September 28, 2010

Fertilizer Spreader

I am planning on spreading the ninety pounds of fertilizer for our pilot eighth of an acre with a lawn fertilizer spreader.  I was thinking of using my parents' spreader for the task, but because its wheels are small, it is not exactly a good match for the island terrain.  Thus, I looked on craigslist for a better one.  I found a good one for an excellent deal.

The Last Cavalier 9-28-10

I recently finished The Last Cavalier, by Alexandre Dumas.  Dumas was a masterful storyteller and this book, collected from newspaper serials, while unfinished and a bit rough, was a great read.  It fills an area in Dumas' literature's historical timeline.  Placed after the time of the French Kings (Three Musketeers, etc) and the Revolution, but before the fall and return of Napoleon (in Count of Monte Cristo).

September 26, 2010

Tilling the vineyard

After laying out the borders of where we wanted to put the vineyard, we started to till out the vineyard.  First I drove a perimeter line with the rototiller.   Then we started doing some runs.  We quickly learned that we needed to adjust the depth of the rototiller in order to work out the weeds.

There is a big bush that needs to come out.  I worked on it for a while, and then Melissa took a turn.  With the right tools, it would come out much faster.  So next time we visit, we'll hopefully be returning with a chain saw and a bar.

Vineyard layout and plotting

After making an initial survey of the island, the choice of where to put the vineyard wasn't too hard.  We decided to place it nearer to the landing, and in the relative middle of the width of the island.

Vineyard plotting and tilling tour

September 24, 2010

Signage - Episode 2

Finished the island sign, which I'm thinking it turned out okay.  It ended up with a John Deere-ish color scheme. I'm hoping that the sign won't get too vandalized by any armed flotillas heading down the river.

September 22, 2010

Signage - Episode 1

Visiting the island a while back, I put up several "no trespassing" signs.  This is necessary from lessons we have learned there.  I thought it would be a good idea to have a new sign designating the island by name.  So I started building one out of wood.

Using a free online logo construction tool, Logo Ease, and the font Duality, I came up with this:

September 21, 2010

Soil Nutrients Ahoy!

After receiving the comprehensive soil report, I ordered some granulated vitamins for the soil.  Rather, I ordered a blend of soil nutrients that I will be able to add to the soil when I till.  Grapevines grow deeper than many other crops, and as a result, fertilizers and soil nutrients near the surface tend to have a lesser effect on them.  Thus the concept of terroir is very important for a vineyard.  Still, it is wise to prepare your soil as best as possible.
In order to do that, I had the soil analyzed.  The analysis showed that there were several avenues to improve the fertility of the soil.  One avenue was to add fertilizers that plants need as food.  Another was to lower the soil pH to a more hospitable range.  Another was to add micro-nutrients that plants needs (much like vitamins).

September 15, 2010

Soil results

I received the soil results.

The soil is...
much like the rest of Idaho...
Alkaline (basic)

The soil is very chalky in feel, and is considered a loam in texture/makeup.  It is very high in Calcium, which isn't necessarily a bad thing.


Growing things takes water.  Grapevines in antiquity were usually dry farmed, watered by the rains.  Apparently, it wasn't until around the 1960s that growers started irrigating vines in order to amp up their production.  In many regions of France, irrigation of vines has been illegal, but some parts have recently allowed some irrigation.
I'm hoping to collect a little rainwater to water the vines for about a month in the spring after they are initially planted.  After that, I'm planning on generally leaving them to the mercy of the weather and the soil.
Getting ready to collect some rainwater.  In order to do this, I bought some water barrels off craigslist.  I'm thinking about making some gutters for the cabin, to collect the water over the winter/spring, and then to make a solar/battery powered pump to help automatically water if there is a dry spell in the springtime.

September 13, 2010

Soil Testing

My soil samples are now in the capable hands of Western Labs.

Complete Soil Test
pH, texture, soluble salts (ECe), Cation Exchange Capacity (true), percent lime, percent organic matter, nitrates, ammonium, phosphorus (alkaline soils – sodium bicarbonate extract, acid soils – Bray extract), potassium, calcium, magnesium, sodium, zinc, iron, manganese, copper, sulfates and boron

Hopefully the results will be good news, or the vineyard project could soon be winding down.

September 12, 2010

Shady Acres

It may seem counter-intuitive, but a good vineyard needs shade.  Not for the grapevines, but for the people.  I went down by the Boise river the other day and fought the squirrels for some nice acorns.  I have a bunch of acorns for some beautiful Oak trees (Mostly English Oak and a few Swamp White Oak).  I also picked up some Planetree seeds.  The squirrels weren't very interested in the Planetree seeds, however.
I had also bought some seeds of the Oregon Maple (Big Leaf Maple) for another project, and am going to plant some of those also.

September 11, 2010

Island Tour


We took the rototiller down to the island this weekend.  I wanted to get some soil samples, to have them professionally analyzed.  We were able to get some soil samples, after a little trial and error with how to collect them into our ziplock baggies.

We tested out the rototiller by tilling a path between the cabin and the proposed location of the vineyard.  Needless to say, it worked great and helped make a path through the weeds.


September 7, 2010


One of the necessary aspects of planting a vineyard is choosing a location and preparing the soil.  In order to do this, I will be going down to the island to survey possible sites, and then to take some soil samples to find out about the soil.
After choosing the location, and taking the soil samples, I will be able to start preparing the vineyard for planting the root-stalks next spring.  This entails tilling the soil, so that it will be able to breath, and soak up more water.  This allows the roots from the vines to grow quicker and better.

Depending on the soil consistency, I also might need to add something to balance out the soil pH levels.  I can add these components when rototilling the ground to prepare it for planting.
In order to breakup the ground, I purchased a used rototiller off of craigslist.  It's not too big, which is good and bad.  Good because it will be easier to transport it across the river, and bad because it will take longer to till the ground.  It's a front tine craftsman rototiller.

Island Vineyard Research

My family has an island in the Snake river in Idaho/Oregon.  It's a large Island, about 18 acres.  In the past we've used it to hunt on.  My grampa had a cable barge that went across one side of the river, which allowed him to move over a tractor, and the materials to build a hunting shack.  That cable and barge was removed a long, long time ago.  And the only remnant of the tractor was the steering wheel sticking out of the muddy riverbank.
We haven't been down to hunt at the island for quite some time.  I've been thinking of ways to use the island, and one of them is to plant some grapevines.  I've been doing some reading on the subject, and checked out several books from the library.  One of the best was From Vines to Wines, by Jeff Cox.

September 2, 2010

Reading 9-2-2010

Recently picked up the book Bearers Of The Black Staff, by Terry Brooks.  I've read all the Terry Brooks books, and this one is another plank into the deck of the Shannara universe.  Brooks weaves a good tale, and his books have a great balance of interesting details and developing characters.  This book continues to fill out the grand story of his series, in his characteristic style of writing.

September 1, 2010

Island Rototiller

I'm looking into planting some grapevines on our island.  I have been reading several books from the library on how to go about doing that.  One book, Vines to Wines seems especially knowledgeable and helpful.  Part of the process is choosing a location and preparing the soil: so I am going to take some soil samples, and till up the dirt in preparation for next year's planting.  In order to do this, I bought a rototiller off of craigslist.