Farming Fun with Jerk Deer
Kimberly and I are now in our fourth year of farming and 7th year of winemaking. It seems like a short seven years ago that we decided to move from Washington, DC to Southern Oregon to pursue our dreams of starting a winery. Located in the beautiful Rogue Valley our Ashland, Oregon winery and vineyard are majestic.
Fortunately, winemaking has gone significantly better than farming. Mostly because Kimberly is in charge of winemaking, and neither of us seems to be in charge of farming. Five years ago, we cleared the land, brought in a truckload of manure, ripped and remediated it (basically, just added organic matter to the soil after lots of testing), installed trellising and irrigation, then finally planted our new baby vines. It was going to be fantastic. Our beautiful fruit would make amazing wine! I researched autonomous tractors and sprayers, Kimberly researched electric tractors. We were going to nail this!
Year one went well. The deer fence was installed. The kids shoveled manure; character was developed. Check. Certainly, this work would result in less whining from the kids about basic chores in the future. Fail! Kids still whine … about everything! I can hear it now "Butt Daaaaad - why do I have to put away MY plate?" I reply quickly "My name is not 'butt Daaaad', simply, 'Dad' is fine, and at least you aren't shoveling manure." Ok, back to year one. Oh, and the nursery only sent us 2/3rds of our grapevine order.
Year two – other folks told us we needed to water 1.5 hours using 1 Gallon Per Hour drip emitters three days per week. Fail. The right amount turned out to be more like 3 - 4 hours, 3 -4 days per week if you don’t want the drought-resistant vines to drop dead. Especially in extreme drought when you only have much of a watering season.
Year three – this is the year we would nail it. 5000-gallon storage tank ordered and installed. A spray program was implemented with our new backpack sprayer. The new vines arrived and were planted. But it turns out you need to order water for the tank (delivered by truck) 2 weeks BEFORE you need it. Who knew? There isn't even a mobile app or option on task rabbit for this. Also, they only accept checks...
So, with extreme drought, our poor vines' growth was stunted even more. BUT - good news in year three is that we did get some fruit! We were going to have a full 5 gallon bucket of grapes to blend in as of the end of August. Then, the stupid deer got over the fence somehow and ate them all. Stupid jerk deer! #resistmeandeer
Year four – since I am an eternal optimist – this year is it. It is going to be epic. The water was ordered, filled, and vine watering started early and often. Check. I replaced the sprayer that leaked sulfur all over my leg last year (yes I smelled like a stink bomb for a week but that doesn't keep the stupid jerk deer away) … new sprayer works flawlessly. The vines are growing and look great. Next up – add a wire around the whole property or buy a dog to chase away the stupid jerk deer. As long as I get that done by fall, we are good. Oh, Kimberly just reminded me that we need to get some bird netting – I am sure Walmart has what we need, so no need to plan for that!
The good news is that our Syrah is our best seller and is fantastic. So go ahead and order some and revel in our misery as you enjoy a great bottle of wine...someday it may even have some of our fruit in it. For now, it comes from farmers who know what they are doing!