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.

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.

Two Men and a Tractor: The High Lift

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 High Lift

Our story begins on a beautiful Spring Saturday morning.  There is mulch to be spread and grass to mow.  The Farmer saunters out to the tractor shed after downing a fresh pot of coffee and a pan of scrapple, eager to get to the days work.  He reaches the Red Tractor, and a look of despair and consternation crosses his face.  He realizes he can’t put mulch in the mulch spreader.  There is no high lift.

Mulching in the vineyard is a two tractor endeavor.  One tractor has the mulch spreader in tow while the other tractor waits near the mountainous mulch pile with the high lift attached.  This tractor fills its bucket with mulch and dumps it into the spreader. The Farmer,  determination in his eyes, sits down at the kitchen table at the Long Shot Farm homestead.  Here he consults with the Master of All Things But One.

“Jeff”, he says, “we need a high lift.”

A tall, burley man, with a whiskery face and kind brown eyes grumbles, “Let me see what I can find.”

Days pass.  Fixing an old tractor is never a one purchase affair and the purchases made are never completely accurate.  But what can be found, will be made to work, through the thinking and brawn of our dear Aerospace Engineer and resident Apprentice Master Welder.

A used high lift made for the former model of the Red Tractor was found.  The high lift was in good condition but the brackets were made for a smaller tractor.  The brackets also had to come forward so the high lift could clear the front end of the tractor and the brackets were too high.

The Engineer puzzled over the situation and in a eureka moment, devised a plan to modify the high lift.  He discovered that only a few diagonal slices to the bracket of the high lift would simultaneously make the bracket bigger, bring the front of the high lift more forward and allow the entire lift to be lowered.  He communicated this plan the Welder.

With steady hands like a surgeon, the Welder sliced the metal, laid out the new angles with precision, and gently braided the metal back together.  The final task was to attach the new device to the the Red Tractor.  The fit was beautiful.

As the Red Tractor puttered away on its mission to mulch, something was amiss: “But,” said the Welder, as he looked on the Tractor moving off on its way, “the hydraulics are leaking…”

So goes the eternal battle of Man versus Tractor. Until next time…

Posted by Anja Weyant

Dear Deer

Dear Deer,

You are so majestic, graceful, and sometimes tasty, but your insatiable appetite for delicate grape vine flesh leaves me heartbroken.  Year after year we tend our field, prune our grapes, shower them with care and love and still they don’t all grow.  The perimeter of our vineyards, exposed to your vicious, nibbling, mouth, is trimmed to sad bushy plants, never reaching their potential.  But no more!  This year we thwart your malevolent habits with tree tubes.

Clad in workwear, mallet in hand, we heroically pounded hundreds of 4 foot stakes into the ground and attached the tubes to the stakes, protecting the young and tender vines. These young knights, protected in armor, will someday reach the top of the trellis and produce a worthy harvest, despite your constant assault.  Beware wandering deer, your feasting days are numbered.

Best wishes, until we meet this fall…


Posted by Anja Weyant

Ode to the Blackberry Patch

There is a natural order to things. A progression that life, land, nay, even civilation itself must traverse. Things are born, they grow, then they must pass away. Such is the world we have.

And like all things of this world, our beloved patch of blackberry also went through the inevitable development: wrestled back from the wild, converted into productive farm land, thus yielding bountiful berries. But then the disease set in, and drought, and floods. We fought with ingenuity, with science. We fought with sweat and toil. We pruned and picked. But alas, it succombed to the fate of all our land: from beautiful rows of delicious brambles, to a parking lot.

We loved you blackberry patch. We will miss you. You taught us much, and now we park our trucks on you. But beneath the gravel, we also buried a piece of our hearts.

Posted by Duff Neill and Anja Weyant