Monday, December 29, 2008

Pruning Lot 11

this past weekend, gerald taught me how to prune and train the two year old vidal vines in lot 11 to the cordon wire. its the best type of work possible: its both physically and mentally engaging—each vine is quite different, so the work is never quite routine—and when you are done, you can look down a row and say, "i did that!" plus, the vines look clean, sharp, and autere and the rows have a feel of discipline to them.

the work was not the easiest of work, tho. i was very conscious of my lack of experience and was worried i would make a wrong cut or break a cordon. gerald is a gracious teacher—very patient, always ready to stop work to answer a question or to weigh in on a choice i was about to make. it had to be hard, since it took him away from work himself. pruning the vidal went a bit like this:
  1. assess the vine structure and determine which of the possible cordons you will keep. you only need two.
  2. trim back the cordon vine, snipping where the vine's diameter is the thickness of a pencil and right before an unwanted bud. this gives the last bud that you do want a fighting chance and also tells you if that cordon is alive. which you want to determine before you brutally snip off all of the remaining, unwanted cordons.
  3. strip the vine of the extraneous shoots, leaving the straightest cordon, possible.
  4. train the cordon to suck it up and grow as upright as possible. we do this by straightening the cordons and then securing them to a bamboo pole that is secured to the cordon wire.
  5. cross the cordons across each other, making as small of a V as possible. that's tricky. the cordons didnt often want to be trained in the given direction. they were stiff from being dormant and they are thick. one needed to have a firm, but gentle hand in shaping the cordons to the wire. i followed gerald's lead very closely. sometimes i wasnt sucessful or too fearful and he would have to come back and rework the vine a little bit. it became better as it went on.
  6. review the vine and admire it. snip off any old dead growth that was missed and move on to the next vine.
as we pruned, gerald pointed out the pruning at the bottom of the hill where uncle pete (ec pete) was working. uncle pete had remarked to him that while the work wasnt hard, physical labor, the thought and the shaping does where him out. by the end of the day, i knew exactly what uncle pete was talking about.

i know gerald was happy to have us out in the field with him. i love to work with him in the vineyard, especially in lot 11. its a big, sweeping field, with big sweeping work. we were able to prune 2 and 2/3 rows of the vidal, working from 10am til 4:30. this was the longest period of time i've been able to work in the field. ger was gunning for 3 rows, but boy2 is still small and rather tender. the boys are good sports, always, working and playing next to us, attempting to build tree houses by themselves, playing with each other and napping in the truck cab. but done is done. sunday, gerald worked in the wine room, racking the 08's and making me taste very green wine while i struggled to find just the right typeface for the port of leonardtown winery.

the best part of saturday was talking to gerald—planning and dreaming and laughing and teasing with each other. and then gerald took us out to arizona pizza for dinner and that was the best part—eating and relaxing with the family. and then we went home and that was the best part—gerald laughing at me in the all pink flannel pyjammies the boys bought me for christmas...with the bonus headband.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Wine Fest Great Fun for All
way back in october, gerald volunteered to participate in wine-making demos for Wine Fest, held at the Sotterly Plantation. the link above tells you all about it, plus ger is featured in several of the photos in the accompanying slide show at the end of the article. he is a handsome guy, that one.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Postcard from the Sabbatical

we're a little too sick, a little too tired to check up on this, but we believe half-way through the harvest and on into november, the little blog machine postings sputter stops until sometime in december. this break is a little longer than previous years (all two), but we are still all about the vineyard and producing wine.

ger is working the wine, getting a jump on the pruning, and is preparing for the great april planting—tentatively called rootstock'09. i'm polishing the port of leonardtown winery logo, discovered the joys of twittering, and recently finished my ethics class. boys1&2 are doing great—learning to read, playing the trumpet, making gingerbreadhaus, finishing football, and PLAYING Wii!

merry christmas and happy holidays to all! ger and i raise a glass of prosecco to you all.

i hope you are all blessed in your lives as we are with ours. visit soon!

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Sangiovese 2007

While shopping for Thanksgiving this year, I came across a Virginia Sangiovese 2007 from Afton Mountain Vineyards. A 2007 release? Already? Could it be?
Having recently sampled our own 2007 and finding it happily fruity and delicious but still maybe a bit young(?), I had to get this bottle to compare our own against something of commercial quality.
There was immediate anticipation of the match-up: Two wines, same grape, same Mid-Atlantic region (them west of Charlottesville in the Blue Ridge, and us South of Washington close to the Chesapeake Bay), same year.
So it was we popped the Afton Mountain Sangiovese cork over Thanksgiving dinner...and...

There is something in both of these wines that someone tasting blind could, possibly, draw a conclusion that they are borne from one in same grape variety. I also think there is a distinct difference between these and their Tuscan counterparts. Both MA wines have strong red fruit flavor of cherries. Yes, that's a hallmark of Italian Sang, but all the IS I've sampled always hinted at cherries. These MA Sangs actually, well, sang out "cherry". I'm sure in Italy the wines do the same, but I'd guess they keep those wines for themselves and the stuff that makes it across the pond is merely a semblance of the original, like making a copy of a copy of a copy: All the basic information is there for sure, but the elegance and clean lines are gone, lost in the translation from original to copy to copy-of-the-copy.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008


i've got plenty to blog, with over 1,600 pounds of seyval/vidal/viognier/marsanne/sangiovese harvested, processed and stomped. we had plenty of people helping with the harvest and stomp. i have plenty of images and stories—but i'm procrastinating. its that time of year and i always dork posting harvest. i'll get to it. meanwhile, enjoy my phrase-stylings on twitter. yes, i will get to it!

this weekend, we harvest touriga and tinte cao. looking for stompers!

Saturday, September 13, 2008

No Harvest this Weekend

EC Pete tested the vidal this past wednesday and due to the cooler weather and rain, the harvest has been put off until next weekend. ger is thinking that next weekend will be a large harvest of several varieties and wants us to be there. this weekend we are smushing in time for my family, as all my family is born in the month of september. ec pete and ger's dad will pick up the slack in our absence and next week, everyone will be down--including wc pete, who is flying back in to help out with the harvest.

next weekend, i will create another widgenie widget that tracks our red varietal brix levels. we started last week, but i don't have the stats with me. stay tuned!

Saturday, September 06, 2008


hanna canceled boy1's football game, but gerald will keep his plan to travel to the vineyard and continue with the brix testing, ph testing, and inspect the vineyard to make sure all is well. i'll call him tomorrow and get the brix in order to update the widget.

i'm keeping my plan to give the boys a bit more variety in their weekend diet of farm, farm, farm. we're staying home, out of the weather, near their friends, and later we will experiment with the homemade cheese kit we purchased from the New England Cheesemaking Supply Company — mozzarella cheese in 30 minutes! (i'm hoping it will be easy and tasty enough so that i can work my way through's cheese making web pages!) i stopped making our own bread due to the heat of summer, but i think i might crank up a batch so that we can make our own pizza tonight. too bad i went with a flower garden this year instead of my usual tomato patch, or we could competely imitate barbara kingsolver for one night!

Monday, September 01, 2008

2008 Seyval Harvest

Despite the 8/10 an inch of rain the night before, gerald tested the brix of the seyval, munched a few grapes and announced that the seyval harvest was on. so gerald&i, dad byrne, and uncle pete gathered in the proofing vineyard early on saturday and harvested the seyval blanc. the weather was overcast, cool, but humid. everyone was ready to harvest quickly and process the grapes back to pete&lyrel's farmhouse. our hoped-for lugs did not come through, but we had our buckets from the previous year and with 2 previous harvests under our belts, felt comfortable that we would be able to harvest without issue.

three quarters into harvesting 361 pounds of delicious white grapes and we realized we did not have enough containers. the boys decided to send me to the hardware store with boy1&2 for more containers. half way to the store and my surprise visitors—my mom and dad—called to tell me they had arrived. for boy2, this was especially funny: "your mom and dad? your mom and dad will be at the farm? mimi? grandpa? but why would they be at the farm?" it tickles the 5 year old when the world does not operate on its usual spin cycle. upon seeing their mimi and grandpa, the boys wanted to show the farm off and so ger's dad was then dispatched to the hardware store.

we gave a tour of the proofing vineyard, the treehouse in progress (and the desperate need for a zip line from the treehouse to the tobacco barn), lot 11 and the second year vines, the christmas trees their daddy planted when he was a boy, and the pawpaw patch. after the tour, we walked back up the big hill, met up with the harvest crew and headed back to pete&lyrel's house for grape processing.

this harvest was a little unusual. if you look at the sea of seyval berries in the photo above, you will see tiny, hard little grape berries among the clusters of seyval. gerald speculates these hard green little grape berries are the product of the unusually wet and extremely hot weather during bloom. uncle pete wonders if it isn't part of how the varietal grows—but at any rate, ger decided that what we were calling the "little green bebes" must not enter the crush. so the hand processing of the grapes included the removal of the offending immature grape berries. and there were many immature grape berries to be removed.

here is the 2008 sevyal processing gang. harvest was over by 10am. we started the processing shortly after and did not finish until after 4pm. we sorted the grapes, but found that there were so many immature green grapes, that it largely became a huge hand destemming operation. luckily, the back porch is wide, cool, and catches nice breezes. all sorted and destemmed grapes went into the big grey crush tub, newly purchased for this harvest. 361 pounds would take forever to crush in the small, crush diva stainless steel tub. the white trash bags in the grey tub contained bags of ice to keep the berries and juice chilled. after the sort and partial destemming, i jumped into the tub and started the stomp. i stomped and stomped. we realized that all the berries wouldn't be crushed in the large tub—there was too much room for the berries to escape underfoot. ger scooped out juice, berries and pomace, strained out the juice and sent me stomping the remaining pomace/berry mixture. i think we finished the crush about 7pm. by then i was stickier than i had ever been. i had crushed by foot and by hand. at one point, i considered crushing by just rolling in the tub. i was tired. so much for the goddess of stomp! ger and his dad started the pressing after i had crushed enough berries. i got dinner going about 7pm, but they didn't finish until after 8 with the press and processing of the juice.

throughout the day, the largest part of the conversation centered around enthusiasm for the port of leonardtown winery, the need for larger capacity equipment, and the need for a larger labor pool. heh. it loomed large in our minds.

the boys and i do not make up a full time, dedicated worker the likes of gerald, pete, uncle pete or dad byrne. we will also engaged elsewhere for the season, so i would like to extend a personal invitation to all friends of the farm—no matter their age or ability—to help my husband and his family get through this awkward, middle stage of growth. there is plenty of work for all. if you are a local friend of the farm family, its probably best to contact bernard byrne in order to coordinate labor.

posting, such as it has been for this year, will likely become more sporadic, as well, but keep checking in. thanks to all. its been fun.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Seyval Harvest this upcoming weekend!

The brix levels are in and gerald says we will harvest the seyval next week!

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Prepare to be Zazzled.

another blog not about the vineyard? what's going on? football season has started and practice coincided with the august southern maryland wine growers cooperative meeting. momma&theboys stayed at home and gerald covered the meeting and vineyard work. unfortunately, no brix measurements this week. maybe next week.

but take a look at this!
i know! so before you ask, what is that?, i'm going to tell you. these are women's mini-slip on keds and custom notecards. i opened a account and, using the french oak barrel photo, created a custom designed shoe. and then for good measure, i created a notecard using the french oak barrel, as well. if you would like to see the ourvineyard product line, visit:

There, you will see the custom products i made today. check in every once in a while. boy1 and i have some cool ideas. maybe you'll find something you like!

Thursday, August 14, 2008

What's up with the Widgets?

have you noticed the widget on the left? its a widget that will track the brix of our grape varietals as we progress weekly through to harvest. i made it in widgenie, a widget maker that creates animated charts from an excel spreadsheet. its simple and easy to use. the best part is that you can grab the widget code and embed it into your own social media. whenever i update the widget, your embedded widget will update, as well. so feel free to grab it and share with friends. widgenie recognized our blog's use of their product in their latest email.

you'll also notice that you can now subscribe to an RSS feed of the blog. and if you like, i also offer a widget blog feed that's quite pretty. i made that one in spring widget—that's where i found the RSS feed of Mike Steinberger/Slate Wine Articles. Mike writes really well and i enjoy all of his articles. spring widget is easy to use and i recommend using it and sproutbuilder, another widget maker.

feel free to share!

Sunday, August 10, 2008


veraison is well underway

Veraison started a little over two weekends ago in the proofing vineyard. the seyval is well underway, as it is our early grape. they are delicious! those boys can grow some lush seyval. the rest of the grapes are turning their colors, but taste of tannin and green peppers, so boy1 and i concentrate our attention to the seyval until ger shooes us out. the sevyal tastes tartly of apple and cinnamon. its a great treat to eat a grape berry you know is ripe and warm in the late morning sun. but we do this all in the name of developing a sense for when the grape is ripe, of course.

the weather is unseasonably cool and crisp, so much more like september than august. where are our dog days? ger is happy for both the cool weather and veraison, which signals the vines to STOP WITH THE VINE AND LEAF GROWING and concentrate on the fruit ripening. from here on out leaf canopy management should be easier. after we put up the netting last saturday (a whole other post) we woke up the next morning and culled the grape clusters. for a layperson like me, it looks wasteful. that's alot of grapes in that cart. we do add them to the compost, but culling is necessary. we want to concentrate on producing the best grape berries and so by cutting the third cluster (ger was at times, more aggressive) of every lateral shoot, the vine then concentrates on ripening the remaining clusters, producing a sweeter harvest. gerald is also pretty happy with the cool weather, which he says will slow the ripening and produce a more complex flavored grape.

wc pete returned back to washington this past week. the leaf canopy is still quaking from the heavy hand of his unmerciful rule. i'll post about the netting, next.

this weekend, we have begun testing the brix level of our grapes.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Home Port

ger's christmas present gets put to good use.

Ger has determined that his small french oak barrel will be used in our first attempt to create port-like wine. to the left you see the barrel being prepped. the barrel was dry, so the first step was to fill the barrel with the cold, 10,000 year old water (thanks, pete and lyrel!) from the aqueduct under charlotte hall. the water swelled the wood together to give it a tight fit. the water was emptied and the barrel plugged until the ingredients were mixed.

ger and wc pete mixed 100g or tartaric acid, 5.625lb of cane sugar, 7 liters of 40 proof brandy into a blend of our '07 harvest. our blend consisted of 3 gal. touriga, 1 gal. tinta cao, 1 gal morvedre, and our big dog: 3 gal. sangiovese. they then topped the barrel off with another .5 gal of our mourvedre. since the port will be aged in his barrel, we expect the colour will oxidize to tawny and hope the wine will take on a soft, nutty flavor. all of this happened in late june/early july, but i've been waiting for my summer grad class, information management, to finish so i could post without guilt. about a week or two later, gerald drew a sample from the barrel and a sample from a small, control bottle that wont be oaked. we all could taste the difference that oak brings to the wine. and i'm with lyrel's opinion that what wine is offered in American markets is often heavy on the oak. but for the port, i liked both oaked and non oaked. the oak seemed to smooth out the wine and gave it a spiced sort of taste. to this simple tongue, it tasted like it was on its way and ger and i traded that "hee, this is so cool" grins.

now it is a patient wait. ger estimates it might take the port 3 years to mature in the oak. he's looking into that part. me, i look forward to being back at the townie and enjoying our own fortified dessert wine on those crisp, cool, late fall evenings. we'll pore a small bit into a glass after we've had a bit to eat and settle into conversation—maybe we'll even be able to sit in our backyard and admire the colours of the sycamores and watch nature prepare the lake for the winter.

i feel cooler already.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Long Hot Summer

WC Pete is in town and he's working hard in the vineyards. canopy management, working the lateral shoots and more. the family has joined him for the summer, so we have plenty of kid power and playmates for boys1&2—for which they are grateful. the days are long, hot and humid, although this year has, on the whole, been cooler and wetter than the previous years. ger has been in the wine room working the whites and reds. i'm pretty happy to report that the wine from last season's harvest is coming along tastily!

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Taming New Frontiers

hazy early morning in what we refer to as lot 11, the vidal vineyard, or the east vineyard

Our frontier acre of vidal is looking a bit more tame—a sort of civilization of shoots is growing from the lunar landscape of the previous year. the frequent rain we have been receiving has been a blessing in making sure the tender vines make it through their first year, so we haven't had to worry about getting water up the big hill. its been a pretty wet season so far.

compounding the lack of blog posts has been our heavy scheduling of graduations, boy2's birthday, maryland vineyard field days/girl1's birthday, momma's summer grad class [information management!], and boy1 fracturing his toe in two places. our precious vineyard hours on the weekend have been getting chewed up from bleed over of our weekday life. west coast pete has arrived just in time to get the leaf canopy management under control.

here is the last image i have of work i've been able to contribute to the vineyard. right after the several weekend of weekday bleed overs, boy1 fractured his toe and was unable to go to the vineyard. yes, those are plastic ties. remember when i was part of the bamboo stake pounding brigade? now the vines are starting their disciplined life of training to stakes, wires, and trellising. i walked the vidal vineyard, twisting the plastic ties around the bamboo stakes and the first cordon wire.

that day gerald worked in the vineyard with me, reviewing the health of the leaves and training the tender shoots to the bamboo stakes with plastic tape. the plastic tape is gentle to the vines—it doesn't cut or tear into the vine—but holds them firmly to the stake so they have good support as they clamber up to the sky. boy2 and i will be happy to have boy1 able to be back in the vineyard again. boy2 will have his playmate again, and i will be able to participate in the vineyard more fully. right now, i've been limited to taking images and doing an occasional walk-thru. but its also been great hanging with the boys outside the vineyard, working on my coursework, and catching up on old hobbies.

Friday, June 06, 2008

Love is in the Air!

connie's post
spring is here, and with it comes the desire for procreation. even the ladybugs are getting into the act. hope you are in love this spring, too.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Paw Paws!

connie's post:
I can't tell you how happy i was to discover the young paw paw trees in the tall tree clearing. the clearing is a small circle of empty space and sits at the base of the far field and ends at a dry creek bed. it is nice to walk into, as the shade from the tall trees makes the little alcove cool and inviting.

paw paw trees are small, under canopy trees. in the early fall, they bear fruit that tastes like banana pudding. that is, if you can manage to get to the fruit before the squirrels do! i have been searching for a stash of paw paw trees for a while, so it was exciting to discover a patch right at the farm!

i was introduced to paw paws by my paternal grandpa. i remember when i was a little girl, we went on a little hike up the small hills next to the big river, where my grandparents had retired. my grandpa pulled a paw paw off the tree and with his pocket knife, sliced open the fruit. he must have known about the stash, since he pulled a teaspoon out of his flannel shirt pocket and scooped the fruit out for us to taste. by then, i was used to foraging for blackberries, persimmons, and walnuts—but i still remember the utter delight in discovering something so delicious to eat in the forest. it was like a little treasure.

i look forward to introducing the boys to paw paws. they were not initially enthused about persimmons and the pucker power unripe persimmons have. i do think they will enjoy the paw paws better.

bon appetit!

Wednesday, May 14, 2008


Raley has oats sown in the fields this Spring. They're growing up tall and green and lovely. The vineyard season is in full swing now. Buds began to break early April during a warm spell. There was one night that came close to 32 degrees, and that was all we've seen of old man winter since. The weeds threatened to get ahead of us, but judicious control measures have put them in check and have allowed us to concentrate on the vines. Current focus is on shoot thinning: our pruning efforts this past winter were informed by a year's experience and it shows. We have many more shoots on each vine this year, and can now go through the vineyard picking just the right density for the season. Once we have the vines down to 4-6 shoots per foot of cordon we'll begin the task of positioning each shoot to grow straight by taping it to the lowest catch wire, which is located about eight inched above the cordon wire.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

100th Post! New Vineyard Planting

yes! we are still here. i won't make my excuses, as you already know: grad school final project, strep throat (me and boy2), life, life and more life. here is a link to my final project wiki: Collaborative Nonprofits. i recommend using wikispaces for any project. i'm a total convert.

back to the vineyard.

it was a typical blustery april day, threatening to burst into tears or sunshine at any moment. uncle pete, gerald, a friend of the farm, had spent the morning digging holes with the auger and preparing to plant. ger then prepared the rootstock for the planting session. he poured this clear mixture of something and water into painter buckets. it had gruel-like consistency and it protectively coated the rootstock to keep them from drying out. uncle pete and fof (friend of farm) started planting the vines and ger picked up the boys and i from the farmhouse, where i had been working on my final project. we headed out to the proofing, east and west vineyard with the rootstock in buckets and planted 225 vidal, viognier, and nebbiolo vines. i wish i didn't have a no child photo policy, as boy 1&2 found a mud puddle and the ensuing mayhem was captured digitally. the boys ended up wearing the entire puddle and the men wished i had been their mother, as they said they were not allowed to get so muddy growing up. which i dont believe for a moment. i didn't mind it as long as the shoes were off. muddy shoes are the worst. but the boys were satisfied.

we filled in the holes from viognier vines that didn't make it in the west field. we planted nebbiolo in the place of the shiraz, which had suffered crown gall. ger and fof loaded the hand auger into the back of uncle pete's truck and we headed east, to lot 11. once there, uncle pete drove the truck with the hand auger back and forth and wherever there was a dead vine, they would stop, pull out the hand auger and drill a hole. i followed behind, planting the vines as i went.

there was some back and forth between the three men as to how to break it to me that my planting skills were lacking. something about fear, or not wanting to make me mad, or what, but i have no idea where they would get that idea from my general sweet and demure disposition. uncle pete, being a military man or having drawn the short straw, was sent to negotiate a truce for a battle that never happened, and once i was given a refresher in proper planting, i went about fishing among men again. the day was long, but nice. that hand auger is heavy, i can attest. i helped ger drill several of the last holes and it was hard on the shoulder i dorked up earlier in the year. i made a mental note to get into the doctor and more importantly, start working out again. the farm work has always been easier when i'm used to physical labor.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

A Bouquet for Lyrel

Mimi's irises make their debut at the farmhouse's wet spot out back

Lyrel, so that you may enjoy this post, I will capitalize where necessary and be on my best behavior. Promise. I'm sending you a virtual bouquet (see left) as spring has burst all over your farmhouse in the form of Mimi's daffodils, snowdrops, vinca and irises. Its quite lovely—a postcard that says, "Wish you were here," in yellow, creme, white and lavender. Boy2 and I couldn't resist them and took a cue from a house brownie that had left several bouquets for us to enjoy the week before. The weather at the farmhouse was chilly enough for a fire, but sunny enough that we both could scamper about, searching for the best blooms to cut. Don't worry, I taught him to be a good steward of blooms and we cut a couple from each mound, oo-ing and ah-ing as we went along. Mimi had planted many different varieties I had often admired in the catalogs and its so nice to see them all about the grounds. I then cut some of the tigergrass for greenery and you have a very pretty bush that has the most tiny little white blossoms all along their long stems—they became sweet accents for the bouquet. I don't know if you can see them, they are delicate little things. We carefully arranged them in a parfait glass and then took the bouquet's picture against Aunt Judy's painting in your dining room. Then we had to flee, as they were unexpectedly aromatic and Momma couldn't take it. Hope you enjoy it as much as we. Ps. Your rosemary made it through the winter!

Sunday, March 16, 2008


Where have we been? its been a month without a post. is nothing happening at the shoestring vineyard?

of course not. plenty of things have been happening outside. pruning, for instance, is finished.

well, that's certainly blog worthy. where are the pics? where is gerald's commentary?

in the camera and in gerald's head, respectively. west coast pete was out for a week, and ger, west coast and east coast pete pruned; modified two rows from a vertical shoot position trellising to a lyre trellising system, and attended the annual maryland grape growers conference. ger said that was a good meeting. they stopped and saw uncle charlie (never seen in this blog) on the way back. ger has planned and started construction on the bay build out. the cleared site has been cleaned of sticks n' bits and has been seeded with rape seed to help with the erosion.

so they have done quite a bit. why can't we see what's going on? where are the tales of minutia you spill when you have nothing else to report? oh, and the farm diary. we havent seen posts of that for at least six months.

yeh. ive been thinking about that farm diary. i need start transcribing again. as far as the other stuff, as soon as the camera cord and i can find each other again, i'll at least post the slides. tales of the ordinary and other minutiae will have to wait. sadly, our townie is in need of repairs and maintenance, and i am now committed to seeing that it happens. we had our first family weekend without the farm since we went to disney two years ago. it was short, but felt good.

so thats where you've been?

yeh. home. just saying home gives me that happy, hopeful feeling. ger and i hope everyone is blessed to have a home falling around their heads as they pursue many, many adventures, as my family does. and thanks for asking and the interest. i'll catch up again with you soon.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Dreaming of Very Vine Things

a man can dream, can't he?

connie's post:
Here, ger gets dreamy over the cleared fields possibilities. He's taken soil samples. He's walked the field, counting each step in order to calculate a rough estimate of the field length. He looks at how the sun travels across the field. and he thinks. and plans. and dreams.

but there are considerations to be made. here you see where the other side of the vidal acre meets up with another hill, forming a very shallow hallow. hillsides are great for cool air drainage. this hollow has a disadvantage. at the edge of the cleared field is a road that cuts across the farm land. the road dips a little to one side, the cleared side. water run off is causing erosion and is making ger and brother pete think about the implications. ger is considering planting the area with vines, as the hollow slopes down. he thinks the vines on the high side along the road might do okay. he's thinking of what variety(ies) he might try, but first needs to get an actual measurement of the field to know how many vines he can fit into the field. within the next two weekends we are going to plant that area with rape seed as a cover and hope for a good snow.

Sunday, February 10, 2008


i find my first arrowhead, ever!

connie's post
Boy2 had his trusty shovel and toolbox at the base of the vidal acre, and was playing where many of the cleared trees are being turned into firewood. i, his faithful momma, kept an eye on him while i tried to make myself useful in what area the boy roamed. that meant plugging some of the holes under the small critter fencing, created by water erosion from some rain storms we had earlier. as i was gathering the rocks and a few remmants of the vidal fence posts, i kept scanning the ground as you can find some pretty cool things. like this lichen bit, here at the beginning of this paragraph. just really graphic looking.

and then i see it!

an arrowhead, made from white quartz!

i never find arrowheads!

now i'm that nine year old tomboy in moccasins and pigtails, i'm so excited. weeee! i show boy2, who is equally excited, but who wants to hold it and put it in his pocket. uh-uh. i don' think so. i found it. (totally regressing) i show it to ger's dad and he says i should look around for more—usually you find more than one. eventually, i find something else in white quartz that looks like it might be something a small scrapper like thing, but then again, it could be just an oddly broken, flat white quartz. i bet the erosion uncovered the arrowhead. finally i give up and try to help dad chop firewood, but its just more or less dad taking a break while he watches me flail away—doing a real hatchet job (heh) on the helpless log—until he takes pity on the axe and takes it back.

i take the arrowhead out of my pocket and rub my thumb over its meticulously chipped edges. and i look up and think of stealthy indians crouching among the tall trees, tracking the deer through a foggy day a long, long time ago. if i was that tomboy in moccasins and pigtails, i would have given the arrowhead to my favorite boy. i think of my favorite boy, pruning vines in the proofing vineyard with his uncle. i gather up boy2 and we walk up the path to his daddy.

Saturday, February 09, 2008


blackberry shoots spring out of the compacted earth

connie's post:

Its a warm february and life is thrown off by the confusing hot and cold signals nature is blowing our way. while the new vidal vines are doing their best to hit the snooze button and ignore the warmth, we have new plants growing to fill the tall tree vacuum from the previous year. most of them look like weeds and a few look toxic (check out those mushrooms!)—no doubt some are—but as the adage goes, a weed is just a plant in the wrong spot. above you see the start of a promising blackberry bush and there are many more of them. i'm planning to transplant them this march, down at the bottom of the hill to take advantage of the water run off. i like walking through the vidal acre, pausing and looking at the new plants, and it would be great to have a plant field guide to identify them all. i also have plans to resurrect the growing trays at home in order to get a head start on growing lavendar plants. i'd like to see how they would fare along the deer and small critter fencing. i think that's the thing with february. one gets antsy for green of any sort and then all of the sudden, you are growing mesclun in window trays. well, ok. that's me. i really dig having a southern exposure kitchen.

the post installation project in the vidal acre has been completed and the geometry of the posts in the field always makes me think of environmental art. while the proofing vineyard is cozy and intimate, the vidal acre in its infancy seems freakishly frontier-ish. it's wide expanse of dirt, sprouts, and tall fence postings and it reminds me of my childhood driving family vacations out west. the silliness of scale is only enhanced by the field being hemmed in by the surround acres of tall trees.

currently, we are in the middle of pruning our vines and that will be the subject matter for my next post. we have a much, much, larger job than previous years and we are learning quite a bit as we go.

Monday, January 28, 2008

The Talk Tall Trees Make

the exposed tall trees by the vidal acre.

Connie's Post

Often gerald will comment on how he feels the vineyard talking to him as he tends to it—he's referring to the high hum of the wind over the cordon wires, but i suspect he hears other natural conversations as well. and no, i don't think its odd, since i've experienced it as well—the sound of birds and wildlife telling you what time of year it is or the demi-roar of the wind as it whips over the fields of corn like wind on a sea.

i heard a new conversation on sunday, as gerald measured the fallow acre with his feet. the tall trees along the vidal acre were once supported by many other tall trees until last winter, when large sums of money took down a large portion of the wooded area. the tall trees that now stand at the edge are a bit cranky, being exposed as they are. the wind rushes over the hills and bends the tall trees heads together and they grunt and squeak their dissatisfaction at their new exposure while the supporting side trees murmur their sympathies. as i walked up the hill to my husband, i gave them a nod and a rueful shrug—sorry, but knowing what was done is done.

i hope they will grow stronger.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Doors are Done.

Dad and Uncle Pete (East Coast Pete) in front of the new doors

Connie's Post:

The machine shed bay two doors were completed the weekend of 21 jan, so consider this post from the way back machine. remember when mike and his crew came down to the farm and poured the floor? that bay. as you can see, the wise guys are pretty proud of their handiwork.

momma&theboys visited her momma&dad over the three day MLK weekend, so now you know what ger does for fun when by himself. i know, i worry about him, too—but really, he only had two days of fun instead of our three. ger reports this picture is the ending of a very long project that stretched across bits of time during the fall and was undertaken by custom door wizards, dad (BB) and uncle charlie (CC, not pictured)

to create very large, very custom bay doors, the two wizards first put up three horizontal boards across the bay. then they bolted vertical boards to the horizontal boards and attached diagonal boards on the inside to maintain the integrity of the doors. they sawed the one VERY LARGE DOOR in half, vertically. then they hinged the outside of the door edges and viola! custom doors. since the two doors were once one door, they had some trouble as the designed doors were a snug fit and ended up overlapping (just a tad) each other, the top and the bottom of the bay. the doors wouldn't close all the way. so at this point, ger, dad, uncle pete took the doors off their hinges, cut a half an inch off of the top, bottom and where the doors meet to finish the project off. then they rehung the doors to a perfect fit and to the relief of all.

we are looking forward to additional dry storage of our equipment and gear!

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Podcast Review: The Wine Scout

Connie's Post:

The winescout targets wine/foodie people who like to do those weekend festivals and tour wineries. i'll admit, i have a soft spot for a shoestring start-up, so when i came across wine scout and found they are a (relatively) local enterprise in glen allen, va, i gave a quick woohoo and subscribed immediately. the wine scout has an interesting premise: people can sign up their favorite wine event—possibly even special guest host their own podcast—and the wine scout then covers and posts the event.

the podcasts on itunes and in their site's catalog are audio, but if you visit their site:, you can see a featured video of fredericksburg, TX. the podcasts are older—the last podcast is from the summer of 07—but on their site, they also have more current blog posts, so i consider it still active. i like having wine scout as part of my winecast mix as the podcasts are more relaxed and cut on the fly, not as slickly produced as a few of the other podcasts i've reviewed. wow. note to wine casters everywhere: the world has enough bottles being popped or glasses clicking together as a start or finish to a podcast. resist. resist.

winescout currently covers east coast wineries and events and that's a rare thing in podcast land. i listen to winescout to hear about wineries from a consumer perspective and hear how the featured winery presents their brand, their culture and their products.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

previously, on what was once a vineyard blog—but now more like an endless review of the content on my ipod—i reviewed crushpad's crushnetTV podcasting. and while i am so in love with everything crushnet, i was disappointed that the content was not compatible with my ipod classic. i still enjoy watching it online, but there is nothing like content to go. so, i shot them a quick email, thinking i'd just alert them. here is their prompt, proactive reply:
On Jan 17, 2008 8:11 PM, Alan Baker <> wrote:
Hi Connie.
We figured out our problem but there is not an easy fix since we have to create new versions and post them. WE can do that easy enough but it means that everybody who has signed up for the feed will have to download all the new versions or they won't load...

I'm working on it though, and your feed should start synching to your ipod soon. I just need to figure out how to wrangle things in a way to cause the least hassle for you and other subscribers.

Thanks again for the heads up.

Alan Baker

so stay tuned and rest comfortable, knowing alan is diligently working the issue.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Winecast Review: Wine Spectator Videocast

Connie's Post:
I subscribe to my blogs through itunes, so the wine spectator icon will take you there but you really need to visit Wine Spectator Online as the website will completely spoil you. these vodcasts offer slick, professional produced bite (sip?) size information about a wide range of wine topics. between crushpad and wine spectator, i am learning at a rapid pace. wine spectator online has organized their videos by region, editor's tastings, wine people, learn wine, food pairing, dining & travel and special reports—so anyone can dig deep into their favorite subject or skim along all the subjects easily. wine spectator is pretty seductive for all its professionalism and the vodcasts allows me to gather information from all these wine experts and safely roll my eyes when they drop other experts names that they have studied under to establish their own credibility. and really to be fair, that also protects me and the wine professional from my own dorky questions and newbie attitude—so its a win-win all around!

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Birthday Weekend

Connie's Post
January had a bitter bite as i grew up in mighty MO. Zone 5 without global warming and nothing to stop the winds sweeping off the prairies will do that to a winter month. i remember short days of white, grey and black and pressing my nose against the window, sad to see the ice that kept birthday parties with relatives to a rarity. Nowadays, january is unexpectantly warm in maryland (zone 7 and a high of 50°) and birthdays are more pleasant. before we headed down to the farm on friday, we had a momma's birthday, special edition of backwards night. backwards night is subversive element we made up when there was just boy1, and is a revered treat for boy1&2. its very simple. we go to the mall and eat an ice cream cone with sprinkles FIRST (gasp!) then ride the indoors carousel one or two times and then eat dinner. whoa! blows your mind, eh? dessert first? decadent!

i was in the mood for decadence, though, and the best part was when we had dinner at saigon cafe (pho or grilled pork?) and the boys sang to me happy birthday together. that was the best. when we arrived at the farm house, it was still cold, but ger quickly made a fire and it put us right to sleep.

today we all went to the vineyard and while gerald made plans and measurements to finish the tool shed room walls, i walked the vidal eastern vineyard to see how the sleeping vines were faring. i remember walking the vineyard the year before and thinking of what a lunar landscape we had made in taking out the big trees and burning the debris. it looks a bit different now. the vines are sleeping well and for every yellow flag there is now a post, awaiting the cordon wiring for the vines to scamper up. vegetation is growing between the vine rows, all sorts of odd plants i need to look up and some grass as well. there are blackberry shoots struggling out of the compacted earth, with purplish sticker canes and leaves. they will have to be taken care of, as they are growing in the wrong spot, but they got me to thinking. i bet at the bottom of the vineyard hill, along the deer fence, i could put in several blackberry vines. they would be situated just right to take advantage of the water run-off and they would have the benefit of full sun and being inside of a fenced off area (muha-ha). so im going to look into that further, in mid-march, when it is best to transplant them.

after gerald and boy1 finished their preparations for the tool shed room, they joined me and boy2 in the vidal vineyard and we put in the remaining posts and removed the big rocks we dug up. ger and boy1 are now back in the vineyard, working while boy2 and i remain at the farmhouse. i'm working on a logo for a friend. later on, we will have champagne and ice cream cake. heh. i've waited my whole life for a birthday like this. thanks.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Vineyard and Wine Podcast

Connie's Post:
It was the Christmas that the adults jumped up and down in glee and wonderment at their gifts and the children opened their mouths and stared at us. to be sure, the kids got great gifts, but this year, the adults received their secret hearts' desire. gerald bought me the ipod classic (wooohooo!) and swears it is as bad as the day we got wireless internet. it reminds me of dr. seuss' oh the places you'll go! book. the world is completely in the palm of my hand. i'm even starting to break gerald's resistance to the pod culture with all the cool content i'm churning up. when i first started looking into podcasting i thought the audio cast would be plenty fine. TURNS OUT I'M WRONG!! well, don't get me wrong, i still really appreciate the audio only casts of long lectures (itunesU!) or (learn spanish in 20 minute increments!)—perfect for the workday commute. but when i have downtime and can watch as well as listen, i'm all over the videocasts. i'm subscribing to tons of podcasts and as i go along, i'll let you know what i think of each.

Crushnet TV — Inside Wine Making. crushpad, the ultimate mashup between web, a brick and mortar site, vineyards and wine—think of it as wine 2.0.— brings us this truly great subscription with plenty of west coast-oriented vineyard interviews and wine making action. this weekend, ger and i watched the pruning 101 and pruning vines at eaglepoint ranch march 12 2007 episodes. it made us wistful, as our vineyard as been put to bed and lies dormant. crushnet TV takes the viewer to the vineyard, explains the process of preparing, growing and harvesting the perfect grape. then they go to crushpad, located in san francisco, and show what it takes to turn those perfect grapes into perfect wine. is a great enterprise—they provide wine enthusiasts a great education and practice in making wine at a fraction of the cost—so that anyone (most of us) that can't afford a vineyard and winery can still participate in a very satisfying and meaningful way within the wine industry. crushpad isnt just for those seeking a vanity bottling to give during the holidays. wine businesses using crushpad commerce are receiving significant attention. here is a few postings from the crushpad commerce page:

Commerce News

Wine Spectator Awards 92 Points to 2004 Jean Edwards Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon Stagecoach Vineyard
"Intense and vibrant, with wild berry, raspberry and black cherry fruit that's vivid, rich and concentrated without being heavy or dense. Drink now through 2012. 300 cases made. —J.L."

Dain Wine Scores 92 Points
Crushpad is excited to announce that Dain Wines Brosseau Pinot Noir received 92 points from Robert Parker at a recent wine evaluation.

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Belated Resolution

gerald gets his first wine barrel for christmas!
photo from

Connie's Post:
January, 2008. a happy new year to all checking in and all those who keep faithful tabs on the vineyard blog. gerald has been faithfully posting as he can in between work, the vineyard, the boys and the townie. i have to say, fiscal management and freelance absconded with any precious minutes i might have had to record the latest updates of the vineyard. it had been a rough ride. now, with an A in fiscal management and closing down my freelance business, i'm resolving to blog continuous all throughout 2008—this means harvest, crush and fermentation.

this year, i was able to gift gerald a recoopered french oak 10 gallon wine barrel from it was hard to tell who was more excited, gerald or me. it was extremely difficult to keep the barrel a secret. i had it delivered to the townie and luckily the boys&i arrived home earlier than gerald. it was comedy and chaos as we pulled up to the townie. my parents had just come up for a visit, boy1&2 were talking on my cell phone to their dad on his way home and i tore up the stairs, trying to lug the box up the three flights of stairs to the loft closet before gerald made it home. we lost my cell phone in the process and haven't been able to find it since. gerald is excited—he has been making wine without oak, as he wanted to get a baseline of what the grapes themselves had to express without it. He's thinking that this upcoming year is the year to try the additional layer of complexity that oak barrels add to the wine process. This upcoming year will be a big year, as we expect we will have enough proofing grapes to contribute to the Port of Leonardtown Winery, as we are members of the Southern Maryland Winegrowers Cooperative. stay tuned, our little vineyard is growing gang-busters!

gerald was able to get to the farm over the holidays with the girl, who hadn't been up since we practiced moving the big rusty tank into the vineyard. they built a spray boom, which i haven't seen yet, but on the tow behind the sprayer there will be a boom with two sprayer nozzles on each side. gerald will be finishing that up soon, in time for spring. on the shoestring vineyard, the largest portion of winter is preparation for the upcoming season.

this weekend, the whole family was here, but it ended up a bit raw for momma and boy 2. gerald has been reviewing the farm log from 2007. last year at this time, we had a heat wave of 72°F on January 6th. fortunately, it is not that warm this year—today's high is 43° F. but as i mentioned, there was a bite to the wind that made boy2 and momma long for the farm house, fire, and wireless internet. while boy2 and i stoked the fired, watched power ranger episodes on utube and researched kaizen events, boy1 and his dad made progress on the second bay, getting the wallboards up. they worked well with each other.

we will spend the night, tonight, and head back to attend the open house gerald's dad holds at the beginning of the year.