A vineyard, like any farm, has its own rhythms. Most of those are tied into the seasons. Or into the County authorities who mandate certain work be completed seasonally. In our part of Sonoma County the climate is technically “semi-arid” — which means, in a good year, we have torrential rains starting in November, lasting through about February or March, then a long dry season with no more moisture than what remnants of coastal fog can reach here. That means the County authorities are all about erosion control and getting all earth-disturbing type work finished and mitigated long before any serious rains start. It also means, if you are planting native plants, this is the time you put them in the ground. If you get them safely planted on the cusp of the rainy season and Mother Nature gives them a good few months soaking, they will survive and thrive without irrigation into the dry season. In the run up before the rainy season we have a lot of work and a lot of deadlines — the County’s, our own and Mother Nature’s. Things have been moving at a blistering pace. And it feels as if, this year, we are on top of everything in record time.
I say “we” as if I’m actually doing much of this. Luckily, I have an excellent crew doing the heavy lifting. But I do put together a job list. I take pictures. And I blog. So I play my role.
Therefore, let me give you a sense of what has been accomplished around here in a few short weeks.
1. Pasture reclamation in final stages. One of the few areas of this 40 acres we call Two Terrier Ranch that has ever been developed is the flat area we are reclaiming as a pasture. It must have had livestock in it at one point, judging by the amount of old buried barbed wire we’ve pulled out. But mostly it was raped. One of the former owners cut down a lot of the trees and sold them as firewood and scraped off most of the topsoil and sold that. Over the past few years we’ve pulled out rocks, barbed wire, glass and garbage. We’ve eradicated invasive plants and reseeded with native grasses. We’ve created irrigation channels to mitigate some bad grading that was done years ago that was creating soupy conditions at the lowest parts during rainy season. This year, with some final sensitive grading, we are finally seeing the results of that work.
2. Complete olive tree and selected oak “tree-age”. I told you about that work here. We’re looking forward next year to a bumper crop of olives and the return of Two Terrier Olive Oil.
3. Seasonal creek prepped and ready for action. We have a lovely seasonal creek. It’s barely a trickle in dry season, but it’s a raging torrent once the rains start. You wouldn’t believe how much maintenance it takes to keep it healthy. Any large rocks or trees that fall into it can divert the water to the point where areas of the bank get eroded. My ranch team has been out there clearing brush and pulling fallen logs out of the way of the soon to be on-coming water. Mother Nature, let ‘er rip. We’re ready.
4. Lake Charles retrofitted. Because we love waterfalls so much, we built one that would run all year. We call it Lake Charles after our dearly departed Founding Terrier and Terrier Emeritus (he’s buried above the waterfall). Putting it in was like opening a waterhole on the Serengheti. It quickly became the focus for all kinds of wildlife as, in dry season, it was one of the few places they could find a drink. Sadly, Lake Charles had fallen on some hard times. Not any more. Our ace team, in the last few months, retrofitted the pump and filter, cleared out some of the brush and planted more bird, butterfly and bee friendly plants.
5. And loads more. Jeez, there were also tons of vehicle and equipment maintenance jobs and some great landscaping projects. And brush removal and so much more. It’s amazing the number of projects my ace crew has blasted through in a short time. I felt positively embarrassed poaching one of the guys to help me prepare for Fall planting in my garden — which I’d let run frighteningly to seed.
He also didn’t realize that he would be expected to hack through jungle to liberate 20 pound mystery squashes. Yes, again, I’ve been duped by dodgy vegetable seed sellers and had weird vegetables spring up that look nothing like what was pictured on the seed package.
Luckily, some of the Hispanic guys working on the house construction above the garden gamely took a few of these. I told them it was homework. They had to bring them home, cook them, eat them, and give me the recipe and a full report. They were all vouching for their wives and convincing me these gals could make culinary masterpieces out of these things. I’ll pass that info along as I get it.
Oh, there has been so much more going on here. I better hold back since I’m committed to NaBloPoMo — National Blog Posting Month — where I’m supposed to write a blog post a day for the month of November. I could clearly fill up the month just blogging about the projects that have been tackled and checked off the list.
But I can’t resist talking about this one.
6. Cowboying it up! Ranch Manager Louis is very safety conscious and has been urging me to let him build a bunker for all the gas, diesel, oil and other flammables we have around here. Since most of our outbuildings have been constructed of 100 year old reclaimed wood in the middle of tinder dry oak and sagebrush forest, he has a point. The County and best practices dictate that such materials should be stored away from buildings in a concrete or metal container, so, if they do catch on fire, they don’t burn down thousands of acres of Sonoma. We are all about best practices, but we don’t like concrete.
Stay tuned for more. That whirring sound you hear from the direction of Sonoma? That’s the sound of shit getting done, my friend. It’s the sound of shit getting done.