Thursday, June 11, 2009

Its a Jungle Out There

Today I got around to working on some much needed shoot thinning and vine training. I worked on the NY 76.0844.24 (Cornell hybrid). These are the vines I planted last year, which puts them in their "second leaf." I'm learning all kinds of new jargon now! Back in February, I pruned them all the way back to two buds. I only kept one spur from the best cane on each vine. This Spring, they vines took off with a vengeance. Most of the vines put out a half dozen or more shoots.

NY 76.0844.24 before shoot thinning

This year my main objective, for the vines planted last year, is to develop the cordons that will be fairly permanent structures in years to come. So I decided to shoot thin each vine back to the two most substantial and healthiest shoots. After thinning the shoots, I used the "weed whacker" to trim around the vines and under the trellis. I was VERY careful not to damage the trunk of the vines with the trimmer. This bit of maintenance made the vineyard look much neater and more professional.

NY 76.0844.24 after shoot thinning

I applied Roundup under the trellis in late winter, but now there's a good crop of weeds under the trellis. With the young vines and so much foliage close to the ground, I'm afraid to put down another application of Roundup right now. I have ordered some Rely, which should be available tomorrow. Rely is much safer than using Roundup at this point in the growing season because it is not a systematic herbicide. The Rely only affects the green tissue which it contacts. This means Rely is also great for sucker control in grapes. I plan to put Rely down in both the Spring Mill Farm Vineyard and Naked Creek Vineyard in the next few days.

Row 1 in the SMF Vineyard after a trim

The Chambourcin vines are soaring along in the Naked Creek Vineyard. Man the experts aren't lying when they say that Chambourcin over crops! Next week I'm going to have to start cluster thinning those vines.

Chambourcin clusters at Naked Creek on 6/10/09

We've had a very wet Spring this year which is usually a recipe for just about every fungal disease for grapes. On the other hand, we've had several drought years and the rain has been great for replenishing ground water supplies and for most other local crops, so I'm not going to complaining. So far, I've put down three sprays of Manzate and one Topsin M application this year. We are seeing a little black rot on leaves and very very minimal phomopsis on canes in the Chambourcin at the Naked Creek Vineyard. So far, our disease pressure is much lower than last year when we got a late start on our spray schedule. We've had about 5 inches of rain in the last 10 days but when I scouted the vines at Naked Creek, we still had some residual Manzate and Topsin M (after 4 inches of rain since application). All in all, I think we're doing pretty well in terms of disease pressure given the weather conditions this year.

Black rot spot on Chambourcin at Naked Creek Vineyard
Notice the residual fungicide after 4 inches of rain!

While were talking grape diseases, click on over to the Virginia Grape Disease Update Blog. This is a great source of up to the minute info on grape disease info based on current weather from Dr. Mizuho Nita, who is Virginia Tech's Grape Pathologist at the Winchester AREC. Dr. Nita's blog has been very helpful for me in making my IPM decisions this year.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Where Does the Time Go?

Right off the bat I want to apologize for hiatus in my posts. I just realized it has been two weeks since my last post. Life at the farm has been incredibly busy lately, with Danielle and I working outside until dark most days. Weekend before last was Memorial Day weekend and we took a little vacation from farm work. I hauled Danielle and Huck (her endurance horse) to Oxford, NC for her to spend a couple days with Beth at Fox Fire Farm. They had a fun weekend of riding and hanging out. Check out Danielle's blog for more details.

After dropping Danielle and Huck off in Oxford, I left the truck and trailer there and hopped in Danielle's car and headed to my family's lake house on Lake Gaston in Valentines, VA. The 1 hour drive was short enough to make the running back and forth bearable. The lake time was great! I forget how nice it is to slow down for a couple days. Don't get me wrong, I love the farm life and most of the farm work, but time at the lake is great for my sanity. I had taken Thursday and Friday off from work and was off Monday for the Memorial Day holiday. So I had a five day weekend. I can't remember the last time I've had one of those! Having that Thursday and Friday off gave me time to finish getting the hay making done and we got the last of the hay out of the field Friday afternoon. This left the rest of the long weekend for a little rest and relaxation.

On Sunday afternoon (5/24) my Grandmother (the family wino), my cousin Patrick (designated driver - he's only 18), and myself headed over to Rosemont Vineyards and Winery for a tour and tasting. Rosemont is one of the newest wineries in Virginia and if you're in the area you should definitely stop by. The owners were very obliging to give us an impromptu tour and were generous in the tastings. The selection of wines was pretty good, especially for a winery in its first year open. Several of the wines impressed me including a Rose' made from Chambourcin grapes. I had never tasted a Chambourcin wine made in this style and it was very easy drinking. The wine was darker than any other Rose' I've had, but hey, we do things a little differently in Virginia. The Lake Country White made mostly from Vidal Blanc grapes was just introduced that week and I think they sold more than five cases in the first afternoon. It was a great summer time "enjoy on the dock" wine. I brought home a bottle of each. The winery also serves lunch and the menu looks great. We will definitely plan for a weekend lunch there soon.

Last week was busy with garden prep and planting. Our main garden area is a low area of the farm near several springs. The rolling hills of the farm lay such that the garden area is the recipient of much of the run-off water from heavy rains. This can be an advantage in late summer when plants are drought stressed and in need of water. In the Spring time however, this can delay garden prep for a couple weeks while the area dries up enough to work the soil. Last fall, I planted rye as a cover crop on the garden and in late April of this year, I sprayed the rye with Roundup. When the rye began to turn yellow, I bush-hogged it and plowed it under. Then we got a torrent of rainfall for about 3 weeks strait. It seemed like it took another month for the ground to dry up enough to disc the plowed ground. Well, I finally got the discing done about two weeks ago. It was definitely not too dry then. At one point I was sinking down in a wet corner with the tractor. I had to unhook the disc to get the tractor out and then drag the disc out with a chain.

Last week Danielle and I were able to get a few rows planted in the garden. We planted lima beans, pole beans, beets, carrots, brussel sprouts, potatoes, sweet corn, tomatoes, tomatillos, and hot peppers. We will plant a few more things as we get time. Were trying to stagger out plantings this year (especially with sweet corn) so that we don't have a huge crop of something that only lasts for a few days. Hopefully we will be able to enjoy the fresh veggies over a longer period of time this way.

Danielle getting ready to plant Christmas lima beans

Check out the video below of Danielle's "planting dance." I had a rough time holding the camera while laughing.

I'm really impressed with how useful the Cushman has turned out for tasks on the farm. I used it to haul the rototiller down to the garden. With the dump bed and a ramp, loading and unloading was a cinch.
Unloading made easy!

This past weekend my in-laws came up for a couple days and were great help around the farm. Without any prodding (I swear!) they started weeding raised beds on Sunday! Saturday evening we took them to Machu Picchu, a local Peruvian restaurant in Lynchburg. I cannot say enough good things about Machu Picchu. The foods just wonderful. My only complaint is that I can't have a glass of wine or a beer with dinner (they serve no alcohol); however, they do make some awesome drinks out of purple corn!

Sunday afternoon, we went with the in-laws to try out another fairly new local winery. Sans Soucy Vineyards is the first farm winery in Campbell County. The winery is set on what appears to have been a tobacco farm in a previous life. The owners (and do everything elsers) Paul and Jackie Anctil were very welcoming. After the tasting they gave us a pretty encompassing tour and walked vineyard rows with us to talk about canopy management when I asked too many questions to answer in the tasting room! I'll say that Paul and Jackie have a pretty good handle on marketing! They make some great dry reds (and whites for that matter), but in the true spirit of a country farm winery, they offer a few sweeter easy drinking wines to complement their dry line-up. I'm becoming a huge fan of Petit Verdot wines grown in Virginia and Sans Soucy has varietal Petit Verdot, as well as a blend of Petit Verdot and Cabernet Franc, and even a blend of Petit Verdot and Blackberry that they call Oak N Berry. I was amazed at how well the Petit Verdot and the Blackberry complimented each other. We came home with bottles of the varietal Petit Verdot and the Oak N Berry. We will definitely visit Sans Soucy again in the near future, maybe for one of their Sangria Saturdays!