Clearing... finally, progress on the ground

Today (Friday, January 17, 2014), I visited our vineyard property near Hillsboro, Loudoun County, VA, and witnessed actual progress on the ground.  Land clearing work has begun.  This project is no longer land searches, legal documents, research, regulation, permits, hope, dreams, and ideas.  We’ve begun actual “real” work.  

photo of land clearing

Dave, our excavator and land clearing contractor, has begun clearing pulpwood trees (too small for timber harvesting) from the property.  After completion of this clearing work, based on efforts by our forester (Dan), the timber companies will arrive and harvest more mature trees for lumber (including, walnut, cherry, 4 types of oak, poplar, ash, and other species).  We’ll retain some of the harvestable timber for use on site in vineyard or winery buildings under our principles for this project (discussed briefly below).  We’ll sell some of the timber to help defray land clearing costs.  We’ll also gift some lumber to family and friends for fireplace mantles and other uses.

While commencement of clearing activity seems like a small step in the bigger scheme, it’s a very important step.  Clearing will permit us to locate and permit our drain field (waste water system, for vineyard offices and the eventual winery) and to construct farm roads to service the vineyard and connect to nearby public roads (per VDOT road entrance permits we’ve secured).  

Clearing will also permit our architect (Tom) and soils consultant (Alex) to begin actual vineyard and winery building designs and vineyard layout in preparation for development permitting and building construction as well as grapevine  planting in 2015.  From that work follows actual construction, soil testing, root stock selection, grape varietal selection, soil prep for planting, planting, irrigation system installation, trellis works, and so on.  (This also puts me closer to tractor and pickup truck purchase; it’s all about the power tools guys.)    

Clearing also triggers our erosion and soil conservation program and other conservation measures.  Technically, under VA law, we’re exempt from mandatory soil controls of this type (there is an exemption for conversion from forest to other agricultural use) but we’re doing it anyway.  Our primary operating principles on vineyard land use include small footprint buildings consistent with the types of buildings in the County and area, minimal impact on the land consistent with sound vineyard establishment and best farming practices, observing green construction principles, and good general stewardship of the land.  Under these principles, we notified adjacent farms and landowners of our plans and our commitment to good stewardship and  farming practices.  We’ve also solicited their input on our plans.

Finally. . . ideas, planning, research, resources, savings, and not just a little bit of dreaming, are becoming physical and real.  Very exciting (at least for me).  Stay tuned. . . .