This is the view out of my new office window. How cool is that! A beautiful view of Lake Minnewaska and our vineyards - I am so lucky! I have been working out of my car (on my lunch breaks when I had a town job), our kitchen table (when Joe was working out of our basement), and our basement (now that Joe has his own space in the shop) for the last 6 years, and I am very much looking forward to finally having a space of my own.
Since this summer I have been meeting periodically with my dear friend Karina from Meco7 in Glenwood, to help me put a bow on the winery, but most importantly, my office :) If you have never visited her store, make it a priority! (But wait just a couple of weeks - she's moving to a bigger space very soon) She has everything you ever thought you needed (or didn't need) to make your house feel like a home! Furniture, rugs, pillows, wall hangings, mirrors, giftables, chocolate, candles, clothing, baby, kitchen tools, everything! Seriously, you need to go!
For this phase of the winery project we decided to forego using an interior designer, but instead we benefited from Karina's professional opinion to make calculated decisions regarding the interior and exterior spaces of the winery. If it were up to Joe and I, it would literally look like a cracker box, and Karina has really helped me walk through each of the spaces and make our choices very intentionally. I'm so excited for you to see what we have come up with and so grateful for the help she has offered!
Shane, Dan, and Jake from Gateway installed more of the SIPs walls this week. This fall weather has not been cooperating at all with our construction schedule, but each week we chip away at more. Last week we lost 2 days to rain/snow and 1 day to high winds, so I'm thankful that this week, although chilly, has been good for our crew! The picture above is the interior wall between the production space and the offices, kitchen, and lab areas. We will have storage above where the large cut out is. Below are the trusses, patiently waiting to be installed, Curt from Lundblads working on some compaction work in the production space, and an interior view of the tasting room.
Let's talk about our patio for a minute. I envision you spending a lot of time there in the near future. Dennis Lundblad did quite a bit of dirt work over the last couple of weeks leveling that area out. Today he was working on the retaining wall on the east side of the building. The best part is, all of the rock he's using came from our property somewhere. We are calling them "estate grown" rock. :) They are massive boulders and will make quite the statement when he's finished. It feels really great to finally give these rock a home, rather than having them sit in a pile the remainder of their lives (hahaha).
And Thein Well was able to come out today to finish pulling pipe to the building and placing the pumps below ground. And our 3-phase power from REA and internet from Starbuck Telephone should be pulled in this week too! Slowly we are checking things off the list and it feels pretty good!
And we FINALLY were able to start our soybean harvest. Early last week there were a couple of days before it snowed that Joe was able to combine about 80% of our soybeans. Then the snow came and we've been sitting since. But I think we were one of the fortunate ones in the area that were able to get into the field. The boys each took a ride with Joe in the combine after school on Tuesday. Usually during harvest they don't get to see much of their dad, so I try to get them out to the field to do that each year.
Lastly, I've been working with Alisha Zavadil from American Diversity here in Glenwood on putting together some new products for our holiday order. And I'm SO EXCITED about what she has come up with! Here's a sneak peek of what will be available - Look for more information beginning in November and start making your list!
Ever imagine enjoying a glass of Rolling Forks Vineyards wine with a sunset like this?!? Soon you won’t have to imagine it because you will be here with us, enjoying this together!
The Gateway crew was hard at it again between rains this last week. They capped the basement and started to put up the walls to the tasting room. It has been great to finally see some tangible progress. Their work so far, though still very important, has focused mostly on the footings and foundation, which has since been all covered up. Their work now includes all the things we can see, and it will just get better from here.
And because the basement is now capped, Lundblads could finish up backfilling the production area. Joe even decided to lend a hand and run one of the packers for a while. Even though it was cold, I think he enjoyed being able to help.
Tonight the sunset was one that was incredible. I was cleaning up dishes from supper and Joe told me to head out to the site quickly to snap a few shots. I needed to get a few extra pictures anyway for this weeks post, so it worked out pretty well. I was a few minutes late for the REALLY great part of the sunset, but still, it was beautiful!
Today was also a big day in our house. Our baby Oliver, who is not much of a baby anymore, turned 3! We grabbed lunch after church and they treated him to a monster brownie! Thankfully he had two brothers who helped him finish it!
We have been watching the weather pretty closely over the last week too, because we are itching to get in the field to harvest our corn and soybeans. Joe thought we would need a few more good days of drying, and the soybeans may be ready. There is some snow in the forecast and the ground is still very saturated - so only time will tell. We thought our first year farming in 2010 was one to remember, but I think the harvest of 2019 will have that beat. Continue to pray for our farmers, that they can mentally, physically , and emotionally complete this year’s harvest successfully.
Until next time!
Progress feels so good! Shane and his crew at Gateway made some serious headway this week. They got the area for the basement floor prepped and poured this week, which meant when that was finished, the walls could start going up! And because our building is a SIPs building (written more about it here), they could really get some work done after the floor cured.
Yes, Oliver is still in his jammies at 10am on Saturday, but that's how we roll around here on the weekends sometimes. This weekend we are using to recharge after our grape harvest, and prep for the corn and soybean harvest that will likely happen in the next couple of weeks.
Lundblads moved more sand this week for back-filling the production area, worked on the parking lot, and our "overflow" parking lot where they recovered much of the fill we used for the driveway. Things are shaping up nicely and its starting to really look like something.
And if you follow us on Facebook, you would have seen the last of our equipment arrived from Italy this week. We now have our pumps, tanks, and catwalk for the production area. Currently its sitting in our yard, but soon we will be able to move it all in the new building. I mentioned that it's like Christmas, but like when your parents tell you you can't open anything until you get home. :) Soon!
As mentioned above, we wrapped up our grape harvest this past week with the help of a few volunteers. It feels really great to have that finished up before we move into corn and soybeans.
Thank you for your continued kind words and support as we move through this project! We are anxious to share this with you all next summer!
I feel like a broken record here, but this waiting gig is SO HARD. I feel like we have been in a season of waiting for way too long. Ten years too long. And when we FINALLY were able to start construction it seems we are still forced to WAIT. God is clearly trying to tell us to trust Him. That’s the only logical explanation.
We have been waiting on the weather - to stop raining - and boy has it rained, and waiting for the site to dry out enough to have successful working days, and waiting on contractors to show up on time - one in particular, and waiting on licenses, and it seems all we do lately is wait.
And I sound like I am complaining, but really I'm coming from a place of absolute frustration. We are having to crush this year’s crop differently than we planned - spending extra (unplanned) funds on freezing the fruit. Our (very expensive) equipment is starting to arrive and we have no place to put it, so it will have to sit outside in the elements until we have the space finished. And by the time this is all said and done, we will likely be moving into the building in the snow. And that is really frustrating.
I found an article online (here) that offers 3 things to remember when sitting in a season of waiting.
1. Waiting Isn’t Punishment
Its often preparation or protection - and I believe this is a lot of what’s going on.
2. The Waiting Won’t Last Forever
There will be a resolution - and I know there will be, we can see it so clearly, which makes the waiting that much more difficult
3. You Don’t Just Have to Idly Sit Around Doing Nothing
And we aren't. This waiting period has allowed us -especially Joe - a few extra evenings with the kids to soak in their activities before the busyness of harvest will make it nearly impossible.
This week the plumbing in the basement was installed and the state plumber, John, did his inspection and passed this stage of the project. So Gateway’s crew can now finish backfilling around the basement walls and prep to pour the basement floor next week.
Lundblad’s have been busy this week as well, hauling fill from one part of our property up to the winery site. We were blessed enough to find a very large sand pit that provided perfect material for backfilling the production area and a base for the parking lot. This helped our budget immensely! It’s been so nice to have these materials at our disposal and I’m sure the guys are thankful they only have to make trips around the property, instead of from across town - because they have moved a lot of material.
And our well was installed this week - We Have Water!!!💦💦💦. Thien Well Company out of Spicer, MN drilled the well. Their team was great to work with through the entire process. Our well has to be “Certified Public Water” and Joe had some special requests as far as his needs in the production space. They were able to make it all happen. We received a bunch of rain from the time they set their drilling machine and when they finished up, so they got stuck while trying to leave. Joe gave them a big tug with our old tractor, and they were on their way!
And these piles of materials are just WAITING to be installed! Soon, my friends. Very soon!
Harvest will continue again tomorrow! We have some volunteers stopping out to help us hand pick a couple of varieties and then the machine harvester will get back to work next week. Anyone is welcome to join us tomorrow. We will start at our house at 8am and pick until we are done. We will provide a fun time and lunch!
Because we are dealing with yet another rain delay, I'm going to focus this post on some of the people that worked behind the scenes to help our vision come to life, and those that help make the lives of the construction workers a little easier :)
Stephanie Howe and her team at Studio E Architects, of Glenwood, MN has worked with us for about 3 years to help put our vision to life. We went through several revisions. We started first with drawings of the entire site which included a larger tasting room, full kitchen, and event center. We quickly realized that was going to WAY out of our budget range, so we scaled back things to what you will see when everything is complete. Her team probably did a happy dance when our prints were finalized, because we changed a lot of things, several times, but we wanted to make sure that we only had to build this once, and that we could grow into it, rather than constantly add on because of space issues. I really do think we go it right. Finally! Studio E also worked alongside Joe Nicholson at Design Tree Engineering to do the structural engineering on the project. This was instrumental in getting the foundation and footing walls done properly.
Brian Schulz and his team at Schultz Engineering were our civil engineers on the project. Because of the scope of our project, the fact that it was a commercial project, and because of the large road we built, Studio E suggested we bring on a CE to help put that part of the project together. It helped us gather a lot of important information regarding elevations, watershed, and soil types. They worked together with Chosen Valley Testing to complete the soil borings and geotechnical reporting.
We have gotten to know Eric at Nyberg Surveying pretty well over the last couple of years. He has come out a couple of times to do different surveys for us, but the most interesting one was the topographical survey he did on the land that the winery will sit on. Our property is very hilly and having that topo map was invaluable to the excavation and engineering teams, and in our eyes virtually priceless.
We can not forget about everyone over at the county office! David Green and his entire team at the Land Resource Management office have been fantastic to work with. They have been so patient with all of our questions, helping us secure our conditional use permit, building permit, and septic permit. We are seriously so lucky to have these people available to us to help make the county such a great place to live!
And let's talk about that septic system for a bit. Scott Elwood from Elwood Septic Professionals worked with us on our septic design. Twice. We dug SO MANY HOLES to find the right spot to put the septic system. He first drew up a mound system plan when our digs came up empty for the right soil types to have a gravity fed system with drain field. BUT, he stuck with us and was so patient. And we found the perfect spot. I wrote about it more here. I couldn't find a website or social media pages for Scott, so here's a link to his BBB rating. A+ and we agree!
HPS Rental is providing our site with "The John" for when nature calls and the workers have to "go." I'm not sure I need to say any much more about this, other than I appreciate having this service available in our area.
Tom Kraemer Inc is providing the waste removal for us. They are literally a phone call away and help us in keeping the site clean. Again, we are so thankful to have this service available to us so close to home.
Neil Nelson from Obenland & Nelson has been our attorney since probably 2012. Neil and Joe graduated high school together, played football together, and now our kids go to school together. He has helped us put our wills and estate plan together, worked on some of our business contracts, set up all of our business LLCs, and helped with a few of our property purchases and sales. He also helped facilitate the loan closing on our winery financing and his office is now doing our construction draws. He's been a great resource (and friend) to help us navigate through all of the questions we had about setting up the winery, protecting our assets, and ensuring our kids are taken care of should anything ever happen to me and Joe. Thanks Neil!
And finally our lenders. This all would not be possible without our financial partners at Glenwood State Bank and Prairieland EDC. We contacted Glenwood State Bank in early 2018 about our project. But the timing wasn't right for either of us. So we were patient and so were they. Then around December of 2018 I reached out to Chris Roering at the bank again about taking another look. We were ready. We just needed someone to take the plunge with us and believe in our vision. Chris found an SBA partnership with Prairieland EDC out of Slayton, MN and we worked for a couple of months to put it all together. With our other business ventures and the farm, our financial portfolio gets complicated pretty quickly. We sincerely appreciate the work of everyone at GSB who worked on helping put this all together.
It's taking quite the team of people to have this all come together. I probably have forgotten some, but I sure hope not. If so, I will give them all the accolades in my next post :) If you run into any of these businesses, please give them all the praise for working with us. It hasn't always been sunshine and rainbows, but we do appreciate all their efforts!
Things have gotten a little crazy around here this week! The boys started school on Tuesday. Henry is in 2nd grade, Vinny is in Kindergarten, and Oliver will be starting preschool next week! They are all really excited about getting back into a more structured schedule :) LOL (I think Mom is the most excited!) Vinny said he only got into trouble 2 times on his first day for "blurting out" when it wasn't his turn - and that doesn't come as a surprise for those that know Vinny well :)
Construction keeps clipping along. Joe and I made some changes to the basement - adding a couple of bathrooms and a small bar to service the outdoor patio, so our plumbing plans had to go back to the State Plumber for review and approval. That's causing some delay for the plumbers and the rest of the project, but we are hoping they can get started on Monday and keep things moving along. We would rather take care of it now and have it be right - but the wait is SO HARD!
Our building is going to be a Structural Insulated Panel (SIPs) building made by Enercept out of Watertown, SD. "Structural Insulated Panels (SIPs) are high performance building panels used in floors, walls and roofs for residential and light commercial buildings. SIPs are made with an expanded polystyrene (EPS) rigid foam core sandwiched between two structural skins of 7/16″ oriented strand board (OSB). When the two are laminated together, they create an insulated panel that is 2-1/2 times stronger than a stick-frame wall." The interior side of the panel will have Fiberglass Reinforced Plastic (FRP), and Enercept was able to apply that in their factory, making the on-site process much quicker!
The panels arrived this week and are just waiting to be put together!
There was a really bad storm that rolled through the area on Monday night around 8pm. The hail started just at the vineyard site over at Brian's and moved through our corn fields, as well as our neighbors, and the community of Brooten. Thankfully the vines at our house and the winery site were not affected, but much of our corn crop was shredded up pretty badly, and the grapes were bruised too. This year for farming was probably one of our most difficult years on record for us personally. It was a late, LONG spring to get the crop in. The weather has been cold and wet. And now much of our efforts were lost to a few minutes of hail that rolled through. But, farmers are eternal optimists, right? And it could have been much worse. So we are thankful and will keep pushing forward :)
Because of the storm and the hail, we made the decision to pull one of the varieties a few days early. These seemed to be affected the most by the storm and it was important to salvage as much as we could. These grapes went to a new winery coming north of Glenwood called Whitetail Meadow Winery. Because of our licenses and the current state of our building, along with the early harvest of this variety and low yields we had this year, we made the decision to sell them. Deanna has bought from us in the past and she's just a few miles up the road, so it was an easy decision.
And our equipment started arriving this week too! Our press arrived yesterday and the crusher and filter arrived today. We are still waiting on the pumps and the tanks which are coming from Italy, and are currently out at sea. Hurricane Dorian has delayed the delivery of that, but we are hoping we should see that shipment by the end of next week!
And finally a progress report on the grapes. Joe is estimating a week from Monday we’ll continue with the rest of our harvest. We used to hand harvest everything, up until last year, when Joe’s Uncle Mark purchased the grape harvestor (pictured above). What used to take ten people, 10+ ten-hour days, now can be done in just a couple of days with 3 people. It’s a HUGE time saver, we can control when we harvest, and we don’t have to manage a whole crew of people. Plus, we feel we get a cleaner sample of fruit from the harvestor because it blows out any leaves and bugs that would have potentially come with hand-harvested fruit.
We will have to hand harvest one variety this year however. The vines are just a few years old so we don’t think they are quite mature enough yet to go through the harvestor. So, if you are interested in learning more and want to come volunteer for a day, we plan to pick that variety on September 21st. Contact me to get on the list in the form below!
Whew! We made it! Hopefully I’ll have lots of building progress pictures next week! Fingers crossed!
We are trying to soak up as much of this summer that is left. It's hard to believe that school is starting next week already! Henry and Vinny got to see their classrooms this week at the school open house, get their pictures taken, and do all of the things they needed to in anticipation of getting back into the routine of school again. Oliver will be starting preschool in a few weeks too, so mom and dad will have free time available that we never knew existed! :) I think it will be good for all of us!
Last week I took the boys to the Hemker Zoo in Freeport for a couple of hours. Its the perfect size zoo for kids of all ages! This has become a little tradition of mine to do with the boys each summer before school starts. One of their favorite things is to feed the giraffes. If you haven't been there, I highly recommend it!
Today the last pumper and cement trucks arrived (for a while anyway) to finish up the foundation walls. We let the boys come out and watch this morning because they are probably going to miss a lot of the construction now because of school.
They had a blast! They climbed on all of the dirt piles and sand piles, and learned some about how buildings get put together. It made their dad a little nervous, but it was nice to have all of us out at the site and soak all of this excitement in!
OH! And I almost forgot! We received our federal winery license from the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) this week! So now we can finally apply for our state farm winery license. We are waiting on some insurance information to come back, but soon we will send our state application in, and hopefully within about 30 days we will have that important document!
Next up, the plumbers from Mission Mechanical will come to start their work. Then the basement floor can be poured and walls can start going up!
Joe has also been busy finalizing his equipment list and getting things ordered. Equipment should start showing up next week! Because the building will not be finished in time for harvest this year, and we won't be licensed in time, this years production will go differently than we had hoped. We will have to juice all of the fruit and have it frozen until we are able to get into the building and start making wine. We aren't the first winery that this has happened to, and probably won't be the last :) We just wish it wouldn't have ended up this way for us.
Life is always throwing curve-balls, but we are trying our darnedest to juggle everything and make it work.
All in the name of a crazy dream we have.
I haven't posted for a couple of weeks because frankly, one can only talk about styrofoam blocks and concrete so much! :) I keep telling myself that this foundation work is really the most important part of the project, but I'm getting anxious to see it all come together! Wolf Brothers Construction has been helping Shane Blair's team at Gateway Construction with all of this foundation work. All of the guys on the project have been great to work with! They have been professional and super awesome with the boys when they come out to visit the site. Many of the pictures below are those that were taken by Wolf Brothers crew. The areal pictures show the footprint of the tasting room and basement.
We suffered a couple rain day delays in the last two weeks, which was really unfortunate, but the crew keeps making progress each day they are out. Oliver loves visiting the site, playing in the dirt, and getting the equipment drivers to honk their horns. Lundblads have been busy back-filling and putting culverts in the roadways. It's all starting to come together which is so exciting!
Today, another pumper truck will be out filling in the foundation walls for the basement, and then will be back out next week to do the foundation walls of the production space. Once that is all done the walls will start going up! Which is good because our equipment is coming soon and harvest is looming upon us.
Last week we netted our red grape vines to keep the birds and raccoons at bay. Once the fruit starts turning color and making sugars, all the critters start feasting on their deliciousness. To ensure we have fruit to make wine with, we take all the precautions possible to safeguard the crop until they are ready to be picked. Today we will finish up netting our white grape varieties.
Things are happening all around us! The next couple of updates will hopefully be full of all kinds of building fun! Thank you again for following along! ~Melanie
It was a rather quiet week at our house because Grandpa and Grandma Prokosch picked Henry up last Sunday so he could spend some time with them before school started. His week was packed with all kinds of fun! He attended Vacation Bible School at my Grandma Leona's church in Redwood Falls, got to ride in the semi with Grandpa Steve, and played lots with his cousin Leo. He also got to go to Farm Fest with Grandpa Steve and a Rodeo with Uncle Justin. We missed him tons and are glad he is home, but he sure did get to make a lot of great memories while he was there!
It was another busy week for the concrete crew working on footings and foundation walls on the project site. They assembled, what our boys are calling the LEGO blocks (ICFs - Insulated Concrete Forms), on the basement walls earlier in the week, as well as prepared the footing forms for the production area. The pumper truck and more cement then arrived on Thursday to pour those areas. We have thankfully had really nice weather during the "pour" days, one thing we ALL have been so appreciative of.
And on Friday the concrete crew was back at it assembling more forms in the rest of the basement. This is such a process, as the rebar has to go in first, and then the ICFs get assembled around it. We are hoping by later this week they will be able to pour the rest of the forms and the foundation work will be complete.
We have also been busy planning what some of the interior finishes will look like, as well as the outdoor patio that will be located on the north side of the building. And as much fun as all of this planning has been, its been a little nerve-wracking with harvest creeping up on us! The grapes have hit verasion and it will only be a few more weeks before we will be netting everything and sampling for sugars and acids!
We finished up the week by getting together with Joe's aunts and uncles for a mini-family reunion. It's been about two years since everyone has seen each other, so it was fun to catch up!
So much exciting stuff going on!
This week feels like we made some real progress! Lundblads finished digging the footings at the end of last week and then the rain came on Sunday. We got about 1.5" of rain and that was disappointing because the trenches filled in with about 6,500 gallons of water. But you aren't reading this to listen to me complain.
It. Was. A. Mess.
I'm sure we aren't the first ones it's happened to, and our contractor Shane came prepared Monday morning with his pump and fire hose, so we were able to get it emptied and it dried out enough by Tuesday to start setting forms and rebar.
Supplies started arriving earlier in the week for the foundation work. It's so great to see progress be made on the building finally.
Today a pumper truck and 6 cement (maybe even 7) trucks arrived and the footings were poured. All of the truck drivers asked what we were building because of how stout the footings and rebar that were installed are. I know nothing about constructing buildings, but based on how much and how thick this rebar is, this building better not move a spec.
Let's talk about poop for a minute.
It's gotta go somewhere and we have to install a new septic system for the building. So, from the time we started planning this building, we had been in contact with Scott Elwood of Elwood Septic Professionals out of Villard, MN to design our septic system. Based on the soil borings we had done and the 40+ holes we had dug looking for sand, we were told we had no choice but to put a mound system in. This comes with a huge price tag for us and something we weren't willing to settle on. We've lived here for almost 10 years and have farmed this land for just as long. We know (well Joe knows) we have sand veins here, we just hadn't found one close to the site yet. Until yesterday :) Yesterday, Joe had Scott come back out and they dug a couple more holes. We. Found. SAND!!! The nice stuff. The kind that septic designers get excited about (and husbands too!). We are now able to put in a gravity fed system with a drain field and THAT was a good day!
In other news...
The wild flowers are in bloom and they are beautiful! The butterflies and bees are loving it right now! And the views are still breathtaking! I can't wait to be able to share this with all of you. We are so fortunate!