Monthly Archives: April 2012

Planting Party Photos

Thank you!  Thank you!  Thank you everyone! We had a very fun day with you all at the planting party on Saturday – with wonderful food and wine and great friends.  You turned a task into a party.  We had coffee Sunday morning and looked out at our Slim Smurf Army – aka 900 vines in grow tubes, including the 250 that got planted by our volunteers.

Blue Smurf Army – aka Raccoon Creek Vineyard

Getting started…

Deb and Jed drilling holes

The Peat Moss Men – Alan and Rich

Romy Gets Down With the Dirt

Dan and Erin

Vine planting demo

Merrie and Neil

Rich, Merrie, Alan, and Jed take a break for coffee and cornbread.

We had some great food! Thanks to our kitchen heroes who brought so much terrific food, and helped with set up, and serving, and clean up!  (Sam and Susan – those yogurt containers sure came in handy!) Sherman – great music!  Jerry and Barb – thanks for picking up the pig!

Sam and Jerry avec Monsieur Le Porc

Sherman, Shirley, Lisha, and Bill

So, there was this Jewish mother who ….


Phoebe and Paul plant a vine

Three DiVine Divas: Barb, Shirley, and Lisha

Sherman tells Sam “When you grow up you can drive a tractor too.”

‘Where’s the water boy?’

Dan, Erin, Deb, Thesou, Neil in the Blue Tube Factory

TJ and Mike dropping grow tubes

Lisabeth tackles the tubes.

Bill and Paul proving how stressful planting can be.

Karen, Emily, and Mark hit the dirt.

Pam and Karen, walking buddies, now planting buddies.

Beth and Katie proving you can plant without getting dirty knees.

Paul, Lis, and Phoebe

The DiVine Divas still at work.

‘I think we should be drinking wine by now…..’

Pam, Lis, and Phoebe

Butt Shot!

Beth, Emily, and Katie

Karen, Mark, Katie, Emily, Paul, TJ, and Beth in the home stretch.

Beth and Katie celebrate planting their last vine.

Only 300 to go til we hit the finish line.  Thanks again everyone!

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Raccoon Creek VineCam is Now Live

Jed has rigged up a camera on our utility pole that faces the vineyard.  So for those of you who can’t be with us for the big planting party, you can watch the festivities live on the Official Raccoon Creek Vineyard VineCam.  Here is the link:  Click ‘surveillance; the UserName is “Ken” and Password is “ken”.

For those of you who are planting tomorrow, and want to track the progress of the vines, we’ll have VineCam going all summer.

It was a great day of planting today – we now have 700 vines in the ground.  We are past the halfway point and looking forward to a beautiful weekend for being outside.


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Perfect Days Planting Grapevines

Last Saturday we got a lot of vines planted with the help of two sweet neighbor boys, T.J. and Michael.  By the end of the day we had three rows done and the field was slowly starting its transformation into a vineyard.

Planting Row #3

But Sunday brought a heavy rain, and Monday more of the same leaving the field pretty muddy.  Tuesday and Wednesday were sunny, but two days are not enough to dry things out as new ruts from Jed’s try at drilling new holes Wednesday afternoon proved.  I even got stuck in the riding mower mowing what we refer to as ‘the grass’.

Thursday we had three workers supplied by our landscaper friend Troy. The forecast was for rain, though less than an inch,  so I fished out rain gear purchased for a camping trip 15 years ago and never worn since.  A few sprinkles early in the day, and that was it.  The air was cool, in the 50’s and the sky was overcast all day.  In short, it turned out to be the perfect day to be outside planting grapes.  By the end of the day we had completed 4 more rows, 240 vines.  With 180 vine in the ground already, we were getting to the bottom of the first box of vines.

Then the second box of vines arrived.  But that’s a good thing, since another crew is coming today, and our planting party is less than 24 hours away.  We now know that different people can approach the various steps in different ways, so whether people team up or work solo it all comes out in the end.



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Behold the First Grapevine!

Somehow we had visions of a giant stack of boxes in the pole barn, each with one tiny, precious grapevine.  OK, maybe five tiny, precious grapevines.  On Tuesday THE BOX of grapevines arrived.  That’s right, one box…600 grapevines.  Now the box is pretty big, about 2′ x 3′ x 5′.    If you ever wanted to know how much 600 bare root grapevines weigh, here’s your answer: 70 pounds. Fortunately UPS (nope, no 18 wheeler) delivered the box to the garage which has turned into the perfect staging area.  Inside the box is a giant plastic bag with tidy bundles of grapevines packed in wet strips of newspaper.  The newspaper pulls away easily, and the bundles separate easily, and the grapevines separate easily.  All in all a pretty slick way to ship 600 grapevines.  The second box of 600 ships in a week.

Sadie and the box of grapevines

Wednesday was our first planting day and it was spent mostly in figuring out what we were doing.  The grapevines have to soak in water before they go in the ground.  I felt like Goldilocks as we tried out different containers.  This one is too shallow; this one is too heavy once the water gets put in.  Ahh, this one is juust right!

Next, I learned to measure out the powder for making the ‘root dip’ – which helps the grapevine roots stay healthy until they’re in the ground and growing.  And then another round of Goldilocks for the right bucket – only this time it had to be one that had a cover.

Which tools do we need out in the field?  What to carry the peat moss in?  Open the bags first?  Grrr, the bamboo poles keep sliding off the wagon!  Which row should we start with?  Does this hole look deep enough?  Hey these planting instructions don’t match the ones in the big manual!  Thus, many are the reasons that it took three hours to get one vine planted.

Vine One & Vine Two, with the cat in the hat.

But we carried on. By the end of the day Friday Jed had six hundred holes ready for planting, and I had put 75 vines in the ground and was feeling like I understood what I was doing.  The weather has been perfect: balmy and overcast alternating with cool and sunny.  I have felt like a kid on the first week of summer vacation., including the sore muscles.

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The Grapes Have Shipped!

Oh yikes!  The grapes have shipped and should be here on Wednesday.  Jed and I have been busy the past two weekends.  We laid out all the rows, and then started measuring and marking each hole.  18 rows x 65 plants per row equals 1170 holes.

Marking row number one

Last weekend we started drilling holes.  Suddenly all the fluorescent flags marking the rows, and the yellow agricultural spray marking the holes looked very tiny.  It takes between 2 and 3 minutes to drive to the hole, lower the augur to just the right spot, drill the hole, pull up, and check your work.  That’s pretty fast and assumes that the hole drilled smoothly, and that the augur didn’t hit any surprise on the way down spitting out a release bolt which happens from time to time.   It takes Jed a little over an hour to drill a row.  It takes me, uh, longer.  But I think I have straighter rows.

Drilling row number four

Saturday we have four guys we’re paying to come out and help us get the first vines in the holes.  That will give us a chance to have some completed rows as examples, and also for us to organize our work for the planting party.  Here are a few of our supplies:

Vine dip, peat moss, grow tubes, bamboo stakes

It’s all pretty exciting and even with the just the rows of drilled holes in the ground it’s starting to look like a vineyard!

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Planting Party Schedule – Updated

Raccoon Creek Planting Party
April 28th

8:00am –                  Coffee and pastries and planting orientation

8:30                          Morning planting session begins

1:00pm                    Pig roast and fixins get put out

2:00                         Afternoon planting orientation

2:30                         Afternoon planting session begins

5:00 –                      More pig roast and party!

People will be coming and going all day, so we’re putting the pig out around 1pm, and people can begin eating as they get hungry.  We’ve got a big pig, so we’ll have plenty for another round later in the day.  See you soon!

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Directions to Raccoon Creek Vineyard

Raccoon Creek Vineyard
517 Fislerville Rd.
South Harrison Township, NJ 08062

From Haddonfield:

  • Interstate 295 South to 42 freeway
  • 42 east toward Atlantic City to Hwy 55 south toward Glassboro
  • 55 south to Route 322.  Take the first exit, exit 50B toward Richwood/Mullica Hill
  • At the second traffic light make a ‘soft’ left. The sign will say ‘Barnsboro Rd” which goes to the right.  You will be by a CVS on the right, and the sign will say county road 618 right after you make the turn.
  • Stay on 618 until it also becomes Fislerville Road.  You will go past Clem’s Run, then past the Bridgeton Pike (Route 77).
  • We are on the right hand side of the road – and we have a sign!
  • If you hit Commissioner’s Pike (the road ends) you’ve gone too far, just turn around and come back about half a mile.
  • Parking behind the barn.

From Philadelphia:

  • Come across the Walt Whitman Bridge to the 42 freeway.
  • Follow the directions from Haddonfield.

From Delaware:

  • Come across the Commodore Barry Bridge to 295 north
  • Exit at route 322.
  • Take route 322 toward Mullica Hill.
  • Turn right in Mullica Hill onto Route 45/Route 77 (Bridgeton Pike). Stay  on Route 77, to the left when they split.
  • Turn right on 618 /Fislerville Rd just outside of Mullica Hill.
  • We are on the right hand side of the road.
  •  If you hit Commissioner’s Pike (the road ends) you’ve gone too far, just turn around and come back about half a mile.
  • Parking behind the barn.
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It Augurs Well

One of the fun things about moving to a farm is having a tractor, along with all the cool attachments you can get.  With so many holes to dig for the grapes getting an augur for the tractor was a no-brainer.  It took Jed a while to figure out how to get it rigged up; it seems that every piece of equipment has it’s own idiosyncrasies for working.  Once it was connected it didn’t take long before there were holes all over the field.  Of course both Jed and I wanted turns playing with testing the augur.  Since we needed to take another round of soil samples the holes were put to good use.

Tractor With Augur in Back

But we needed to learn to do holes in a straight line and evenly spaced.  Since we also wanted a deer break /privacy hedge at the front of the field we had a chance to check these things out.  We ordered 30 forsythia and 30 junipers and now we had two rows and a chance to try our hand at spacing.  We hit the front of the field armed with a tape measure and some agricultural spray paint – a handy little device that let’s you spray with the nozzle pointing straight down.  Two days later we had all the forsythia and a third of the junipers in the ground.  (We’re still waiting on the rest of the juniper order.)

New Juniper & Forsythia Border

The augur was a great tool for digging planting holes.  It was fast and efficient, and pretty fun. The forsythia were pretty forgiving of our mostly straight line, but we confirmed that we’re going to need a better system of laying down straight lines than just ‘eyeballs’.  We also learned that it didn’t take much to go a lot deeper than necessary.  But once you get that big screw turning in the ground it’s just too much fun to stop!  Oh, and I learned not to stand too close when the augur is coming back up because it really throws the dirt pretty far.

All in all, it augurs pretty well for planting day.  (OK, if you really read this far in a post about drilling holes, you probably deserved a better pun that this.  But I did try to warn you in the title!)

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Saved From the Trenches!

This weekend we got some great news:  we have been saved from the trenches!

We are going to plant about 1200 merlot vines.  That’s a lot of vines.  The original plan called for 3000 vines in the same acreage, half in merlot and half in pinot gris.   Then reality set in.

The little vines come as bare root stock packed in boxes.  If you’ve ever ordered a rose bush online you know what bare root stock looks like.  So imagine for a moment the day when 1300 vines come off the truck, and they’ve got to get into the ground before the roots shrivel up and the plants die.  One way to keep the vines dormant is to keep them cold, and some helpful internet sites recommend putting the vine in a refrigerator until you can plant them.  Uh, don’t happen to have a fridge that big.  A second way to protect the vines is to ‘heel them in’, which simply means digging a trench, laying the vines in at an angle, and covering the roots with soil which you water from time to time until you get the actual planting done.

We have assumed since we placed the order for the vines that we would have to heel the vines in, uncovering only what we were about to plant.  We’ve walked around the property more than once trying to figure out where to dig the trench, or trenches, since there are a lot of vines.  It finally began to dawn on us that heeling the plants in was going to be nearly as big a project as actually planting them, so we called the helpful folks at Double A Vineyards for some advice.

Yay!  We can keep the vines in their packing boxes in the garage for about a week.  If we open the boxes and water the roots we can last another week in the garage.  And, finally, they offered to stagger the shipments so that we only have vines that are a few days out of the ground at the nursery.

Problem solved.  Saved from the trenches!

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Fiat Porcus

Those of you who are coming to the planting party will be working up a good appetite, so Jed and I have been thinking quite a lot about what to serve a hungry crowd that day.  We knew one thing would be on the menu no matter what:  pig in some way, shape, or form.

The year we traipsed all over south Jersey looking for the perfect roof we had passed a small outdoor BBQ shack, but it wasn’t open over the winter.  Once we bought the property and had begun to work in the field, we stopped back to check it out.  It was surprisingly good, and so it became a frequent Sunday lunch break. Sam Gish, char connaisseur, had tasted it with Jed after a day in the tractor, and pronounced it very good. So Jed called to see if they’d be open by the day of the party, but got a pretty non-committal response: “I’m leaving on vacation.  I’ll think about it.”

OK.  Better keep looking.  We had sampled some BBQ at a charity event over the winter from Carolina Blue, a restaurant near the farm.  The website said the BBQ was ‘smoked with peach wood from Heritage Vineyards’.  Sounds perfect!  So we headed over to sample it when Becca was home for spring break.  Nice rib, tasty pulled pork.  Excellent sides.  Plus a wall full of Palm Beer bottles.  So the following Monday I email them to see if they cater, or would at least do a big big take out order.  No response.

OK.  Better keep looking.  Our friend and neighbor Jerry volunteered to ask around on our behalf and suggested  Louie’s, a new BBQ spot in Collingswood.  We recruited Jerry to be part of this tasting.  This place had a meaty rib with a peppery rub, a fine pulled pork, and a tender brisket.  Traditional sides that were acceptable and desserts.  They had a catering menu, and a catering guy.  This could work.  But….

But I’ve never been to a pig roast, and here, finally is a chance to see what they’re all about.  Our friend/executive chef Chazz recommended a name, but he was already booked.  Jerry tracked down a caterer in Philly that mostly does big corporate functions; and they did both BBQ and pig.  And had the date, but a pretty firm cancellation penalty should it rain.  What about Anthony, our local place for lunch at work?  Jerry thought he did roast pig.  Our friend Karen thought the folks at Cork might do a pig – but they are in the middle of a huge redesign of the restaurant.  And Saturday nights are busy for restaurants.

Then Jerry suggested Cannuli’s, a butcher in the Italian market in Philly.  The website had a page just for roast pig, with different sizes, and price points.  “Ask for Charlie” said the pig page.  Charlie is Charles Cannuli, who has been doing roast pig for a long time  and had an answer for every question.  They roast the pig and you pick it up, wrapped in foil and sitting on a slab of wood and ready to go.  It comes with gravy (the south Philly Italian name for sauce) The price was right, and their cancellation requirements more or less matched the lead time for canceling the event in case of rain. I might just get my pig roast after all.  Now all I need to find out is how to carve up a whole pig!

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