Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Our longest stay yet.

Eleven glorious days.  The first three days we had poor visibility with smokey haze coming in from fires to the north.  Could not even see the Blues!  We watched a giant red glow at night; miles upon miles away there were men and women fighting to save their crops and we truly felt sad and hopeful for all of them.  So surreal, viewing a tragedy from thirty miles away.

Spent lots of time working in vineyard.  Tough year for the grapes.  Cold and wet through July.  We have abundant fruit, but so many challenges...now have to wait for nature to work its course.  The bunches are so weakened...berries fall off with just any tug at all.  On the happy side, we do have some nice potential for cab franc and merlot...could be the year of the Right Bank if we get enough consistent heat to ripen the fruit and no frosts ahead of harvest.

David took us out for a ride on his combine during harvest.  Not the wheat on our farm, but on another farm high into the foothills.  This was such a great experience, climbing the ladder up into a machine the size of a house, and even driving it up and down the steep fields as we brought in the crop.  It would probably drive the farmers nuts, but they could make a bundle just offering tourists the chance to do this each harvest.  Man...better than Disneyland on the fun side, and so connected to the land, to our foods,  to the whole process of getting our wheat down the Columbia River and onto the freighters that take it along to feed the world.

The new patio is poured, so the arbor goes in next spring.  I left two secure, deep planting spots lined with wire for the vines.  Between now and spring, I'll be studying as to whether to plant grapes, hops, or something else.  Each vine has its pros and cons, beauty, shade, growth speed, how long they hold their leaves, how well they can stand the winters, whether they attract too many birds, whether their fruit will stain the concrete...

The views are stunning.  What a difference it makes to simply move around the corner of the house.  Sunday AM, four elk in the fields below alongside the creek.  First time that I have ever seen elk around.  Later, four mule deer including one fellow with a giant rack.  Since I don't hunt, I sure hope he finds some deep cover soon.  The hunters will be after him like nobody's business.

We did enjoy some trap shooting.  This was the first time that I ever shot at two clays launched at once.  Much more challenging than just one and four times the fun!  I keep the shotgun handy throughout the past week.  The starlings stayed away once they knew that I was meaning business.  I have no sympathy for gophers or starlings...varmints!!!

Spent one evening watching Shakespeare in the park at Fort Walla Walla...so enjoyable...and returned in the daytime to see the museum there.  Really great exhibits, including full-size representations of how the farming was done a generation or two ago.  Then we strolled down to the old buildings that have been moved there from different pioneer farms.  The best one of all is the Union Schoolhouse that was donated by the Whites from off their farm just down from Grape Hill.  We found Grape Hill amongst the farms showing on the very old map displayed on the schoolhouse wall.  Such a joy to have a personal touch to the rich history to which we have become so attached.

Monday, August 2, 2010

The Arbor

The next big phases for the house are so cool...really unique and innovative design that simply doesn't make sense to undertake. It's a shame, darn it, but producing the doubling on the house size means more stress than it is worth, even to realize a work of architectural merit.  So, that means that the south face of the current structure is getting a new patio and pergola instead.  I am going to set it up for new vines next year with table grapes in the future, plus seating for four chaises and a misting system to cool things down on the hottest summer days.  The design should not diminish views at all, and I think I can keep the deer off the vines (hope so!).  I'll be setting heavy galvanized mesh three feet below grade and eight feet up around the vines until these are trained onto the top.  Not the most lovely arrangement, but every critter out there seems to love grape vines.  Gophers love the young roots, deer love the young leaves, and birds love the fruit.  All I need to do is to put in a pond and we'll have the Serengeti outside our doors...