by Gary Mount
My latest adventure on the farm does not involve planting, growing, picking, storing, processing or sell of our crops. It is a process to “get ready” to plant a crop. A little mundane sounding perhaps, but it has turned out to be interesting.
The area on the 65 acre farm where I have planted 4.5 acres of wine grapes seems to be a pretty good location for grape growing. Expanding the planting is another matter–there is Lake Terhune right in the way. The field to the south of the 4.5 acres is where I want to plant more grapes. It has a gentle overall slope to the south except for one area. Ok–it is not really a lake, but there is a depression – followed by a ridge before the gentle slope continues. Heavy rains collect in the low area, creating Lake Terhune–maybe 6 to 12 inches deep. Although the water eventually soaks in/evaporates, there is no way grape vines are going to tolerate sitting there with their feet in the water. I had nearly decided to give up the idea of planting in that area when I talked to my friends from NRCS.
You can guess from the acronym that NRCS is something to do with government–it is Natural Resource Conservation Service, as federal agency that, among other things, helps farmers with conservation plans and practices for their farms. They suggested that I do a practice called land smoothing. It is sort of simple except for the scale of the project. The topsoil is pushed to the side–maybe 8 to 12 inches worth of topsoil–then the subsoil is graded to eliminate Lake Terhune but still provide a gentle slope and finally the topsoil is pushed back on top. Simple? – Yes, except for the scale.Â Altogether, ten acres are involved. I suppose in the time of large development and the like, such a project is next to nothing, but for us it seems like working on the Egyptian pyramids.
All has been going well. Our contractor, Tom Posh of Patriot Excavating, seems to be doing a good job. Until, that is, this week when we have had 9 inches of rain!Â All work has stopped and we are waiting for it to dry.
There is a good side to the delay. My three year old grandson, Becket, lives next to the ten acre field. He loves tractors, bulldozers and all sorts of construction equipment. He is happy to see the soil being pushed back and forth and he is happy to see the land being smoothed.