oscieinvineyardWell, actually, it isn’t. It’s very pleasant and rewarding. But it does involve a lot of killing. At least if you are trying to farm crops organically in a native plant ecosystem. Anyone who reads this blog knows that we’ve spent years defending this little patch of original Sonoma ecology from the ravages of invasive, non-native plants. So far, our greatest line of defense has been minimal to no irrigation, except to the grapes. This gives our native plants — evolved to survive on California’s semi-arid boom and bust rain and drought cycle — an advantage over even things Mediterranean. Most parts of the Med have summer thundershowers, where they are unheard of here. So when we refused to irrigate, that automatically tipped the balance. But we are irrigating our vineyard, so that’s a vulnerable spot. We’ve also disturbed some of the ground to build, and that’s an entry point for invasives. Especially as they can be brought in in the treads of construction vehicles. The answer has been fierce and constant vigilance.

AND FIRE! Invasive weeds get a dose of flame to make sure their seeds are cinderized and neutralized.

AND FIRE! Invasive weeds get a dose of flame to make sure their seeds are cinderized and neutralized.

See just pulling invasive species like vetch — or the dreaded mustard which never should have been introduced into California — is often a losing battle. When you pull some weeds, they immediately spew out hundreds or thousands of seeds that have about the half life of radium once they are in the ground.

That's when Ranch Manager Louis straps on the portable propane tank and it's Johnny Flame-On time. The drawback, you can only do this when the ground is saturated after several rainstorms.

That’s when Ranch Manager Louis straps on the portable propane tank and it’s Johnny Flame-On time. The drawback, you can only do this when the ground is saturated after several rainstorms.

You’ll notice a nice bed of native grasses between the rows of grapes. Those act as a barrier to weeds getting into the vineyard — which is most vulnerable because the earth is constantly being disturbed and irrigated. In the interest of full disclosure, I should mention that this carpet of native grass was once a lot more native. Someone who shall not be named demanded that the ground cover be disced in to “provide nutrients”. Which used to be common vineyard practice, but what most forward thinking vineyards are now realizing is a mistake. Or at least, not the only alternative. So after that fateful experiment, which opened the door for a nightmare of a vetch outbreak, we’re back to progressive ways. We’ll be spreading a high quality compost under the vines and repeatedly mowing the ground cover for mulch. That is after Louis walks the vineyard incinerating anything that dares not to be a Sonoma native.

Terriers, while not strictly natives, are exempted as they are our first line of mole eradication.

Terriers, while not strictly natives, are exempted as they are our first line of mole eradication.

But it’s not all killing. With our recent rainy December and the promise of more, we are finally daring to landscape in the neglected area between the two walls of our vineyard.

In with the native plants and our own homegrown, home chipped mulch.

In with the native plants and our own homegrown, home chipped mulch.

Not quite a Sonoma native, but clearly welcomed, is this little Joshua tree.

Not quite a Sonoma native, but clearly welcomed, is this little Joshua tree.

And the guys thoughtfully landscaped with remains of the Mountain Lion's latest kill.

And the guys thoughtfully landscaped with remains of the Mountain Lion’s latest kill.

It's The West. We're into that shit.

It’s The West. We’re into that shit.

For those of you tender-hearted City types, let me cleanse that last image with this shot of a lovely Manzanita and its beautiful pink blossoms.

While Mazanitas are a deep green year round, in winter they have these lovely pink flowers.

While Mazanitas are a deep green year round, you get this color in winter when you might least expect it.

This is just the beginning. We are finally believing we might get a wet winter. So we’re in a frenzy of planting. And killing. But mostly planting. Stay tuned.

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