Posts Tagged ‘Agritourism’

Corn Maze Disaster!! Oh my what a birthday present!

Friday, September 5th, 2014

It was my 50th birthday and I’m REAL hard to buy for so my wonderful wife planned an awesome trip over to the Finger Lakes wine country in Western New York state. It was a great time, we took our camper just the two of us and I made place to haul my motorcycle on the back. We had a blast, we spent a few days riding around the area then headed back home on my birthday July 10th.

And we are ready to roll!

And we are ready to roll!

On our way home we drove in pouring across 90. It got so bad I pulled off as I was afraid I might get rear ended because visibility was so bad. We got through it and drove home. As we got close we heard Akron had huge flooding and it stormed pretty hard but didn’t think much about it. The next day I went out and checked the fields not expecting what I’d find.

What was 5 feet tall yesterday was 1 foot tall today

What was 5 feet tall yesterday was 1 foot tall today

We got about 2.5 inches of rain in about a half an hour with heavy wind gusts that bent the corn over to the ground.

Flattened near the observation tower.

Flattened near the observation tower.

Corn is a tough plant and I’d seen it blown over before and stand back up but not when it was this tall. Much of this field was over five feet tall and it was bent and broken just a few inches above ground level.

The flattened corn fell into the maze paths

The flattened corn fell into the maze paths

The flattened corn had fallen into the maze paths I had proudly cut just a few weeks earlier and made me uncertain would I be able to still craft a maze into this field. I still needed to roto-till these paths yet, and I wasn’t sure what I had in the way of design left. The soil was saturated and if you tried to pick up a stalk it snapped off at the ground.

What to do with this mess?

What to do with this mess?

So I took the advise of my father in law Kay and my buddy Dave from Iowa, walk away and come back in a week.

About 10 days later this is what I found!

About 10 days later this is what I found!

I came back and this what I found…..It mostly stood back up, at least enough to make a corn maze!

Bent at the base but still standing!

Bent at the base but still standing!

The stalks were “Goosenecked” and bent but the plants had mostly righted themselves. The field sort of shifted over about a foot but it all moved in a relative fashion so the paths I had mowed earlier were maintained.

Roto tilling went well!

Roto tilling went well!

Tilling the paths went well and we were able to clean up the edges nicely and it made for a great aerial photo.

2013 LoCo Motion final photo

2013 LoCo Motion final photo

We ended up getting a great picture and had a record year for the fall. And best of all when we harvested later in November the field yielded over 140 bushels to the acre even with all the paths cut out of it!

Corn Maze, What’s next when building one…. part 3

Tuesday, April 8th, 2014

Oh poo, well more like manure that is. In order for any crop to grow well a lot of things need to happen. In the first blog post we talked about harvesting the crop at the end of the growing season. In the last one we discussed taking a soil sample. Over the winter months not much happens in the field but “weathering” does occur. Weathering is a natural process where the weather works on the soil. Do you remember science class and what happens to water when it freezes?

Rock cracked by water freezing inside of it.

Rock cracked by water freezing inside of it.

While things appear “solid” to us not many things really are. Practically everything has small spaces or pores within it. Rocks are no different, they have little spaces inside of them and depending upon the type of rock some are larger than others. Water finds its way into these little spaces and when it gets cold and freezes (below 32 degrees Fahrenheit) it expands. It is an enormously powerful force, strong enough to lift buildings, crack metal or rocks.

Copper pipes that cracked because of water that froze and expanded

Copper pipes that cracked because of water that froze and expanded

The same weathering forces act upon the soil in the fields. In fact we like it to happen especially in corn maze fields. All those foot falls of people walking across the field pack the soil down and freezing and thawing really help break it up. Over winter the snow and rain falls on the field and finds its way into the soil.

Rain water seeps into cracks in the soil

Rain water seeps into cracks in the soil

Soil is about 50% air and water and about 50% mineral and organic compounds portions are called soil colloids . It is the water in these spaces that freezes and thaws over the winter months that push the soil particles apart allowing for air and water to move between them more easily that we get the benefits of this process. When the soil “heaves” (not good for alfalfa fields, but that is another story) the soil loosens, actual cracks get formed which allow for later rainfall and other nutrients to find their way into the soil where plants can use them.

japanese bettle life cycle

japanese bettle life cycle

Another upside to a good long hard freeze is it kills a lot of critters living underground. Some actually have a form of anti-freeze in their blood but a good freeze still gets a lot of them.

liquid manure after application before plowdown

liquid manure after application before plowdown

We also can use this time of year to apply fertilizer both animal manure based as well as other forms. We like to put a small amount of pellitized lime and ammounium sulfate.

Lime Truck spreading lime

Lime Truck spreading lime

You try and catch the ground when it just a has bit of frost on top that holds you up but not frozen so much you have a hard time plowing it. And frozen is no substitute for proper moisture. We don’t plow when it is too wet! This is sort of a delicate balance and not always easy to hit.

Plowing maze immediately after manure is applied.

Plowing maze immediately after manure is applied.

Well this post about our Corn Maze has gotten a bit long! Time to go, we started to talk about plowing and preparing the soil for planting. Next time we will talk a bit more about how we approach overall fertility.

Who’s da Hare?? Breakfast with the Easter Bunny April 19th 2014.

Tuesday, April 1st, 2014

You know it must be spring when you see the bunnies start hopping around the farm! And boy do we have a BIG bunny that pays us a visit every year! Yes we have the one, the only, Easter Bunny! She lives on the farm year round. For “rent”, we ask that she help us out this one special day and hang out with our little peeps!

The one, the only....Easter Bunny!

The one, the only....Easter Bunny!

Yep, fresh down from the cotton trail the Big E.B. loves to stop and visit with our families at Maize Valley. This year due to a record demand we have just added a second seating. Click here for event details and reservation information.

Wide open egg hunt if weather permits

Wide open egg hunt if weather permits

If the weather lets us we go out behind the market and winery on the hill out back and look for all the eggs the E.B. has scattered around. If it is not such a nice day out we ask E.B. to just leave them in the pavilion and we make do. Whatever the case we get it done.

Indoor "hunting" if need be.

Indoor "hunting" if need be.

This event is a similar style event to our Breakfast with Santa – you will have a reserved table with your paid reservation and it will be your table for the duration of the event. If you would like to sit with another party, please let us know at the time of your reservation and we will make every attempt to accommodate your request.

Please let us know when making reservations if there is another group you would like to sit with

Please let us know when making reservations if there is another group you would like to sit with

The buffet style breakfast includes pancakes, eggs, sausage, bacon, juice & coffee. There is also a cookie decorating station where the kids can decorate and take a a large egg shaped cookie home.

Reserved tables are numbered for easy locating

Reserved tables are numbered for easy locating

Like breakfast with Santa this event sells out. In order to keep it a well run and organized event we require a pre-paid reservation to hold your spot. Every child gets a chance to visit with the Easter Bunny and there are lots of great photo opportunities (so bring your camera).

The Bunny doesn't really say much but you are welcome to sit and visit.

The Bunny doesn't really say much but you are welcome to sit and visit.

At Maize Valley we do many different special events that cover a wide range of age groups and interests. We really try to have a “Vintage for all the Seasons of your life”. Breakfast with the Bunny is sort of that kick off event to our outside activity season.

Cookie Decorating out in the Pavilion

Cookie Decorating out in the Pavilion

Last year we moved the Cookie Decorating out into the pavilion so there was more room inside to be able to sit and enjoy breakfast while hanging out with the hare.

A quick recap of the 2013 “Growing Season”

Tuesday, November 12th, 2013

“Fall 2013” is just about done for us! It has been a long time since I sat down behind the keyboard to make a blog post. I left you back on March 8th 2012, a lot happened since then. That year we had a bumper grape crop and bust of a corn maze. In 2013 we had just the opposite. If you watch the video I posted from the last post those grape buds made it just fine, then the fears I had in 2012 hit us in 2013 and we lost over 95% of our grape crop. The good news is the corn maze had the best crop ever which made for an awesome maze and a overall great “Fall”!

I took this picture of a full moon rising over they vineyard Friday May 28th as I left the corn maze field after working ground to get ready to plant it the next day.

Bad Moon Rising

Bad Moon Rising

That was not a welcome sight to me knowing what a sky can do like that when High pressure weather patterns arrive in late May. I figured we’d have a bad frost but no idea HOW bad. When my wife left the winery at 11:30pm that night there was already a light frost on the window of her vehicle.

Grape vines morning after a freeze

Grape vines morning after a freeze

The feeling a farmer gets when they look at a crop like in the one in the picture above is hard to describe. There are a lot easier ways to “make a living” but I wouldn’t trade what I do for anything. You just sorta learn things like this happen and you try and maintain a “long view” and find the positive. My father in law also lost 17 acres of sweet corn that night, but he took a gamble on trying to put some corn out in “low ground” that grows awesome crops and got burned.

Close up of "fried" grape vines

Close up of "fried" grape vines

The “Big Picture” you just keep telling yourself and keep on swimming as Dory would say (aka Finding Nemo). That same day I took the pictures of the fried grapes I loaded the corn planter and got busy planting the 2013 corn maze. We had already started getting fall campfire/corn maze reservations back in April and I needed to start getting ready.

Loading the Corn Planter

Loading the Corn Planter

I like to plant the corn a bit later than you normally would so that it stays green as long as possible into the fall season for purposes of the maze. This worked well this year and I will get back to that with future blog posts just on how we do the corn maze.

Looking over the hood while planting corn

Looking over the hood while planting corn

The corn maze growing season really had its ups and downs. I have done a lot of work to the corn maze field and it paid off this year. We fixed some drainage problems and have been on a steady annual program of applying cow manure to help with both fertility and organic matter.

But the sun came up each and every morning!

But the sun came up each and every morning!

But the sun came up each and every morning! One of the reasons I do what I do is this is my view from my “office”. People work all year to get to a “place like this”, I live it everyday. Besides all the “normal” stuff we do we also embarked on a other special projects designed to make our fall destination a one of kind place and over this winter I’ll try and review the year both in projects and all the special events we do.

Thank you for stopping by, I hope you enjoy your trip to our farm as I cover some of the things we do.

Wordless Wednesday

Wednesday, February 8th, 2012
Final Ride

Final Ride

Don’t be left out in the cold!

Tuesday, January 31st, 2012
It can get lonely out there!

It can get lonely out there!

January is in the books! WoW this has been one of the most productive winter months we have had in years. Last winter I started pushing snow the first week in December and didn’t stop till March. This year I’ve only had the plow on my truck twice!!! 🙂 Woot-WoOt!

Giving the old Trac-hoe a "boost"!

Giving the old Trac-hoe a "boost"!

We are planning a new winery expansion so we are taking quotes. We need to have this building up by August to keep up with inventory and sales needs. But in the meantime we moved a old barn that was actually stradeling the property line. A old issue from way back when we bought the property the barn sat on that we were going to get too….some day. Well the house sold and it needed moved.

Moving the barn while we had a little frost in the ground

Moving the barn while we had a little frost in the ground

We put a 3 season enclosure around our “Gateway Pavilion” so we can get started with Corn Hole tournaments in the spring and extend our fall outdoor season as well. Raidient heating going in next! It should be a GREAT place to come out and play with a sweat shirt on even down into the 40’s!

Brad and Bruce Dickerhoof of Rainmain Const.

Brad and Bruce Dickerhoof of Rainmain Const.

Corn Hole, live tunes, ping-pong, just a place to come and play!

Getting our "game-face" on!

Getting our "game-face" on!

All the while we are still growing some really tasty stuff in the greenhouses for the farmers’ markets and our Vintner’s Dinner series. Boy this was a outstanding meal with spinach salad and green beans coming right from our own farm in January in Ohio!

Yo Popeye!

Yo Popeye!

Did I mention we are launching a new fitness program next spring and I am getting ready for it by going through the p90x fitness program?

Mouth watering!

Mouth watering!

We had a Red Solo Cup Nite in the Winery! OMG that ROCKED us like no other January “mini-event”. Way too much fun!

Red Solo Cup...I fill U up!

Red Solo Cup...I fill U up!

We had a Island Party too with who else but the Island Dr. of course….How low can U go?

p90x yoga, yea that helps!

p90x yoga, yea that helps!

Mom and Dad on their 65th!

Mom and Dad on their 65th!

Did I forget to mention that my Mom and Dad celebrated their 65th Wedding anniversary??

Display from the Indiana Young Farmer Conference

Display from the Indiana Young Farmer Conference

I even had the wonderful opportunity to speak at the Indiana Farm Bureau Young Farmer Conference. What a great group of young farmers! Reminded me of my wife and I bout 18 yrs ago!!!

Naw! This is the Keynote crowd!  I had much smaller room!

Naw! This is the Keynote crowd! I had much smaller room!

All in all a very good month and we got eleven more to go to make 2012 even better than 2011 and we are pumped!

p90x week 6!  Bring It!

p90x week 6! Bring It!

So stay tuned for more of what is coming up from down on the farm, market, and winery at Maize Valley. We have a vintage for all the seasons of your life!

R house is a very, very fine house!

R house is a very, very fine house!

Did forget to say I have a beautiful family?? 🙂

Yes, her date knows I carry a gun!

Yes, her date knows I carry a gun!

Wine? What kinds of grapes are used for different types of wines? Part 3 Final

Thursday, January 12th, 2012

As part of R “Ask the Ohio Wine and More Blog” series. Amber from The Karcher Group (TKG, R web host) asked the title question for this blog post. What kinds of grapes are used for different types of wines?

Amber Mullen

Amber Mullen w/TKG, C! These people DO exist I'm not making this up!

If you look back to Dec. 27th you can see the first post about Native American Grapes as post #1 the second on Vinifera and here in Part three the French American Hybrid. Amber asked a BIG question!

Before you just read this post please review the Dec. 27th post to understand the context I am answering this question in. I am trying to be brief and too the point. I took the following from Wikipedia, it says it very well.

Merzling grape

The hybrid grape Merzling created by a crossing Seyve-Villard 5276 with a cross Riesling x Pinot Gris.

During the first half of the 20th century, various breeding programs were developed in an attempt to deal with the consequences of the Phylloxera louse, which was responsible for the destruction of European vineyards from 1863 onwards. After extensive attempts, grafting European varieties onto North American rootstock proved to be the most successful method of dealing with the problem.

However, hybrid grape varieties were introduced as a solution to many of the viticultural problems of cooler and more humid wine regions, such as those in the northeast of North America. From the 1950s onwards, grape varieties such as De Chaunac, Baco noir, Marechal Foch, Vidal, etc. have been a staple of the wine industries in Ontario, New York, Pennsylvania, etc. Only since the 1970s and 1980s have vinifera varieties begun to displace hybrid grapes in this area. Even in those areas where vitis vinifera now predominates, hybrid varieties still have “cult following” with some wine consumers. Furthermore, in some cases hybrid grapes are used to produce unique and exceptional products; for example, ice wine produced from Vidal blanc or Vignoles in Ontario and New York.

Round baling Hay

Round baling Hay

But you asked me the question so how does that effect us? At Maize Valley we farm about 800+ acres from Garlic to Green Beans and Alfalfa to Tomatoes about 50 different crops and grapes too. We have a multitude of different soil types and topographies.

"Organic" Muck soils

Our "Organic" Muck soils

We have messed around with a few varieties of grapes and currently have some Native American Concord and Catawba. Seen here below.

Catawbwa

Catabwa

But our work horses’ are turning out to be our La Crescent, Frontenac and Frontenac Gris all French American Hybrids developed in the Minnesota….eh!

La Crescent

Our La Crescent

This particular white grape makes a very bright clean fruit forward wine that has nice flora notes and a citrus like finish. We grow it on a sandy nob in one field just about 100 yards west of that picture of black soil above. You are welcome to go out and visit this field if you make a trip out to the winery. It is about 200 yards behind and about 400 yard to the East of the main building.

Replanting dead plants

Replanting dead plants

We also experimented with the Vinifera grape Riesling and Pino Gris without much success. We could get them to grow just fine throughout the summer but 2 yrs. in a row they died back to the snow line. We could keep trying but we are going to rip those plants out and plant another Hybrid because while we might sooner or later get a crop we can’t tie up valuable acreage and labor caring for a crop we might only get every three years and then not sure if it will be very good.

My lovely wife Michelle!

My lovely wife Michelle!

So there ya go Amber, Native American grapes mostly the sweeter wines, Vinifers’ can be sweet but lend themselves to dryer more full bodied wines but needed the root stock of the other to survive, and the Hybrids sort of fill in the middle and take up the slack and can flex a bit and survive best in a variety of locations.

B sure to enjoy it with friends!

B sure to enjoy it with friends!

But most of all remember you can always go back and get more wine but you can never go back a make more time!

Wine? What kinds of grapes are used for different types of wines? Part 2

Thursday, January 5th, 2012

Part 2 of a pretty substantial question:

As part of R “Ask the Ohio Wine and More Blog” series. Amber from The Karcher Group (TKG, R web host) asked the title question for this blog post. What kinds of grapes are used for different types of wines?

Part 1 sort “frames” my response if some of this seems not as complete as I could be.

Last post on this thread we took a pass at the Native American Grapes Vitis Labrusca. We then ended with mentioning the vinifera grape –

Vinifera

Vinifera

Common European grape cultivated in many varieties; chief source of Old World wine and table grapes. These grapes are what most people think of when they think “wine grapes”. This is so because most of these varieties originated in Greater Europe/Mediterranean regions.

Chardonnay grape leaf

Chardonnay grape leaf

They have a rich history dating back thousands of years compared to our “Native American” grapes. In fact many of the first European settler’s were quite excited to see the New World’s coast lines covered with grapes from the decks of their ships. But they were very disappointed when the came ashore only to find they were very different compared to what they were used to dealing with.

Cabernet Sauvignon  grape leaf

Cabernet Sauvignon grape leaf

Settlers from the “old country” were used to these types of grapes. Much of the wine industry and common practices involving grapes and wine that were in place at the time the United States were being formed primarily used these grapes as well.

Pinot grape leaf

Pinot grape leaf

But then things changed. A lot of what kept grape and wine production going over the centuries in Europe through it’s volatile history had a lot to do with religion and various groups who made it a priority or not. Monks had great influence increasing cultivation. Other religions in the Middle East set it back. The dark ages, The Renascence, the Roman Empire all these things came into play.

Merlot grape leaf

Merlot grape leaf

Each region developed it’s own identity and over time an “art” in making wine. This had to do with many factors such as soil type, topography, climate and other factors came together to form what is called “terroir”. Wines were defined by where they came from and you were only permitted to grow certain types in certain locations, which is still true today in some places.

Terroir

Terroir

As wine increasingly became more of a science and consumer demand had more influence on the marketplace, things changed. We now call wines more by what they are than who grew them or where they came from. This has given the United States and other countries an advantage compared to centuries past and has “democratized” the whole wine experience.

Beer, Food, Wine, Ammo sorta saz it all!

Beer, Food, Wine, Ammo sorta saz it all!

Vinifera grapes can be made sweet but in general lend themselves to make dry wines better than Native American grapes. But as national sales show most wines sold are sweet wines so there needs to be a balance when it come to staying in business as a winery. We make several award winning, awesome dry red wines made from Vinifera grapes but our number one selling wine is a sweet red made from the Concord Grape.

Red Neck Red

You have to also consider that laws dictate how wines can be made. For instance in California you are not permitted to add sugar to wine to make it sweeter. In certain countries they tell you what you can plant based on where you farm. Then the Vinifera were not native to America and pests and diseases had their say. Grape phylloxera is a little sap sucking bug that gets after the plant and works it over and allows other pathogens and such to destroy the plants. This got back to Europe and caused a whole world of hurt in the 19th century, but that is a whole other story.

Grape phylloxera

Grape phylloxera

You can grow Vinifera in very well in certain regions of the United States, mostly California and some other Western states. But the locations in Ohio are few and far between and even when everything goes right the quality is often times less than that of regions with a more suitable consistent climate. Riesling and a select few other grapes all mostly “white” are probably the exception. American’s do not like inconsistency, to a wine maker it is an “interesting challenge”, to the consumer it’s “not how I remember it”.

So I know that doesn’t cover all the bases here but a brief overview of two types of grapes used for wine production. Next post we will take a stab at what is called the “French American Hybrid”.

Vintage Ohio… It’s time to get your wine on………!

Tuesday, July 26th, 2011

Maize Valley Returns to Vintage Ohio for 2011!!

Maize Valley at Vintage Ohio

Maize Valley at Vintage Ohio

It’s time to get your wine on………! The Midwest’s largest and best known wine and food festival is just around the corner. Twenty five wineries from every corner of the state attend this gala event.

And the're off!!!

And the're off!!!

Exceptional food [note the menus from Cleveland’s own Gourmet Food Trucks], 3 stages of live music, Friday fireworks, a cooking stage and educational seminars by the American Wine society, all amid huge oak trees and the rolling grassy fields at the Lake Farmpark. Full details are listed at http://www.visitvintageohio.com/ So plan a little getaway.

Look for the "Circle MV"

Look for the "Circle MV"

Tell the boss that Friday August 5 you have ‘important’ plans — or forget mowing the grass on Saturday, August 6th. Hop in the car and spend a wonderful weekend with your friends from Maize Valley and all of their fellow winemakers. Order on line at http://www.visitvintageohio.com/or call 800-227-6972 to save by purchasing your tickets in advance. August 5th and 6th from 1 til 10 pm each day.

Michelle says Come on by!

Michelle says Come on by!

See you at Vintage Ohio!

Breanne, the second but “better” Daughter…

Sunday, July 24th, 2011
A leader on the field

A leader on the field

My Dad can be sort of tough on us kids, he keeps sayin’ “Life doesn’t grade on a curve” whatever that means. I get good grades, Mom and Dad are proud but they say that is not enough.

Last night I got to wash dishes till about 9:00. We do a “Wine’d Up Wednesdays” weekly event which is mostly a ladies thing at my families winery and I pulled dish duty. Not really “farming” I guess but work that needed done.

But growing up on a farm with a winery, vineyard and agritourism destination has meant

Dad out in a different field

Dad out in a different field

When I was eight years old and barely big enough to see over the wheel my Dad put me in Grandpa’s BIG 4 door diesel dually pickup and told me to “drive”! He was picking up round bales and didn’t want to have to move both the truck and loader by himself. He says I’ll remember that like a “Alan Jackson song”. Whatever all that means? But I do recall that day.

Basil

Seeding Basil