Chronicles of the Long Shot Farm

Starting Vines from Cuttings – An Experiment

Last year we had purchased a small grape starting kit at a trade show – it contained paper tubes, filled with dry starter soil and a crate covered with plastic. We had never done this before, but we did take  late cuttings off some concord grapes, and out of the 75 plants we started, about 50 were alive and well by the fall.  (Not so sure if they will make it through this rough winter – we’ll have to see).  This was not such a difficult task, so our plan is to try the grape propagation on a larger scale.  There is a lot of detailed information available on the internet, here is one of the useful sites.

Over the winter we started collecting the cardboard tubes inside paper towels, toilet paper and gift wrap (friends and family helped with this project).  This weekend, Jeff and Sam assembled our starter boxes:  they used flats that usually hold berry boxes, lined them with heavy plastic, and then stuck the paper tubes as close as possible into the flats.  Turns out that each flat holds about 90 of these tubes.  They filled up a lot of boxes, with enough tubes for about 800 cuttings!
Jeff then found a plastic jar with an opening that was just right to fit inside the paper tubes – it was a honey container, which he “transformed” into a scoop.  Once we are ready, we’ll moisten the potting soil and then fill up each tube, and a perfect cutting from the “mother” grape vine will be dipped in rooting hormone, and then placed in the tube for growing.  The point of the tubes is to maintain the fine roots, and not to get them tangled up between different vines.
For the first few weeks, we will keep the flats with cuttings on a heating mat inside the house, but as soon as the first leaves emerge, we’ll move the boxes into the greenhouse. The greenhouse is nearly ready, and even without a heater in it, it seems to reach a temperature between 40° – 50° F during sunny days.  We still need to build benches and run a waterline/hose.  As soon as it gets a bit warmer, we will move barrels into the greenhouse and fill them with water to maintain a more constant temperature.

Tea Party!

Fiona turned three years old this week, and she had one of her birthday parties at the farm – on Valentines Day!  We were all very excited  – well, the ladies and princesses at least were excited –  to plan a “tea party”, complete with fancy clothes, lots of necklaces and hats that we decorated during the party.  We are all hoping that this is the first of many little girl’s birthday “tea parties”.

We used some of Tina’s demitasse collection for our teacups along with the small bread plates from one of the china sets.  Jigglers were served in fancy containers, fruit was arranged on skewers, pretty cookies were served on platters and we had baked an assortment of tiny cupcakes which were decorated with colorful icing.

The room was decorated with streamers and balloons and Samantha turned one of the high chairs into a birthday throne with the help of a lot of satiny fabric  and tulle – in shades of pink with a bit of a zebra print accent!

It was such a blast – we all played dress-up, old and young alike – and it was hard to tell who enjoyed it most:

Toben and Omi
Rachel enjoys her tea

Tina and Opa
Gracie and Toben

Adelaide models one of
the decorated hats
Fiona admires one of her
presents: a tiny purse

1st Steps of a New Driveway

One of our goals for this year is getting a real driveway to access the barn.  Turns out that this is not as easy of a process as we initially thought.  Since we are located on a state road, PennDOT has to approve the access and verify sufficient sight distances in both directions.  The first step was to get an engineering firm to help draft plans to submit to PennDOT, and also contracting with an excavating company to clear out trees and tree stumps to gain access.  Last month both of those projects got started- and ever since then, it has been snowing, so progress has stalled for now.

A New Take On Potato Bread: Sweet Potato Maple Loaf

Here is another favorite recipe – for a dense, slightly sweet, wonderful breakfast bread.  I mix my dough in a bread machine, but always use the “dough” setting, and then form the loaf, let is rise again, and bake in a conventional oven.


  • 1 cup mashed sweet potato (about one medium sized yam or sweet potato, peel, cut into cubes and boil in water until soft, then mash with a fork and let it cool down a bit)
  • 1/2 cup of lukewarm water
  • 3 tablespoons sour cream
  • 1/3 cup of (real!) maple syrup
  • 4 and 1/4 cup of bread flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 and 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons bread machine yeast

Place ingredient in order given into bread machine, use dough cycle.  When finished, remove the dough, knead to get air bubbles out, and place in a greased bread pan.  Let rise for 45 min to an hour. Then bake in a pre-heated 375 degree oven for 30 minutes (or until the loaf sounds hollow when tapped)  Let cool in the pan for about 10 minutes on a wire rack, then remove from pan and let the bread cool completely.  I usually brush the hot loaf with butter to make a softer crust.

New Year – New Grandbaby

We are excited to welcome Freyja Rebecca Neill to our family.  She was born in Boston on January 3, weighing 8.3 lbs and she was 20.5 inches long.  Her parents, Anja and Duff, and her big brother Leif are very happy to greet their beautiful new daughter and sister.