Monday, November 21, 2011

Hunkering down for the winter

The tomatoes, peppers, and eggplant have frozen. The lettuces and fennel are covered. All the harlequin bugs are dead. It's official- summer's over. As sad as it is, we knew it was coming. We're starting to sell out of many of our winter crops, and for this we are grateful. It's the time of year when we get to all the things we've let go for the rest of the year: building a high tunnel, painting the garage doors, organizing all the tools.

We're starting to clean out around the fields to prepare them for next year's crops. Many of our fields have become overgrown with honeysuckle, smilex, and lagustrum. We'll be bush-hogging what's left of the crop residue next week and then plowing the field to let it lay fallow over the winter. We'll be going over to Branchill farms and picking up several loads of manure to spread over the fields for the winter.

As the farm goes to sleep, we're scaling down our operation. We're closing out store on HWY 29 to re-open in the Spring. We'll be selling vegetables at 4758 Poplar Tent Rd on Saturdays from 9-12 at least until January. We'll also be selling vegetables by special order (call 704-782-2117 or email thefarmatdovervineyards@gmail.com). Let me know if there's anything you're wanting. We'll pick it fresh and have it waiting for you.

An update on the wine: it's tasting great! We're really proud of our first vintage. The whites are almost ready to bottle. We racked them off the gross lees and then proceeded to shake the wines a bit to stir up the fine lees. We'll be racking again sometime this week. We're sending samples off to the ASU enology lab the week after. We'll see the changes they recommend, but I'm pretty sure we've lucked out for the first year. I hope it's because of skill, but it might just be beginner's luck.

It's been a great season, our first season being open to the public. We've learned a lot and have a lot of ways to improve our operation for next year. We hope you'll continue to spread the word about our farm and come back to the store next year to see the improvements.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

We're selling Turkeys!

Hey Yall! We'll be placing an order for FRESH, LOCAL, ORGANIC turkeys on Wednesday morning the 16th. They're going to be $2.69/lbs and delivered on Tuesday before Thanksgiving. Call us at 704-782-2117 if you're interested! Tell your neighbors and friends too!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Pumpkins and Updated Fall Hours

Hi- We've decided to scale back our hours even more these days. We'll be open at the Farm Store
TUESDAY AND FRIDAY 12-5:30 and open for selling vegetables straight out of the field at 4758 Poplar Tent Rd SATURDAYS from 9-12.

We still have a few tomatoes, bell peppers, and eggplant coming in from our summer plantings. But these days, we've also got a great selection of Greens (all $2.00/lbs):
Swiss Chard
Collards
Mustard Greens
Red Kale
White Kale
Bok Choi ($4/head)
Tat Soi ($4/head)


We have some great salad greens as well (all $8.00/lbs)
Red lettuce
Green Oakleaf lettuce
Speckled lettuce
Arugula
Spinach

Our pumpkins, grown by my friend James Bullock, are oddly shapen and shiny, perfect for an elegant front door step, table centre piece or even a great pie.

If you're looking for a large quantity of any of these delicious vegetables, it's always a good idea to email or call before you stop by so we can make sure we have enough picked for you!

Mom's run off with my camera, so as soon as I get it back, I'll put some pics up of the greens and pumpkins.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Ideas for expansion- let's see if we can make any of these happen

I have a few ideas for how to make our farming operation even more awesome than it already is. Thing is, I can't do these things by myself. Well, some of them we can, but not all of them. That's where you, the community come in. I'm going to put these ideas out there (even if they seem a little wild). My hope is that someone will see them, realize their potential, and then we can work together to make the little projects happen.

1) Start a food truck!!

2) Move the old Pitts School to our property so we can have an indoor farms store!

3) Build some hoop houses so we can grow more veggies more of the year!

ok- so we can probably accomplish this last one on our own, I just wanted to let everyone know that we are looking into this and it will probably be a reality very soon!

If you or anyone you know is a house mover, a generous supporter of historic preservation, or a food truck manager looking to strike out on his or her own, please contact me at thefarmatdovervineyards@gmail.com

Friday, September 30, 2011

New Fall Hours and Canned Goods!

As Autumn approaches, and the world slows down, we too, at The Farm at Dover Vineyards will be slowing down. We'll be open Tuesday-Friday 12-5:30. We hope that you will not find this change to be inconvenient. If you are unable to visit us during our business hours, please, just call me, and I'll try to meet you up at the farm stand to provide you with some of our yummy greens and winter squash! Remember- eating local is not just a possibility in the summer! Living in North Carolina allows us to eat local fresh produce all year long!


Also, I am very excited to introduce to you our canned goods section of the store! One of our customers has taken home the excess produce of our farm and begun to can the deliciousness of summer. 


We've got: 
Canned Tomatoes 
Pizza Sauce
Green and Red Pepper Relish
Sweet and Spicy Jalapenos
Chipotle peppers in Adobo sauce
Yellow Tomato and Honey Butter 
Uncle Scott's Root Beer
Honey from Big Oak Farms



We hope you'll find the time to come by and visit us this fall. In many ways, this is one of the most delicious and nutritious seasons we have!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Our First Surplus Dinner!

No matter how well you plan, it always happens that you end up with produce you can't sell. It's part of the territory of ensuring a constant supply of product to your customers. I've found myself cooking large dinners for many of my friends and their friends this summer. Everyone really seemed to enjoy the 'farm-fresh' seasonality of the meals, so I thought to myself, why not take this public? I'm sure I'm breaking some health code and what not, but my mother (the chef for the evening) is Safe Serve Certified (I love having a cafeteria lady in my family).

So we'll be having a dinner October 1st from 7:30- finish up at the farm stand (3600 Concord Pkwy S Concord NC 28027). It'll be $15 per head and well worth it! You may BYO, since it's basically going to be the Dover Family, Friends, and Friends of Friends. Email me to reserve your spot. I would rather have money in hand before the dinner, but we will be selling spots the night of (unless we run out of space!).

The menu will most likely be a mixed greens salad, spaghetti squash tossed with pesto and topped with eggplant, and some sort of dessert.

Don't miss this lovely dining experience!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Blog Neglect- the harvest

So we've already harvested our grapes. Sorry I didn't let you know. It was a hectic time. Since we didn't get our winery built or licensed this year, we had to search for a place to make a few gallons of experimental wine. We decided on my father's walk-in cooler in the back of the old Dover's Supermarket. Sure it's not the winery I had hoped to have and fermenting two wines while having only one temperature is sure to compromise the quality of the production, but this has still been a great experience. A friend of mine once asked me "How do you learn to make good wine? Make bad wine!" Well, I hope that's not what I'm doing, but we've hit many obstacles along the way which (H2S and VA) will help me to be a better winemaker down the line.

In true Dover Farms fashion, we did all the of the winemaking by hand. We used a hand crank crusher destemmer, a manual basket press, we carried the grapes and must up the back stairs to the cooler where the juice and must were macerated and fermented. We had tons of great volunteers who came out on a Saturday to help us pick, sort, and crush/destem our Vidal. It was truly a village like experience. It makes me realize even more than ever that this whole venture would not be possible without the incredible support of our community. They are so excited for this wine because they've watched the vineyard grow; they've worked on the vines; they've helped harvest the grapes: they can't wait to taste a sip of their work.

We harvested our Chambourcin at 23 Brix and 3.4 pH. A large portion of the grapes had started to get ripe rot and we decided to harvest them on the 67th day after we sprayed Mancozeb (it has a 66 day PHI). The numbers were perfect for making a light red wine. We harvested our Vidal blanc the day after a pretty hard rain. It was a gamble if we should pick that day or not, but that morning, the numbers were 23 Brix and a 3.3 pH. I couldn't ask for better numbers! We harvested a few on Sunday and Monday the days following (rain was scheduled for those days, however it didn't happen). The numbers didn't really go up. The flavour of the grapes was not strong, but thanks to some enzyme action and maceration, we'll hopefully make a wine that doesn't taste like diluted gatorade.

I don't have any pictures right now of the harvest (I misplaced my camera for about a month), so I'll have to download some from my phone as soon as I figure out how to do that.

All of the wines have finished fermenting and the Chambourcin has begun its malo-lactic conversion. I hope to be able to cold stabilize both of them very very soon (since they are in the same room). The wines are tasting quite good and I can't wait to taste the final product. We'll have some in bottles around December, so stop by the farm stand and ask for a taste!!

We've made all the mistakes so you don't have to!







Bird netting is frustrating. Bird netting on a Geneva Double Curtain is even more frustrating. There's no way around it. I wonder why no one warned me about this when we started out.

Well, enough complaining. Here's how we have decided to keep the birds out.
1) We nailed 8oz deli cups to the ends of 5 ft 2x4s
2) Then we nailed the 2x4s to the tops of our posts.
3) Then we ran twine between the 2x4s to keep the netting off of the vines.
4) After that, we draped the net.
5) We found that the best way to secure the netting is to you sew rows together and then tack down the other sides with 4 inch sod staples under line of bailing twine nailed to the ground.

This all sounds very easy. The thing is, we tried every other possible way to do this before we came up with these solutions.

So here's what NOT to do:
1) Do not sew together more than 3 rows. The tension on the nets becomes inoperable, slows down progress, and will rip the nets if you have a strong wind. We sewed together the first 16 rows of the vineyard. Bad idea.

2) Drape more liberally than you think you should. You can tighten the nets (so the birds can't sit on them and stick their little beak through the nets) sufficiently by twisting the nets around the staples.

3) Keep the ends untacked, but secured with rocks so you can scare the birds out in the mornings and not have to re-tack later

4) 1 1/2 inch fencing staples won't work. 2 inch fencing staples won't work. 2 1/2 inch fencing staples won't work. 16 penny nails won't work. 20 penny nails will work, but they're expensive and a chore to remove. 4 inch sod staples are perfect, cheap, fast, and easily reclaimed.

5) It's important to have enough slack to tuck the netting under the ground wire after tacking every 2-3 feet or so. This will save a lot of staples, time and energy.

Things I might consider doing next year:

1) Get 22 ft netting instead of 17 ft netting. That way, tucking is much easier

2) sew on a few extra feet on the ends of every row so that we have more slack to tuck under the bailing twine

3) replace the bailing twine that runs from 2x4 to 2x4 with some sort of wire to keep the netting of the vines a little more

4) putting some sort of guide wire from the 2x4 to the ground and then running another wire between the guide wires about 4 ft off the ground to keep the nets away from the fruiting zone a little more

5) un-sew the first block of nets so that there is much less tension on the first 16 rows

Well, that's a summary of what we've learned these past two hectic weeks. A big thank you to my friend and resident expert in bird netting, Patrick Meagher for helping us work this out and keeping me more sane than I would have been otherwise.

Thanks to my Mom for stepping up her hours at the store so we could devote more hours to the bird netting, and of course, to my dad, for paying for it.

Now we must tend to the pumpkins, which we have neglected for about 2 months. Geez.


Thursday, July 28, 2011

Veraison!! (it happened about a week ago...)


The Chambourcin have turned color and the birds are starting to hover around our grapes. From the ones that I've tasted so far, I can tell that these will be delicious. The seeds are looking great as well. Unfortunately, the birds seem to have the same opinion. We are beginning the netting process today. We have ordered our nets and we're putting 2x4x5ft on the tops of all the posts to make sure that the nets don't touch the grapes. If the nets touched the grapes, then the birds could hop on the nets, stick their little beaks into the grapes, and have their way with our harvest. I'll take some pictures of this process so that if any of you out there have the Geneva Double Curtain, you'll be able to see how we protect from the birds. I know that when using the VSP, they attach a movable fruiting wire or a separate wire to keep the netting at bay. I hope we don't need to install wire that run from 2x4 to 2x4. But we'll have to see. A big shout out to our local vineyard supply (Orchard Valley Supply) and lumber yard (Morrison Bros. Lumber) for getting us the supplies we needed in 48 hrs at a very cheap cost!

The garden is going well and business is really picking up. We now have watermelons and okra (giant, mini, red, and regular). Squash vine borer has about decimated all of our squash and zucchini plants at the Poplar Tent garden, but I'm so sick of those plants that I'm ok with that. We have a second planting growing in the garden behind the vineyard and those are more than fulfilling all of our needs right now. I will probably do a final planting so we can have squash into September and October. I remember at NCSU, we planted some Zucchini in the first week of September and we were eating it until the first frost in late- November!

The deer have also made a showing in our corn. Luckily, we got most of it out before they arrived. Sadly to say, we are out of corn. We've been selling Carlos Moore's corn for the past two weeks. It's done well, but we're also out of it. If you have any corn for sell, we'd love to put it at our stand!

We suspect that our grapes will sell quickly, so if you are interested in purchasing some for your own winemaking needs, please call 704-782-2117 to reserve them.

A special thanks to Lorraine Shannon for the lovely photo at the top of our page!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

so much food!


So far this summer, I've been trying to put away food for the summer. It's pretty daunting task when you spend a lot of the day in the field. But now, we're to the point where we don't have to spend endless hours in the field and a few hours every day, you'll find me freezing corn and ugly tomatoes, drying basil and peppers, or making baba ghanoush to freeze. I don't want to be cooking in the winter!



Over the past two weeks, we've added a few items to our offerings: corn and tomatillos. Since we have so much food these days, almost everything's ON SALE!!


Tomatoes: $2.00/lbs
Arugula: Let's Haggle! 
Swiss Chard (picked on demand): $2.50/lbs
Beets (picked on demand): $4.00/ bundle
Squash: $2.00/lbs
Zucchini: $2.00/lbs
Costata Romanesca: $2.00/lbs
Cucumbers: $1.00/lbs
Basil: $3.00/bundle
Parsley: $2.00/bundle
Eggplant: $2.00/lbs
                                                                       Green Beans: $2.00/lbs
                                                                       Bell Peppers: $0.25/each
                                                                                    Hot Peppers: $0.10/each
                                                                                    Squash blossoms: PYO, Let's Haggle!
                                                                                    Corn: $0.20/ear
                                                                                    Tomatillos: $2.00/lbs



After a long wait, we finally got our disk for our tractor! My dad did a great job with the field and right after he was done, we put our pumpkins in the ground. We gave them a large dose of fertilizer so that they'll be ready by mid-October. 

The Chambourcin are starting to show the color change. I think by next week, we'll be at veraison!! That means, approximately 2 months till harvest (and two months to get our equipment, build our barn, and get it permitted). We got the drawings yesterday and hopefully we'll have our permit by the end of the week. This is very exciting and very nerve-wracking. Especially with all the financial uncertainty right now, I'm especially anxious. 

The Vidal blanc are starting to show significant signs of Pierce's Disease. According to one of my professors, Vidal blanc is extremely susceptible to PD. I wish I had known that before we planted! We'll be replanting a large portion of the vineyard as it dies with Seyval blanc and Villard blanc, both varieties which are much less affected by PD. We'll be spraying the kaolin clay once more this year. We've sprayed it twice so far this year,  and so far, it has not affected the time of veraison.

pierce's disease symptoms :(


And now, for some squash recipes:

Squash, Onion & Parsley Bread

Make a biscuit mix using the following ingredients mixed in food processor until mixture resembles coarse meal.
Makes about 7 cups. Store in a cool dry place or in refrigerator.  Keeps well for 3-4 wks.

3 C unbleached wheat flour
3 C wholewheat flour
2 1/2 T baking powder
1 T salt
1 C shortening

To make bread:

3 C biscuit mix
2/3 C milk
2 eggs, beaten
1/4 C fresh snipped parsley

Add the following which has been sauteed in 1 T olive oil:

1/3 C chopped onion
1/2 C grated squash

 Heat oven to 350 degrees, Grease an 8 1/2  x 4 1/2 x2 1/2 inch loaf pan.
Stir all ingredients together quickly until smooth.Pour into pan. Dot with 2 T butter.
Bake 40-45 minutes. Cool in pan 10 min.  Remove from pan and cool on rack before slicing.
Squash Pie:

(Filling)
1c cooked, mashed, drained squash
1c sugar + more for topping
2 T butter
1 large egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp lemon extract
1/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 T flour
cinnamon

Mix together, pour into unbaked pie crust, top with cinnamon and sugar. Bake at 350 for 40-45 minutes until set and lightly browned.



Thursday, June 30, 2011

Red, White, and Blue Potatoes and Cackleberry Tuesdays

This past week has been good to our farm. Not too many weeds, not too many bugs, but lots of squash, cukes, and bell peppers. If I weren't so anxious about all the purchases we need to make, I'd have to say things have been rather relaxing! It's our second week offering Jane Henderson's organic potatoes. I'm having some for dinner (cooked with our green beans and onions). I find it very easy to over eat in the summer...

This week, we have:


Tomatoes: $2.50/lbs
Onions: $2.00/lbs
Arugula: Let's Haggle! 
Swiss Chard (picked on demand): $2.50/lbs
Beets (picked on demand): $4.00/ bundle
Squash: $2.50/lbs
Zucchini: $2.00/lbs
Costata Romanesca: $3.00/lbs
Cucumbers:$2.00/lbs, over 5lbs: $1.50
Basil: $3.00/bundle
Parsley: $2.00/bundle
Eggplant: $3.50/lbs
Green Beans: $2.00/lbs
Bell Peppers: $0.25/each
Hot Peppers: $0.10/each
Squash blossoms: PYO, Let's Haggle!

We got a great surprise this week when we went down to weed the corn- all of the weeds down there were Arugula sprouted from last year's crop! Thus, we have tons of delicious spicy baby greens which can be picked on demand! 

Also, on Tuesdays, we will be offering Butter and Cheese from Cackleberry farm. Stop by to see our selection, as it will vary from week to week. This past Tuesday, Randy, the owner dropped off some hard hoop cheese. It reminded me a lot of manchego, but might remind you of something else. You'll have to try it to find out. 

With the prolific production of squash that we've had on our hands, mother and I have become very creative. I feel like Forrest Gump when I talk about squash: squash pickles, squash casserole, squash parmesian, fried squash, stuffed squash, squash curry, squash pie and SQUASH BREAD!

The latest creation- I'll have to put the recipe up when mum and I sit down for a while together- combines our fresh parsley, onions, and squash into a delicious quick bread perfect for tomato sandwiches. We offered it to our CSA customers last week and I think I'm going to be making some and freezing it for the winter!

Well, I'd better get back to the veggie stand and my hammock. Mum get's off work at 3, so I have to be ready to take over. 
When I told my employees to tie up the garlic, I didn't know I'd get such a piece of old world charm!

 

Thursday, June 23, 2011

David Goforth's Tomatoes and the Lag Phase

This week, we are pleased to announce that our first vendor has supplied us with some lovely and delicious tomatoes! They are grown in Cabarrus County under a high tunnel. No hail damage there! Stop by the farm store (Mon-Fri 11-6pm) to pick some up.

This week, we have:
Tomatoes: $2/lbs
Onions: $2/lbs
Swiss Chard (picked on demand): $2.50/lbs
Beets (picked on demand): $4.00/ bundle
Squash: $2.50/lbs
Zucchini: $2.00/lbs
Costata Romanesca: $3.00/lbs
Cucumbers:$2.00/lbs
Basil: $3.00/bundle
Parsley: $2.00/bundle







This week's work in the garden has been minimal: Just weeding, putting out our last batch of okra, and putting out some mulch. We're still shopping for a plow and a disk harrow so we can prepare the field for our pumpkins. I hope to get that done by Friday because it's getting quite late for planting the pumpkins. 


We're entering the lag phase of the summer- the time of the season where we can relax a bit and enjoy the fact that all our plants are in the ground. Our days are filled with a little pest control and picking our vegetables. The vineyard, too, has entered a lag phase. The berries have reached their ultimate size and are preparing for veraison. The shoots have stopped growing as fast as they were before, which makes maintenance much much easier. The Japanese beetles are here, but as of yet, they have not done significant damage. I hope to put some more kaolin clay on them tomorrow if the rain will hold out. The black rot berries are beginning the harden so that in two weeks or so, we can go along and shake them off, leaving extra room for the good berries to develop. Next week, we'll probably go along and tip some of the shoots on the vines that we haven't already tipped. This is like hedging for those of you familiar with the Vertical Shoot Positioning system. Since our vines grow upside down, we have to bend over and clip the shoots by hand about 5 inches off the ground.


We're also starting to talk seriously about bird control. We're looking for examples of successful bird netting on the Geneva Double Curtain trellis, but have yet to find one. Mom and Dad have several ideas, and when we decide on one, I'll post pictures so those grapegrowers of you out there don't have to go through the experimenting stage again. 


It's summer time- the living isn't easy yet, but it most certainly is getting there!


Kaolin Clay (Surround) covered Vidal Blanc vine

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

The farm store is open!








Last Thursday, we opened up our farm store on 3450 Concord Parkway South! We've started small and are talking to several other farmers about selling their produce as well to ensure greater variety of products. If you're a farmer and are interested in having us sell your goods, please email us at thefarmatdovervineyards@gmail.com

The store will be open from 11-6 pm Monday through Friday. This week we have

Swiss Chard (picked on demand): $2.50/lbs
Kale (picked on demand): $2.50/lbs
Beets (picked on demand): $4.00/ bundle
Squash: $2.50/lbs
Zucchini: $2.00/lbs
Costata Romanesca: $3.00/lbs
Cucumbers:$2.00/lbs
Basil: $3.00/bundle
Parsley: $2.00/bundle

If you are interested in purchasing any of the following items, please stop by the store my mother and I will be glad to assist you!

We are also looking into starting an email and pickup program. If you would like for us to prepare your groceries, simply email us by 3pm at thefarmatdovervineyards@gmail.com and we will have your produce bagged up and ready for pickup at 5pm.This will be on a first come first serve basis.


In other news, we used our sprayer in the vineyard for the first time! We were spraying kaolin clay for the japanese beetles, so the whole vineyard turned white! After the second hail storm last Saturday, our Chambourcin are looking more pathetic than ever. Not only have we had a large amount of black rot, we have shredded leaves and split berries due to the two hail storms we've had this season. I don't think I ever imagined that we'd be affected so much by hail. It was a big relief to put some spray on the vines again and hopefully maintain what we have. I'm sure I'm making much more out of this than would other vineyard managers, but it is our first year of production, so I'm extra nervous.

The storms also brought a lot of wind and rain. Many of our plants (especially the corn) were blown over by the storm and had to be 'replanted.' A big shout out to my dad who went out with me for a few hours on Saturday and stood plants up with me! Thanks Dad! We also have a pretty big root rot problem in our garden behind the vineyard after three days of rain. Luckily much of this was a spring crop, so we've gotten the majority of our produce out of there already. It just brings to mind how important good drainage and organic matter are. The soil has improved so much since we started three years ago, but still, there are many low spots and puddles which are hot bed for root rot and other bacterial issues.





Finally, my family and I have been eating very well recently. We have discovered the joys of Costata Romanesca, a large heirloom zucchini. We especially enjoy it stuffed with mushrooms, cheese and breadcrumbs. I highly recommend this dish for any dinner or special occasion.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

ups and downs

These past few weeks have given the farm a roller coaster ride of joy and frustration. This is one of the reasons that I have not been a very diligent blogger. Another reason is simple laziness. But this can be overcome.

I have several new favorite tasks in the garden. One is picking Colorado potato beetles from the potatoes. Another is picking squash bugs and squash bug eggs from the squash and zucchini. I never thought I'd look forward to crushing bugs, but every time I do it, I know that I'm protecting my babies and my investments.

We haven't had a significant rain in a week and a half, but before that, we were getting a few inches a week. This was very problematic. We got an afternoon rain (and hail too) the Friday before Memorial Day. I knew that the conditions were perfect for an outbreak of black rot, however, we didn't have the right spray for the outbreak. I called Green Resource in Charlotte, and even though they were going to be closed on Monday, they still sold me the spray and even brought it out to the vineyard on Monday morning! I am very grateful to this company, because, as I suspected, after this rain, we did get an explosion of black rot. The spray couldn't heal our grapes, but it did keep us from loosing the entire crop! I can now sleep at night.

The hail storm dealt a big blow to our tomatoes and our eggplant. On Saturday morning when I went out to our field on Poplar Tent Rd, the tops of many of our tomatoes were broken off, our squash leaves were shredded, and the squash plants had gaping wholes in their leaves. Luckily, my CSA customers were out there with me and they helped to prop the tomatoes back up, break off broken shoots, and lift my spirits.

Despite the really hot temperatures and the lack of rain, our plants are doing ok. Our garden is flourishing thanks to irrigation. We have started harvesting lots of squash, cayenne peppers, and yellow (hail damaged) tomatoes! We'll be opening up our farm stand tomorrow to sell the surplus squash and swiss chard.

And even though we got a heavy dose of black rot on the grapes, according to a class I was taking at UC Davis, this year has been a good one so far for the grapes. We got a significant amount of rain during flowering (good for berry set), and then it immediately started to dry up (good for phenolic development). Our trellis, the Geneva Double Curtain, has provided the most open canopy I've ever seen. Every cluster is exposed to the right amount of sun and shade for this hot climate (for those followers of Richard Smart, we easily have 1.5 Leaf Layers without even plucking!). It is messy, however, and our Moldovan employees, don't like the look of it. They keep trying to put all the shoots together in a bunch. I have to remind them constantly that the whole point of our trellis is to open up the canopy. It's beginning to get through the awkward teenage phase and look like a proper GDC. We have yet to figure out how to put bird netting on this trellis. But we have 2 months to figure that one out.

So, baring all other natural disasters (which are, of course, expected), this year should be a great year for our grapes.

We also have bought a tractor! This is a huge deal. We've been shopping for 2 years and we finally settled on a New Holland Boomer 8n! We have also purchased a bush hog and airblast sprayer (no longer do we need 5 people for 6 hrs to spray the vineyard with burdensome backpack sprayers!). We will now be able to do things in a timely manner, not relying on scheduling others to do our tractor work for us! We just have to get some implements to plow and condition our soil so we can proceed to grow without breaking our backs!


A final joy of the past few weeks: I graduated from NCSU, the best ag school in the nation if you ask me! I'm so blessed to have been able to go there and make all the great connections that will allow me to be a well informed farmer!

and now, everyone's favourite part, the pictures!
The Grimms, our CSA customers, picking up rocks, and our late squash plants

The Poplar Tent field, tomatoes on the left, corn in the middle and squash on the right

making a herb dryer out of two plant flats

put the herb between a flat with holes and one without holes

Vidal blanc on the GDC

a GDC vineyard, Vidal on the left, Chambourcin on the right

transferring the spring garden to a late summer garden

onions!

cabbages!

pumpkins and watermelon will be here soon!

our new tractor, Little Maggie, named for my mom, who bought it for us!

A Brief Eulogy

On Wednesday, May 18th, my grandmother, one of the owners of our farm, died at age 95. No matter what I write here, I will not be able to capture the influence she has had on me or our farming operation. Even though she did not farm for a living for the majority of her life, it is because of her that I turned to farming as my own livelihood.

She was born onto a successful tobacco farm in Tabor city. Despite the fact that she was a very capable farmer, she decided that she did not want to spend her life in a tobacco field, so she pursued nursing. Throughout her life, her yard was her constant passion, and as a child, she (and my other lovely grandmother) introduced me to the fun of gardening.

As it became time for me to choose a profession in life, I considered my options. After the hectic life at Davidson College, life in a quiet, simple low country town sounded amazing. I decided that I wanted to turn my grandmother's tobacco farm into a vineyard. Upon further consideration, I decided to start my farming ventures a little closer to home. I used her property on HWY 29 to plant my first vineyard and garden. I do not know if she ever understood what I was doing with her home or her farms, but I hope she would appreciate that all the land she has given me is starting to make a little money and that her yard is looking spiffier than ever!

Monday, May 9, 2011

Babies and Biodiversity

Our new rodent control officers, Nebo and Wilmington, in the shed

Bird eggs are to be found everywhere these days

Daisies, our 'cover crop'
Chad, the macho man, spreading some straw around the new veggies

Bok choi and flowers, part of our CSA from last week

mulching the new veggies on Poplar Tent Rd

Liuba taking pride in her work
The garden and vineyard have really come alive these past few weeks with all sorts of new life. We have baby kittens in the shed, baby rabbits in the old collard patch, baby birds in the trellis posts of the vineyard, and lots of baby plants in the ground. I wish I could take pictures of all the wonders of nature, but every time I try, the photos just don't sufficiently express the beauty of the creation. One of my favourite creatures to watch is the lady bug. I brag that every one of our vines has at least one ladybug. As you can see in the photo above, we have a multitude of flowers between our rows- daisies, bachelor buttons, and bolted mustard. I am convinced that because of this, we have such a great ladybug population. We have larva, pupa, eggs, and adults. These bugs aren't only for the vineyard, but they are doing their jobs in the garden as well. The aphids are taking their toll on bok choi, but the ladybugs are starting to fight back and protect other crops as well.

This past week, we went out to the field on Poplar Tent Rd to put out the squash, zucchini, and some more eggplant. We also mulched a large portion of the garden with some old straw we got from a farm down the road. Sure, it wasn't pretty, and it had started to decompose in parts, but putting the straw down will sure make our weeding a little less this summer, along with a host of other benefits. And the best part was, it was free!!

The vines are doing ok- we are almost done with our second pass through the vineyard removing little unwanted shoots from inconvenient places. Next up will be to lay down the last shoot on the trellis wire so we establish our cordon for next year. Even after all the Lime Sulfur, Neem Oil, and Copper we've put on the vines, we still have some black rot and anthracnose. Mike and Chad went through the other day to remove some of the worst leaves on the Chambourcin (they are flowering right now!!). We sprayed the Vidal (still waiting on these to flower) on Friday, and finished just minutes before a surprise thunder shower. I hope the spray took, but nothing is certain.

I expect we'll start having our farm store open in about two weeks. The only sort of surplus we have right now is Swiss Chard, and I'm fixing to load some of that up and take it to a restaurant in Salisbury to barter for Sunday Brunch.

I still haven't figured out how to turn the photos right-side up. Please forgive me! Until. next time...

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Is it summer already?

It's getting quite hot out there. I'm not ready for the summer and I think my plants aren't either. We've had several near 90 degree days, and I'm longing for the days with highs in the 70s. Our lettuce hasn't bolted yet, but I know it's only a matter of time. We'd better enjoy those salad mixes while we can. I have spotted two bok choi  which are ready to go to seed, but the rest seem just fine.

We put some tomato, pepper, eggplant, and basil transplants in the ground yesterday out on Poplar Tent Rd. They seem to like their new home. We also planted some black beans, a few limas, and favas. Sometime later this week, we'll make our first planting of corn. Even if summer's coming early, we'll be ready.

Mike left the irrigation on two nights ago. Luckily, nothing serious happened, except we lost some radishes to splitting. I decided I would eat them. After eating the radishes, I went to play some ultimate. That was not a good idea. Radishes before strenuous activity cause discomfort. Learn from my mistake.

We had our first CSA workday last Saturday. It was really a great time. We picked up rocks, hoed a bit, and put some straw on the onions and garlic. We made a serious dent in the rock population, but I think we'll be picking up rocks for a few minutes every workday for the rest of the year (and probably the rest of my life...). If anyone's looking for some good exercise, please let me know. We're much cheaper than a gym membership.

Next week's CSA will probably (don't hold me to this) include substantial amounts of swiss chard, a bok choi (unbolted, of course), cilantro, and some salad mix. I wish I had some way to put shade over my crops. I might make a little portable shade structure to put over a few rows of this and that to see how it works.

a grapevine reaching up to heaven 
Mike picking up rocks

Liuba and Nicholae planting taters. How do I flip this photo?

Baby Radishes

no tractor, just a little tiller and a few moldovan hoes

the spring garden

a really cool (virus-infected?) collard plant


grapevines at twilight
Enjoy the photos!