Sheep Fleece

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winemanden

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Sheep Fleeces used by Welsh vineyard.
Motorists cruising along the A55 may be in need of sunglasses as they drive through Conwy in the years to come. Thousands of white sheep fleeces are being laid out in a vineyard next to the expressway to reflect sunlight onto ripening grapes. Motorists cruising along the A55 may be in need of sunglasses as they drive through Conwy in the years to come. Thousands of white sheep fleeces are being laid out in a vineyard next to the expressway to reflect sunlight onto ripening grapes.

The aim is to produce a fuller-bodied Welsh wine that can be produced without chemicals and laborious weeding. A trial at Gwinllan Conwy Vineyard, Llangwstenin, yielded spectacular results and already US and New Zealand interests are looking into the idea.If the concept takes off, it will also offer an outlet for millions of sheep fleeces that are otherwise virtually worthless. A company selling them direct to Britain’s vineyards was recently established by Sion Jones, son of Llanfairfechan hill farmer Gareth Wyn Jones, who first came up with the idea.

“This is a world-leading development,” said Gareth. “Gwinllan Conwy is the first vineyard in the world to do this. It’s a win-win that is good for wildlife, good for soils and good for the environment.”

This week the vineyard, between Colwyn Bay and Llandudno Junction, took delivery of wool from more than 3,000 Welsh sheep courtesy of Wool & Vine, Sion’s nascent business. Between now and late March they will be laid out around vines on slopes above the A55.



Using wool will save Owen Browning and his colleagues the task of spraying 3,500 vines five times per year

Getting to this stage was a two-year process stemming from a chance observation made by Gareth during a visit to the vineyard in 2021. As a celebrity farmer and social media influencer, he’d been invited to present owners Colin and Charlotte Bennett with a Countryside Alliance Rural Oscar”– that year they were named the top local food and drink producers in Wales.

Spotting that glyphosate weedkiller was being used around the vines, he suggested an alternative. “For the past eight years I’ve been putting fleeces around apple trees and on my veg patch,” he said. “The idea was to retain moisture and feed nutrients into the soil. “Lanolin in the fleece also deters slugs and snails. Last year I used them around strawberry plants and the results were absolutely fantastic!”

Colin was intrigued. Hoping to turn the vineyard organic, he was looking for ways of suppressing weeds and grass as they compete with vines for soil nutrients. Plastic was seen as impractical and it provides cover for snugs and snails. He also needed a way of combating powdery mildew, a fungus that collects in leaf litter around vines and can lay waste to entire vineyards. Herbicides are the conventional solution but alternatives are needed.

As the EU, and probably Britain, edges closer to a ban on glyphosates, the clock was ticking. “Using Roundup weedkiller is horrendous,” said Colin. “You have to be careful to pick a totally still day so there’s no drift of the spray.

“It’s something we have to do five times each year, so it’s very labour intensive. But it’s necessary. With a glyphosate ban on the cards, everyone in the industry was scratching their heads looking for a solution. When Gareth told me his idea, at first I thought he was joking.” In October 2021, two rows of 100 same-variety vines were ringed with sheep fleece. For the trial, no herbicide was used and soil and leaf samples were taken to be compared with those at harvest. When Colin got the results, he could hardly believe his eyes.

“We noticed the leaves were a darker green than the others,” he said. “When we analysed them, their nutrients were in perfect balance. It seems that as the fleeces degrade, they release nutrients into the soil, so feeding the vines. The benefits were miraculous.”

An even bigger shock lay in store when grape sugar contents were scrutinised. Belatedly, Colin and Charlotte realised the fleeces offered another, unexpected benefit.

“Being white, they reflect the sun,” said Colin. “It’s a bit like how you get a suntan when you go skiing.The fleeces were helping to ripen our grapes and producing high sugar contents. The results were incredible. More sugar means more alcohol and while a couple of per cent may not sound much, our fleece-ripened grapes will produce a wine from classic varieties with a much fuller body.

“Using wool was an absolute winner for us. So we placed an order for more fleeces and by the end of March you will see thousands of them around our 3,500 vines as you drive along the A55.”
 

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Have you ever smelled a woolly hide after it’s been laying on the damp ground? I gotta think even a tanned hide is going to have “distinctive” odor after a few months.
 
Sorry, but fleece ain't hide. You can shear a sheep every year and it is not harmed. Only a rank amateur touches the skin and then they are not asked back again, not even to apologize.
If you've ever been to Wales you would think that the grass is white - so many sheep. My daughter lives not far from Cardiff.
 
Sorry, but fleece ain't hide. You can shear a sheep every year and it is not harmed. Only a rank amateur touches the skin and then they are not asked back again, not even to apologize.
If you've ever been to Wales you would think that the grass is white - so many sheep. My daughter lives not far from Cardiff.
Ah. So it’s the raw shorn wool? Still, wouldn’t that get a little rank laying out in the weather?

I suppose the vineyard would smell like a wet sweater after a while.
 
Ah. So it’s the raw shorn wool? Still, wouldn’t that get a little rank laying out in the weather?

I suppose the vineyard would smell like a wet sweater after a while.
ah..so you're not aware of lanolin? Prof. Google can explain the properties of lanolin. And sure unwashed wool is pretty rank if your not a sheep, but lanolin protects wool from water.
 
Sorry, but fleece ain't hide. You can shear a sheep every year and it is not harmed.

You must not spend much time with vegans.

Else you would have gotten my joke. :D

Unless the sheep are not roaming free, outside a fence, it may be imprisonment. That may be the belief of some.

Even applies to gold fish in a bowl:

".....goldfish are bred in tanks which are often overpopulated and feature artificial plants and lighting, a far cry from the vast expanses of water they should be swimming in."

"As vegans, we should be working towards a world in which no animal is held in captivity."

Above quotes from:

https://www.vegansociety.com/news/blog/veganism-and-companion-animals
Which is why I said, maybe only the sheep really know, as maybe the sheep are cool with that... or maybe not. Till we can actually ask the sheep, we will never really know. :cool:
 
I travel to Wales regularly - my daughter and her family live there and the sheep roam the hills. No fences. There might be hedgerow, or none. Sheep dogs are great shepherds.
 
I travel to Wales regularly - my daughter and her family live there and the sheep roam the hills. No fences. There might be hedgerow, or none. Sheep dogs are great shepherds.

Thank you for participating in my joke.

To some vegans, even having a sheep dog is enslavement.... :)

How differently vegans and non-vegans see the world, was exactly my joke. 😀
 
:D ha ha... I am a vegetarian and I happily eat honey and make mead and have no good sense of how vegans see the world. As a vegetarian I have two cats, and allow them to eat the food that cats' bodies have evolved to eat. (fish and other animal protein but not grains. They are not omnivores). I also make cheese and enjoy my cheese but I use only bacterial rennet and not rennet scraped from the stomacj of calves.
 
The Internet and text makes humor so much harder to see sometimes.

Lumping all people who choose not to eat meat into the camp that thinks any specific way animals are treated seems just wrong. My bonus daughter decided to try veganism for a while due to a possibility of having a reaction to meat enzymes, nothing to do with treatment of animals.
 
Has anyone seen any studies where white landscape cloth is used in this same manner? I can see the value of the reflective white surface but it would also lessen soil warming. Would be great if it works to advance ripening in marginal areas…

RT
 
Lumping all people who choose not to eat meat into the camp that thinks any specific way animals are treated seems just wrong. My bonus daughter decided to try veganism for a while due to a possibility of having a reaction to meat enzymes, nothing to do with treatment of animals.

Well said.

I am a vegetarian mainly for heath reasons. I spent too many years in doctors offices and getting probed to mention. I stopped eating meat and then all my issues went away. Happy and healthy for many decades now as a vegetarian.

But... Wait for it.... That is just me and my body. Not everyone need follow my behavior.

But wait... There is even more. I have a graduate degree in Resource Management. Wildlife specifically. So have no issues with managing wildlife (i.e. hunting) or with proper and humane management of farm animals.

I simply myself do not eat meat. But am intelligent enough and trained enough in science to know the difference between social issues and personal choice, between objective fact and empirical evidence. So I can make personal life style choices without fear or contrition.

Hope this helps.
 
I laugh when I read comments on different threads, especially regarding the sheepskins. There I was, passing on info to grape growers and it developed into a vegan and vegetarian thread.

I haven't yet had the opportunity to taste their wine but I guess my notes would read, " a nice wine with a touch of lanolin on the nose, meaty, with an unusually rich woolly note on the palate!". Not suitable for vegans and vegetarians. :D🤣🤣
 
Has anyone seen any studies where white landscape cloth is used in this same manner? I can see the value of the reflective white surface but it would also lessen soil warming. Would be great if it works to advance ripening in marginal areas…

RT
There have been studies using colored plastic mulches for vegetables. I would expect someone has done the same with grapes. Time to sharpen your google skills.
 
I had thought the same thing but didn’t find anything obvious on my google search so I thought I would ask my like minded friends who also have vineyards.
Google can help answer questions like what’s the difference between maple mead and maple wine but its sometimes nice to just ask our sharp friends.

RT
 
I laugh when I read comments on different threads, especially regarding the sheepskins. There I was, passing on info to grape growers and it developed into a vegan and vegetarian thread.

I haven't yet had the opportunity to taste their wine but I guess my notes would read, " a nice wine with a touch of lanolin on the nose, meaty, with an unusually rich woolly note on the palate!". Not suitable for vegans and vegetarians. :D🤣🤣
Even late, I had to laugh. touch of lanolin, rich, woolly note....
PETA: People Eating Tasty Animals.
 
I had thought the same thing but didn’t find anything obvious on my google search so I thought I would ask my like minded friends who also have vineyards.
Google can help answer questions like what’s the difference between maple mead and maple wine but its sometimes nice to just ask our sharp friends.

RT
This thread surfacing again reminds me that I asked a UW Extension Agriculture Agent about colored mulch and grapes. He eventually reported back that he inquired with staff at the Agricultural Stations that do viniculture research. The long and short of it is that There isn’t any definitive research showing benefits of colored mulch for grape production.
 

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