' The Ragman's Serenade tells the story of four families- one from North Shields and the other three from Wallsend. It is a story of relationships- The Davis family are up to their eyes in debt - The Stewart family have a daughter who has downs syndrome– The hagarths who’s husband owns a bookmakers shop and his wife is a midwife at the RVI- and the Higginbottom's have a father with the on set of Alzheimer's. How do they cope - read this fascinating story i'm sure you will enjoy.


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Matty was up with the larks on the Sunday morning he saved and showered and Tom was already downstairs waiting for his father. Tom seemed as enthusiastic about growing wine as he was. He too had studied the book that Jackie had left and had read and re-read the book several times. It was now imprinted in his brain and he understood the whole process. He made a suggestion to his father to plough another field so that it would be ready for the next crop of vines they would be planting out.

Three years would be a long time before the first batch of wine would be bottled and sold. Tom wanted to make sure that as one would be processed the next would also be ready for picking and harvesting and the next in rotation. Soon every acre would follow there would be only a few weeks in between each crop so it would give them time to pick each different variety of grapes that would make the shiraz or sauvignon or the cabernet from the claret. First though he had to get his root stock. Once he had those he could produce his own root stocks and would not be reliant on the nursery to buy them.

He drove over to Mick’s house at seven thirty that morning and they drove to a place called Gumly Gum. It was forty miles away but Mick assured him that it was worth buying root stock from him.’

“How many vines am I going to need for that one acre of land?’

“Roughly, I would estimate about 1000 plants.’

“How much is this going to cost me Mick; I’ve already spent three hundred and fifty quid on posts and other equipment.’

“No worries mate, Ollie is giving you these vines to try out for free. If you like the wine it produces then you can then buy the next varieties from him.’

When they got to Gumly Gum they saw Ollie Burton. He was already in the nursery where his workers who were mostly aboriginal, were making new root stocks. Over one hundred plants were made in less than ten minutes. Ollie ran them through the process. “The cuttings we use are all cut the same length leaving at least two buds.’ A special type of saw cuts out grooves so the plants can be grafted onto another types of vine stock to make different flavours of wine.’ They are then spread out and placed into a bag of compost in clear plastic where they are stacked onto shelves and left for 3 weeks.’ Here are some now ready to be potted on. Ollie used a Stanley knife and split the bag open the root stocks had produced roots at both ends but Ollie explained that they didn’t want that so he removed the top roots then placed them into deep narrow pots about ten inches deep. These will now be dipped in paraffin wax at the end so that the syons lie dormant and produce more roots at the bottom.

These will go on to produce leaves in seven days. Ollie then led them into another poly tunnel where thousands of young plants were at the next stage of the process.

“How long before these can be planted out asked Tom.’

“About two and a half months’ time.’ These are the new ones I’m giving you Matt to try out.’ To cover one acre you will need 900 vines.’

“How much wine would I expect to get from 900 vines Ollie?’

“Roughly about 1560 bottles.

“Wow, I didn’t expect as much as that.’

“Well don’t forget you have labour to pay who pick the grapes for you unless you have some good friends who will help you out on your first harvest.’

“My advice to you is get as many acres started as soon as you can.’ The more wine you produce the better sales pitch you have. There are a number of places who will take good wine from you and I will give you their number once I have shown you around.’

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