash everywhere. Everything lightly dusted, but the grapes were mostly protected by the leaves of the vines. Many of the commercial wineries in the area heavily thin the leaves around the grape clusters toward harvest time, to give them extra sun and light and to facilitate harvesting, but I generally don't follow that practice and this year leaving the leaves alone served to protect the fruit.

The ash is easily removed. The problem is that "fire taint" is caused not so much by ash from distant (relatively speaking) fires, as in our case this year, but by prolonged exposure to thick smoke, which is absorbed directly through the grape skins and by the leaves, later migrating toward the fruit. I'm hopeful that the grapes we've just harvested won't suffer from taint as we have had only a few days of really bad smoke. We'll see.

Today harvested 152.46 pounds of Cabernet Sauvignon/Cabernet Franc grapes, including fruit from two more-recently planted vines at the front door. The crushed juice measured at 24 degrees brix, which is perfect, and at a pH of 3.48. Aside from the ash, the fruit was very healthy. Suffered no losses to critters at all this year and no losses to mildew either. So, I'm hopeful that, despite everything, we'll have good wine from 2020.

The crushed grapes will undergo a two-three day cold soak now (or a cool soak anyway) until I inoculate the must. I plan to use the Rockpile yeast strain this year as my notes say that's what I used in 2015 and our 2015 wine turned out to be very good indeed.

Sunday, September 27, 2020

Miscellaneous: Ruth Bader Ginsburg 1933-2020

It was a shock last week when I read breaking news that Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg had died--a shock because it was sad news of the passing of a such an important figure, but a shock because we are so close to the election and there was no doubt in my mind that Mr. McConnell would have no qualms about pushing through a replacement nominee, despite the insult of his refusal to even consider President Obama's entirely legitimate nomination of Merrick Garland in 2016--despite the bald hypocrisy. 

The Republicans now are, of course, correct in saying that the President has a right and a duty to appoint a new justice. The point is that President Obama had the same right and duty (why does this need to be explained to anyone?). Objections now to appointing a justice so close to the election are based on a sense that to give Mr. Trump another appointment is a double insult to President Obama and Merrick Garland--and that to block another trump appointment is only to right the original wrong. The Republican party has sunk lower than I would have ever thought it could go. 

Wines I'm Making: Harvest 2020--Sangiovese

I decided to harvest the Sangiovese grapes today. The berries appeared to be mature, judging from the seeds, and some were already turning to raisins. With a heat wave predicted for today and the next couple of days and the next opportunity to harvest likely next weekend, it seemed the time was right. We got a total of 53.2lbs of grapes, which is roughly normal. We've harvested anywhere from about 40lbs to over 70lbs in the past. 

A juice sample before harvest showed a brix of 19.5 degrees, which, corrected for the temperature, is around 20.25 degrees. The crushed grapes tested at 20.25 brix and a specific gravity of 1.080. As I often do with the Sangiovese grapes, from which we make rosé, I bumped up the specific gravity with a small addition of corn sugar (450 grams or so), which raised the specific gravity to 1.090. That should yield a wine of about 12.6% alcohol. The pH of the must was 3.58. I crushed the grapes a little after noon and will press them this evening after they've had about six hours on the skins--which is less than usual. I frequently leave them overnight, so that they've typically had about 18 hours before pressing, but that would mean pressing first thing in the morning and there won't be time to do that before work starts. The color this year is likely to be a bit lighter than usual. We'll see. 

Thursday, September 24, 2020

Books I'm Reading: Double Exposure: Fiction into Film

A somewhat more scholarly read than I was expecting, but Joy Gould Boyum's Double Expsoure: Fiction into Film (Mentor, 1985) is written well enough that I enjoyed reading the book for the pleasure of it. Boyum argues that an adaptation, done well, is entirely capable of translating into film not only the storyline in the writing that underlies it but the mood and effect of literature and even a great deal of a writer's style. 

Boyum looks at a series of films more or less current at the time of writing, using them as examples of adaptions well done, adaptions that failed, and adaptations that she contends outdo the original.

Examples include The Innocents, The Great Gatsby, The French Lieutenant's Woman, and Apcalypse Now, which she examines from the point of view of perspective. She looks at Women in Love, Ragtime, Tess, and Daisy Miller in an examination of style and tone. In a chapter that considers metaphor, symbol, and allegory, she uses A Clockwork Orange, Lord of the Flies, Wise Blood, and Death in Venice as examples. Her final main chapter, which looks at the problem of communicating thought, dream, and inner action through film and takes as its examples Slaughterhouse-Five, Under the Volcano, The Day of the Locust, and Swann in Love, is followed by an essay on The Magnificent Ambersons. The author argues persuasively that, contrary to the received wisdom, film versions, while not always successful, can be works of art in every way the equal of their source material and that in some instances they are even improvements upon the original. She is a staunch defender of the adaptation.

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Wines I'm Making: Harvest 2020--First Test of Grape Ripeness

I took a sample of the Sangiovese grapes today, Tuesday, September 15, 2020, the first check I've done on the ripeness of the grapes this season. They are at 19 brix. I usually like to harvest the grapes for the rosé we make every year at a somewhat higher reading than that (ideally 22 brix) and typically we harvest a little later than this, but I'm worried that the very hot weather we had at the beginning of September (up to 111 degrees!) may have accelerated ripening. I can't find my pH meter, so wasn't able to test the pH level.

Many of the seeds are completely brown, suggesting the berries are ripe even if the sugar is a little low. Do I wait or do I pick soon and chaptalize, if necessary? A little research is in order. I'll have to go back and look at what I've done in the past. It's hard to remember the details from year to year. I need to refresh my memory. 

Saturday, August 1, 2020

Miscellaneous: Fiery garden visitor

A garden visitor recently. I think this is a fiery skipper (Hylephila phyleus). These are pretty common around here, but I've never attempted to photograph one before. I got this nice, sharp shot with the camera in my iPhone. From the iPhone 6 (which I have) forward, the cameras are very good, but there are tricks that allow you to get shots like this one that people assume were made with much fancier equipment--although, if you think about it, these phones we are all so used to nowadays are actually extraordinarily capable devices. Pretty fancy, even.

Thursday, July 23, 2020

Book I'm Reading: Umberto Eco's HIstory of Beauty, John Colville's The Fringes of Power

I've recently finished two very long books, History of Beauty (Rizzoli International Publications, 2004), edited by Umberto Eco, at 230 pages (there is a lot of very small print), and John Colville's The Fringes of Power (W. W. Norton, 1985), subtitled "10 Downing Street Diaries 1939-1955," at 725 pages of main text (with another 70 pages of biographical notes and a glossary).

Eco edited History of Beauty, which is a collection of short essays on ideas about beauty through history, each illustrated with numerous color plates and supplemented by excerpts from contemporary writing. He begins with a chapter headed "The Aesthetic Ideal in Ancient Greece" and ends with one called The Beauty of the Media" that looks at how film, TV, and advertising have influenced ideas about beauty. Some sections are thematic, some focus on movements in art. The reader is mostly left to draw his or her own conclusions about what beauty means from the broad survey of examples presented. Beautifully illustrated and a pleasure to look at, but at times the very small print and lack of any central thesis made a straight read-through a bit tedious. Having said that, the various sections of the book could be read in virtually any order. Worth the time, but perhaps best considered a reference book.

The Fringes of Power, too, is a bit disjointed, but, being mainly a diary, that's perhaps to be expected. It begins with the author finding himself "twenty-four years old, a Third Secretary in the Diplomatic Service of two years' standing" and thinking at the outbreak of WWII in 1939 that it might be best to resign from the foreign service before his job became what was called a "reserved occupation" from which it would become impossible to exit before the end of the war. He decides to stay on and notes in his preface "Unsure of what was going to happen, I decided to keep a diary." Not long after the start of hostilities, he is seconded to 10 Downing Street from the Foreign Office and for the entire duration of the war (and beyond) he acts as Winston Churchill's private secretary.

Colville describes himself, again in the preface, thus: "...the money saved by my parents' carefulness (which never verged on meanness) went on providing their three sons with the best and most expensive education available; and though they were far from being cadgers, they had enough devoted friends and relations to provide their children with pheasants to shoot, horses to ride, yachts in which to race and pleasant country houses in which to stay.

"Thus in 1936, when I came down from Trinity College, at the age of twenty-one, I had not been stinted of pleasures and had even, in the days when travel was still an adventure, been to the Soviet Union, steamed down the Danube in a barge, crossed Asia Minor in a third-class railway carriage, spent ten days as a guest in the monasteries of Mount Athos and learned to speak both French and German with fluency. I had also won two scholarships. However, I was well aware that I must soon earn my living with greater urgency than some of my university friends."

While Colville did not come from great wealth, perhaps, his family was comfortable and with numerous connections to people of the upper classes. While at times he sounds a trifle snobbish (particularly to an American) his is the perspective of a man with the kind of education and breeding that it might be nice to see in people in public service again, and some of the most interesting comments he makes are about the US generals and politicians he and Churchill work with when dealing with the United States, particularly later in the war. The Americans, if not laughed at, are generally regarded as sincere but poorly educated and naive.

There is much of interest here about Churchill the man—his quirky habits, in particular—and about the workings of Parliament. The deep respect for and expectation of fine oratory in the House of Commons obvious in the time and effort Churchill and the author put into speech writing will probably seem alien to those of us used to US politicians and, especially today, when we are led (if that's the right word) by a man who is obviously both of limited mental capacity and limited education. If Eisenhower seemed sincere but poorly informed to Colville, how would he have characterized a Mr. Trump?

Some of the diary will sound like gossip—Colville rarely misses an opportunity to comment on the beauty, charm, or intelligence (or the lack of any of these) of the women he meets or on the effectiveness (or lack of it) of the politicians he works with. There is quite a bit about behind-the-scenes maneuvering among the politicians of the day. The coverage is uneven, and there are some startling omissions. For example, while there is a great deal of comment on Churchill's efforts to push Roosevelt into providing Britain with more aid in the early stages of the war,  the attack on Pearl Harbor that finally precipitated US war participation is not even mentioned. The atomic bomb is barely noted. That said, a very interesting and entertaining read, not least because of the writer's excellent writing style, a product, no doubt, of that expensive education. Recommended.

Serendipitous Art: Ceiling Shadows (July 23, 2020)

Shafts of light reflecting off a car parked in the driveway and shining through blinds left this pattern on the ceiling. Unintended art.

Click on the image for a larger view. For more unintended art, see my blog Serendipitous Art.

Saturday, July 18, 2020

Art I'm Making: Recent Collage

A recent collage. We’re already half way through 2020 and I’ve finished only three pieces so far this year that I’ve thought worth keeping. While volume of production isn’t and never has been much of a concern of mine, it does feel good to be working steadily and producing satisfying work at a regular pace.

This year has been a struggle on many fronts, creating art among them. The work I’ve done so far this year has been slow in coming and has not come with ease, but, I suppose the important thing is to keep at it. I’m a firm believer in the idea that good work comes from the process, that no amount of planning ahead, at least in my case, is ever of much value. I start with one idea and before long that idea has vanished and something quite different is in front of me and seemingly pulling the strings. I content myself by knowing that I always retain the power of final judgment, that it is I who decides whether what emerges is worth presenting to the world or not.

This is Untitled Collage No. 220 (Santa Rosa). April 10, 2020. Acrylic on paper, acrylic monotype, found paper (handwritten music, postage stamps, wine label), collage. Image size: 19.9 X 12.1cm (7.8 x 4.8 inches). Matted to 20 x 16 inches. Signed on the mat. Signed and dated on reverse.

Click on the image for a larger view. For more of my abstract monotype collage work, visit my website. https://ctalcroft.wixsite.com/collage-site

Saturday, July 11, 2020

Wines I'm Making: 2020 vines looking good so far

Grapes coming along nicely. Yesterday, I trimmed the backyard vineyard for the third time this season. The vigor of the vines is quite amazing. Keeping them trimmed back keeps everything exposed to light and air, which helps prevent mildew, although, since switching last year to dusting with sulfur in the spring instead of spraying with sulfur, I've had virtually no problems with mildew. The grapes look great at the moment. Before long, the little green globes will take on a blush of warmer color, which will mean the next vineyard task will be to put on the nets that protect them from critters--foxes, turkeys, deer, mice, raccoon--but especially raccoons, which can strip several vines of fruit in one night. 2020, the plague year, will be our 17th harvest. In those 17 years, I've learned how to protect the fruit. Sulfur, nets, and an electric fence.

Friday, June 12, 2020

Miscellaneous: New Garden Visitor

New garden visitor: I came across this butterfly in the garden this afternoon. I'm no expert, but it was a kind I've never seen before. I looked it up and I think this is a Funereal Dusky Wing (Erynnis funeralis), one of the group known as "skippers." According to the website I looked at, they are normally present from the San Joaquin Valley south to Argentina and Chile and they are described as an unusual stray in our area.

However, it could be a Mournful Dusky Wing (Erynnis tristis). The two types appear to be quite similar. As here in my part of northern California the Mournful Dusky Wing would be in its normal range, perhaps it's logical to assume this is a Mournful Dusky Wing. In any case, new to me.

[Not too long after posting this, I saw a Gulf Fritillary in the garden--which I don't think I'd ever seen before. A very pretty butterfly.]
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