Sunday, March 15, 2009

Winery Placement

Those darned seedlings still haven't sprouted, and I've decided to put a heating mat under them to raise their temp to a good 80 degrees or so. That'll show 'em!

Consequentially, you get another winery entry. Placement is a big issue, as you have to pick a region that grows the grapes you want to make into wine, pick a community that you want to spend the rest of your life in, and pick a specific spot that will net you the most profit.

For many people, these criteria would lead them west to the winery powerhouses of California, Oregon, and Washington. In my case, a combination of a Midwesterner's distrust of the west coast and a desire to not migrate *too* far from my home state of Ohio has led me to decide that my winery must be east of the Mississippi. It's a fine balancing act, though.

I've narrowed my search down to five states: Ohio, New York, Maryland, Virginia, and North Carolina.

I've chosen Ohio as an "easy" option. My and my brother's family, as well as our two wives' families all live in Ohio, which is a significant resource base. In addition, the land is cheap. However, the wines that come out of Ohio are often weak and limited in variety, and there aren't many wineries.

New York is another easy one. It is the best wine state east of the Mississippi, and the third or fourth best overall. It has a lot of wineries, high-quality wine, and a good variety of wine varieties. My wife and I have been to the Finger Lakes several times, and love the Ithaca area. Problem is, it's cold, and the land costs are above average.

The next three aren't quite as easy. Maryland and Virginia are both warmer than Ohio, and have an average selection of wineries, average wines, and average variety. However, the land cost is astronomical.

North Carolina is the last option, though it's the weakest of the five. North Carolina produces somewhat sad wines, has the smallest variety of the bunch, and the smallest number of wineries. However, the land cost is average, it's warm, and we have extended family that have weak ties there.

This being said, the location we pick is likely to be an area I haven't even thought of at this point, as we're nowhere near the capital necessary to start this venture. Maybe by the time we set out, global warming will have made Delaware the perfect winemaking state. Who knows?

Monday, March 9, 2009

Winery Dreams

While we're waiting on the seeds planted Sunday to sprout (and thus give me a useful picture to post), let me take time to share with you my ultimate goal. Simply put, I dream of combining my love of horticulture and my love of wine into the ownership of a winery/vineyard east of the Mississippi. To this end, I've been researching incessantly for over three years. From alcohol-related bureaucracy to the most cost efficient tractor for a vineyard, I've been poring over everything I can get my hands on.

Most resources I've found say that starting a winery under romantic notions is an awful idea, and that it should be approached with a clear head and as a solid business venture. Despite this, the draw of country living, doing something with tradition and history attached to it, making my own hours, being close to home to help raise my children, making a living by at least partly working with plants, and participating in the blend of art and science that is winemaking really stimulates something powerful and elemental in my gut.

However, I'm always grounded again when it comes to figuring out the cost of this dream. Even if I started with just a vineyard, the cost to buy ten acres, plow it, plant it, install the hardware and bring it to fruition is well over two hundred thousand dollars. My current means will not provide me this level of disposable income for tens of years, let alone the three to five million bucks it'd take to do it perfectly as I'd want it. Enter: funding.

Funding comes in two forms. The first involves involving my brother in the process. This is an extremely good idea anyways, as he's a very good people person, a better manager/leader, a solid guy, shares my love of wine and dream of winemaking, has this insane luckiness about him, and with his doctor wife, doing much better financially than I. This is difficult in the short term, as he's tied heavily to his current location due to work and family issues, and just had a kid in January. The second form involves, well, let's give it a fancy name and call it the Hand of God. Whether it involves winning that free house on HGTV, winning the lottery, or finding an investor who is willing to wait five to seven years before seeing a profit, this is difficult both in the short and long term, because it relies on fate or luck, two things I'm not so good at influencing.

I suppose my best bet at influencing the funding issue is to make this blog so popular that people scream to sponsor me. So...uh, invite your friends! And uh, a free bottle of wine to blog followers once I get set up! Yeah, that's the ticket.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

And so it begins (again)

Today's seed-planting day in the Borage for Courage household, as the seeds have been soaking in wet paper towel for the requisite twenty-four hours. I was good and ended up under 15 dollars for seeds this year. However, as I mentioned, I will be leaning more heavily on nursery plants, so that'll be a cost down the road. As you can see from the picture, this year I'm growing one German Red Strawberry, two Chapmans, two Brandywines, one tomatillo, one Sungold, one Gardener's Delight, one Matina, one Kellogg's Breakfast, and one Green Zebra in the tomato category. For the peppers, we have Joe E Parker, two Fish peppers, a Mirasol, and an Ancho. For eggplants, there's two Rossa Biancas. In miscellaneous stuff, I'm growing three flatleaf Italian parsleys this year, because frankly, I can't find a single use where my typical crinkleleaf parsley is better. Can you? I know now that Stevia from seed is nigh impossible, but I had a couple dozen leftover seeds from when I was unaware, so I figured I'd give it one last go. And I'm going to try my hand again at growing Salad Burnet, because bizarre salad enhancements amuse me.

This garden is looking more and more like a gallery of past years' failures. Chapman and German Red Strawberry tomatoes, as well as Joe E Parker and Fish peppers died when I forgot to water the seedlings last year during a bout of the flu. Rossa Bianca was grown in horrible conditions two years ago, and couldn't manage to produce anything of edible size by the end of the season. The Stevia put up a feeble millimeter-wide set of primary leaves last year, then just fell over and died. So I'm probably dooming myself from the start. But doesn't doom make for the best blogging?

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Another Season

Gah, looks like five months have slipped on by. Since then, my wife has become pregnant with our first child, and the puppy's now almost seven months old, so... I've been busy.

Because of the aforementioned pregnancy and a birth right in the middle of the growing season (July 19th), this year is going to be a bit more simplified. Instead of starting my leek seeds in February and painstakingly getting them above two inches high, I'm scrapping that for leeks from the nursery in May. Instead of getting all-new tomato and pepper seeds, I'm keeping most of the same plants from last year, save for a couple new ones.

That's not to say there won't be new adventures and new recipes this year. I may even convince my wife to let me preserve this year. In addition, this year my blog will include my rantings and ravings about my long-term goal, as it does connect tangentially to gardening: my desire to run a winery and vineyard by the year 2020.

So here's to another fabulous season. May it outshine the last.

Monday, September 15, 2008

A New Member

This is both a report and an apology. Repology, perhaps? The apology part is straightforward. I haven't blogged in over a week, mostly due to not having much in the way of picture-worthy stuff. I have an overabundance of tomatoes, but most of them are starting to get squishy, and thus not terribly photo worthy. The dishes I've been making with them, like tabouli and normal, run-of-the-mill beef tacos, aren't really exciting. It's getting to the end of the season, and I've kindasorta stopped weeding, so overall pictures aren't so nice. I guess the peppers are starting to turn color, so that'll likely be my next blog. That, or another on eggplants. Man, those have been doing better than I ever could have expected!

But on to the report section. My wife and I have been thinking about getting a dog for months, if not years, but decided against it for a few reasons. Sunday, however, we passed a local pet charity outside of Petsmart with a bunch of dogs for adoption, and it's there that we met Inara. Half beagle, half lab (I like to think the beagle was the male for the sake of hilarity) and all cuteness, she was abandoned down in Southeast Ohio, and the foster parents named her after a escort-for-kings character on Firefly, a show my wife and I both like, because he thought she was a good companion. Well, that was such an amusing reason that we had to keep the name.

Of course, we got her on the day that Hurricane Ike came through, so that has created some hilarity of its own in dodging the massive debris that's fallen down in the yard, and going out at 1AM in 60 mph winds so she can pee. Ike did some fair damage to my garden, unfortunately, knocking down two tomato stakes, knocking two or three green tomatoes off the stalks, cracking the stem of my brandywine, and knocking flat a few of my pepper plants. I just simply don't have the time (or energy, frankly) to go out there and fix things, however, due to this bundle of energy. I had to walk her for over a mile before she'd sleep and allow me to write this entry and get a couple things done around the house. This dog is going to either get me in shape, or gnaw my hand off.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Fingerling Potatoes

Cost/benefit analyses. We try to do them as gardeners, saying, "Oh, it'll be much cheaper to grow x instead of buy it in the store. I'm just saving money." It rarely works out that way, does it? That's one of the main reasons I was drawn to fingerling potatoes. In the store, they're about $3.99 a pound when you can find them. So I figured, hey, 5 bucks for a few seed pieces, get 3-4 pounds, for a net profit of around seven bucks, and super-fresh fingerlings. Well, I got the super-fresh fingerlings, but after paying for soil and all the fertilizer these plants kept eating (oh, how they nom nom nom the fertilizer!), I probably came close to breaking even. If I would have been going organic for these potatoes, I would have been well in the hole.

I would have left these guys well enough alone for a couple more weeks, but the squirrels are getting aggressive, and had begun to unearth the plants as they started to die back and were stealing the potatoes. I didn't even realize they liked raw potatoes.

These in the picture are my Russian Banana fingerlings, chosen because they're supposed to be fairly versatile, in addition to the fact that I've had them before and enjoyed them. The range in sizes, though, is pretty insane. Everything from the size of a pea to the size of a real baking potato on these guys, which is going to make cooking them a chore.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Thyme Tomatoes

I've grown a wide variety of tomatoes this year. The gold-colored Kellogg's Breakfast and Sungolds, the gold and pink striped Hillbillies, the pink Brandywines, the red Soldackis, Camp Joys and Romas, and the purple Cherokee Purples and Black Cherries. Mix and match that with the Green Zebras my mother in law is growing down the street, and you have the makings of some really pretty dishes.

The best recipes to show off this variety of color and flavor are often the simplest ones, and this recipe is about as simple as you can without taking your salt shaker out to the vines. Simply slice a wide variety of colors of tomatoes, and arrange them nicely on a platter. Drizzle olive oil on the slices, and generously sprinkle fresh thyme leaves on the slices. Lemon thyme is particularly good for this, especially the variegated kind. Lay the leftover stalks on the tomatoes decoratively. Set the platter out in the sun for twenty minutes, then serve. Easy as pie.