Sunday, February 14, 2016


I recently was informed by the local supplier of all things Vineyard, that I could not purchase pesticide for my vines.  It seems I was not certified as Certiphyto.  Firstly, if it were up to me, I would apply some natural pesticide. That is not an option yet, but I will work towards that.  A lot of viticulteur (winegrowers) in the region, and all of France for that matter, use Roundup for weed control between the vines.  I do not.  I use a weed wacker. (Which the British refer to as Strimmers?)  And it is a slow process that needs repeating three times a year.  I don’t believe in spraying the soil with chemicals that will eventually make their way into the roots, the plants, and by basic deductive reasoning; the grapes.
          I was informed by the company buying my harvest that one treatment of pesticide was required last year, one month before the harvest. So I went to the local supply house and was informed that last year was the last year for being able to buy without a certification. I would need to take a course. I imagined it to be a glorified leaf blowing course, as the product is applied by a leaf blower kinda setup that has a reservoir with water mixed with the pesticide, mounted above an engine that sprays the vines. Fucker weighs about 70 pounds full, minimum. (The photo above is of a small backpack sprayer...probably 45 pounds) Try hiking for two miles, stopping every 2000 feet to take it off your back, and refill the reservoir, then putting it back on and continuing. All the while the deafening gas engine (think leaf blower on crack) is situated right below and behind your ears. Sweet!
          So Cindy scheduled me for a Certiphyto course. It was a two-day course, eight hours a day. The following observations were a result of the course.
            The course was naturally taught in French. Just so you know, I have mastered French in relation to;
          Ordering food at a restaurant.
          Having work done to my oh so reliable British piece of Land Rover.
          Enquiring at hardware stores and lumber yards, anything regarding building trades.
          Discussing French and American Politics…they are more similar than you would think.
          I can even tell a few jokes…inappropriate and otherwise.
But, start lecturing me about the technical differences about root structure and the chemical differences between La poudre mouillable, Les granules dispersibles, Les concentre’s e’mulsifiables, Les e’mulsifiables, Les suspensions concentrees, and of course Les microencapsulees…and we got Les fucking Probleme’s.
          So our little band of leaf blower instructee’s were sitting in a horseshoe shaped group of desks, and madame instructor held court. It was like high school. There was a ratio of two jokers for every five students. In the class of twenty students there were eight jokers. By the end of day one, there were only three real candidates for the top joker spot.
          As the class started, the instructor started a slide show with some illustrations on the regulations regarding chemical usage in Agricultural Europe, Maps, charts and bullet-point presentations galore. She continued talking and took off her oversized shawl and shook it out. Then she hung it in front of her and slowly started folding it. In an elaborate manner she finally got it narrowed and then halved its length. I was dumbfounded as I thought this was some example of Europe and it dependence on imported agricultural chemicals, or something involved about an allegorical meaning. Then she wrapped it around her neck and continued. I sat there shaking my head. Then went back to concentrating on the charts that very well could have been the weakness in Germanys invasion of Mother Russia. I was way in above my head, but by the end of day one we had covered 47 pages of the 104-page handout.  
          Day two started with the Joker contest in full swing. Bright red sweater guy with the TOTALGAS logo on front made a strong bid, but my closest neighbor, who I call Brown Nose were the strongest contenders. The guy that looks like Stan Laurel is a distant third, I think he’s a little too technical in his jokes, and the teacher gives him the raised eyebrow too often.
          As I looked around the horseshow table set-up, it strikes me that, this mostly elderly group of farmers, if I were to replace the pens and paper handouts and replaced them with Lone Star beer, well I could be in any Honky Tonk Bar in Texas. I think farmers are a universal esthetic everywhere.
          Whoa…big shake up with the top Joker spot. Bright Red Sweater guy and Brown Nose were shot down by the instructor. I think they were trying to redirect her curriculum to some silly tractor jokes. I think Stan Laurel just took over top spot. Major Coup!
          Near the end of day two, there is a great bond that has been established. At lunch, over our second glass of red wine, everyone is like family. Tables of five are chatting with other tables, general laughter. They discovered there isn’t a test on the two-day course, but there is one on the one-day course. They all raise their glasses, as though they aced the nonexistent test. Truth be told, I didn’t catch the fact that there was no test, but at the end of the day, I was one happy French Viticulturist.

It was a difficult course, and I understood a lot more than I let on. There is a process in everything French. There are steadfast rules with the ever present exceptions, but they are there for good reason.  Now if I could just get a better system than humping that 70 pound, gas engined, noise making, leaf blowing S.O.B. well that would be a good start.