December 21st … That was the last time we posted in this blog … December 21st …
So, what has been happening since December 21st? Yikes! Where to begin?
Hopefully, everyone had an awesome Christmas and New Year’s celebration. We would have loved to have been able to supply you with holiday bubbly, but all good things take time.
The Winter here was equally brutal and rewarding. Rainfall, just while we were living at Willow Creek Estate, totaled 35 inches. That’s is at least 10 inches over normal. The water tables here are loaded, and the ground is still moist well into May. The vines will undoubtedly be loving their Spring and Summer. From a farming perspective, it means that we won’t be obligated to water this year (except for the new plantings – more on that in a bit).
The vineyards have been a bit neglected here for some number of years. Ground, system, and vine restoration will continue through 2017 and probably into 2019. With so much work to do, it was more than a little challenging to sit around the house during all those rainy days, not being able to get started on our projects. And, of course, once the rain did taper off, we knew the clock was ticking. Working under deadlines is expected. Working under deadlines with more projects than you think you can complete is another thing altogether.
Between the generous rains and modest disrepair, weed and grass growth had gotten out of control. Frankly, we still have work to do on this front, but getting into the vineyards was a top priority. Weed abatement includes mowing (which provides some level of instant gratification) and weed spraying (which takes weeks to fully realize). Mow and spray we did, which allowed us just enough room to work in the vineyards.
The next challenge was pruning. Pruning set the stage for the growth we wanted to see this season. The timing is important. Prune too early, and you run the risk of vine damage from late frosts. Prune too late, and you lose some control over the growth pattern. Being a small farm, though, allows us more flexibility in controlling our timing (one more reason to buy from small growers). We got our pruning done just about when we wanted it. That timeline was very satisfying, because it meant that we had hit an important project milestone successfully and had a chance to continue the momentum on our other projects.
Our goal for 2017 was to plant 225 new vines in the West Vineyard. To do that, we needed to have vine locations staked and a functioning drip irrigation system installed beforehand. We managed to get stakes in the ground well ahead of time. The irrigation system was a bigger challenge.
The farm had remnants of a functioning drip system. What we didn’t have was a clue as to how each vineyard row was fed water through the underground system. Brainstorming provided us with three or four possible water grids, all of which (as one might expect) were wrong. Restoring the West Vineyard drip system was, in the end, both labor-intensive and confusing. Our new vines were planted on April 20th. The drip system in the West Vineyard began watering those vines two days later. Not what we had hoped for, but good enough.
In the end, Mother Nature saved us this year. The West Vineyard ground was wet enough to plant new vines despite the delayed irrigation system. In the East Vineyard, we can forgo irrigation restoration altogether until after the 2017 harvest. Three cheers for Mother Nature!
We’re patiently waiting for federal and state permitting which will allow us to sell our wines. These things take time. Sometimes, it’s hard being patient. But we have inventory waiting to be consumed. When the day comes (perhaps by late Summer), it’ll be well worth celebrating!
Stay tuned. This will be an epic Summer. And make sure you are signed up for the newsletter. The newsletter is for insiders. And insiders get information nobody else gets (like how to save money on Willow Creek Estate products).
Until next time … Cheers!