Avoiding Frost Damage

We may have had the coldest night on record for May 14.  A frost advisory had been posted all day Monday already, so we knew it was coming.  Since our Chambourcin grapes had already formed tiny grape clusters, frost damage was a real concern, so we decided to monitor the temperature during the night.  (We used our high tech digital thermometer, which comes with a probe that is connected by a fairly long cable to the actual display and just hung it out the bedroom window, with the display on our nightstand).  Around 4 am, the temperature had dropped to 37 degrees, and Jeff went out to spray water.  He used the tractor with our sprayer, which had already been filled with water, and ran it through all the rows – twice.  By 5 am, clouds started moving in and the wind began to blow, at which point spraying more water probably would have done more damage than good.  We’ll know in a few days if this worked – it was definitely worth a try. 

Spreading Lime – Manually

We recently bought 3 tons on lime (that is 6000 lbs, which sounds a lot heavier).  We intended to use our lime spreader, and pull that behind the tractor between the grapes and blackberry rows.  Turns out, the lime spreader does not really work with the lime we got…it just plugged up.  So this weekend we shoveled lime onto the small wagon, which Jeff then pulled slowly with the tractor between the rows, while Lars and Tina shoveled the lime back off, “flinging” it along side the plants. (Some of us were better “flingers” than others)  One wagon load of lime was enough for 4 rows at a time.  We could manage 2 wagonloads, then we needed a break.  At this point, we are nearly done, just more more wagonload to go – what a great upper body workout!

Trellis Posts Are UP

Jeff and Lars worked all week making trellis post holes for the new grapes. Right now, the grape vines are still small enough that the tractor can straddle them, so it was a bit time-sensitive to get these post holes done.   Jeff also sharpened all 150 posts with his chain saw this week. Today – with Zach’s help – they “pounded” the posts in, using the tractor’s front bucket, which we weighed down with rocks.  It does not look that exciting yet – just a big field with fence posts in rows.  Now we have to install the end-posts and then run the wires for the trellis.

Vineyard Expansion

Our new grapes arrived today – actually, Zachary picked them up in New York State, where he had to travel for work and he drove them to Carlisle (via Ohio to pick up his family). Picking up the grapes eliminated the shipping rate, so we were able to get additional plants.

  • 240 Chambourcin grapes
  • 190 Concord grapes
  • 100 Vidal Blanc grapes
  • 30 Elderberry bushes
We had a lot of helpers:  Zach and Rachel, Jens and Grace, Sam and Caleb, Lars and Caleb’s great-uncle Bill.  We worked as a marking team, a digging team, a planting team and Jeff as “supervisor” and master pruner.  It worked out well, we planted all the Chambourcin’s and 130 of the Concord vines today.  Hoping to finish up tomorrow!

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.