Saturday, February 13, 2010

Actually -- the name of this posting should be "Yard Construction" as this is about a yard construction project.

But -- I find I'm much better at DESTRUCTION rather than actual CONSTRUCTION -- hence the name. I just have it in me I suppose. The wisest of intentions just goes terribly wrong whenever I'm set loose in the Back 40 with a shovel.

You can see the latest destruction project to your right. This is BARE ROOT season folks. Bill & Venus Bird are just not content with the eight fruit trees and four citrus trees in the front and backyard. Nope! There's gotta be more, more, more, more!!!

Sound greedy? Good. Cause -- we are. And -- perhaps mildly insane.

But the thing with Bare Root season is this: Your window of opportunity is short and sweet. Unending weeks of rain and snow have taken up a lot of it. We've got about another week or so left before fruit trees bust out in Bloom City -- and that means bare root season has passed you buy.

I'll keep this short and sweet -- because -- to be honest -- I shouldn't be sitting here typing. I should be in the backyard -- DIGGING. This irrigation project is now complete. What comes next is driving posts into the ground. After that? Stringing up some wire between the posts. And after that?

The table grapes arrive.

I'm a sucker for table grapes. I hate wine -- but I LOVE grape soda. A fine Chardonnay for you Mr. Bird? No thanks -- but I'll take a grape snowcone if you got one. The kid in me who used to by grape snowcones for ten cents each from "Smitty" never did quite grow up. I've always wanted tablegrapes. Now I will finally get them in my own backyard.

Oh -- and not just any tablegrapes either. These seedless varieties are actually offshoots of the old seeded varieties that ruled the Sacramento Valley. Names like Ribier, Tokay and Norwegian are nothing but old street names in my hometown of Modesto now. But -- at one time -- it represented a field of grapevines.

That includes the "Venus" tablegrape that was released to the public for the first time in 1977 and has slowly been making its way west. Is it the best tasting tablegrape on the planet? No -- but it carries the wife's lovely name. Therefore -- it's a keeper in the backyard of Bird.

Now -- the thing is -- I've never planted or grown any type of grape before. Like most things -- you just can't "plant and ferget." If you want grapes -- you need to care for them. You've got to grow them correctly. In other words -- you've got to love them -- or they will not love you back.

The number one piece of advice I heard from backyard arborists? Make sure the water source and stakes are installed first BEFORE digging one hole for a grapevine. Thus -- YARD DESTRUCTION man went into business one fine day in between rainstorms.

I had already come to the conclusion that I could not tap into the drip tubing that I have installed against the fenceline. This is a line that I had to split last summer because I had tapped into so much for other watering purposes -- I was losing pressure on the line.

Therefore -- the closest source of water that I hadn't yet overutilized was located inside the main planter area -- where I normally plant the bulk of my spring and summer gardens (including those wonderful heirloom tomatoes). But this also presented a vexing problem. I had already covered this area with five yards of bark. I never thought that I would need to tap into those lines.

Note to self: The word "never" is a term that should be eliminated from gardening lingo.

The bottom line? I needed to tap into that line. Know what this means? It means raking away whatever bark that hasn't sunk into the soil -- so you can access a clay soil that has the consistency of a jello-like concrete during the rainy season. The good? It's easy to cut through with a trenching shovel. The bad? Each shovel full weighs a metric ton. Worse yet -- the clay sticks to the shovel like glue.

There is a *special* time of year in the backyard where the soil is at perfect condition for digging. It's damp enough where the soil comes up easily and breaks apart into a fine dirt. But it's dry enough where it falls from the shovel with ease -- and is light and airy.

This *special* time of year lasts for approximately 30-seconds every year. And wouldn't you know it? I've missed that window of opportunity every single year. When I start digging? It's either as hard as lava cap or wet like sticky molasses. I'm not going to fool you. This isn't easy work.

But it's the payoff that keeps you going. Soon -- the vines -- which have already arrived from Bay Laurel Nursery and are sitting in shed belonging to Carri Stokes -- will be planted. I don't expect anything out of these vines in the first year. I don't expect a whole bunch in Year Two either.

But by Year 3? Baby, it's grape soda time.

In case you're interested, the varieties I'm planting are the aforementioned Venus (pictured above), Thompson (2), Red Flame, Suffolk Red, Crimson, Fantasy and Black Monukka.

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