Monthly Archives: August 2009

Tilling and Discing our Plot of Paradise

d8The Cat D8 weighing 55,000 pounds finally arrived on Thursday. Having never had land tilled, I was amazed at how easily the the large tines went into the ground and turned over the soil. Matt made 3 passes on the land….vertical/horizontal/diagonal. He started at around 2 feet and then by the end was down a full 4 feet on most of the land. In the areas over the septic we only went down 2 feet as we didn’t want to ruin our system…..not a good idea. The idea of tilling is to mix in the 27 tons of amendments we put on a field a few weeks ago and also to mix the topsoil with the sand and clay that is below. We are trying to get the pH of the soil to around 6.5 that is ideal for grapes. Most of the amendments were lime and gypsum which will do this for us. In addition, 4 feet of soft soil is ideal for our roots to grow. We could have gone deeper, but the pH of the soil in the 5-6 foot range was very low, so we did not want this for the grapes.

grading landIt might be hard to tell from the picture, but after tilling we still had very large clods of dirt. On Friday (and a little this coming Monday) we disced the land. This breaks up the clods and smooths out the land. I can’t believe how fine the dirt is now, especially since just a few days ago I had to use my jack hammer to dig down and find the septic system.

Tilling the land, false start

D8 tiresHad a little false start on tilling the land. After waiting for 2 1/2 weeks for the D8, our unfriendly neighbor decided that she would not let us use “her” road and also did not approve of our vineyard and would not allow us to start. So……after having this woman yell for 45 minutes we sent the truck away. It will be back on Wednesday with a sheriff to allow it on our land. What fun, but we did learn a lot about Sonoma County. It is a Right to Farm County… as long as you follow the right rules and get the right permits, you are free to farm your land. Also, all private roads are not alike. In order to be truly private you have to enforce rules….like limiting access which is not the case here. Lastly, apparently this neighbor did this before to the folks who built the house we now own 13 years ago. After some lawyer bills, she backed down and they were allowed to build.

So, will see how much fun we have when the tractor shows up again….can’t wait.


amendments by truckWell, after waiting all week for the trucks to arrive, they showed up Saturday morning. We had 3 truck loads come and spread all of our amendments that were pre-mixed on the ground. It made quite a mess from the lime that was spread to the very dry topsoil. Next week the soil will be tilled to mix the amendments to a depth of four feet. This will raise the pH of the soil from 5.6 to around 6.5….a sweet spot for grapes.

Here is what we added to the 1.3 acres:

Mined lime 10 tons
Gypsum 5 tons
Compost 15 cubic yards
Calcium phosphate 2 tons
Potash 1 ton

amendments 2

Finding the Septic

original septic findingIn order to prepare the land, we are adding amendments and tilling them into the soil. On the side of the house is our septic system. For the bulk of the parcel we will till to 4 feet. Over the septic I had to find how low it was buried so we would not hit it and set the tines correctly on the tractor. I started by using a shovel, but this time of year the clay in the soil makes digging almost impossible… I remembered I had a jack hammer that I used at the last house for digging holes in clay. Made the task a lot easier, but still a lot of hard work. I found the septic about 3 feet down.

Viticulture Classes

In order to grow grapes and make wine, you need to know a little about the business. I have not done this for many years but I’m going back to school (if I get signed up in the next few days). Santa Rosa Junior College has a Viticulture Program that is excellent. Many of the classes are out in the field so that you learn the trade here in wine country, what could be better than that! It will take me at least 3 years is my guess, but by then our grapes will be big enough to make wine….so it should be good timing. We are going to by certified organic, so all of this is good to know.

Requirements: Agricultural Computer Applications, Soil and Plant Nutrition, Integrated Pest Management, World Viticulture and Wine Styles, Viticulture: Fall Practices and Spring Practices, Basic Wine Grape Viticulture and Vineyard Management.

Electives: I have to take 2 classes of the 20 electives listed. I think one of them is wine tasting!

Garden Update

Anyone who has visited has seen that we have been taking out shrubs and putting in edible landscape. Almost no ones knows this, but I have a pumpkin fetish. Many years ago I grew small ones up a chain link fence. As you can see from the picture above we have a large pumpkin patch…both for eating fresh pumpkin pies and also for Halloween pumpkins for Allura, Maribella and Grace. Enough about pumpkins.

We also have tomato’s, zucchini, 4 kinds of squash, 2 kinds of beans, 200 heads of garlic, raspberries, blueberries, and apples. In addition, we just planted a fig tree and a fuyu persimmon. Based on Vaughn and Karina’s wonderful raised garden in Portland, we are about ready to rip out the grass behind the pool and put in raised beds and a patio to overlook the vineyard. We should have that done by early to mid September, just in time to get our winter veggies in the ground.