The energy of creative/nothing to lose/fearless/bushwacking adventure is palpable at Robert Clay, not because Dan has the secret sauce or because there is a wizard behind the curtain, but precisely because there is NO wizard.
Thanks to the hard work of our more than 50 super-human friends and family who came out to help us plant vines in April, I can happily report that the VINES ARE GROWING!!!! So far we see a success rate of about 93% which is excellent!
Now we are about to embark on another whirlwind of planting another 6,000 vines during the month of April. We are more prepared than we were last year and we are super excited to put everything we have learned into practice, but at the same time we will still have to wait years before we will have any wine to share with you all. Starting to see a pattern?
Next April (2019) we will be receiving 6,000 replacement vines to add to our 500+ surviving vines from this years planting. This time around we definitely learned a few things so we are setting things up a little differently this time. We will be receiving four separate shipments of vines, one to be planted each weekend in April. (6th, 13th, 20th, 27th)
At the time of the last blog post things obviously were not great. The fact that most of the 6,000 vines that we had just worked so hard to plant were dead was definitely hard to swallow. Things are looking up though...
Remembering these two weeks really feels like a dream. They would not have happened without help from Katie, my family and so many friends, old and new. We had planters come from California, Arizona, Florida, Oregon, Kansas, Wisconsin, Colorado and of course Texas.
It's hard to believe it has been over a year and a half since our well was drilled. Katie and I were lucky enough to be on hand to see the very first water finally come out of the ground a few weeks ago!
The final push has begun to get everything ready for planting before the end of April. About 75% of the area of the vineyard has been cleared and weed-wacked, and 1,000 vine holes have been drilled! (Thanks Chris! Only 5,000 more to go!) Also, progress is being made toward finishing the irrigation system, which will be 100% SOLAR POWERED!
Progress is slowly picking up speed in the Davis Mountains. I was lucky enough to have Eilis come out on the last trip and help. Thanks Eilis! Getting ready to finish the big tent and put in the 28,000 gallon water storage tank!
Last weekend I tested out this Bobcat auger. I need to drill a hole roughly 9" wide and 10"-18" deep for each of the 7,250 vines to be planted in. The good news is that the auger powered through the rocky soil like a champ and was quite easy to control. The not-so-good news is that it is going to take foreeeeeeeever to drill all those holes.
(Ok, it wasn't technically a tractor) I was lucky enough to host Lynn Loomis and David Jalali, soil scientists from the USDA, at Alta Marfa for a second time recently, when they returned to describe and analyze the deeper strata of the soil at the vineyard site.
A few weeks ago Alta Marfa hosted the largest group of visitors/helpers yet! Seven of us converged for a long weekend from far off and exotic locations such as Wisconsin, New Jersey, Massachusetts and good old Houston.
I closed on the property yesterday! Alta Marfa now has a beautiful 25 acre home. I am so excited to start moving dirt, digging holes and generally just doing things instead of just thinking about doing things.
Things are moving forward in the quest for water! I won’t give you all the details until things are finalized (there is still a ways to go) but a promising plan is in the works involving lawyers, easements, underground pipes, etc.
“You’ve got yourself a nice 3 gpm well,” he informed me. I instantly deflated, I thanked him for the work and shook his hand. I walked back down the hill and got in my car to begin the drive back to Houston. My immediate thought was, “that’s not enough water.”
Because there is not much rain, irrigation will be key to growing healthy and productive vines. I will drill a well on the property in order to tap into the large igneous aquifer system underlying the region.
Today I signed a contract to purchase 10,875 grape vines for delivery in 2018. Prior to today, everything I have done in regards to this project has just been ideas. Today my adventure transitioned concretely into real life when I signed on the dotted line.