March 24, 2007 -- (San Diego, CA)

    This is the story of a guy who can't tie a
slip-knot trying to install a vineyard. A curious
neighbor with dreams of planting his own
vineyard asks, "Can you make money doing
    "Growing grapes is a great cash crop," I
tell him, "with significant cost savings." I
continue, "Let's look at the math. People
around here will spend $100,000 or so
landscaping their property with Canary Island
Date palm trees, retaining walls, pathways
and luscious greenery.  But you can put in a
vineyard for $40,000 -- a savings of $60,000
right off the bat.  Then, you could spend
$20,000 a year maintaining it, and in 3 years
you'll break even."
    Reminds me of the story of the guy who
wanted to make a million dollars in the wine
business.  He started with $2 million.
    For round 2, we brought in the Bobcat, a
machine that went up and down our steep
slopes as deftly as a spider crosses her
web, equipped with an auger bit that drilled
holes faster than the spider wraps her
morning meal. The week before, we installed
10 end posts by hand in a day, at a labor cost
of $220.  We had about 50 posts remaining,
so if it cost about $1,100 using the BobCat
(plus or minus) that would be about right.  
Three days later, I was looking at a bill over
$4,000, and my electricity line to the Top Of
The Hill that we discovered by surprise is still
not repaired. Well, at least I got a 500 lbs.
rock out of it -- try digging that out with a post
The goal was to keep the BobCat
drilling, as we followed behind
with the level, pouring concrete.
A crooked post sticks out like a
sore thumb. By the end of the day,
we had a pretty straight line going
up the hill along the water culvert.
With the slopes and terrain, the
question hear three hundred times
that day, "Is it level?"
The auger revealed
several different shades
of decomposed granite
(DG), including red,
yellow and green.
Steven was an absolute pro
in his manipulation of the
machine. He enjoyed the
swinging, as a kid on "the
bullet" at an amusement
Unexpected obstacle. No, it is
not a stool. Minutes before, I
had piled the concrete slabs
out of the way, I turn around for
a minute, and then this critter
is out getting a tan. What was
he thinking? There were 3 guys
digging more holes than
ground squirrels, and a BobCat
drilling holes. I thought
rattlesnakes were supposed to
be scared of people?
The cornerstone of a new
rock garden, taken from the
site of a pole. It took a big
effort from the BobCat to
get out of the way.
Nickname: $1,000 rock.
At the end of the day, pretty
straight for a guy who doesn't
own a level. Notice stump
pulled out. (The only crooked
pole is the first one -- which
was supervised by the
contractor before he left for
another job.)
At sunset, posts at Top Of
The Hill. Bluey keeps an
eye and ear out for coyotes.
The hereos of the day. From left, Augustine (seated),
Juan and Rigo -- who pulled out a set-in-concrete
tilted post with his bear hands, so it could be
redrilled and righted.
Hole inspection.  
Be careful!
Existing, high pressure, 1.5"
water pipe. We plan to tap into
it to feed the vineyard.
View along the Via de la Rossa, with Whale Rock, the
Chateau, and Man In The Rock in background.
Sumac stump pulled from Top
Of The Hill. (I'm going to try
and make that into a picnic
Click here
for Round
One, where
we dug the
post holes
by hand.
Click here to see how we progress the
next week.