' 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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Ollie led them to a nursery vine on his land. “Now these plants were transplanted last week and as you can see there is quite a lot of foliage growing already. Now we need to prune these back so that we can train the plants to grow up the pencil stakes here.’

Sometimes there is not a lot of leaf growth look out for this because if I can just show you.’ Ollie took out a trowel and dug down he exposed another spur growing up. “This we don’t want Matt, it takes all the energy from the plant and stops the vine growing up. So we snip that off and leave it to dry before covering it up again.’

There’s more to this than I thought.’

“We have covered these plants with orange cartons to protect them whilst they are growing. You can purchase these quite cheaply. Again I will give you the number of my supplier. Buy in bulk it’s cheaper in the long run.’

It’s relatively simple once you get the hang of it. You can do a field in an hour.

Now each plant we need to leave just four spurs.’ These will be trained on a cordon like they do in France and produce a greater yield of grapes. Now at the top of each plant you will see this. Ollie showed them a leaf with tendrils. This is called the apical meristem now we snip that off just above the bud this will encourage more spurs to grow.

Walking further down the field Ollie showed them a vine that had started to produce berries. If you look here Matt this plant has begun to produce berries, we don’t want them.’

“Why not will they not produce grapes?’

“Yes they would,’ but we would have a weak vine and a poor crop.

Ollie took them all to another field on the back of a small trailer where he showed them some mature vines that were near ready for harvesting. The large bunches of grapes hung from the vine and Ollie took out his refract meter to check the sugar content of the black grapes.

He showed matt how to test for it telling him that a 65% sugar content would mean that these grapes would be ready to be harvested. As you can see they are not 60% yet Matt so another week maybe and these will be ready.’

Now if you hop on the trailer and I will take you to where we crush the grapes that grow here to make Kumula wines.

Ollie drove the small tractor to the processing plant. All the grapes we emptied into the hopper where the stalks were separated from the grapes and then they were crushed to make juice using dry ice to keep them cool.

“How much wine do you produce in a season?’

“About 400 tons maybe more.’

Tom did a quick calculation and said that they could produce roughly 280 tons of grapes on Shieldsland.’

“Do you bottle your own wine here too Ollie?’

“Yes, that way all the profit goes to you and you are not paying a middleman. Some people barrel the wine and sell it but I get more from bottling it.

“Come up to the house for lunch and I will give you the facts and figures.’

“I want to thank you for all of your help and time Ollie.’

“I look forward to tasting your first press.’

“Without a doubt you and the family can come over and we can all celebrate.’

“Can I ask you how many people you employ here?’

“Roughly about fifty, the pickers are seasonal they come here every year.’

“I will put the word out for you that will need pickers in 3 years from now. They have good memories these tribesmen and women.’ They are highly skilled and can clear a field in no time.’

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