Friday, April 25, 2014

The Weather and My Amazing Family and Friends

Morning Fire Sunrise

The weather has been one of the most challenging issues for farming this past year. We've seen record rain last summer, along with record snowfalls and low temperatures for the winter. How did I know that this Spring would not give us a break?

Last Wednesday and Thursday nights, we had quite a scare for frost. Our little grapes had just broken bud, and as soon as that happened, almost like weather-karma was out to get us, we saw that we'd have two nights in a row with possible temps below freezing. In the NC vineyard world, there's a legend that you're not safe from a frost until after April's full moon. And that was about right.

Two years ago, we were unprepared for the frost that we got that year. We lost about 40% of our crop to the frost. That didn't mean we could take a vacation or not tend the grapes that year. It meant we had to do all of the work associated with growing the grapes but would reap only 60% of the rewards. It's a heart-breaking situation to wake up to.

This year, we were prepared. In order to create just a bit of warmth and to create a sort of heat vortex to keep the cold temps off the vines, we needed little fires placed throughout the vineyard. We had been saving up fire wood and shredded paper for the past two years. We had a strategy, and as the temperature dropped, we fine-tuned it.

On Wednesday during the day, our employees made approximately 60 fires. Of course it down-poured on the piles of wood the afternoon before the first frost, so that first night, we had to use some high powered propane burners to get the fires started. They struggled to stay lit, and my family and I raced around putting new logs on the fires, lighting them again, and spraying them with kerosene. We started at 3:30am in the lowest part of the vineyard, the part most affected by frost. We only got about 20 fires started that night. The ground was crunchy, but the wind kept blowing throughout the night. As it dipped below freezing, we watched for signs of frost damage, but none appeared. Then we ate breakfast. Yum.

On Thursday, we rebuilt the piles of wood. That night, we started lighting the fires earlier- 2am. Around 3:30, we had some of the most wonderful volunteers come out and help us light and maintain the fires. I cannot say how grateful I am for the help of Alissa, Joel, Brian, and George. Their cheery spirits kept the Dover Family encouraged and a little less insane. They helped us get all of the fires lit and, and as the frost covered the ground and our windshields, we held our breaths and drank a beer. We had done all we could do. As the sun rose we could see that there was very little loss from the frost. A few dead shoots here and there, but for the most part we had escaped unscathed. Then, we ate breakfast again and it was delicious.

I can't express how grateful I am to my family and to these friends who helped us out at such a strange hour. They are just as crazy as I am and I love them for it. For someone who doesn't have a husband and children of her own, I really rely on my parents and friends to help out when emergencies arise. There is a reason that farms are run by families- because families are really the only ones you can count on to be there when the shit hits the fan. And you never know when or at what time of the morning that is going to happen. 

Friday, April 11, 2014

We are OPEN for business-- and the lettuce looks amazing

Baby Buttercrunch lettuces- they won't last long!

So, even after I pledged to blog more on the last post, I failed again. I just wanted to wait until we had something to share! Well, I'm almost certain that winter is over now (I don't want to jinx us), and we now have plenty of delicious produce for sale. Bud break in the vineyard is almost here, and we're about to get very busy.

First off, I'd like to share with everyone that Liuba, one of our long-time employees decided to leave us due to health reasons. We will truly miss her work ethic, her tendency to sing and dance in the field, and frequent Romanian lessons. We have learned so much from her throughout the past few years!

Also, WE HAVE A WEBSITE!! We are working on getting a better domain, but this will have to do for now:

It certainly was a challenge for this Luddite to create, however, thanks to several rainy days, soggy fields, and careful editing from friends, we finally have a finished (but ever-changing) product.

Forellenschluss, one of the lettuces in the Gourmet Salad Kit
On the veggie-front, we are now selling produce on Saturday Mornings 9-12 at the Adams Garden: 4758 Poplar Tent Rd. The weather has been a bit difficult this season, dipping fairly low a few times in the past month. We've had to work hard on the few days when the soil was cooperative, but this Spring has already been one of the most productive we've ever had (not that we've been at this for long...). Our lettuces are ready for picking and we're excited to introduce to our customers the Gourmet Salad Kit. We are cutting whole heads of our gourmet leaf lettuce and selling them bundled in groups of 4. It's like getting salad mix, but for a better value. Sure, everyone loves our salad mix, but it certainly was a time consuming product to prepare.

Also, we still have plenty of space in our 2014 CSA. We have a few versions this year, both in Charlotte and in Concord. Email us at to find out more information.

I didn't get the crimson clover planted between the vineyard rows last fall. I'm disappointed in myself. I always forget to do a lot of things in the fall, because I basically move to Mocksville to work at RayLen after we pick our grapes. Not only was the crimson clover absolutely gorgeous last year, but it was good for the bees and good for the fertility of our soil. Dad didn't have to mow the vineyard until May! We do have a few spots of crimson clover which came up from last year, but this year, we'll have to settle for mid-season white clover. If I can swing it, next year, I'll try to get the crimson clover spread between the rows of the vineyard in the Fall and then spread the white clover in the Spring so that once the crimson clover dies, the white clover will be there ready to take over. Mowing between the rows is a constant job in the summer and if there's anything we can do to lessen that job, the happier we are. Sure, dad loves to mow, but sometimes, the 4 acres gets a little too much for a 70 year old man. Regardless, we are excited for this year. Hopefully we'll have some white grapes for winemaking this year. Fingers crossed for no more sub-0 temperatures!!!!!

1) We are planning a Spring Open House for either late May or early June. No decisions yet.
2) PLAZA MIDWOOD FARMER'S MARKET! We'll be there the first Saturday in May: May 3 from 10-1pm. Can't wait to see all our Charlotte customers and friends!