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Monthly Report - July 2009

So close …


Last month I made the crazy statement that 'I always hope to finish the pruning in July, but this has never quite eventuated so this year could be the first time.' … alas it was not to be. The Cabernet Franc and Shiraz are tucked away but the Viognier and the Teroldego still require their annual trim – I give it two weeks and then I can put away the loppers and the ties for another year. Given that it is just myself and Gail (when she can find the time from the house and the kids), the sight of pre-pruning tractors and a large team of electric secateurs-clad Afghani pruners charging through the next door neighbours vines terrifies me. Row after row of spur pruned vines appears next door from where there was just a tangle of canes – my pace is significantly different to this form of vineyard management.

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A very tidy vineyard with pruning nearly over

With the heavy rainfall of June, and the continuing rainfall into July our dam has overflowed and the date of the tipping over was 7th July. This has been the earliest date for the overflow for many years, and it started from a point of the lowest level in the dam since it was built.  With the water flowing into the Margaret River again from all the tributaries, every now and again we encounter fresh water crayfish (marrons), moving up to our dam through the paddock and spillway. Gail found a marron yesterday that must have been over 400mm long, stuck in a section of longer grass; it was quickly carried up to the dam and given the opportunity to have a rest and relax for a few months. We are not sure why this happens but we believe that the flowing main river becomes too turbulent and they move to the stiller waters of dam and ponds in the surrounding catchment.  As these water sources dry up in spring / summer they move back to the river where the water would be fresher. I may need to confirm this with the neighbours, but that seems the most likely explanation.


Another aspect of having a largish block is the stock we look after for our dairy farming next door neighbours. About 30 young heifers wander between our 3 paddocks (in an orderly fashion, I am quite the task master), and as a treat I let them into the area around our dam which has the juiciest grass at which they become very excited for the 5 days they have at cleaning this area out for me. As the animals are hand reared they are very inquisitive and once they work out that the lawnmower means fresh cut grass, a queue of black and white heads sit along the house fence. Strangely enough the sight of cows wandering about brings back quite vivid memories of my childhood in the Waikato of New Zealand, where perhaps the biggest dairy herd on earth lives around my home town of Morrinsville … one of the more distinctive of those memories is on clear frosty mornings you could hear the bellowing of cows and yapping of dogs from miles around as they wander up to their respective dairies.


We have had a busy month with wine promotions and cellar door visitors. A weekend in Perth promoting our wines at the Re Store in Leederville, and delivering half a pallet of wine to the Leederville Hotel, had the spin-off of Gail and I getting to the movies and attending a Bordeaux wine tasting on the Saturday night and a fantastic lunch with friends on the Sunday.  You can not really ask for more, EXCEPT we stayed with our eldest daughter who had a case of the flu – and it has since been confirmed as swine flu. Now this was a week ago, so we are looking at each other wondering what happens next (she is is fine by the way and enjoying her studies as well as her entourage of friends). We also had an academic from America come through and have a chat about her area of research, being the supply chain of wineries around the world – I am pretty sure we would rate as the smallest vineyard to take part in the survey judging by the list of people she had interviewed to date, but hopefully history will say by no means the least significant!

200907_Chickens in cane pruned shiraz 09

Chickens amongst the vines - natural pest control...

Blue Poles Vineyard this month also got its first taste of international press with a review from Jane Anson in “Business Destinations”, a magazine placed in all business class lounge and flights of Virgin Airways internationally (Link to article).  Having our wine praised by Jane was very pleasing, but knowing that Jane lives in the heart of Bordeaux and spends most of her working hours reviewing and tasting the best of Bordeaux wines makes it especially pleasing. We like to think we are making wines that have some of the characteristics of their symbolic heartland, and this type of review gives us a greater level of confidence in our processes and wines.



A typical winter ...


Well, that is what it has been, a typical south-west Australian winter with low pressure rain bearing weather systems coming up from the southern Indian Ocean every 7-10 days with a few drier days in-between to make you think that it may end one day. We have had a couple of truly awful days with howling winds and rain and hail round the clock – and sitting out in a paddock watching the weather coming at you it is very much like being in a David Attenborough’s nature show outlining the forces of nature.


The numbers for the month and last year’s figures are provided below:

July 2009:     

Avg Maximum Temp          16.3°C

Daily Max recorded            19.1°C


Avg Minimum Temp             7.8°C               

Daily Min recorded               1.7°C


Rainfall:                               222.6mm

It has been a wet and cool month. The 2009 maximum and minimum temperature averages are nearly identical to last year which was considered quite cool with above average rainfall.

July 2008:      

Avg Maximum Temp          16.1°C

Daily Max recorded            21.0°C

Avg Minimum Temp             7.7°C

Daily Min recorded               1.7°C


Rainfall:                              224.1mm


The development of lists …


Well pruning is 10-14 days away from completion so this means we have that minuscule window to complete all the 'little' jobs that get under the radar around the vineyard. Thus the 'List' is developed and it will mention where the wires need tightening, irrigation taps need replacing, mid rows need seeding, under rows need spraying, sprayer need servicing, roses need pruning, shed needs cleaning, etc, etc, etc. Also required will be some flights planned and dinners booked as during September there will be a few dinners around the country to taste all of our wines and the new releases – get in touch if you are interested as they will book out quickly (limited to 30 people at each event).

Take care everyone, and if you have any queries do not hesitate to contact us either by email ( or and we will do our very best to answer any question.




Mark Gifford

Blue Poles Vineyard

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