Terragena Estate Vineyard Pond
The pond is filled completely by rainwater each winter and used for grapevine irrigation during the dry summer months. The climate in Humboldt county is such that we get a dramatic amount of rainfall in the fall through the spring, and the summer months are very dry. We irrigate our vines during the summer using rainwater caught and stored in our large 1,000,000 gallon pond over the winter months. We use a drip irrigation method to support our vines in establishing deep roots through the rocky soils. Way back in 2008 we started this adventure with a dream of planting a vineyard, and in 2013 we finally planted it. This is the story of the irrigation – or life support – system of the young vineyard. Though certain sections of our vineyard may be dry farmed in the future, the vines started out as a mere 4 inches tall and needed a little help to grow strong. So, we built an off-grid irrigation system to support the vines while they become established. The irrigation system began in the summer of 2012 with digging a big hole – the eventual location of our rainwater-filled irrigation pond. We then lined the pit with several layers of pond liner: an underlayment, an impermeable liner, and an over-layment to protect the liner from the sun and other damage. It was quite a project to drag out the over 30,000 square foot liners and anchor them around the edges of the pond. It took a team to put these liners into place. We then spread gravel around the edges for several purposes. The gravel further protects the layers of pond liners, and it also provides a nice aesthetic for people who swim in or sunbathe next to the pond. Additionally, the gravel helps with traction when walking on the bank. Ultimately we ended up with a pond about 14 feet deep in the center when full, and storing about 1,000,000 gallons of water. Luckily it rains a LOT in the winter, and even snows sometimes, so the pond easily fills up completely each winter. Of course, it was completely empty after we first built it during the summer of 2012, and by the next spring it was completely full – just in time for our first planting of grapevines!
Success! The water is now pumped via solar pump up to tanks by the house and gravity-fed down to the vineyards below. Each vineyard row has an irrigation line running down it, and each vine has an individual dripper line running to it. When the irrigation system is turned on, vines receive a slow drip of water over several hours, allowing the water to penetrate deeply into the soil, encouraging deep root growth. This system has allowed the vines to take root on the shallow and rocky sandstone soils in the upper sections of the vineyards. Lower down in the vineyards, the soils progress to a sandy-clay and then into a clay-loam, which have more natural water storage capacity. We work hard to target our irrigation to the vines that need it, while limiting it on the vines with stronger soils. We believe the unique mix of clones and soils will lend complexity to the Pinot Noir produced from this vineyard.
Estate Off-grid Water System
The fresh water system began with a natural spring that was discovered on the property soon after building the yurt. The system was built slowly because of the steep terrain and the location of the spring about 800 feet in elevation below the yurt clearing. After many, many hikes up and down that steep hillside, the water system was finally finished some two years later. We put in water lines that actually bring the water down uphill from the spring. Why? Because about 100 feet below the spring we installed a “high lifter” water pump that uses no electricity or fuel other than the pressure of the water flowing downhill in order to pump water all the way up to the vineyard level. This fresh spring water is used at both the vineyard house and the yurt. The Terragena Vineyard fresh water system was developed slowly over the course of several years. The Terragena property includes steep hillsides and the top of the Fish Creek valley. The source for our water is an artesian spring located in the bed of a smaller creek that feeds into Fish Creek, several hundred vertical feet in elevation below the yurt clearing and vineyard house. We are grateful to have a year-round spring on our property, and we found some creative ways to pump the water up to where it is needed at the house and yurt. Because we attempt to be eco-conscious, we want to avoid using gas-powered or electric-powered pumps as much as possible. The High Lifter water pump uses no electricity or gas, but rather relies on the pressure of water flowing downhill to amplify that pressure and pump a portion of the water back uphill. Transcript of above video, in which I describe the High Lifter water pump: So, this is the High Lifter. It’s based on ancient Egyptian technology, and obviously modern engineering. It takes about 60 PSI at the source and pumps it uphill to the tune of about 500 [PSI]. The High Lifter lifts water about 800 vertical feet by multiplying the pressure from 55 PSI to about 550 PSI. This is done by reducing the uphill flow by 9:1 ratio. In other words, about a tenth of the water flowing to the High Lifter is pumped up the hill to our storage tanks, and the remaining water is returned to the ground, along the course it would have taken naturally. The High Lifter is capable of pumping about 450 gal per day. First, the water is collected at the spring source below the surface. It then flows to a setting tank, where sediment settles out before being pumped up to the residences for domestic use.