Tag Archives: insulating vines

Well, I didn’t meet my goal for writing blogs in 2014, but it’s a new year with new hope and (more realistic) ambition -- one blog per month. So, here’s my January blog…

Wrapping up 2014

Goats: If you’ve been following our FB page (https://www.facebook.com/pages/Middle-Fork-Farm/540326095986621), you already know we have 21 adorable, rambunctious goat kids -- 12 girls and 9 boys. They were all born in a very busy six-day period from December 9 - 14. The does gave birth so quickly that Bruce and Rick had to convert our 4 spacious birthing stalls into 6 less spacious birthing stalls to accommodate all the new moms and kids.

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With lots of family help, Sara and I tagged, vaccinated, weighed, and photographed all the kids when they were one week old. There was lots of chasing, laughing, and squealing by humans and kids alike (and occasional barking from Snickers and Doodle while barn cats, Jewel and Larry, came by periodically to make sure we were on task). We weighed the kids again this past weekend and they are growing fast—approximately ½ lb per day!

P1070610 We decided that we should pick a naming theme for each set of kids to help us keep track of each generation (we only name the does as the bucklings will be sold). Laura was captivated last year when she studied Greek gods and goddesses (Percy Jackson helped, too), so we decided to go with a Greek theme for this year. Not all the doelings are named but so far we’ve got Hera, Hestia, Aphrodite (of course), Artemis and Demeter.

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Vines and Wines: Rick and crew were busy in the fall winterizing the vineyard. This involved two key tasks: winterizing pipes and irrigation lines and “hilling” the vines. Hilling is just what it sounds like—making hills around each vine. This protects the grafted wood from freezing. As you might imagine, this can be a very labor-intensive process if done by hand. So, in typical Rick style he researched “hillers” and designed and built—yes, built —an attachment for our tractor to make the task more efficient. Yeah, Rick!!

IMG_2554Bruce has also been hard at work making our first vintages of red wine with guidance from his mentor, Matthieu Finot, winemaker at King Family Vineyards. These will be our reds when we IMG_2621open our winery/tasting room in Spring 2016! We had lots of help from family and friends in the fall sorting and processing the grapes before they could be made into wine.

We now have four varieties of red wine ageing in barrels. From these, Bruce plans to make two pure varietal wines and one red blend wine. Three of the four varieties have been “topped off” (in lay terms, the barrels were filled with wine so there’s no room for air) and will rest for a year. The fourth barrel still has to finish its 2nd fermentation.

In late fall, we began working with architect, Susannah Marshall, on the winery/tasting room/farm store design. We’ve picked a picturesque site between the vineyard and the woods and plan to start construction in the spring.

Strawberries and Spreads: The strawberries, like the vines, have been winterized. It’s a longer IMG_8568process because they go dormant much slower than the vines and not only does the foliage have to be trimmed but the wounds from the pruning have to heal before we can put them to sleep for the winter with a cover of hay.

We hope you’ve tasted our Strawberry Balsamic, Strawberry Lavender, and Strawberry Vanilla Spreads. They are available around town at Foods of all Nations, Great Harvest Bread, Jefferson Pharmacy, Michie Tavern, Salt Artisan Market, The Inn at Monticello, and The Bakery in Farmville. We also have 9 oz. jars available at the farm, but we are sold out of Samplers (note to self—make more Samplers in 2015!).

photo 1We received approval from the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Affairs (VDACS) for our new flavors, Spicy Strawberry Spread and Ginger Lover’s Peach. They will be available through the farm and local stores in 2015. I am working on a new strawberry flavor (can’t disclose the flavor yet) and will write more after I finish experimenting with the recipe. Our farm kitchen now has VDACS approval so in the future we will make our spreads both at the farm and The Prince Edward Cannery. All of our spreads qualify for the VA Finest designation.

Last word on strawberry spreads…we are thrilled to be listed as an Edible Pick in the Artisan IMG_8569Issue (winter 2015) of Edible Blue Ridge!

A glimpse of what’s coming in 2015…

  • Prune the vines, then “de-hill” them
  • Uncover the berries
  • Plant more Merlot vines
  • Plant more strawberries
  • Wean the kids
  • Breed the yearling does
  • Start construction on the winery/tasting room/farm store
  • Open for Pick Your Own Strawberries starting late May/early June

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For all its promise and beauty, spring in Virginia is quite fickle…

Every part of the farm is alive and showing growth.  The does are enjoying their lush new pasture and the kids are just plain cute! P1050806 P1050830

Isn't she adorable?

The bulbs and flowering trees are creating new displays of color everyday. 

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The bees are making honey and the frogs are reproducing (by the millions!)

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Strawberry field #1 is packed with blossoms and field #2 has about 10,000 daughter plants!

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About the fickle part… 

The new vines are in the ground and we were starting to see bud break when a nasty cold front blew in freezing temperatures--not good for vines (strawberries are much hardier). We decided that our best preventative would be to strategically place round hay bales around the vineyard and create a smoke layer to insulate the ground (helicopters and wind machines are more effective but just a bit more costly).

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In the afternoon of Day 1, Bruce and Rick checked the wind direction and put 8 round bales in the vineyard (with the help of Snickers and Doodle), ready for lighting sometime around midnight. Unfortunately, in the process of igniting bales the truck got stuck in the mud, so it wasn't until about 2 am that they called it a night.

That just about finished off the farm's supply of old round bales so the next day we called friends and neighbors and located a large stash of really old musty bales, ours for the taking and burning—thank you, Channing!

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Again, we checked the wind and placed the bales. When we were almost done, we looked across the vineyard and noticed that we’d dropped a bale on a smoldering pile from the night before—oops! That one went up in smoke.

When Spring came to her senses and returned to central VA, we checked the vines and it looks like our big burns did some good, despite the 26F temperature-- only limited damage to the vines.

So, enough of the fickleness!  Like all farmers we want spring to bring rain (just enough), plenty of sun, and warm temperatures!

As I write this, our "just enough" rain has turned into 2" with another 2" possible--we might be needing rain boots for our goats!