Sunday, April 14, 2019

Of smudge pots and hay bales

This morning I woke up to the flickering light of smudge pots burning in the vineyard parcels to our north. The growers were up early to light them. On Saturday morning, another grower was out to the west burning bales of hay on the northern slopes of his parcels. The smoke was blowing over the vines when I walked Tasha just after sunrise.

Smoldering hay bales produce smoke out in the western parcels.

That grower told me that he measured -1ºC (about 30ºF) in his parcels. He didn't want to take any chances given what happened in April 2017 when a freeze killed a lot of the newly sprouted leaves. He is back again this morning re-lighting the hay bales.

Burning hay bales at sunrise.

The "smudge pots" used by the other grower are not true smudge pots. They're more like big candles, the size of a paint can, that are placed on the ground in the space between rows of vines. Like the hay bales, the burning candles produce smoke that blankets the vines helping to reduce heat loss and freezing. I also think they help to mix the air to increase the temperature on the ground, but I'm not sure about that.

These two burning bales help to protect a parcel closer to our house.

Other growers in our region use giant fans to help mix the air and prevent freezes. We can hear them to our north and south on these chilly spring mornings. They sound like helicopters, except that they never move. I wonder if they're not allowed in vineyard parcels that are close to populated areas, due to the noise.


  1. Making wine is an unpredictable business. You have to feel for the growers who have put so much into growing the vines only to see their efforts destroyed by a rogue frost.
    Let's hope that not too much damage is done.....we do enjoy the odd glass of wine from those vineyards.

  2. Well, so much for escaping the polluted air of the city, although it does make for mystical photos.

  3. Keeping my fingers crossed for the fig tree.

  4. I saw a similar thing here today: smudge pots being used in cherry orchards. Difficult times for the owners.

  5. I hope those pots keep the vines happy.

  6. Citrus growers in Florida have to do something similar when there's a frost threatening. I don't know if they burn hay bales, though.

  7. jean, looks like the vineyards around us were spared this time.

    mitch, they don't burn very often. This is only the second time in 16 years that I've seen this.

    sheila, me too! I think it's probably ok. I'll be taking the fabric off today.

    elgee, yes. I hope it worked for the cherry growers.

    evelyn, they seem happy, so far.

    emm, they probably have more sophisticated (and expensive) ways of doing things. :)


Pour your heart out! I'm listening.