The grim month of Movember was for the amazing Ukuthemba charity

Hello

The pictures that follow are not the prettiest on this blog. Rico and I took the abuse knowing that the chance would come to tell you about why we decided to grow moustache’s for Movember. We want you to donate, like we have, to Ukuthemba.

Ukuthemba looks after the most vulnerable people in our vulnerable society. Abandoned and abused babies and toddlers. You can read about their work by clicking here. Ukuthema is a Zulu word meaning to trust. It is so appropriate.

To donate is easy. Their bank details are as follows.

Ukuthemba Foundation, Bank FNB, Branch code 201309, Account no 62176798620, Reference Farmer Angus.

Thanks.

Angus

You can choose to skip the photos below and continue to read about my first white wine, the paradox of agriculture etc etc etc.

angus

The one below is not much better than the one above.

rico

 

My first white wine. Ezibusisweni Chenin Blanc 2012

 

Hello

Ezibusisweni is the Zulu word for the Place of Blessings.

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This is what the bottle looks like. I have chosen to use the clear glass as I love the colour of the wine. The logo was designed by the amazing team at Aisle B Design studio.

The sketch artist is the same one (Mqhapheli Spephelo Zungu who I wrote about on this blog in my posting on my first dessert wine, The Ezibusisweni 2008 Straw Wine. He and I grew up together on a farm in KwaZulu-Natal that has now become yet another example of failed land restitution in this beloved country. Click here for the blog on this sad tale.) who did the sketch for my straw wine.

Printing is done by the ever reliable team at Collotype.

pre sunrise harvest

It is very important to start harvesting at first light. Once the sun has appeared over those mountains in the background it gets very hot very quickly. Hot grapes lead to, in my experience, a very aggressive fermentation.

perfect bunch

The perfect bunch of Chenin Blanc. A balance between sweetness and acidity. The best description I have heard about drinking Chenin Blanc is that it is like eating ruby grapefruit. It starts off sweet and then the acidity comes through.

You just have to have another sip as we are programmed to want sweetness, especially after having it so suddenly removed by the acidity in the wine. I don’t acid to my wine.

selfie

In addition to orchestrating the growing of the grapes through the season, I also help harvesting. Luckily I was not being paid like the other staff on how many crates I pick. For starters, they don’t stop to take selfies during work.

We apply BioDynamic methods to way this vineyard is managed. More about this, if you are interested, lower down.

more chenin in crate

The grapes are chilled overnight.filling barrels

The grapes are then pressed in the basket press. Hector is standing at the basket press on the right hand side. From there the juice goes into the 500 litre barrel via the white bucket that I am holding. We then leave it to ferment and age for 2 years before adding sulphur just prior to bottling. We don’t do anything else to the wine during this time.

We used to add sulphur as the juice went into barrel but thanks to natural wine guru, Isabelle Legeron, we no longer do this.

It is in a BioDynamic vineyard that the wine is made. The cellar is merely a nursery. This vineyard will, along with Spier’s Estate vineyards get BioDynamically certified in early 2015.

grape waste for compost

What is left in the basket press after we have pressed the juice out we compost and then return this compost to the vineyard.

S burning bright

After 2 years in barrel we rack the wine into a holding tank and then add mined Sulphur as a preservative. The blue flame above is Sulphur burning in the machine en route into the wine.

This wine is the only wine in this country that contains mined sulphur as I am the only one with this machine. There are some non Sulfite wines. The other sulphur is a petrochemical byproduct.

bubble bubble toil and S

Bubble, bubble, toil and sulphur. Above is a photo of the holding tank immediately after the wine was infused with the mined sulphur. I add 1 gram of Sulphur per hectolitre of wine. Click here for  an excellent article on Sulphur by Nicolas Joly. He also writes a wonderful article on agriculture with the punch line “the taste of truth”.

hamish filling bottles

On the front of the bottle it says handcrafted. Filling the bottles with this filler (one of our sons) is a painstaking job when it is done by hand.

joshua and hector corking

Corking follows bottling and here our youngest has teamed up with Hector to place the corks into each bottle.

corks

Our corks, made by Amorin, look like this. They are fully FSC compliant. The three pointed logo is a copy of an engraving done by Marko Pogacnik, ecologist and geomancer, on our farm many years ago when he did work here.

 

sti sticking stickers

Sti then applies the stickers and we let the wine rest for a few months to get over bottle shock. The bottle I tested this past weekend indicates that the wine is no longer shocked by the bottle.

livio august 2013

The Ezibusisweni vineyard was also the first one in the country that was pruned in the Simonit Sirch method. Here, in July 2013, is Livio instructing our team in this vine life-prolonging pruning method. The return on capital calculation on your vineyard looks completely different if you can get at least another 5 years of life out of your vines thanks to this pruning method. Furthermore your wine gets more interesting with age.

livio and orlando, sept 2014

Livio, with my colleague Orlando, looking happy with the state of his first vineyard a year after he pruned for the first time. At least 7 wine farms have decided that they also want their vines to live longer and now use Livio. He has only been working in South Africa for two seasons.

grade 3 collecting

Every year one of the farming lessons for the Grade 3 pupils from the Stellenbosch Waldorf School takes place in the vineyard where they all harvest a bay. In many years of having them here none of them has cut a finger with the harvest scissors. It must be because of all the various forms of handwork Steiner/Waldorf pupils do.

grade 3 stomping

After harvest the pupils get into the basket press with their grapes and clean feet to stomp the juice out, which they take home.

sti and I in vineyard

Sithandile Ludonga is the man who helps me throughout this process. The white man cannot pronounce his proper Xhosa name so he has rebranded himself Sti. Sti and I in the vineyard with the finished product.

sti making bricks, Jan 2015

I met Sti exactly 10 years ago. We have worked together since. He started off making sun dried clay bricks for our home (above). By the time construction was finished he could lay bricks, plaster, hang doors and do the plumbing.

rooftop garden

In addition to living in a clay house we are fortunate enough to have part of the roof living. Succulent plants use very little water and particularly like flowering in the 42 Celsius days of February.

sti cleaning pool

Another of Sti’s tasks is to check up on our natural swimming pool. This pool uses no chlorine or salt and was designed by Jerome Davis of Aqua Design. There is no point living in a clay house, raising grass fed beef and then bathing in chlorine.

Sti gets a % of sales from each bottle sold out of our tiny cellar.

22 august 2014

BioDynamic agriculture is an enhancement to organic agriculture and the central element of this method is that fertility should be created on the farm. This is in stark contrast to conventional farming where the soil destroying fertilisers are produced in huge, energy intensive factories and then trucked for many kilometres to the farm.

The second element is that a farm should be financially, environmentally and socially profitable.

The third element is a recognition that life is an energetic process and so alignment with these life forces is essential to ensure a healthy farm which results in healthy produce. The best way to describe this element of BioDynamic farming is this series of photos (above and below) taken on the same day of each month at the same spot in the vineyard. 22 August 2014.

22 september 2014

22 September 2014.

22 october 2014

22 October 2014

22 november 2014

22 November 2014.

The plant will continue to grow for approximately another 6 weeks and then put its energy into ripening the fruit which then becomes wine.

Where has all of this growth appeared from? At least 1.5 tons of vegetative matter per hectare has appeared from nowhere?

Energy or non matter manifests, through photosynthesis, into matter. When we eat food, the energy in that matter is released and that is what sustains us.

Rudolf Steiner, who gave the impulse to the BioDynamic movement, had tremendous insight into the these energetic processes and so suggested ways to make various fertility enhancing medicines (the 8 preparations) and ways to apply these medicines either to the land or to the compost heaps. For example enhancing the Calcium process is chiefly achieved through the BD 505 Oak Bark preparation.

Another way of thinking about this element of BioDynamics is to think about full moon and it’s effect on the oceans. Surfers and spring tide. Plants are 97% water and are accordingly also affected. The moon is not the only celestial body and therefore the other bodies also have an effect on the earth.

Energy is streaming into earth from above just like waves are always coming to the shore. Are you on the right surfboard? Or are you a non swimmer?

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It was such a long time ago that you saw the bottle that I needed to put this photo in as a reminder. If you are going to drink the wine, please decant it for at least 15 minutes before drinking. It/she needs time to open up. Contact me if you want to buy any bottles.

Alternatively come to the farm for a real food safari and we can discuss these matters in more depth and I can show you how agriculture can heal the earth.

Angus

 

Malnutrition starts in the soil. The paradox that is agriculture.

Hello

Obesity, starvation and infertility are all forms of malnutrition which starts in the soil.

 

1. We, South Africa, are now the third most obese country in the world. Sugar, which is in all processed foods which most of the population consume as their staple diet, is the primary culprit however the lack of nutrients in food also causes the human to keep eating as it’s body requires nutrients.

2. Starvation is primarily caused by lack of food however if the “food” that humans ate was actually nutritious and not empty calories then starvation would not be so severe.

3. Any livestock breeder (in my case, cattle) will tell you that the primary determinant of fertility is nutrition. How many people do you know that have reproduced with ease?

The decline in nutritional content of food over time is one of the few facts in the world that is not disputed. This is because of modern, chemical, industrial and extractive agriculture. See the example of the apple below. And below that the concomitant increase in disease as minerals go down. My WordPress skills are not so hot and so you will need to click on the weblinks below to see the charts I am referring to. Click the back arrow to get back to this article.

decline in nutritional value of food

minerals down, diseases up

 

Organic and BioDynamic foods don’t have this nutrient problem and they are produced in a manner that does not poison the earth and in some cases actually heals the earth by reversing global warming. 

The great thing about this dire scenario (a sick planet inhabited by sick people) is that you can participate in healing the earth and it’s people three times a day. Every time you eat, you choose your farmer and he/she is either practicing regenerative or destructive agriculture.

Consequently either your food is healing you or making you sick. Feedlot/grain fed beef for example (comprising 99.99% of the South African Beef market) has never and will never be nutritious. Cancer inducing, the wrong fats, Omega 6 overload etc etc. With your fork you can choose grass fed beef that heals the earth and nourishes you.

jeremiah nov 2014

Above is my 4.5 year old Limousin bull, Jeremiah. Standing in one of our pastures that nourishes him. No grain fed to him to get his rump this round.

We move our cattle and laying hens (in their Eggmobiles) daily to fresh pasture and back to the same pasture approximately 7 weeks later.

We have multi-species pastures (we plant 18 varieties of grasses and legumes). 126 Hectares in total. Around the pastures we plant shelterbelts (read here about how we have planted 10,000 trees into these shelterbelts). There are many reasons for having a multi-species pasture.

1. The first law of nature is the law of diversity.

2. Each plant has a different nutritional benefit to the animal eating it.

3. Each plant has a different relationship with the soil microbes (1 billion of them in a teaspoon of healthy soil. Yes, read this sentence again.)

4. Having many different plants growing means they are in a different stage in their growth cycle and so the animals eating these pastures get a balanced diet of energy, fibre and protein.

5. Some plants grow on the surface, keeping it cool whereas others have roots that go down deep for minerals and water.

6. Legumes are a critical component in our pastures. Not only do they fix Nitrogen from the atmosphere for themselves to grow, they share the now bio-available Nitrogen with the grasses and this helps them to grow. In the photo below you can see the following legumes; white clover (white flowers in the foreground), birdsfoot trefoil (yellow), crimson clover (crimson in amongst the yellow on right), lucerne or alfalfa (light purple growing tall), sainfoin (light pink left of the irrigation sprayer).

7. The flowers provide food for the bees which becomes honey.

8. Finally our pastures always have some colour in them. As you can also see from the photo below. It makes for a pleasant change from the equity trading floor I used to work on in my previous job.

multi species pasture, nov 2014

The paradox of agriculture is that whilst it is the biggest culprit in environmental destruction it is also the only thing that heal the earth in any meaningful way. That is determined entirely by your fork. Your farmer either builds soil which builds society or he/she destroys soil which destroys society.

On the subject of the fork mentioned above I have come to think of the fork as a tool for justice. Justice for the earth (destroyed by agriculture), justice for the animals (cage raised animals produce at least 95% of the protein consumed) and justice for human health (elaborated on above).

You are welcome, anytime, to come to the farm for a real food safari where we can discuss these matters in more depth than the Internet allows for.

Thanks for reading.

Angus.

P.S. If you really want to understand what is wrong and how healing is possible then Johan Jacobs, founder of Go Natural down the road, is a case in point. He came back from multiple sclerosis. His story is inspirational and the required change is easy for all of us to implement.

 

 

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