Working with Berries and Grapes

Pruning! That’s mostly what we did this weekend – blackberry bushes and grape vines.

Pruned Chambourcin vine

Sammy and Tina trimmed blackberry bushes, while Lars ran the weed-whip alongside the finished rows.  We are almost done with the brambles, but still have a way to go with the grapes. So happy that we finally changed time – that will give us one extra hour in the evenings to work outside.

This is what the finished bramble rows look like!

Jeff plowed a new plot for the grapes today (the 430 new vines we ordered and which should arrive here just before Easter).    We had planted peas on that spot last spring, spread lime and then planted winter wheat as a cover crop last fall. The grape vines should be happy there.

Pruning Berries

Once in a while we do get a relatively warm day – meaning something above 35 degree Fahrenheit (about 2 degree Celsius).  On those days, Jeff does venture out into the berry patch and works on pruning the bushes.  Lars will join him when he get home from school as well, and they are making some decent progress.  It won’t be much longer when pruning will be all-consuming.  Personally, I can’t wait until we change time and I’ll get to work outside in the evenings.

Fall Garden Maintenance

For the past few weeks we have been concentrating on getting all plants ready for the winter.  Each weekend, we get a little more done and the farm looks a bit more cleaned up.

The blackberry rows are an arduous task, we can only work a few hours on this at a time, so it is taking a while.  We not only trim the stems, but control how many stems per bush we want to keep – selecting the strongest and making sure none of the branches shade out other stems.  Then we manually pull the weeds around the bush, just within weed-whip range.  All the trimmings are dropped between the rows.  Eventually, Jeff will run the bush hog through each row, which pretty much destroys even the thickest bramble branch.  Then we will run the weed-whip along the rows to clean up the final weeds.


This weekend, Tina finished the final weeding and rototilling on the “Jam Garden”, and planted a few more red raspberries (they were on super clearance at Lowes).  This garden now has 3 rows of blueberries, 2 rows of strawberries, and one mixed row of black and red raspberries, plus one gooseberry bush and two black currant bushes.

Blackberry Wine Progress

This evening we syphoned the “Blackberry Batch #1” from the fermentor into 3 five-gallon carboys and 1 one-gallon carboy.  We added the airlocks and labeled each jug.  Now we can listen to the “bubbling” and watch the sediment slowly settle on the bottom of each jug.  The carboys will all be covered with dark bags to keep light out.

We also took out the nylon bags which held the blackberries for the “Blackberry Merlot” batch from the fermentor.  We hung each of them on a drywall screw from our beam that spans the kitchen, and let gravity do its job- we collected nearly a gallon of extra juice this way, without pressing the berries (afraid that pressing might crush the seeds and lead to bitterness).

August 6 Garden Update

  • Blackberry harvest is coming to an end, we picked over 500 pounds.  A few bushes are still bearing, but we are trimming out the old growth and tying up the shoots for next year.
  • Doing well with watermelons – we have yellow and red ones.  Both have amazing tastes!
  • Picked enough tomatoes and onions for a batch of sauce
  • Still making pesto dishes from all the basil
  • Made 2 batches of blackberry jam (with Anja and Anna)
  • Most importantly: Chambourcin grapes are ripening!!