Patricia wanted to get the chooks, ducks and bees sequentially, in that order. I slipped worms in under the radar, maybe because her friend got me the bath… She wanted us to first complete the infrastructure for and adoption of one type of animal before we start the next. Very cautious she is, not like this cowboy who would jump in and do it all at in parallel. She even vetoed my ideas to test the brooder with the cutest guinea fowl chicks, and to look after other people’s two young hens for 6 months…. But anyway, I just looked at how slow the chicken program is running – at this rate it feels like they would only start laying somewhere in 2020. So I forced my hand and started the bee program earlier…
I spent a long time on the phone with Sam from Geelong Honey Source – he was amazingly helpful and provided me with such good advice. But what does that have to do with bird nets? Well, firstly the corner where we wanted to place the hives is way too open – they will get cooked in the summer. So telephonically we determined a more suitable place, right between the new vines and the water tanks. I can’t even remember how the discussion ended up on the nets, but Sam’s advice was that we should finish the construction of the nets first before we get the bees, which makes sense.
So the nets for the new vines project was born running on its feet – it had to be executed instantly – like yesterday. Otherwise the bees will only make honey in 2021. This net was particularly tricky, because due to the presence of an oak tree and a Japanese raisin tree nearby, the net’s shape isn’t square – it’s more like a fat stretched T.
We did a quick off-the-cuff costing. It worked out that if we did this project by buying the components from scratch, it would cost in excess of $1000. That means we would have to produce more than 2 tonnes of grapes to break even. Not likely in a couple of years with 10 young vines. We briefly considered the thin flimsy white nets that you get from the green shed, as they are way cheaper, but they just don’t last and they will be hard to deploy and remove. So we did a serious stock-take of what we had left available from previous projects. 11 x 3m and 9 x 2m square tubes from the Dreamland nets, as well as 2 x 6m round tubes from the previous Homeland vine nets project. I even had 6 zippers left over from the driveway orchard project. So back to the drawing board it was to redesign the nets using a combination of the wire-based style netting we did in the driveway, using only the components we had available – apart from the net itself and the concrete to plant the posts. I contemplated planting two of the posts in the clay only, saving two bags of concrete, but at the last minute decided against it – repairing a collapsing net is no task I want to be part of. Murphy says it will collapse on a Sunday of a long weekend when the grapes are ripe.
Post planting day was such a rush! Up at 4am, I had to go for a surf first, pick up the concrete on the way back and be finished in time for horse riding by 3pm. Priorities, I tell you! It sounds easy to plant 11 posts in 5 hours, but of course there were complications. Firstly to dig 600mm deep holes in rock hard clay is no quick and easy task. Some of the holes that were under thick mulch were relatively easy – it’s really nice to see how much of a difference the mulch has made. But some of the other holes took about 6 rounds of watering and forceful drilling to get done. Secondly, I have learnt from the other net projects that it’s way better to finish all the drilling of the posts on terra firma. So there was a lot of careful measuring, punching and drilling to take care of too. And of course, in the process I had to obliviate one of the front yard irrigation pipes with the post digger…
Luckily I had some assistance. Patricia was holding some of the steel posts upright while I was filling in the concrete, although I must say during that brief time I had to hear it so many times – that one about not breathing in the concrete dust…. I guess she cares. Well, we got the posts planted in time, and despite being dead tired, I still managed a short little canter on Molly – a MASSIVE (read very strong) Clydesdale x Thoroughbred mare, something I’ve been battling with psychologically for quite a while now. Oh, and we added two more Cyprus posts under the new net structure to cater for two more Concorde grapes – just to make the project more worthwhile.
One day in between, spent at my day job, gave the concrete enough time to set, so on a hot and extremely windy Friday it was measure, punch, drill, fit, bolt, repeat. Quite a number of times. As with the old grapevine nets, balancing the 6m long round pipes while climbing up the ladder is an interesting exercise, especially in gusts of 40km/h wind. Fortunately the grape vine nets are much lower than the driveway fruit tree nets, so I didn’t have to balance on the top rung of the ladder while fastening the bolts. Lastly I fixed all the wires for tying the nets, as well as the necessary cross wires for stabilising the frame.
It’s amazing, we just came out with the metal, as well as with the two thicknesses of wire used on this project.
My original net supplier, Pest Away, has since reduced their product line. Haverford, which I’ve often used for net clips and zippers, only had massive rolls in stock. Finally I stumbled onto Easy Pest Supplies, who had smaller nets in stock, as well as a very cost-effective standard shipping fee. Good to know! Very soon after ordering, the nets arrived, so it was another day of cutting, tying, zippering, as well as preparing the holes for the new grape vines, the beds for the companion plants, together with the extended irrigation for them all. Because the nets come in 10m wide rolls, and the width of the vines come to 12m, some interesting on-the-fly patching and joining had to be done. Well, at least with DIY netting, you can shape it just like you need it.
Finally, job done, and now we can turn our focus back to the bees…