The site visit was informative and much appreciated. The extension office rep was brave enough to ride in my brother’s truck, which is basically a traveling laboratory/mailbox/storage/woodshed.
His opinions reinforced ours- location, location, location. This old tried and true saying also applies to planting grapes. Our least favorable conditions were toward the bottom of the hill, closest to the trees and the low point of the land. Trees can be more than a nuisance for the desired airflow of the vineyard and tend to be home to a whole host of vineyard pests. Peter Cottontail, Bambi, and Big Bird are undeniably cute if playfully running across a television screen, but left to their devices in the wild will suit up and declare herbivorous war on our innocent vineyard. Therefore, this is where we will plant our toughest varietals that will not only grow enough foliage to deter the pests, but also deal with the water reservoirs that can build up under the soil near the bottom of a hill. Careful planting and proper defense mechanisms will have to suffice until we can figure out a way for our grapes to fight back the invading hordes of birds and deer.
The picture above is a rough sketch of our grand design, an image over our little slice of paradise. Courtesy of Asher and what I am guessing is a mix of new and old technology with a touch of artistic vision. Please ignore the more advanced sketches above the vineyard plot- those are ideas in progress.
We will plant the most cold hardy/disease resistant varietals on the east side (bottom of hill) and work our way west (uphill) planting those with more particular requirements. The most pressing concerns we had (and that the extension office rep affirmed) were with air flow through the vineyard and the soil makeup one to two feet below. This is an area of upmost importance when planning a vineyard, and an aspect that we hadn’t personally researched. A later experience (and post) will demonstrate that digging a few holes throughout your land just prior to a rain shower can tell you an insightful story about what is going on beneath the surface. As I have said before, what we lack in perfection we will make up for in creativity and perseverance. Oh and on a somewhat related note, all the elephant figures in our homes face east and the horseshoe ends are facing up… It can’t hurt.
We considered the site visit a green flag, so with the soil tests and seal of approval, it was time to treat the land.
It really was a beautiful fall day for doing this, one of those that makes a person feel great to be outside. Another thing I have noticed and really appreciate is the amount of visitors we get that are interested in what we are up to, and still haven’t grown a grape! It definitely keeps the excitement at the forefront.
This step, followed by tilling the land, prepared the soil for the fertilizer that the tests called for. I would be doing Asher a disservice if I didn’t mention that the short excerpt above, “tilled the land”, sounds really easy and barely took a breath. However, I’m fairly sure he was equipped with the prototype disc that was developed during the industrial revolution. In order for said disc to actually penetrate the surface, Asher had to utilize a nearby concrete parking curb for added weight. In what was surely a wonderful opportunity for patience building and muscle pulling, he tilled the land.
It took two weeks for the land to settle and be ready for the fertilizer. We had considered planting some cover crops to break up the soil and add some character beneath the surface, but November was approaching and that would be gambling with nature and impending frost. We saved that decision for a warmer day in the future. For our immediate fertilizer needs, we turned to the source.
Notice how the ground looks in these pictures compared to the ones shown above. Effective stuff I would say. No worries with this particular vendor either; showed up on time, quality ingredients, and he knew the land like the back of his hand.
Very quickly after this, I was in the city purchasing carboys, yeast, yeast nutrient, acid, and a few more things that I knew nothing of. Thank goodness they had the stuff my brother was telling me we needed. I never question that man’s intellect with this science stuff. We just couldn’t help ourselves, when you are enthusiastic vintners in the making; you simply want to make some wine.