Happy Summer, all!  It’s been a peculiar journey, with recent record-breaking floods of the Arkansas River affecting our regional agriculture neighbors whose farms are in the river bottoms, and folks whose homes were badly flooded.  The situation was a result of significant snow melt in the Rocky Mountains where the Arkansas originates, plus abundant repeated days of heavy rains in the Texas panhandle, Kansas, and Oklahoma.  The floods were historically significant, with the river and tributaries reaching levels never  experienced before in recorded history, and at the least affected travel with many roads closed. Many are reaching out to assist in the cleaning, rebuilding, and digging out now that the waters have receded.

The vineyards are on high ground; still, the rainy conditions were challenging, and we have enjoyed drying out a bit lately.  Finally hay was cut and baled this week!  The muscadines are blooming, and fruit is setting!  

We hope your summer activities are moving along, with many happy memories to be made!   

 

Monitoring the hay field

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Splendid summer morning

There should be a name for it.  That day when you move to the summer outdoor schedule.  That day when you set your alarm early, so you can can get outside and get your hard work done in the cooler temperatures.  It’s a shift probably familiar to anyone who works outside.  All winter, at this time of day it is dark and we are still lingering by the fireplace as we have breakfast and prepare to go out. For us, the extra effort of a shift to early-rising is not easy, but there is always a gift, a positive payoff— the early morning in the vineyard never fails to be beautiful.  And some mornings, nature’s beauty absolutely take the breath away.  Until we think of a name for the new morning reality, maybe some things just have to be mindfully experienced, because there are just no words!  

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Springtime Vineyard Sunrise

Hope everyone is enjoying the Full Pink Moon!  After a couple of rainy days, today is absolutely beautiful.  Here is a shot near sunset, coming up from the side of vineyard. on the ridge.  The shades of green this time of year are breathtaking.    

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Springtime view of the vineyard’s edge at sunset. 

The dogwoods and azaleas are in bloom, almost overnight, along with the full new-green of the trees.  We flew our drone today and plan to post the photos soon.  We were trying to get closer shots of the dogwoods on the nearby mountain here in the Ozarks, the white blossoms so pronounced they are easily visible from our muscadine vineyard,  The drone’s landing nearly was blocked by an impressive array of buzzards and one hawk, providing a bit of bird drama.  Some drone hovering and strategic descent saved the day.  

Yes! Pruning is complete! Now, we ready for the vineyard to burst to life, hoping that the last of the spring freezes do not linger too late into the season. The birds are active, and the bluebirds are back! Where they were last year, I do not know, but we cheer every time we see them— but quietly, to not scare them! Coyotes also are active, leaving our dogs perplexed, not sure whether to pursue or retreat. We are happy for them to retreat, thank you very much! We prefer to let the coyotes party by themselves.

January in Arkansas bears watching for muscadine vineyard owners. The biggest danger is excessively cold weather, which for us is Zero degrees Fahrenheit. If the temperature reaches that critical low or below, the risk is almost certain killing of the roots, killing the plant. One protection can be to “berm up” the ground in the fall, mounding it to try to increase the soil depth at a critical point for the plant. By the way, to berm the ground is a particular skill, using a particular berming hoe behind a tractor. In the spring, after danger of the cold weather, the process is reversed to remove the extra soil.

The good news is that we had one brush with colder weather this month, but the single digits did not make it to the vineyard, and the long-range forecast look promising, with moderated, normal temperatures. So far, so good! After January, the chances for single digits typically are much reduced. Maybe you are hearing a slight sigh of hopeful relief from here!

Heavy rain overnight gave way to a beautiful, strangely warm winter day with dramatic clouds.  When we thought the day could not get prettier, we had sunset reflecting pink hues off the mountain, then a confectionary sunset sky!  

 

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Warm winter day in the muscadine vineyard

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Sunset illuminating Ozark Mountains  

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Another spectacular Arkansas sunset

Merry Christmas, everyone!

Since the last entry, we have been in recuperation mode from a wild but successful harvest season! Now that we have had hard freezes, we are pruning away in anticipation of 2019 growing season. The most exciting thing, other than holiday preparations, is a recent visit by a bobcat! We know they are around, but we actually got footage of the fellow traipsing across our lawn. We will see what we can do to get a photo up for you. He is a really big fellow and may be the reason our cats have been laying low recently. I hope he is not expecting to be invited to Christmas dinner…

Harvest is imminent!  Harvestor and tractors are serviced, replacement parts restocked.  Bins are in place.  Meeting today to plan timeline.  We need a resident percussion section with drum line to reflect the current mood and drama.  Maybe a playlist will have to suffice?  

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Rain, rain!  We love you!   Finally, some excellent, soaking rain over the past 10 days.  The vineyard is happy!  We have flowing creeks, full ponds, happy birds, and happier farmers.  Fall is just around the corner.  We can tell, with some muscadines turning and a few just ripe enough to sample.  Sugargate will be coming on first, we hope by the first of September.  Next will be Carlos, then Noble.  Ed is getting the harvest equipment oiled and in good repair.  We feel a little like athletes getting the gear ready for the race.  Anticipation!

Such a nice week we are having, with a few showers and some lower temperatures!  The grapes are looking good.  The Altus grape festival had perfect weather this weekend.  We have had an array of wildlife this week, topped off with a black bear, second sighting within the month.  We have relocated the game camera to see if the bear is, as we suspect, entering the vineyard.  Drought in the area puts pressure on the vineyard, which is irrigated, so mighty tempting for animals!  We will keep you posted!

Happy Summer, all!  The heat is on!  Local farmers markets, fresh fruit cobblers, ice cream, baseball championship games have us  anticipating Independence Day next week.  The muscadines look good, and they enjoy the heat, which this week is plentiful.  Have a super July 4, and your enjoy time with friends, family, and nature!  

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What season is it?  The calendar says Springtime, but if we did not know better, we would swear it is Summertime.  Hot and sultry weather, evening fireflies, snakes, and hot dogs... hot canines, that is... indicate summer’s arrival, in our view!  The muscadine vines have exploded with growth, as has the grass.  

A large array of birds are busy eating and building nests.  We even have a presence of Baltimore orioles this year!  

So far, we have had some periodic rains, but the main focus this week is the irrigation system.  The best news is that the irrigation pump worked straight away, for the first time ever following its winter slumber!   

We noticed that the first tropical system of the season landed in Florida this week... See, summer is here, folks!

Happy New Year!  Our thoughts are with the vineyards and wineries in California who have had to contend not only with the wildfires, but now with the heavy rains and mudslides.  Agriculture is hard enough under the best of circumstances.  Worry about personal safety of family, friends, and community makes a challenging industry more stressful, particularly for those experiencing losses.  

On a brighter note, today was a beautiful day in our vineyard.  It took a while for the fog to lift, but the sun broke through, and the temperatures warmed into the low 60's while we proceeded with our pruning.  I wonder if the animals and birds know that a bit of snow is forecast for tomorrow... just a dusting, but a plummet in temperatures.  We would welcome some snow.  We have felt a little cheated that Florida has had more snow than we this season!

Well, it is plenty cold, but mostly anticipating that over the next two days will be even colder.  We would not mind some snow to provide some protection to the roots, acting as an insulating blanket.  We continue to work at pruning the vines, though the cold weather may drive us in a couple of days.  The big birds are around.  Eagles and hawks have been more present than is typical.  They make for nice company!

Holidays!

Whew!  With harvest over, and equipment cleaned and stored., we took a short breather, and now winter preps are underway.  Irrigation pipes are drained, rows "bermed-up," and equipment shifted to muscadine vineyard pruning mode.  

Before we could even realize it, Christmas is upon us!  We are listening to our holiday playlists,, planning our special holiday meals, and finishing our preparations, although the farm work never really ends.  Wide temperature fluctuations from day to day dictate much of our schedule. 

Sadly, we were too far north to get the big snows that hit the southern United States last week.  We cannot help but continue to check long-range forecasts, wishing for our shot at a nice snow, but at least rain!  The photos featured this month, so far, are from another year... but hey, worth revisiting for Christmastime!!

Muscadine Harvest TIme!!

Last call for the bronze Carlos this weekend!  If any winemakers want Carlos muscadines this year, call to make arrangements for coming to get them!   

We are starting to pick Noble (dark red) muscadines. The warm days have made them ripen more quickly than usual, and a cold front with chance of thunderstorms and wind is coming by midweek.  

Call Ed Fay at 479-209-2184 to discuss your muscadine needs and arrange a time to get your muscadines.

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We continue the prep for Carlos harvest in a few days!   

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Placing bins...

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Harvester at sunset, awaiting the day!