Van's RV-9A in Aurora

The Big Picture

The Big Picture
Flying! 8/28/2011

Sunday, March 11, 2012

A few days at Toll Gate

A few notes about my stay at Dad's in Virginia. Most readers know that my Dad has a place out near Flint Hill, Virginia. It's about 20 acres, most of which is the side and top of a mountainette. Skyline drive can be seen from the property, so real mountains are very close. About 7 of the acres are flat enough to clear and use, and he has 5 acres of vineyard. He grows Cabernet Franc, Viognier, Petite Verdot, and Pinot Grigio. He doesn't make any wine (yet), but sells his entire harvest to local wineries. One of his customers liked the product so much, they put his vineyard name on the label! Toll Gate Farms.

The house is comprised of a few sections, one of which is a log cabin dating from the 1700's. The rough hewn logs are still there. Another section is from the early 1800's. Only the log walls survive from that time, the house has been built over and around these structures, with as much wood preserved as possible and made visible. An exterior view of the house does show the exterior walls of the original cabin.

With 5 acres of grapes, there is always something to do even though they're dormant right now. We ran in to Culpepper to the farmers Coop to buy 800 pounds of fertilizer. Dad has the soil analyzed, and they mix up a precise recipe of various minerals, and then dump it into the back of the pickup. That was fun, I got to see a little of how a fertilzer distribution plant works.

While we were in Culpepper, we drove out to CJR and checked up on the plane. The wind howled all week, and Cav was getting tossed around. The wind had pushed the nosewheel to the side and started rotating the plane. The canopy cover was doing no good at all, the wind was working it over good. So I took the canopy cover off and tightened up the tie downs, and put chocks in place. The good news is that my control surface locks worked perfectly, and the plane handled the beating with no ill affects.

Back at the farm, we got the fertilizer broadcast spreader attached to the back of the tractor and got everything ready for the next day.

At night, we had a beautiful clear evening, and we got to see a Iridium flare, which occured right on time, right where it was supposed to be.

That was all on Wednesday. On Thursday, we applied the fertilizer to every row in the vineyard. I shoveled it into the hopper, 200 lbs at a time and he drove the tractor to spread it out, just like an oversized lawn fertilizer. Once that was done, we power washed the spreader, tractor, and truck to minimize the corrosive affects of the fertilizer.

Also on Thursday, we ran an errand to visit a local clock repair guy. He was south of Front Royal, so on the way back we visited KFRR to check out the conditions (it was windy), and then a local winery, Glenn Manor, to buy a few bottles of wine. These had just won the Virginia Governor's Cup. Jeff White himself greeted us and we chatted about the grape growing business for a little bit. We had one of the bottles for dinner the next evening, and it was excellent. I should have bought some myself.

On Friday, Dad had another dose of fertiziler to spread in the upper block of Petite Verdot, in this case 1600 lbs of dolomitic limestone. This came in bags, and we bought it at the local feed and seed. We drive up and everyone knows Dad, he's just one of the local boys! So we load 32 50lb bags into the pickup and head back home.

The drill was similar to the day before, about 6 bags (300 lbs) in the hopper, spread it, repeat. The upper block is a little tricky, it's higher on the hillside and fairly steep, it makes us a bit nervous to have a heavily loaded tractor up there. So he makes a point of keeping the load lighter than usual, which means we have to stop and put more fertilizer in a bit more often.

After finishing that, which was done by lunch time, Dad had some landscaping he wanted to do along the front fence line. He wanted to add some large granite rocks to the base of the embankment to help stabilize it. We attached the front bucket/shovel on to the tractor and dropped the spreader in its assigned spot. We used the bucket to scoop out part of the embankment. Then we picked a big ass rock from his collection of big ass rocks and arranged it carefully into the embankment. We did this in two spots, but more was needed. In a short amount of time, they'll look like they were always there. Dad is a master at landscaping.
I failed to take pictures of this process.