January 2, 2009
The low winter sun casts long shadows from our vineyard
posts and bare trees. Surrounded by these foreboding sundials, we
are reminded that the time to plan our building project has passed
and the time to implement those plans is upon us. Emails and phone
calls are made today to rally our team - architect, septic designer
and all designated contractors.
January 5, 2009
Five stacks of deeply grooved panels, both arched
and straight, occupy the garage so our vehicles are enduring the
snow and ice. We have purchased a building system of steel panels
to create a self-supporting rounded roof with 9-foot walls. Very
excited about this system. The freespan roof allows for an efficient
floorplan with flexibility for second floor expansion. Vents were
omitted from the original shipment but we cleared this up today.
January 12, 2009
Final adjustments on blueprints are being made with
the architect for our building permit. Complications of a commercial
septic system and late electrical bids have prompted us to seek
a permit with no utilities that would allow us to erect a weather-tight
shell. We do however want to be sure that a septic solution is on
the horizon before we enter into "Phase 1" of construction. A meeting
this past week with the septic designer was encouraging.
January 16, 2009
A permit was issued today from the county highway
department for a commercial drive. Our approved proposal is to utilize
our current long driveway by adding a pull-off area between the
road and the winery. This creates space for exiting cars to defer
to new arrivals but retains all the country charm of our winding
January 29, 2009
A persistent snow cover for several weeks has made
feeding the birds a serious endeavor. We've added a new feeder received
as a Christmas gift. It has a smaller platform and the larger birds
seem unable to stand on it so we'll try it as a millet feeder targeted
at the smaller birds. A chunky "trail mix" will go in the other
feeder that is more suited to the larger birds. Regular customers
are cardinals, juncos, tree sparrows, nuthatches, red-bellied woodpeckers,
blue jays, gold finches, red finches, doves, and english sparrows.
A 10" snow last week has the rabbits scrambling for food. I left
out some cabbage and carrots near their tracked paths.
February 5, 2009
No takers on the rabbit food - they have gnawed the
bark on my dogwood tree instead! The larger birds are learning to
sit on the small feeder now and the smaller birds stand their ground
at the chunky mix feeder. The doves and juncos are happy to eat
what falls to the snowy surface. I am amazed at the wisdom and resilience
in such tiny little bodies.
February 11, 2009
The news is all about the government's economic stimulus
package. I am looking at some old advice concerning the government
- written way back in the book of Deuteronomy. It was the concept
of releasing people from their debts at the end of every seven years.
Now wouldn't that stimulate the economy?
February 16, 2009
Pruning was started today. Vines are still plenty
dormant but temperatures are in the 40s where it is pleasant to
be out for a good length of time. My cold fingers need some dexterity
to tie knots in the support straps in addition to working the pruners.
This first pruning will focus on stubbing up the runaway canes that
create tangles in the neighboring vines. All canes will be reduced
to 8 or 10 buds until we are nearer the end of frost threats.
March 5, 2009
The state construction design release was issued on
February 24th. We combined this with the highway permit and the
architects drawings for submission to the Hamilton County Plan Commission,
seeking a local building permit. Our initial meeting today went
March 20, 2009
The Concord pruning was finished on the 6th followed
by the LaCrescent pruning wrapped up today. This photo shows the
pile of cuttings awaiting the flame. A dormant spray of fungicide
was applied on a tolerant and mature portion of the vineyard. We're
having a few really warm days (74 degrees 3/7) but we're averaging
where we should be in the 50s.
March 29, 2009
Low of 28 degrees. Wow, these swings in the temperatures
are a little scary. Really hate to go below freezing after we've
had some days in the 70s. Our late pruning strategy delays the opening
of the most crucial buds and should keep our vines as safe as possible
from late frosts.
March 31, 2009
Good news today! Our county building permit was issued.
It includes an electric panel but no plumbing so the planned concrete
floor (containing pipes, drains and electric radiant heat) will
be on our next permit. We look forward to getting up the building
shell this year and especially having the metal materials out of
April 3, 2009
Met today with the block supplier and the block mason
who will install block ends to our metal arch shell. We have high
hopes for this new composite product that offers insulating value
to the end walls. We especially like the rustic textures of the
block to be enjoyed from both inside and out.
April 16, 2009
Received final septic plans by mail, giving us the
confidence of having a viable septic solution although we'll keep
it in our back pocket for now. Time to order some items we will
need soon - like a garage door, entrance doors and an exhaust fan.
where the blacktop ends
April 21, 2009
Big day! Officially broke ground by digging trenches
for the footer today. Out of film, so I borrowed our neighbor's
digital at the last minute to capture the event!
Later this evening, we made a presentation to the
Zoning Board seeking a variance to retain our stone parking area
rather than installing a paved surface. We used the lyrics to a
Keith Urban song, "where the blacktop ends," to help explain
our sentimentality. They were gracious in extending us this favor
and we are thrilled to keep this rural element in the atmosphere
we are creating for the winery!
April 27, 2009
A hint of pastel color appears across the vineyard
as the vines begin to leaf out. The popping Concord buds are tinged
in pink and LaCrescents are bright green. Diligent fungicide sprays
will begin now that foliage is present. A second pass of pruning
will take the previously shortened canes down to a one-bud spur.
May 8, 2009
We received lots of rain into our open trenches that
needed to be pumped. The footers and "underground beams" were poured
on May 4th with the use of a pumper truck despite a little dampness
on the south side. Sill beams were formed with 2x10s this week and
poured today. The crew worked hard moving wheel barrow loads to
the east wall.
May 9, 2009
Due to the profile of the metal sill plates, the anchor
bolts could not be wet set in the concrete beams. Brian and I will
undertake the unbudgeted tasks of drilling holes, installing bolts
and setting the sill plates before the walls can be erected.
May 18, 2009
We had frost last night. The air drainage kept it
low to the ground and did not appear to damage any of the mature
vine's developing shoots. Our 1-year olds (planted last year) are
still close to the ground and may be affected.
May 25, 2009
LaCrescent vines are blooming! What looks like clusters
of baby grapes are only tiny closed flowers that open for pollination.
The petals and unpollinated portions fall later like snowflakes
on the bare ground. Since the LaCrescent vines bloomed first, this
tells me that I should prune them first next year as they seem to
progress faster than the Concords.
June 2, 2009
All pruning was finished today including the 1-year-olds.
Normally they would be trimmed to one low bud in hopes of it pushing
to the top wire that season. I decided to hold them back another
year to allow their base to thicken up. Three varieties of new vines
were all in this situation though the Nortons are somewhat stronger.
I retained 4 to 6 of the lower buds allowing them to create low
bushes again this year and gain some vigor.
June 4, 2009
The anchor bolts and plates are all in place and look
amazingly nice. One course of blocks has been installed across the
end wall and pea gravel was brought in to create our work-in-progress
floor. Today an attempt was made at raising the steel arches. It
became quickly clear that this is a job for a large and experienced
crew. We are shocked that the manufacturer led us to believe it
was a do-it-yourself project!
one set of footprints
June 17, 2009
The steel walls are up! No crew was available
having experience with this brand of material, but a crew was found
by our block mason that had the right equipment and enough enthusiasm
to get the job done! Their first day at work was June 8th. Later
that same evening our friend James passed away. Do you have times
in your life when two very important and unrelated events insist
on occupying the same day on your calendar? This past week truly
tested my limits with trying to QC the building and handle our friend's
final matters. It was one of those times when there was only one
set of footprints in the sand.
June 30, 2009
The black raspberries began to ripen on the
20th with the robust canes promising a good year. I have picked
4 times over the last 10 days and gathered a freezer full of fabulous
berries. They make nice additions to fruit salads and rich gritty
cobblers! Of course the lucky ones get blended with grape wine!
July 3, 2009
Cluster thinning took several weeks for Concords
and today concluded the LaCrescents. Reducing the number of forming
grape clusters is especially important for the LaCrescents this
year since their arms are young and not able to hold much weight.
The Concords could have been left to produce a bigger harvest but
with no alcohol permit in sight we need to limit our wine production.
July 7, 2009
Received approval of our signage today. We had hoped
to be open this fall but won't have the required elements in place
by then. Since our sign permit was expiring we decided to install
the sign at the end of the driveway anyway and used the words "coming
soon" in place of the store hours. This will build some awareness
in the community and keep us from having to pay the permit fee over
July 9, 2009
A stretch of dry weather requires a watering
of the plume grass we temporarily moved from our building site.
Our youngest vines enjoy a human-assisted drink of water as well.
I hate to spray when things are possibly heat stressed but the Japanese
beetles are having their yearly family reunion.
July 18, 2009
Speaking of family reunions, we hosted the Harger
side of the family today with 33 in attendance. Blessed with a freakishly
cool July day, we enjoyed catching up with the family, playing cards
and eating some of the best pitch-in food in the whole world! Our
construction site wasn't pretty but provided some local color. Thanks
Donna Lu for organizing a fun time.
July 26, 2009
It has been determined that five young Norton
vines have not survived so we transplanted the same number that
had coincidently been living in the nursery as extras. Not the best
time to transplant as they will have to be kept watered through
the heat. They should catch up with the others next spring if they
can get settled this season.
July 29, 2009
This evening was the annual "Taste of Indiana"
banquet held at the State Fairgrounds. It's an event that promotes
all types of Indiana food producers as well as Indiana wineries.
Endless samplings of meats, cheeses, fruits, veggies and wine can
keep you busy for hours. The event also reveals results from the
year's International Indy Wine Competition. We were pleased to learn
both of our entries medaled. A dry Concord from 2007, titled Long
Hot Summer, won our first silver and our sweet Brambleberry took
July 30, 2009
Progress continues on the building after delivery
of blocks on the 10th. We are pleased with the rustic texture of
the materials and the warm creamy color, hoping it will add some
charm to our steely structure. Custom-crafted I-beams are being
made for lintels.
August 6, 2009
Time to remove suckers from the vines where
they may appear. Large shoots from the bases of Concords confirm
the vines have lots of unused vigor and are capable of more production
than they are pruned for. Some lower buds on LaCrescent trunks try
to coax the vinedresser towards a fan arrangement to which she says
"no" - snip, snip!
August 11, 2009
We've been witnessing large clouds of bees
moving like a slow tornado from the back to the front of the property.
They seem to travel back and forth between two places. There is
a hive of bees massed on the ground just southeast of the new building.
Brian discovered them when he cleaned out the mower blades and just
about put his head in the bundle of bees. A storm on August 4th
blew several limbs down and there is a large limb in the front yard
that also has some swarming bees. We deduce that their nest was
in or near this break and that now they are just confused.
August 13, 2009
Received our lintels today and they were put in place
by the block crew. The required vertical rebar in the wall system
has been a big challenge. A friend helped greatly with some timely
tack welding. Hurray for Steve!
August 15, 2009
We contacted an enthusiastic beekeeper who brought
a box as a new home for the hive. He estimated about 2000 bees in
the mound on the ground. He was able to spot the queen but the rest
seem to be all workers - no scouts or drones. The box was placed
upside down over the group. It's amazing how close we were to the
bees. They truly had their own agenda and couldn't care less about
us watching them.
August 17, 2009
Bees seem to be entering and exiting the box
easily through the blades of grass along the bottom opening. There
is a log in the front yard that still was attracting many bees,
so we carried it, bees and all, and placed it near the new hive
box. The bees slowly but surely migrated from the log to the box.
August 21, 2009
The beekeeper came back for his box today. We
had moved 3 "logfulls" of bees to the box and felt pretty good about
getting as many back with their family as possible. The bees from
the ground had moved to a vertical wall of the box but had not gathered
any pollen for food like the beekeeper hoped. He was positive about
merging them with another small group over time to create a strong-numbered
hive. We are thankful for his help and wish them all the best!
August 22, 2009
The LaCrescent grapes seemed to make a quick jump
to ripeness (27 Brix) so we scrambled a team of harvesters to gather
our first crop from this group of vines. Half of the LaCrescent
vineyard is 4 years old. The other half is only in its third season.
We noticed surprisingly little difference in the two sections as
we gathered long suntanned clusters all across the rows. Grapes
on lower branches receiving less direct sun stayed to the green
side on their skins but were eventually decided to be just as ripe.
Much fruit was left behind as darkness and tank capacity approached.
This was also our first experience with pressing grapes. Using the
same crusher as in the past, we added the processes of pressing
and composting of skins to the day's chores. The crushpad crew did
an excellent job of implementing these changes. Big thanks to all
the faithful helpers who shared their time and efforts with us!
August 29, 2009
Class Reunion of NHS. How great it was to see
all those familiar faces! Even found some fellow grape growers and
alcohol producers in the room. Noblesville has changed drastically
since high school but I am thankful for the small town atmosphere
we had growing up.
September 5, 2009
Concords were harvested today. We picked at
only 14 Brix to test some advice in avoiding grassy flavors in this
variety. Prior harvests were at 21 and 18. This batch will require
a substantial sugar addition to reach proper alcohol level. Lots
of good help showed up again! Our moms provided a nice lunch for
the hard-working crew.
September 25, 2009
You know you're having a stretch of dry weather
when you bother to write down "1/10th" on the calendar noting the
day's allotment of rain. (6/10" Sun; 1/10" Thurs; 6/10"
Fri.) We've kept the youngest vines watered during this time. There
are lots of holes in that area of the vineyard where coyotes dig
for mice. An ill-placed mouse hole can rob a vine from a good soaking.
I'm not sure what is worse - the mice or the coyotes.
September 28, 2009
Working down our "To Do" list, it's time to
work on the driveway expansion. We rented a sod cutter this weekend
to remove the grass and several inches of soil from the pull-off
area along the drive. We also removed the grass from the center
of the loop near the garage that will become the parking area. Several
prompt deliveries of stone finished the job up neatly.
October 1, 2009
This evening I had dinner with a friend and
former co-worker. She and her family hailed from France and made
their abode here seven years, sharing their wine enthusiasm with
us. Soon they are returning to Europe and we talked of someday visiting
over there! Maryline and Yves, we wish you and your family all the
best! Au revoir - 'til we meet again!
October 17, 2009
There's nothing like a hard deadline to force some
things done and setting a date for a party is pretty motivating.
In the last few weeks we've done site clean-up, installed new fence,
and bottled some odd batches of test wine in preparation for having
a few friends over. The evening was shockingly cold but we still
enjoyed a great turnout. We appreciated the festive decorating of
our tent provided by Jim and Debbie. They also got stuck with some
of the cleanup!
October 23, 2009
Do the rain clouds know when we have an open
trench? We received 2" of rain right after our electrician began
his part of the project. An electric panel inside the building will
make future work much easier.
November 2, 2009
The turning leaves in the vineyard tell us their
year is over. We need to be wrapping up the exterior of our building
before the good weather is completely gone. The photo below shows
the completed block walls. Today we installed front doors in the
November 14, 2009
Bottling Concord 2008. The rule for our bottling
parties requires all volunteers to "continually sample"
the wine for quality control. We may have to reconsider this policy
after someone fell and got a few stitches in their head. I won't
name any names. Okay, it was Brian. Thanks to all who helped with
the day's events!
November 24, 2009
The two entrance doors, front and back, look
great with their weather-gray paint and recycled wood trim. Rough-sawn
2 x 8 boards were ordered from a sawmill and add a deep rustic frame.
We used a sandy chink mix from our log home supplier as caulk between
the wood trim and the block wall.
lots of sleepy buds
December 1, 2009
Walked through the vineyard these past few
days tying up sagging cordons that could be damaged by winter ice
and winds. Happy to see lots of sleepy buds waiting for next spring!
December 7, 2009
We said we wanted doors on before the snow flies.
Today was our first snow of the season and just two days ago we
had covered the garage door opening with plywood. So I feel good
that things are closed up but disappointed that our garage door
issue is not resolved. We had planned to use a vertical lift for
the door to avoid tracks overhead in our processing area. For many
reasons we changed this plan and returned the door we had purchased.
We hope now to have doors that swing out but they didn't materialized
in time for winter. All in all, we are very pleased with the progress
this year and thankful for the "roadblocks" that have helped us
make better decisions. We look forward to what this next year holds!
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