Mother nature smiled on us this year, and everything else that could have gone wrong didn’t, due to the hard work of the WWOOFERs and great planning and execution by our vigneron Danny, and Hannah. The 2014 grape harvest is underway, with the Adobe and Metate block merlot first up, and picked yesterday. Quality and quantity came in on top of projections. The whites aren’t too far behind, so stay tuned….
The frost danger has passed and summer 2014 is here! The farmer gods have been kind to us so far, and we are seeing what looks to be the best start to the vineyard’s growing season yet. Pruning and cropping led to a nice fruit set, and the fall harvest, while still months away and with many challenges to be overcome, is starting to take shape in our minds. So far it’s a dry year here, which is a plus for weed control, always project number one here on our organic farm. Danny says the WWOOFER crew is outstanding, this year, and even seasoned, as old friends re-upped for a summer at MCR.
The tree fruit is doing well, too. Though an early bloom and a late frost combined to thin the apricots, the later fruits are coming on strong, so far. The last of the yummy cherries will be picked this weekend, to make their way to tables in Colorado and Utah.
Italian bees and chickens are new to the ranch, and so far providing amusement, if not yet sustenance; the first egg was collected this week.
The harvest is past, the netting pulled off and stored, the grapes fermented and on their way to wine, irrigation systems drained, the equipment winterized and wrapped, and the wood stove is devouring the woodpile. Winter is here, and the vines are sleeping. After a decent rain year — over 13 inches at the ranch — and an early snow, it’s been warm and dry for the past month. But the canyon country aquifers depend on a snow pack, so light some sage, say a prayer, or just send good thoughts skyward; we need the water.
It’s winter duty time — time to fix and tend to all the things that get pushed to the bottom of the list during the mad growing season. Accounting, mending, restocking the ranch’s pantry, organizing the library, racking and bottling, chopping firewood, all in a day’s work.
A cold snap moved up the grape harvest date one day, to Friday, October 4th. Pictures and a run-down coming soon.
After a 2012 summer of biblical events (freeze, windstorms, and pests, all in the same year!), the summer of 2013 has been very welcome: mild temperatures, frequent short monsoon rains, and plenty of sun have combined to pump up the vines, and generally turn our canyon very green. The WWOOFers have been busy tying, pruning, and weeding, and the result is traffic-stopping (by that I mean that, on average, the two cars a day which pass through the canyon usually stop in amazement at the first sight of the viticultural oasis in the desert).
The apricot and cherry crops were smaller than usual this year, and we saw (and ate) a normal crop of peaches, but the apples and pears are coming on huge. Look for them at both the farmers market and Moonflower Market in Moab!
The vines are netted now, keeping the birds at bay, and we are waiting for the sugars and acids to reach the magic levels….Harvest Festival II is just ahead.
Some pics for you:
“Martha’s Office” chardonnay block, just inside the main gate
For all the amazing things this canyon has blessed us with, the arrival of Jose Garcia into our lives was right there at the top. We came to know him as the only slightly more ambulatory half of Chuck Burand’s “seasoned” construction crew, and we watched in awe as the colorful fellow scampered up and down scaffolding, all skinny legs and bare chested under overalls, greying hair braids flying as he balanced on swinging roof beams, in almost single-handedly building the guest cabin. His colorful pan-racial appearance, able to look vaguely Navajo when it suited him, and Mexican when it didn’t, was matched by his language; a conversation with Jose (uniquely pronounced “Ho-see” by his friends and family) always included enough colorful, unconstrained language to make even a construction hand blush. Jose’s foot injury mid-way through the cabin job created an opportunity for Danny to join the crew, and in turn learn the construction trade, and how to curse in three languages at the same time. We watched with hilarity, and not a little parental concern as Burand, rodeo-bowlegged and past his best roof-climbing days, and Jose, right leg in a cast to his knee, shouted directions at Danny, who did the roof scrambling, and hammer and nail work. Somehow it all worked out; The cabin was finally finished, and by the time the 3 builders signed their name in the wet entry-way cement, Jose was truly part of our lives, and of our never-ending canyon project crew.
Jose lived in a well-traveled trailer, which he had towed down and placed near the North Cave, setting out steps, a small rock and odd-treasure garden, a chair, and a generator, and he could be found there in the evenings drinking his Budweiser, playing his music, smoking something or other, telling whoppers to the amusement and wonderment of the WWOOFers, and talking to the canyon animals that he loved. Part cowboy, part artist, and usually only a step or two ahead of the authorities, Jose loved to craft beautiful things, in a kind of timeless ancient peoples’ style. His Dreamcatchers belonged in a museum, but Jose would work weeks or months on one, and then give it to someone he just met, and connected with. He was as generous a person as I have ever met.
In the four years he was with us, he left his mark: He found, cut and hauled many of the cedar posts that anchor our vineyards and gates, sometimes, belying his size, one on each shoulder. He built the straight and long grapevine trellising north of the west orchard, and worked endlessly one year doing nothing other than making our deer fencing higher, tighter, stronger, and then higher, tighter and stronger again. The deer herd had their way with him at first, and would confound us all by finding the tiniest rent in the fence to crawl under, or the perfect single spot to vault over. But Jose doggedly went higher, tighter and stronger, until the deer just finally gave up, and moved on. If you look on the west side of the property, you can see fencing way up on the slick rock, where he surely had to rope himself in to drill the holes for the posts into solid rock, amid the spiny cactus. The deer never really had a chance against Jose.
The WWOOFer cabin owes its stout foundation to Jose’s unique improv design and construction style. Canyon walls may erode, but Jose’s cabin foundation will still be there, something surely for 25th century archaeologists to scratch their heads at.
Our bunkhouse for WWOOFers at MCR is finally operational. Sleeps 8 in, well, in a certain style. A fully functional bathroom and giant shower, lots of deck space for relaxing, or partying, after a day in the vineyards. A wood stove keeps it warm on both ends of the growing season. We have started construction on a saloon in the North Cave, a few steps from the bunkhouse. More to come…..
Students and faculty from New Mexico’s prestigious Albuquerque Academy visited MCR again in 2012, and got some up-close organic farming experience. Part of the private prep school’s Experiential Education Department’s program for two years now, the group stayed at the ranch and in addition to exploring the canyon, worked together to plant the vineyard block above. See the grades 6-12 academy at www.aa.edu. More on this visit coming soon.
We are done with planting for this year! So far we have 2500 Chardonnay, 750 Riesling, and 250 Chenin Blanc in the ground, and as a week ago leafing out. All the projects are coming along nicely, but are too numerous to plow through in this short update. The main reason I am updating is to point everyone over to the newest picture albums, so you can get a feel for what we have been up to around here and also to show that the video section has been updated as well. We also have lots of new additions from around the world to the ranch through the WWOOF program keeping it more interesting than usual around here.