planting vineyards at Bingham Family Vineyards

Little sticks in the ground. Do you see them? You have to look closely. They look like worthless sticks in the ground don’t they.

But they’re dreams … a field of dreams. Where will those dreams lead? I guess we’ll have to trust the Lord with that, but – I can show you how they started.

We planted 5 acres of Mouvedre grapes last Saturday.

We planted the grapes on Clint’s land where there are currently 5 areas of Viognier grapes that are in second leaf. You can see those plants to the right with all the T-posts, bamboo, trellises, and rye grass. To the center and left you can see two rows of Mouvedre that have been planted. You kind of have to know what you looking for though. Planting was supposed to start earlier today, but the guys needed to keep adjusting the planter to get it set right.

There is one of the tractors at the top left that is planting plants. Some people use a shovel and plant each grape plant by hand. That sounds nice, but it is rather hard work, and we wouldn’t be able to put in the 55 areas that we are planning on putting in this spring if we were putting them in that way. Plus my guys would rather invent some type of machine to do the work for them, so that they don’t have to work so hard. But as you’ll see they still work pretty hard as it is.

To make those really straight rows we plan out where we want the rows to be and then we use GPS tractors to make sure we actually put the plants where they need to be. We used to use straws – yes the big white drinking straws – to mark where to put the plants should be put in. That – was definitely the hard way. I have some pictures somewhere. I’ll look for them.

First we make vertical marks with a GPS tractor to mark where the individual grape plants should be located within each row. Those lines mark show where the plant should be placed. Each plant should be 4 feet from the next plant in each row.

Then the GPS tractor comes along to plant the vines in rows. These rows are 8 feet apart. Lots of vineyards do it differently. That’s how we do it. Even the angle of the rows is planned out to 120 degrees. In the morning the angle allows for the sunlight to hits the grapes and dry the morning dew, yet the angle shades the grapes from the afternoon heat. Don’t even begin to ask me for a more detailed answer on that one. Just call Bobby Cox, OK. I just like to act like I’m an expert, but I really am not.

Here it comes.

Now for a look at the plow. The original planting plow that we first used was created and continually modified by Bobby Cox and Neal Newsom. Then Tommy Gilliam, Dusty Timmons, and Andy Timmons got a hold of the idea and modified it to this prototype. We did a few adaptations here and there, so what you come up with is a community invented plow.

You have someone driving the tractor and three riding on the plow. The plants are in bundles of 25. The first person (in this case kiddo) cuts the bundles apart and separates the bundles into smaller bundles. The next kiddo (the girl in the baseball cap) separates the smaller piles of plants to hand them one at a time to the third kiddo. All three of these are my kiddos, but we do have some employees that we actually pay to do work.

Here is the hand off.

And the goal is to place a plant at each vertical mark. Those wily roots are supposed to go in the ground. I think it works better that way, rather than upside down. They just look like sticks to me, but everyone tells me that they really are dormant plants that with water and good old West Texas sunshine will sprout out in the spring. But it really is still hard for me to see – they just look like dead sticks.

Anyway, nice example of team work here. They fight all the time at home, but they are motivated to work well with their Daddy out in the field because if they were home with me they would be cleaning the garage and scrubbing down the patio furniture. Why they just beg to go to work with their Dad instead of helping me clean is just beyond me.

But then I did get to take a break and go over to take pictures, so that was nice.

I almost forgot. You have to cover those little stick up with dirt so that they will grow right. The two plows on the end do just that. You can see one little stick sticking out of the ground at the back of the plow.

Here you can see the other tractor planting away. You can see the vertical markings again that I told you about earlier.

If you notice the two people following behind the tractor, their job is to make sure that the plant is in the ground and pretty straight up instead of at an angle.

There’s My Honey. He is working there with the children. I love that guy. I love to see them together. That’s one of the reason that we homeschool. Learning is great, reading is great, math is great. But working with their Dad is what molds those kids into what they are. This whole process creates a whole lot of laundry and a whole lot of dirty dishes in the kitchen, but it is worth it all. Did I just say that? Give me a minute to weigh that out again.

Here is the other crew going after it. Another daughter here, a son-in-law there, a nephew-in-law doing following the tractor work, and a few more good employees. Wow, this really does take a lot of team work.

And of course periodically you have to load up with more sticks plants.

This picture? Just the big beautiful West Texas sky distracting me.

Here are those plows in the back that cover up the sticks plants.

There is Bobby Cox checking on everyone. He said that the plants were maybe 2″ off, but he could live with that – close enough.

Having two tractors and two plows running sure puts in the plants fast considering they didn’t start planting till sometime after lunch. It was great to finish up 5 areas that day which equates to 7,000 plants. 7,000 done now only 70,000 more to plant in the next week or so. Just 50 more acres to go this spring.Next the rows will be flooded to “water” the grapes in. The soil here is nice and moist. 

Lots of work going on here.

Add some t-posts, bamboo, wire, rye grass and a year later you end up with rows of longer sticks plants. Can’t hardly see them right. That’s OK, I’m not sure I can see them.

Nothing but a field of dreams so far. Clint and Alexis’s field of dreams. But just wait till next year and the next and the next. The fruit will come. That’s the way God’s nature works.

Oh, yeah, it is official now. I can tell the world. Clint and Alexis are engaged. They are planning to get married this summer!

Blessings, Betty

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