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. 


  1. That's just tough luck. Good thing you’ve learned from the past experience and was able to prepare this time. And thanks to the whole family’s effort, you guys were able to cover everything much faster. Hopefully it was enough to protect your buds from the frost.

    Darren Lanphere @ Mirr Ranch Group