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“Motley Spirit”

People who visit us here and come and experience one of our tours will have no doubt witnessed what we call the “Motley Spirit”. How do we describe this? Fun, act now, worry later, dare I say it - organised chaos? To those who come on the tours, I always ask, have you seen “Clarkson’s Farm”? It’s exactly like that… I think that’s why we all love the show so much because we can relate. We’ve come into this not knowing much about wine other than the fact that we like to drink it, it’s been one huge learning curve… and still very much is. I always say that actually, this is what works in our favour, coming into this with such naivety has been a real asset as perhaps if you knew how much work was genuinely involved, you might be inclined to find yourself joining our customers somewhere for breakfast on the weekend rather than stumbling around like Quasimodo as you’ve just spent the entire morning doing something so mind-blowingly mundane as “Bud rubbing”. There’s a task that sends shudders through me when I see it on my to-do list!

Exactly like Jeremy says, however, “A bad day on the farm, is a good day in the office.” This I truly believe in, with the possible, just possible exception of a day of blasted bud rubbing…

This week has felt like an episode straight out of the “Clarkson’s Farm” chaotic handbook. We had 16 tonnes of Lime delivered, not the limes you might be thinking of, that would be an awful lot of G&T’s, although I’m sure we could give it a pretty good go, especially after the day I had yesterday. The lime we’re talking about here is essentially ground limestone which, when spread on the soil acts as a conditioner to help raise the PH of acidic soils. This is great as not only does it increase earthworm activity and improve soil structure but also helps the vines to absorb more of the beneficial nutrients, we want them to take up. So a pretty vital job, even more so when you consider, the last time we did this was 5 years ago.

The point I’m trying to get across is that this was an important task, so for the entire day before delivery was expected, I’d fiddled with our spreader, attached it to the tractor and got it set up and ready to go. I’d even done all the maths to calculate the correct flow rate settings so it would put down the correct amount over the correct area, no one tells you before you go into this that to operate all this machinery, farmers actually need to be astrophysicists, cross-checking calculation charts and speed settings for hours on end…

I was feeling rather pleased with myself for doing this, some could even say smug. So when I fired up the tractor, loaded in the first round of lime and lined up for my first row, I felt like a proper farmer, doing a proper job! That lasted all of 3 meters when I realised nothing was actually coming out the other end! I ran the numbers again, sure I’d done it correctly, the numbers didn’t lie so off I went again but once more, no good! Quickly my sense of achievement of having done something farmery faded away. I wasn’t done there though, embracing that “Motley Spirit” I wasn’t going to admit defeat just yet. I loaded up our Polaris ATV and had Mum drive up the row whilst I stood in the back and brushed the lime out, you can just imagine the local farmers looking down on us from the cockpit of their tractors, ploughman’s in one hand, radio in the other, on the line to his mate down the road about this tit in the vineyard trying to spread lime with a brush…

After 2 rows and a pile of precisely 15.999 tonnes left, I decided this wasn’t going to work, yes it took 2 whole rows to realise that.

The rest of the afternoon was spent frantically ringing anyone and everyone who might know a little bit about lime spreading. Turns out our spreader needed what’s called an agitator to keep the lime moving in the hopper otherwise it congeals and becomes impossible to spread, not even a pissed-off hulk could spit that thing out of the spout! The problem was, we were looking at days to get this part, days we didn’t have as we have another fertiliser arriving today and not to mention that if it rained, we’d lose all the lime. So I went down to the Mecca of all things farming - Mole Valley and found a giant tarpaulin to cover this massive pile of lime in our car park. Side note, try going into Mole Valley, without getting distracted by the rows and rows of shiny tools and heavy-duty sledgehammers. Anyway, Tarpaulin acquired I headed back as fast as a defender 90 will take you (not very) to cover the lime before it rained. Mission success.

Whilst we waited on various callbacks for solutions I set to work cleaning everything down ready for another crack at it the next day. This is when things got even worse and I nearly, very nearly lost the plot altogether. For context, I hadn’t slept well the night before, probably overthinking everything that needed to be done, so I was shattered when the time came, which is typical. I was cleaning both the tractor and Polaris together. With the tractor all done, I was reversing it back into the barn when a loud bang rudely interrupted my train of thought and I looked up to realise I’d just reversed the tractor with the door open and it had caught on the Polaris that was parked right next to it, IDIOT! I now had a smashed door to deal with. Normally at a time like this I would have lost it and thrown something or let rip at some poor bystander but the fact that I was so tired, meant all I had the energy to muster was a disappointed shrug of the shoulders, disappointed at my own stupidity. There’s a lesson here folks which I can already hear my dad saying… “Never operate machinery when you’re tired” case and point.

There was at least light at the end of the tunnel however, we had a solution for the lime. Some very helpful people down at Devon Garden Machinery have found a piece of equipment to help us. So it’s time for an early night, let the “Motley Sprit” recharge and we go again tomorrow. I love farming…

Until next time,


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