Posts Tagged ‘vineyard’

Garden news

I have about 50 photos saved on the desk top because I was “going” to write a blog post.  See how far that got me?  I can’t believe it is already April and all of March went past with no post.  I am seriously derelict.

Of course, COVID-19 is in all the news, and I put myself into isolation 3 weeks ago.  Somehow, I haven’t had the need or desire to blog.  I think I am mourning my work.  I am certainly concerned about what is going to happen in the community I live it when this virus finally takes hold.  Aside from panic buying, a lot of people are really not taking this seriously, and I fear the spike when it finally comes.

We’ve actually sort of reached the place where when we hear or read comments or statements like “They can’t MAKE me stay home, it’s unconstitutional, me and my buddies are gonna get together anyway” and other opinions like that, my reaction is “Please, get together with all your buddies!  The more the merrier.”  Looks to me like they are bucking for a Darwin award.

Meanwhile, spring sprang most springily here, and we are inundated with gorgeous flowers.

In other news, we have sadly made the decision to remove the vineyard from the property.  This was not a light decision, not with the years of effort we put into establishing it.  But we had to do it.  First of all, of all the vines in the vineyard, over 40% were killed outright by the stress of being eaten to death by the Japanese beetle infestation.

Last year we only got 6 gallons of wine from the whole vineyard.  We had to do all the work, deploy the netting to keep the birds off, do the antifungal treatments of Bordeaux mixture.  And in addition we had tossed our principles out the window and were regularly spraying the vines with Sevin in an attempt to put a dent in the beetle population.  And so we have given up.

So here is the area where the vineyard used to be.  And the funeral pyre of the vines.

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Vineyard Update 2014

Another year has passed in the vineyard.   We are in the crush, which of course is not nearly as intense here as it is in Bordeaux or Napa County.   It hardly seems fair to compare our 64 vine vineyard to the thousands of acres that exist in the major wine producing areas of the world.

Still, we get an inkling of the size of the job by doing our little wine production here.   

We have already picked the Marechal foch and Baco noir rows.  This morning we picked the Chambourcin and the Concord grapes.   We have only two vines of Concords.  The last row left is the Cynthiana, also referred to as Norton.   They are not quite ready yet.

Below is the page that Jim has been keeping to record grape production in the vineyard.


When we first started making wine, we meticulously kept the varieties separated, which became a huge pain in the neck when it was time to rack and press.   Rarely did we get amounts of juice and wine that were easily divisible by 5 gallons, which is the size of the carboys we age our wine in.   So we wound up with say, 10 gallons of Marechal foch, 5 gallons of Marechal foch/Baco noir mix, 5 gallons of Baco noir, 5 gallons of Baco noir/Chambourcin mix, etc.   It did not take us long to decide that this was not worth the trouble, so now we just mix all the grapes together and produce what we call “The House Blend”.   Of course it is different every year, because every year we get different quantities of each variety of grape. 

We are not trying to win any contests or sell our wine, so we don’t really care that it is not reproducible.  It winds up being quite drinkable, and that is really what matters to us.

Anyway, the numbers tell the tale every year.   The Chambourcin grapes are not worth the row space.   

It isn’t just the numbers, though.   The health of the vines is another issue. 

Compare these two shots:    Marechal foch row is first, Chambourcin row is second.


Here’s a closer comparison.   This is one vine.   Marechal foch first, Chambourcin second.


Now look at the individual bunches.   Again, Marechal foch first, Chambourcin second.   


As you can see, the Chambourcin bunches are quite a bit longer, but not so full of grapes.  They also are quite irregular in terms of production. The one on the left in the shot has been culled all year because this variety is very susceptible to black rot.  The main way you control this fungus in the organic vineyard is to check the rows every few days and remove any grapes that are showing signs of infection.

This is tedious and time consuming, and results in bunches like you see above.

Another problem with the Chambourcin is those very long bunches.   The stems wind themselves around the paddles of the stemmer/crusher and jam it.  They also lay themselves out along the screen and prevent the grapes from dropping through into the hopper, which makes processing them messy and frustrating.

One last shot, showing the black rot fungus infecting the Chambourcin leaf.   The first image is a Marechal foch leaf.


The upshot of all this is a decision to remove the Chambourcin vines and replace them with Marechal foch.   We have done a lot of studying on the subject and have decided that what we are going to do is cut off the vines we are removing, leaving the root stock behind.   Then we will graft Marechal foch canes to the root stock.   Since the roots are old and strong, we will get quick vine growth and be able to anticipate full production of Marechal foch in about two years, rather than the four years it would take if we started with new vines.   

This is according to the experts…. wish us luck

Meanwhile, we have a fermentation vat with about 37.5 gallons of must bubbling away in the dining room.  It smells like a winery  in here!

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This is the perfect example of why we grow more than one variety of grapes in our vineyard.

On Monday we picked the Marechal foch grapes.  We got 112 pounds of fruit of that row, which made 13 gallons of crush.   That is merrily perking away over in the dining room in the middle of the heat of ferment.   Millions of little yeasts are over there making more yeasts and fantasizing about taking over the world.

Today we picked the Baco noir row.   Or I should say, we picked at it.   A different variety, at a different stage of development when the early August rains hit us.   We got over a foot of rain in a week and a half.   The Baco noir grapes were in a growth phase, still putting on juice.   So the fruit split, and then proceeded to rot.   This is what the row looked like almost all the way along.



We left most of the bunches on the vines.   I imagine that the robins and grackles are going to be having a big party in about half an hour when they figure out what has been left for them.

We wound up with 22.1 pounds of grapes off a row that had set every bit as much fruit as the Marechal foch.   It crushed to 2.5 gallons.  It took longer to clean the equipment after crushing than did to actually run the grapes through the stemmer/crusher.

It is SO depressing.

However, all is not lost.   The Cynthiana grapes, which are colloquially referred to as Nortons and make a wonderful wine, look like this:


There aren’t a lot of grapes on the Nortons since the vines are only 3 years old.   But we will likely get more fruit and juice than we did from this days harvest.

The Chambourcin row is looking spectacular.  We will be picking them in a week or so.   They are still making sugar.


These vines are just loaded with grapes and we anticipate getting more fruit and juice than we did from the Marechal foch.

Last year, it was so hot and dry we got a total of 135 pounds of grapes from all four rows.

This year, we got tons of rain at the wrong time.   A truth of the Universe is that you cannot un-fall the rain.   Once the water is on the ground, the plants take it up, and then nature takes its course.


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My niece and I went out last Friday and worked for several hours to clear out the pond.

I have to tell you that that area of the yard has been so disturbing to me I haven’t even been able to bring myself to photograph it.   However, there are photographs taken in earlier years that show how it looks when I let it get away from me.  If anything, it was even more overgrown this year.

So, a few days ago, I decided to document how it is now that I have beaten back the water plants a bit.

Seriously, before I worked out there, you could not see the waterfall at all due to the giganticness of the forsythia bush and the massive wild lotus in the water.

The dragonflies love the pond.  This one is posing on one of the water cannas.

But there is always a price to pay for beauty, I’m afraid.   Turns out that my little pond has managed to become the harbor  for some sort of trematode, a two stage parasite of birds and snails.   Thank goodness I did not encourage my niece when she suggested that she could also get into the pond to help me clean it out. Otherwise, she could look and feel just like I do.

I took close up shots but find them way too graphic and disturbing for this blog, really.  Thank goodness I had on my wet suit booties.  I seriously considered wearing my short river shoes, or going barefoot.   Otherwise my feet would be in on the “fun” too.

Actually, these shots were taken a few days after the initial eruptions of hives, which happened on Saturday morning.   Imagine each and every one of those little welts being approximately three times the size they are above… intense itching… diarrhea because of the amount of toxins being emitted by the dying creatures (thankfully that only lasted for a few hours)…  Benadryl, ibuprofen, cortisone cream…   in the afternoon I discovered that margaritas helped enhance the effect of the benadryl…  Saturday is a lost day for me, I can barely remember it, except for a general sense that I was really uncomfortable.

My wonderful friend Jeri told me on Sunday to try doing a salt scrub.   That made the itching 90% better, bearable.   I have done several scrubs and a couple of soaks as well.   The lesions are healing, but some of them are stubbornly itching even now.   The ones on my hands and arms are particularly bothersome as they get disturbed all the time, which makes them itch.

I just haven’t felt much like blogging or anything else.   Still, we managed to get started on reclaiming the root cellar, another spot that I have let go over the past couple of years in despair over the bermuda grass infestation.   That resulted in the discovery of a new tenant at The Havens; a young groundhog recently expelled from the maternal presence has decided to move in back there.    Hopefully it will not discover the vegetable garden.   I have enough problems with squirrels and birds.

My dislike of squirrels has been compounded by the latest activity — putting the netting up over the vineyard, which is starting to ripen the grapes.   We discovered that the squirrels thought that maybe the bird net would be a good place to spend the winter, so there is one net that is sporting large holes where the rodent attempted to chew the fibers into a comfortable bed.   Fortunately, we discovered its presence soon after it moved in and found a more secure way to store the nets.    But I have been spending some “quality time” out in the sweltering day mending the holes; the birds would find them quite convenient.

I really hate squirrels; not enough to eat them, though.   As Jim says,   “I don’t eat rat.”  Not even if it has a fluffy cute tail.

Excuse me.   I have to go scratch.  No, wait!   NO SCRATCHING.

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These photos were taken in the last 24 hours around The Havens as we patrolled the grapes for grape flea beetles, who love to suck the juice out of the tender buds of the grapevines as they begin their spring sprouting business.  It doesn’t do them any good to be nibbled on at such a young stage, but here is one sprout that had no depredations.

The strawberries are blooming, so Jim spent the day working on building the bird cover for the strawberry bed.   It isn’t quite done, but it will be before there are actually berries.   Last year we tried covering them with the grape vine netting, but the rabbits thought they should be able to have a nursery in that bed for their younguns, and probably they also thought they should be able to eat some of the berries, so they just gnawed their little rabbit way right through our expensive bird net, which then made it permeable to birds and therefore useless.   This version of the cover will be constructed of chicken wire, so I don’t think we’ll be hosting any rabbits this year.  Or birds.

We took a little time away from that job to hang the dragon head driftwood piece that I have been calling the Day Lily Dragon on the wall of the sauna.  I liked it down on the ground, but the strong winds we have been having keep blowing it over and it was not doing it any good at all to keep crashing over on its side.   So it has become a wall piece, and I think it looks pretty good up there.  I am looking forward to the summer sunset and sunrise photo ops when it will have interesting shadows.

The apples are blooming.  So are the bleeding hearts and the violets.

But by far my favorite news item involves the plantings out behind the pond.   When I originally made that garden 15 years ago, my vision was for an oasis of nature for the birds.   That is why I have a pump feeding a little waterfall into the pond, in order to give the birds a water source year round.   I missed the mark when I planted the forsythia, which really isn’t a native plant.   But it does well back there and the birds don’t seem to care that it is not a native, they use it as their tea room, pub, and waiting area for the bath.

So, anyway, at the time I established this garden, I purposely planted both American bittersweet vine (Celastrus scandens L.) and Woolly pipe vine (Aristolochia tomentosa Sims) which is also known as Dutchman’s pipe vine.   The main reason I planted the pipe vine was because it is the sole food source for the pipe-vine swallowtail butterfly, and I dearly wished for that sort of butterfly to become a resident here.  Right after I planted it, the pipe vine became lost in the jungle.   A few years later, I noticed it gamely trying to climb the fence, and was astonished that it was still there.   But this is the first year since I planted it that it is going to bloom.

You can see why they called it Dutchman’s pipe vine.   So cute.

Now, you’ll excuse me but I have to go back out to the vineyard and go through it again.   The more adult flea beetles I kill, the less there will be next year.  I’m sorry to say that as far as I am concerned, this is one species that can go extinct and I wouldn’t mourn it.

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