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Tuesday, November 10, 2009

ALL THE BEST LAID PLANS....

With 2009 coming to a close and our sights focused on the 2010 Block 2 expansion, it was finally time to put together the plan for all the work ahead. Initial layouts of Block 2 were made, putting on paper the intended pole assignments (over 700 of them) and the corresponding plantings we will have. Block 2 will be dedicated to reds this year. Cabernet Sauvignon and Petit Verdot. Both of these, as I've mentioned before, are Bordeaux grapes, and we think they'll do well in our climate. We ordered just over 2700 grapevines, at about a 60/40 mix. These needed to be ordered early in order for them to go through the grafting process in a timely manner, and be ready for planting next April.

For Block 1, where we basically did everything wrong due to equipment malfunctions and poor timing, not to mention an irrigation project that took a year longer than anticipated, we hoped to learn from our mistakes and lay out on paper the steps needed for a more efficient work flow. With that in mind, it all starts with getting the poles in and as much of the irrigation lines ready for when the vines are planted. Block 2 is adjacent to Block 1, but in the desire to maximize return on the farmland, it was being used this year to grow soybeans. "Farmer Mac" leased nearly 25 of our acres for this purpose, and as of November 10th he still had not harvested it. I had asked him to give me a "best guess" on when he thought he might be working the fields, and his answer was 2 weeks after the first frost, which he said normally comes around November 1st. A review of historical data shows his guess was a slam dunk. Past years had November 1st as a 50/50 chance of getting a frost, but current forward looking forcasts had no frost anticipated until well into December. Therefore it became a waiting game for us.

Will Mac harvest the soy anyway, now that his crew had already taken out the corn, cotton, and peanuts ? Or will he truly wait for a frost to determine his timetable ? Turns out there is qualified reasoning for when to harvest soy. The ideal moisture content of soy is 14%. Less than that and the beans will start to crack. Harvesting at 17% or 18% is OK if the storage facilities have driers to knock the moisture content down to prevent storage rot.

As for our timing, we have a large window to get the posts in. Though the ground never really freezes here in Virginia, the days do get shorter, and comfortable working temperatures tend to start later in the morning and end earlier in the afternoon. I had also managed to twist both my sons' arms to help pounding in posts, but even their available time is difficult to schedule. My son Chris has recently become unemployed with the current economic crisis, and realizing he will have to do some real bullwork has motivated him to send out alot of resumes. As for Rich, he works for the Red Sox and between the season's end and Spring training there is a lull that gets shorter the longer we wait to start the post project.

It'll take 3 days to fully till and screen the fields readying them for the layout of the vineyard. Put a day towards laying out the field. It'll take another 5 days or so with help to get all the posts in. During the winter months the holes can be drilled for the wires that hold up the drip lines, and then those need the drippers installed above every plant location. February will be dedicated to tieing in all the driplines to the main irrigation line, and then it is fully prepared so that we can lay down ground cover between the rows of a rye/fescue/clover mix. This should give the ground cover ample time to pop up and take command before the weeds, or so we think.

During these 6 or so weeks our attention can go back to Block 1 where we can start pruning all the vines, with the primary training purpose in 2010 to develop the arms (or cordons). All the wires should have been put up by this time, so that won't be an issue this upcoming year. And after completing the pruning we will be starting the big plan we devised to take control of the weeds.......till, weedwack, and then pre-emergent herbicide.

Other fields are being harvested of their soybeans now by other farmers, and all the planning made will not go to waste, but in the meantime we wait, and wait, and wait.

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