Chronicles of the Long Shot Farm

Introducing Oaked Chambourcin

The divinely chic Earth Fairy,
Knows what flavors are born to marry.
Make them so deep & purple,
It’s Oaked Chamborcin she crafts to slurple.
Big & luscious & bright red berry,
Lifts the heart of our clever fairy.
Tempered body with hints of vanillin,
Her magic potion, the aged Oaked Chambourcin.
Pairs well with burgers, short ribs, red sauce, mushrooms, sausage pizza, strawberries, chocolate, brie and magic.

Pruning the Niagara Patch

This month we are pruning in the vineyard.  The purpose of pruning is to cut away portions of the vine to promote healthy fruit, stop overcropping, and prevent the vineyard from becoming a jungle.  We are currently pruning the Niagara patch at the Long Shot Farm.  Niagara grapes are a North American variety which are used for jams, juice, table grapes, and wine! They are featured in the Niagara wine and in the Niagara wine slushy.

An extremely fruit-fragrant wine, Niagara is a luscious waterfall, overwhelmingly powerful.  So pack your barrel tight, as when you plunge ahead, you will find the wine exhibits a strong floral quality, of elderflower and perhaps jasmine, with a moderately acidic lemon citrus finish to balance out the palate.

We are spur pruning the Niagara patch. The vines are trained to have a pair of long canes trained along the trellis in opposite directions.  These create permanent cordons.  Last year’s canes that have grown along the cordons are cut back to a small shoot containing only a few buds.  This region is known as a spur.

These are the before and after pictures.   In the spring, new growth will sprout from the buds on the spur and produce the harvest.

Two Men and a Tractor: The Auger

Some problems are as old as Farming. Man versus Rock. Man versus Stump. But since the combustion engine: Man versus Tractor. Here we chronicle the triumphs and failures of Mankind and the Tractors at the Long Shot Farm.

The Auger

On a small farm, one does not have large warehouses to hold all your tractor equipment. You have a fence row. A fence row is perfectly fine for storing your extra buckets, plows, discs, and augers, except for the weather, the weeds, the mice, and the rust. Now tarps can keep off the rain and snow, and cats can eat the mice, but with some implements, the ground is the enemy. Particularly for the auger.

The auger is an indispensable tool for the vineyard: it digs the holes cleanly through our slate ground for the end-posts that support the trellis. But to stand the auger for easy attachment the next time you need it on the tractor, you have to dig the bit into the ground. After a few years, your mighty auger becomes a rusty testament to the inevitable corruption of all things.

And so, to slow this creep of Time, our Engineer turned to our Welder, and told him, “Erect me a stand. Make it 4 cubits high, and 3 cubits long, and 2 cubits wide. Upon this stand we will hang our auger. The ground will not eat its metal, so that it may churn for years to come.” The Welder scrounged up the metal piping necessary to make this stand, that the auger may sit in the fence row without rusting. Wielding his lighting, he fashioned it together, and they gazed upon their handiwork pleased.

Except it seems that once one makes a suitable storage for a tool, the tool breaks anyways. For our hard slate ground of North Mountain is unforgiving, though it may yield a superior grape. The Master of All Things But One went looking for a new auger and once he settled upon a suitable tool, purchased it. Suitable except for the blade.

While the housing and assembly and blade were shiny and new, the tip of the blade was insufficient to pierce the hard slate ground as the Master desired. Yet there are no two pieces of metal, old or new, that cannot be made one by our Welder. Cutting off the old blade, and removing the new, a workable auger was formed. And this auger has a new home, to float about the ground in the fence row, waiting its turn to chew the earth and sink yet more posts for our fields.

Two Men and a Tractor: The Step

Some problems are as old as Farming. Man versus Rock. Man versus Stump. But since the combustion engine: Man versus Tractor. Here we chronicle the triumphs and failures of Mankind and the Tractors at the Long Shot Farm.

The Step

On a small farm, tractors do not simply fade away, are not simply tossed off when the lease is up. No, they are repaired, refurbished, rebuilt till their old bodies cannot take it anymore. Much like the farmers who drive them.

So in a county not far away, in a much simpler time, stood a modest white farm house, with a large old fashioned barn and a newish tractor, nestled in the middle of the rolling farmland on the side of an Allegheny mountain. It is here a young family moves to work the land and live the American life, and it is here that the journey between a 10 year old boy and a similarly aged tractor begins.

Times are good at the little farm on the mountain.  The boy learns to take care of the farm and the animals, and hunt the steep hollows of hickory and oak. The tractor is cared for and continues to be the reliable machine it was born to be. At the end of the day, the boy goes home to the white farmhouse with the wide front porch and the tractor putt putts back to the barn every night, safe and protected from the weather.  The tractor can count on having its oil changed when needs be, its lines checked, its parts replaced as wear gets to them. For the boy and his father knows a well maintained tractor is a companion for life.

The boy grows up.  A young farmer now, he goes to college to learn more deeply about the animals he loves to care for.  But while he is away, tragedy strikes the little farm on the mountain and the young farmer’s father dies.  The little farm begins to fall apart, parcels of land are sold and the tractor is sent away…away from his home, his young farmer, his family.

The tractor’s new home is not a pleasant one.  He is abused, driven into the ground, and neglected. His oil is not changed, his filters not cleaned. His hydraulics loose their strength. He spends each night outdoors, alone, wet, and rusting until finally, the tractor gives up.  He cannot move another inch, his engine cannot turn over.  Here the tractor rests, up an old dirt mountain road, miles from anywhere, for years.  Meanwhile the young farmer begins a new life in a new county, although still longing for his old friend and seeking farmland of his own.

The farmer, now no longer a young farmer, but with the demands of a family full of children, decides to track down his old friend. After following the chain of neglect, deep in the woods he discovers the deplorable state of his tractor, unable to run, and rescues him with a trailer.  The tractor travels across central PA to a new home.  But he is still in such a sad state, with a broken clutch and ancient fluids, and years of neglect showing wear on the outside.  But the farmer understands the true value within and begins the long, expensive, and painful process of restoring the now rusty tractor. For a tractor that is cared for is a companion for life.

Finally, after several mechanics and even a few crafty Mennonites, the old rusty tractor is running and ready to be useful. But even so the years drag on, and now the old farmer, also a victim of age, can no longer climb aboard his trusty old friend with the same spring in his step.

So, the Engineer and the Welder, sons of the old farmer, devise a plan, to once again allow the old farmer and the old tractor to work the land as one. It is as the riddle of the Sphinx: man starts his life on four legs, goes about his prime on two, but ends it with three. So now the tractor will have three steps for the farmer, rather than just two.


And this is because on a good farm, tractors are repaired, refurbished, rebuilt till their old bodies cannot take it anymore. Much like the farmers who drive them.

Botrytis Bunch Rot

In the vineyard, we are always subject to the whims of mother nature.  It is true, that we can sometimes outwit her, by irrigating when it doesn’t rain, or covering the vines with netting to deter the birds.  But there are times that we must accept her dominance over us with grace.

This fall was particularly wet.  As as a result, botrytis bunch rot has settled into the Traminette and Vidal grapes.  Botrytis rot can affect the grape in two ways.  The first, which is the result of wet conditions, results in the loss of grapes.  The second, called “noble rot,” occurs when dry conditions are followed by wet.  This actually can produce distinctive sweet wines.  The fungus removes water from the grapes and concentrates the sugars, acids, and minerals.  Noble rot has settled into some of our vineyards.

But it is like a double edged sword.  While it can impart desirable qualities to the wine, it does so at the cost of a depleted harvest.  So while we are excited that the Traminette and Vidal wines this year may be exceptional, the vintages will be somewhat limited.  But don’t worry, other grape varieties, like Chambourcin, have done really well, and we anticipate having a good harvest overall.