February / March
We set out even more grapes and fruit trees this year. Then came the annual task of pruning thousands of vines and trees. All of this work must be done at very specific times during dormancy. With the number of plants that must be pruned at our 2 orchard locations, that means we have to be out in the orchard and vineyard everyday- rain or shine, snow or ice! The orchard in bloom is a wondrous sight.
All of the fruit trees arrived and are in the ground. We added several acres of new fruit trees. Most of the grapes are here, but we are still waiting on one last shipment. The trees and vines had to be specially ordered from various nurseries all over the country to get them grafted to our specifications. Most of them had to be ordered a year in advance! We have been busy getting these in the ground, staked, and setting up the drippers for each plant. In the pictures below, you can see our brand new little grapes and trees versus the 6 and 7 year old plants that we already had. The older ones are still in dormancy right now, but bud break is just around the corner. I also included pictures of some of our blackberries. Our 6 year old plants should be loaded with berries this year, if Mother Nature doesn't throw another April 24th freeze at us like last year. We also set out almost 200 new cuttings last year obtained from a friend who has a huge blackberry operation in East Texas. You can also see how the wheat is really taking off. Our wheat fields will be completely solid green in just a couple of weeks.
The fence is completed and construction continues on the last of the grape trellis systems. We have been busy with other things as well, such as getting the new pump house ready for the possible snow storm and a new set of puppies to play with. Our ten month old little boy loves helping daddy and gramps work on irrigation.
The water line is laid, in-line posts are up for the grapes, and work has begun on the fence to keep the deer and hogs out. Don't worry, there are still wooded areas on our farm for the deer.... we just don't want them to have a grape and peach diet. At one time we had three doziers working yesterday, so things were getting done fast! I will try to get some more pictures of the work they have done, but it is hard to keep up with everyone.
In 2007, we created a 2.5 acre test plot to grow dozens of grape and fruit tree varieties in an effort to determine the best varieties to grow here in our climate and soil. We have now expanded by setting out several more acres of grapes and fruit trees to our "home" farm. There is a lot that goes into this, from fencing to keep the animals out, to plumbing for irrigation, and trellis construction to help support the grapes as they grow.
The irrigation system is being installed at the new plant site. Posts have been put in the ground to mark the ends of the new grape rows and the trellis system will be going up soon. Fencing materials are here and the crew will start building the high fence over the next couple weeks to keep the deer and hogs out of our new vineyard and orchard areas. We are saving all the large trees to keep our private and secluded setting.
Here's what is happening on the farm:
We just completed all of our roads: entry, exit, and leading to "The Woods" wedding location. The parking lot is also complete. "The Woods" area is now finished the ground has been prepared so that wedding guests can walk around easily. Everything is coming along smoothly. The pavilion will be started soon and that will be a rather large project!
It has been almost 6 months since we planted all the new grape vines and fruit trees. Look at how much they have grown in such a short time! ..... and during a rough drought for us. We are way behind on rain this year. Each time it rains in this area, it seems like we end up in a little pocket that misses out...Isn't that what everyone says?
Our older grapes are just about ready to harvest. We have several varieties and the first one is usually ready to pick around the beginning of August. The grapes in the pictures above will look like these below in a couple of years. It is amazing how fast they can grow when planted in the right soil, under the right conditions, and with proper management.
What a beautiful fall morning..... we could not help but try to capture the fog on the orchard today. However, the pictures don't do it justice.