Saturday, November 2, 2013

Episode 15: The Electric connection

We have been waiting a long time to get the certificate of occupancy from Wilkes County.  When we got it we immediately called Duke Energy to get our electricity connected.  We had temporary service but now we needed to have the permanent lines installed.

The field engineer (who shall remain nameless) came over to discuss how we were going to connect the building.  He already knew we were not a fan of electrical poles and overhead lines since we paid an exhorbitant amount to have one pole moved from where it was (in the middle of our parking lot to a different location up further on the hill out of car traffic). It took six months to get to an agreement as to location, method and price.  We are two miles from Stone Mountain which is a massif granite dome, and we have some of the same terrain which does not make it easy but it is doable if you try hard enough. Emphasis on "try hard enough!".

The Field Engineer (FE) suggested running overhead lines from the electrical pole to the new building.  This was a non-negotiable as it would "ugly-up" our future wedding venue. So we opted running a new underground line from the electrical box, all the way around the back of the building, through the length of the lawn, across the driveway and connect it to an exiting underground line by the cabin that had been installed at the same time the electrical pole was moved in anticipation of installing power to the cabin.  There would be a connection box installed at the corner of the cabin connecting both underground lines.

The next day, Duke Energy came to install power, but they had the wrong work order, the work order was for the cabin which is not yet remodeled.  So we had to create a new work order for The Gathering Place.  This is an interesting process.

First of all, the Duke Energy machines were too large to fit behind our building so we had to manually dig the trench from the electrical box all the way around the building, install the electrical wires and encase them in PVC pipes up to the point where the machines could take over. Furthermore any pipes, water pipes, septic drain pipes, irrigation, or electric lines must be manually dug out and exposed before they dig with the machines.

The work order does not get processed until all the work is completed, then it is processed then you have to wait two weeks for the work to actually begin.  They do not call you to advise you when they are going to show up -- it is anywhere within that timeframe!

One day, I had a dental appointment in town, and whenever I go into town I try to run all my errands since it is an hour round trip.  Wouldn't you know this is the day they decide to show up and of course we run into some issues.

Upon my return, one of my workers informs me that when they dug the line they found one line that was not exposed and under which the power line could not be placed because it was not encased in PVC.  We offered to encase it in PVC but they would not accept this solution.

The FE proposed installing an electrical pole where the wedding tents where supposed to be erected & attached to the dance floor/stage we were planning to build. The FE had established his new proposal with my worker - not myself, and had not even thought of other alternatives.  This occurred on a Wednesday- the FE would not return to our site to discuss work-arounds until the following Monday losing precious time.

This was clearly a "non-negotiable".

The electrician and I started to discuss the specifics of the issue and how we could solve it. I fount a work-around and we walked through how we could do it. It involved moving the connection box down about 25 feet so that we stayed behind the pipe that was not encased, moving the junction box by the foot the the hill. When we moved 25 feet from the cabin all the pipes there were encased -  so it was no longer an issue, and all the wires could be installed underneath the pipes.

Our FE took the path of least resistance, not one that worked for the customer.  Furthermore, he did not want to hear this solution from an intelligent, non-engineer woman, so my husband had to make an appointment to have him revisit our site to go over the new proposal with our electrician. When presented by the electrician the proposal went over well.

We had to, once again, expose all the pipes, water lines, irrigation lines, dig 30" deep, and lay down the electrical wire they had left coiled up on a pole.  They were rerouted in the new ditch under the various pipes.

Of course, we had to process a "new request" not a "continuation" of the original request. You have to have the patience of a saint to get anything done right around here!

One of the things I failed to mention is that I paid a landscaping service to sow my new lawn.  We had waited all summer for the best time to sow which is the month of October, we had a 4 week window of opportunity.  We sowed our grass on September 22nd.

It had been growing fine until I realized Duke Energy would have to trench my new lawn, cut my irrigation lines in the process.  I did not mind that too much since there was no other choice but the germination window is getting pretty small.   They cut my irrigation lines in 3 different places.  I did not install the system so we did not know where some of them where.  So we had to fix 3 lines. Once you sow the grass you have to irrigate to get it to germinate.  I was fighting against the clock.

 My goal after all is to have weddings next spring.  I really need my lawn to look good. The entire month of october was spent waiting for Duke Energy To install my electrical lines. It has been five weeks and I am still waiting.  I am at least happy to have sown my grass again and hope it will germinate in November.

Update: The site of our future wine-tasting room has an electrical pole and lines going right through the space where the second floor of the building is expected to be.  I know we are going to have fun with the FE on that project as well!

The straw covered area is where the electrical lines were buried, see where it veers to the left and crosses the driveway at the edge of the large rocks way to the right.  All that was dug 30 " deep manually by our workers. 
In this picture, just below the horizontal white pipes resting on the rocks, you see a small wooden stake in the ground, this is where the junction box will be install ( before was at the corner of the cabin)

Friday, October 11, 2013

Episode:14 The Next Projects For Our Events Venue

We are moving right along to make 2014 the year when we launch our wedding events.  It takes a year to book those events and you have to have your site ready with all the required amenities.

We are building several things:

  1. the event stage and dance floor: we will be able to connect event tents of any size to this stage and not lose any space in the tent.
  2. the restroom building: across from the tent for the outdoor events

We will be able to use the stage for concerts, plays, orchestras and many other things.

We are also undertaking the remodeling of a small cabin we have on site.  This will be a two-person cabin, with kitchenette and bathroom, and a small porch overlooking the river.

This construction and remodeling will start this coming Monday and will take several months for all of these to be completed.  This will be done in time to participate in the 2014 wedding events.  We are also going to have a Wedding/Bridal Expo next May to showcase our vineyard as an excellent site for weddings, rehearsal dinners, engagement parties, engagement and bridal photo sessions.

Of course, our venue is open to business events and private parties as well.  We are open for those events right now as these do not require long term planning like a wedding event does.

We are also starting the design and development phase of our big project "The Wine-TastingRoom".
We are in the process of getting our financing in order and at the same time are looking at the physical site of the Brewer Gristmill as the base of our wine tasting room.  We had an architect and structural engineer look at the existing foundation to see if it could be used to rebuild upon it.  Unfortunately it will not meet code and will need to be reinforced but we can keep the hand-stacked stone wall for aesthetic purposes.  Next we have to hire a consultant for the future septic system to deal with the granite and the river and determine the best system to meet our business objectives.

Then comes the design work, selection of materials to preserve the historical nature of the site, and meet our wine tasting room requirements.

The wine tasting room is critical to driving the other businesses on site such as the events venue, and the lodgings as they are a complementary aspect of our business plan.

We welcome visitors to stop by and visit our site and spread the word about who we are and what we can do.  The outstanding feature of our site versus other vineyards is the beautiful setting by the river for all our buildings.  The river is lovely, makes a great rushing sound as it meanders by our place. Each building, reception lawn, ceremony site is on the river (we mean right over it) and offers a spectacular view.  The view changes with the seasons.  Now we are surrounded by the fall foliage and it does not get any better!

Next year we will be offering picnics amongst the vines.  For a fee and with a reservation you and your special someone will be handed a picnic basket loaded with food, a bottle of wine, dessert and a blanket.  You will be allowed to find a lovely picnic spot of your choosing amongst the grapevines, along the river or anywhere else you please.  We also have fishing, bow hunting, and other lawn games available for our guests.

Think about us for your next event or vacation!

Monday, September 23, 2013

Episode 13: The 2013 Harvest and Winemaking and other events

We have had the most unusual weather in 2013.  It rained almost every day since spring and throughout the summer months. We were not sure what it would do to the grapes.  The sugar level in the grapes were a concern but with a few good days of sun at the end we were able to achieve a respectable level of 19 compared to a desired level of 20.

You may think that you can leave the grapes on the vines a little bit longer but that is not the case; once they reach the optimum level of ripeness if not picked quickly they begin to rot.  All during the season you lose some to deer, birds and disease the last thing you want to do is to lose more due to late picking.  We thought we would pick on the 8th but the grapes were not ready.

In the meantime I had to travel to Atlanta (6 hour journey) to be at my daughter's side for the birth of her second child via C-section. She was born September 10, 2013. Mother and baby are doing fine.
 She was 7 lbs 3 oz. 20". She is a sweet little girl.

The following Saturday I had to leave Amelia and her big brother Greyson, another precious grand-child, to make my way home.

I made it home late that night.

The gator between Chambourcin rows

The very next morning we got up and got dressed to begin the harvest.  The pickers consisted of Luis Perez (who lives on our vineyard) and works for us part-time, his wife Mary Lou, Tom Silvey, Owner and myself Josephine Silvey, Owner.   Tom suggested that someone take a picture of me actually working because nobody will believe that I actually get my hands dirty. Everyone has the misconception that I am a diva. Like the old TV show "Green Acres" where Eva Gabor appears in a Negligee and says "give me 5th Avenue!" and he stands there in overalls holding a pitchfork in his hand! Now back to reality. I work, I get my hands dirty.  Here I am picking grapes without gloves,nipping my fingers with the clippers every once in a while, and yes I did not break a nail! 
The Traminette grapes were much harder picking because the clusters were smaller and the birds and deer had done some damage. The other varietals need several more years before we can harvest them so we did not have to do anything with them. No work was required but no harvest and no wine will come from those vines for another year or so. Now that we have done our homework and know what grows and where it grows well we will need to expand our vineyards to ensure we have enough grapes to create enough to supply our wine-tasting room needs as well as our needs for our events venue.

Tom Silvey and Luis Perez

Luis, Tony and Tom

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Episode 12: The flood in the Gathering Room

We were finalizing the checklist we got from Wilkes County to get the certificate of occupancy for The Gathering Place building that we noticed some water on the new hardwood floor. We quickly tried to pick up the water and thought it might be a leak from the newly installed sink and faucet.  Our workers looked for the possible source and checked out all the water connections and tested with some running water.  I was not there for the whole process but after a while they thought they had repaired it.

The next day we found some more water not just in the kitchen but on the other side of the wall in the bathroom. They now had to tear into the walls to find out if there was a pipe in the area.  They found the problem.  When the last wall cabinet was installed a screw punctured the water pipe. Water was originally trickling but then there was a sudden burst and water was flowing pretty freely everywhere. The water was turned off immediately and we began to look at out hardwood floors, only 5 weeks old.
The floor was curling up at the seams the entire length of the building.

I drove immediately to Elkin, NC to get a dehumidifier and two commercial blowers.  These were placed in the building and ran 7 nights and 7 days in an effort to mitigate the damage.  We were hoping we would not have to tear out the floor.  But after a week things did not look much better.  So we finally called the insurance company to report the claim.

After the adjuster came by to review the damage she put us in touch with Premier Restoration  out of N. Wilkesboro came out to quantify the damage.  The humidity meter registered still registered over 50 after our efforts to dry the room out.

Last Monday on July 22, they packed our furniture and moved it into two storage units on wheels that they parked nearby.  Our hardwood contractor came with two workers in tow and tore out the entire floor in one day.

The restoration team took a humidity level reading twice a day from Tuesday evening through Thursday morning when they declared the sub floor to have reached the required humidity reading. Thursday our hardwood contractor was supposed to travel to VA to pick-up the flooring materials from the manufacturer and return Friday morning to replace the water barrier and the flooring.

At 8am on Friday I was expecting my contractor.  No show. By 10 am I am trying to get a hold of him and finally got him on the phone.  I asked him where he was.  He stated he was on another job.  So I asked him why he was not here doing my job.  His excuse was that no one had called him to tell him the sub-floor was ready.  We did not need to do so because we were told it would be ready Friday morning and I myself made the arrangements with him. So I was pretty upset we had lost 5 weeks already.  Finally I got through to him, and he agreed to pick up the wood on Friday, deliver it the same day.  He had told me earlier that he had a job on Monday, so I was wondering when he would get to my job. He could tell from the way that I was asking the questions that I was not pleased at all with the state of affairs.  So I asked all the tough questions to get to the bottom of the situation. Questions such as:

  1. Why  was he was starting another job when mine was 1/2 completed and scheduled.
  2. He tried repeating the excuse that no one had called him to tell him the floor was dry
  3. I reiterated that there was no need for that since we had agreed between us he would bring the would on Thursday, and start installation on Friday. 
  4. Nothing had changed since that agreement, and I called him out on it, and told him he had better finish my job before starting that other one.
  5. He whined for a while then agreed to deliver the wood on Friday and do the job on Saturday.

On Saturday they started installing the hardwood floor.  At about 1 pm he informed us that his nail gun had broken down and that he needed a replacement part. If he was able to get it, he would be back on Sunday.  I had little hope he would keep his word but, lo and behold, he actually showed up Sunday morning to finish the job.  I think the fact that he had already sold me three hardwood floors before and the promise of six more in the future must have caused an attitude adjustment. It is standard practice for contractors to start multiple jobs and go from one job to another, string everyone along, so they do not lose a job.  I detest that practice and if I find someone doing that they will never be hired again!

I am out $1,000 for the insurance deductible.  I have a saying when there is nothing I can do anymore. I say: "It is what it is!".  To me it means accept the facts and move on.  So that is just what I did.

This coming Monday my cleaning lady is coming to clean the building. I have already contacted premier Restoration to move my furniture back in the building and return us to normal. Our appliances have to be reconnected as well.  Then final tidy-up and we are done!

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Episode 11: The bobcat acquisition

Tom and I love to decorate with vignettes of nature.  Once while we were i Waynesville, we saw a fox, raccoon, a bobcat and some other animal shown in a canoe with one another.  It was so pretty - but they wanted a lot of money for it so we could not afford it.

Some time ago, Tom came home from work and said that he had traded a stuffed bobcat for 5 mason jars of moonshine that can be bought "in these here parts!" as they say down here. Seems like everyone knows somebody that makes it. Myself, I don't care for it. Well that was until I was introduced to Apple Pie moonshine.  Well, that's going to require an episode of its own!

A while had passed and I inquired about when we would get the bobcat and Tom said it would not be long.  Some time passed and I soon forgot about it.

One day, a few of the ladies invited me to join them for some "retail therapy" there was a sale in Talbots, Charlotte, NC so we decided to make the drive to get some good bargains.  We had an amazing time and a cart full of clothes.  We hit the mother lode! Thank you Olive and Mary for inviting me!

It was getting late, and Olive and her husband were going to meet another couple for dinner but there was not enough time to drop us off in Traphill, and back track back to Jonesville where they were suppose to eat.  So Olive asked us if we wanted to join them for dinner and call our husbands to join us, that would solve the problem. Arrangements were made and we found ourselves in Theo's restaurant in Jonesville.

When Tom arrived, he told me that he had a surprise for me.  I was pleasantly surprised and asked if I could have it right then.  He said: "No, let's wait after dinner!".  After dinner the ladies decided to go inside a couple of really nice boutiques that sells interesting stuff for the house and take a look around. After a little while we rejoined our husbands in the parking lot by our cars.

We were near our Toyota Avalon, Tom was opening the trunk of the car and while doing so asked me if I would hand him his raincoat from the backseat of our car. I assumed he was getting my surprise out of the trunk.  So I opened the car door and leaned into the back seat to reach fir his raincoat.  When I pulled it to me, I came face to face with a thing glaring at me.  I screamed and got out of there fast,  But my eyes and my brain were not in synch so I went back inside to take another look and screamed again realizing I had been face to face with a bobcat.  I screamed again than started laughing when I realized he had just pulled a trick on me! 

Tom is renowned for playing tricks on me.  He must have told the men beforehand because they were all looking at me to see my reaction would be. Well, I did not disappoint.  After the ladies inquired about what had happened I told them to look inside my car as well.  They took turns doing so, and more laughter ensued. 

Then some of the people that were leaving the restaurant overheard the commotion and came over to ask us what was going on since we were laughing so hard.  We had no choice but to invite them to look as well with another round of laughter as they reacted to the bobcat.  This happened a couple more times with one round of laughter after another! Finally the laughter died down and we left for home.
For you animal lovers - no bobcat was killed in the making of this prank! 

The bobcat was found by the side of the road as "road kill" and someone picked it up and had it stuffed.  He then gave it away to someone who happened to work with Tom. Somehow or other they got on the subject of the bobcat and an agreement was made. Apparentluy the guy's wife did not want it in her house anymore so she made him get rid of it.  

The following is a picture of the bobcat -- remember it was dark in the parking lot
Here is a picture of the stuffed bobcat.
Here it is in our new building, where it has found a new home.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Episode 9: Construction Of The Rental House

After we bought the adjoining vineyard property we had to get some heavy equipment to develop a road that would allow us to come in from the main entrance and drive over to the house.  We wanted the entrance to make an impression by being the first thing a visitor sees when arriving at the vineyard.  We achieved this by installing a guardrail that essentially closed off the original entrance to the driveway leading to the house.  Once completed all traffic must go through the main vineyard entrance.

This is the vineyards main entrance.

This is the new access road to the house.

This is how the house looked in November 2010 when we bought it.  Since then a lot of work has taken place to bring the house up its current status. 
House At Time Of Purchase
As you can see there was not much to the house when we bought it.  After adding quite a bit of detailing the house slowly began to acquire a personality.  The concrete wrap-around patio and paths were poured, a stone facade and wood beam and shutters were added to the first floor. A covered entrance was added to the front of the protect our guests from inclement weather.  The landscaping was another major improvement. We installed irrigation, sod, planting areas,  and a fence. The bulldozer dug into the mountain side to enlarge the parking area.  We ran into granite and had to select an overflow parking area. We also brought in 54 tons of gravel to improve the road surface. 

View of House On Approach as it looks today. 
View from the other side of the house

We had a major problem the corner of the back of the house was very close to the river bank.  When it rained, the rainfall would come off the roof and fall down like a sheet of water with such force that it created deep ruts into the soil. Over time the the soil would simply slide down the bank into the river.  We had to stabilize the soil.  First we installed gutters to divert the water.  Then we started to build the retaining wall behind the house to support the riverbank.  

This was a huge endeavor but was very worthwhile as we reclaimed some of the lost land, and as such we were able to mow the lawn all around the house on our riding lawnmower. We were also able to remove the corner beams that helped support the right corner of the house (still seen in the picture above, on right corner.).

French Bistro set on back patio.

Front of house, on 1st floor.
We also covered the cement exterior with stone and wood  on the first floor and added "red" as the punch color for the doors and other accents.
The transformation is nearly completed.  We added a red english bench where the metal settee is in the picture and soon we will have a lovely metal plaque above it announcing "The Lodgings". There are two full apartments downstairs with full-in suite kitchen, 1 bedroom, 1 bath. The back patio overlooks the Raoring River. 
This is the view from the back patio.
  It has taken a lot of time and effort to bring out the beauty of the house. We knew we had a beautiful spot on the river and the house needed to match its splendor.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Episode 8: The Entrance

Tom wanted the vineyard to have a beautiful entrance.  He had seen one in a development in Charlotte he really liked so he decided to build it.  I am more practical, I wanted to prioritize the projects that will bring in revenue.  We talked about it for quite a while and I could tell he really wanted this, and since this vineyard was "his baby" I agreed to go forward with it. Even though it does not always make sense, sometimes you just have to be flexible.  It is Tom's dream and I want to be supportive. I can always prioritize the other revenue producing projects and create balance!

So here are a few pictures showing you the progression of the construction for the front entrance.
I am standing at the future location of the entrance gate (2001)

This is the entrance right after the forest cleaning.

The entrance is nearly done at this point (2011)
This is the entrance as it stands today (May 2013)

Episode 7: The story Of Jonathan Stuart

Jonathan Stuart was a man in his fifties.  He had traveled to NC on a visit and fell in love with the state and this area. I don't remember his reason for coming to Traphill.  During his visit to the area he fell in love with this area and in particular with the riverside property.  I mentioned that he was trying to establish a residence and as he put it: "Find himself a wife".  So, he purchased the land, moved a mobile home on it and resided there ever since.  He was using an online dating service to fulfill his other wish.

At the time we bought our vineyard property, he was already living there.  Every time we came up from Florida to visit, we always made a point to visit him.  He also kept an eye on our land since we did not have a caretaker at the time, and only had a cattle gate to secure our property. We gave him a key and would open the gate when we had deliveries made ahead of our arrival.

I remember one time while we were visiting him he told my husband how lucky he was to have a good wife.  And how much he wanted that for himself.  We knew he had not yet found his soulmate but he kept dating different women.

We told him that once he built his dream home that his prospects would be much better but he never got to realize his dreams.

On December 6, 2010 Tom was on a business trip in NC and decided to look in on our property, we had a residence on top of the hill by that time, so it was easy for him to stay there. During his visit with Jonathan he found that he was sick and had a cough that sounded really bad, so Tom suggested that he needed to see a doctor.  Jonathan stated that he did not trust doctors and that he would self-medicate.

He had an unusual belief system.  He did not trust the government, stated that they had fly-overs just to spy on us.  But he was the nicest guy, not a mean bone in him.  He adopted 7 dogs that people dropped off by the Roaring River bridge near his home. So the fact that he did not trust doctors did not surprise us very much.  Regardless of that, Tom strongly urged him to see a doctor.  We did not hear from him after that because we did not come up often during the winter season.

In March, of 2010 we got a call from our Vineyard Manager that Jonathan had died.  We were shocked! Apparently, after self-mediating he was not getting better and decided to see a doctor the week between Christmas and the New Year.  Soon after he received the bad news that he had stage 4 lung cancer.

Soon after that, his son came to drive him to Florida at first, then to Alabama where his family lived.  He was hospitalized and passed away 3 weeks later. As soon as we found out we called his family to express our condolences and found out his brother also had cancer.  It broke our hearts to hear that.

His mother and sisters came to visit not long after we bought the house and were happy to see what we had done with it since purchasing it.

We felt so bad that Jonathan never saw the house in its finished state and not had the chance to live in it. In the beginning I felt his presence, and sometimes addressed him.  We built a memorial by the Grist Mill that was a popular swim home in the area- it has the date when he was born and the date he died, with his name and a bible verse to honor his memory.  We showed it to his mother on a subsequent visit and she was happy that we remembered him in that way.

The construction workers told me that Jonathan's departure was so rapid that he left the sun roof of his Mercedes open, his cell phone on the seat. Left the house and pick-up truck unlocked.  They fed the dogs while they continued working on the construction of the house.  Eventually, after they found out he had died they fed the dogs everyday until they were able to  place the dogs. Only one dog remained after some time, and the builder drove over him in his pick-up. The next day the builder brought his gun to finish off the dog and put him out of his misery.  But when he arrived the dog was running around like nothing had happened! Evidently, the ground was soggy after some rain, and when he was run over the dog sank in the mud, saving his life in the process.  They could not find anyone to adopt him so we took him in.  He is a beautiful large Australian Ridged-back, rust-colored and named Rusty.  The funny thing is that we already had two dogs and one of them was also named Rusty. Our dogs are inside dogs, and he was a free running outdoor dog.  So we asked our Vineyard Manager to watch over him, that we would own him, and pay for his food and expenses until we move here permanently.

In October 2012 we officially relocated from Florida to Traphill, NC.  We live in Jonathan's old house and now have 3 dogs. Rusty stays on top of the vineyards and visit our house by the river.  When he comes down "Little Florida Rusty" and Bobo bark at him and chase him when he visits they just can't understand that he, too, is our dog!

Episode 6: The Graphical Rendering Of The Future Vineyard Property

Early on we realized we needed to have a Master Plan for the property.  So we commissioned someone to create one for us.  We met with the contractor and discussed what we wanted and his job was to take our information and represent it in a graphical representation that gave us the altitude of the land, where the building were to be built.  This is the guide that we have been using ever since.

On the upper left corner is a rendition of the wine label we created with the name of our future vineyard "Roaring River Vineyards".  The name was chosen because the property is bordered on the left by the Roaring River shown in Blue to the left. There was a sliver of a property owned by our neighbor located between the river and our property. If you look closely at the ponds, you will see a hatched line that starts at the left pond.  If you follow that black hatched line you see the 3-acre property that ends at the river just above the midway point of the river. At one time this 3-acre property and our 47 -acre vineyard property were one property.  

Some years before we bought it Jonathan Stuart fell in love with this site and had the owner carve out that 3-acre lot from the 50-acre land. He wanted to live on the water and thought this spot was really beautiful.  He did not , however, want the entire 50-acres, only the scenic 3-acres. He planned to build his dream home on the river and look for a wife. Soon after we bought the remaining 47-acres we became acquainted with Jonathan and quickly became friends. 

We asked him one day how he was able to talk the owner in carving out this valuable part of the property because in doing so, a good portion of the riverfront was cut-out.

He told us he had dated the woman who owned the property and that is how he was able to buy it. We met her later on as she lives near us. She denies this, but we think that it was probably true because the division of the property did not make sense. Doing so took a large portion of the riverfront away from the 47-acre lot which made it less valuable than before. So there had to be a strong motivation for doing so and we will never know for sure.  We will let the reader come to his/her own conclusion on that matter!

Description of the Rendering:
It shows where the main house was going to be (the one that looks like a semi-circle).  Just below it to the was the place recommended to put our wine-tasting room.

There are 4 more houses on the left that we were keeping for our 4 children to build a vacation home.  The ponds was something the artist put in to make the place look nice.

On the bottom right is the place we selected to create a "French Village".  The idea was to sell a few lots for: 1) have a few neighbors to socialize with, and 2) to fund the construction of the winery and wine-tasting room.

The other buildings above our future home is the barn and residence of our Vineyard Manager.

The pink areas are the various vineyards representing the different grapes we would grow.

How does our property look today as compared to that rendering? 

  1. We now have a beautiful entrance
  2. We built the two ponds and the dam between them which connect to the vineyard road
  3. We planted grapevines 4 years in a row
  4. We cleared the French Village to prepare it for development
  5. We build the Vineyard Manager residence, and Barn
  6. We bought all the farming equipment
  7. We installed a well and irrigation for the entire vineyard
  8. We installed a deer control fence around the vineyard
  9. We planted 150 truffle trees

In March 2011 we found out that Jonathan Stuart died suddenly from stage-4 lung cancer.   We lost a good friend and miss him very much.  A long time ago we had asked Jonathan to give us first right of refusal if he wanted to sell the property. Which meant, should he ever opt to sell his house, he had to offer it to us first before offering it to the public at large.  It was never put in writing,however, it was an oral agreement.  Jonathan had been living in a mobile home while he was building his dream house.  The construction was not finished when he passed away. We met his son when he came up from Florida to assess the situation. He decided to complete the construction of the house and determine the financial disposition of the estate.  His intent was to keep the house in the family. He tried very hard to do so but in the end it did not work out financially and he decided to sell.

So in November 2010 we bought the house. Although, the house had an occupancy permit it was not completely detailed and did not have any appliances. So our first order of business was to finish the work that still needed to be done, buy all the appliances and paint the interior, stain the 2nd floor wrap-around porch. There was no flooring around the house's 1st floor wrap-around porch, no driveway or path leading to the house.  So we went into construction completion mode.

Finally, the 50-acre property was reunited.  With it came the ruins of the Brewer Grist Mill which dates back to 1793.  The mill was intact until Jonathan bought it.  There was, however, another person who wanted to buy the mill and when he failed to obtain the house,  he opted to burnt it down and skip town. He has not been seen since then as the story goes!

There was also the Brewer Sawmill on the other side of the river - also in ruins.  It was operated by the water from a dam above them which was destroyed by the great flood of 1940,  Apparently many mills were damaged by this flood. The Miller's house next to the sawmill is still intact.
On December 28, 2012 we purchased the sawmill property and the miller's houser, in doing so, we reunited the mills as well.  Now our property is complete.

Preview of next episode:  The story of Jonathan Stuart 

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Episode 5: We Need a Place To Stay

In May of 2005 my husband was relocated from his job with Siemens in Charlotte to Orlando, FL. This certainly was adding a glitch to our upcoming vineyard development. Furthermore, we had to move into a small house while we planned the construction of our new home.  My furniture went into storage units while we proceeded with this new project.  We did not know all the issues we would confront trying to build a lakefront home.  Four years later we finally moved in.  I  never envisioned being in storage that long but we were dealing with issues about building on wetlands (whether or not there is flora or fauna matters not, they have essentially declared a zone some distance from the lake that they consider "wetlands" as such you have to deal with a number of agencies to be able to build on your own land! But don't get me started there, I could write a book about this experience. I started building my new home 3 months before the real estate crash! It was the worst timing possible.  An now this home his for sale.

Being away from NC made things difficult for many reasons. We are located in the countryside and we needed someone to look after our property. We also needed a place to stay because there are no hotels in Traphill, so one has to drive to the nearest town for services and although not a great distance, it takes a lot of time out of your workday. So these were our number one and two goals for the near future.

Since we needed a residence immediately we cleared an area on top of the hill for an unfurnished mobile home.  Even with a ready-made residence one still has to clear the area, install a septic system, drill a well for water, bring all the other utilities up to the mountaintop.  Since it is a great distance it was very costly to establish these when you have to pay by the linear foot -- remember it is a 50 acre property! We got everything done in about 6 months.
Mobile Home and Barn on mountaintop.
We also built a barn to house the equipment that we needed to maintain the property. We had to cut the grass and add products to the soil to return it to the right PH balance.  So we became acquainted with the John Deere people in Mount Airy, NC where we bought our tractor, front loader, several types of lawn mowers, a gator, and so on.

This led us to think about security since we were only occasionally coming to the property.  It was a 10 hour drive each way that we had to make since we needed a car while in state, and we could take our two little dogs with us.
This is our daughter Diane with Rusty (left) and Bobo (right) in front of our Charlotte  Home.
Our next step was to put a cattle gate by the entrance and hire a caretaker. We found someone in the business who was willing to become the caretaker and help us start the vineyard.
Tom Silvey Standing in front of the cattle gate and future vineyards.
We achieved several milestones:

  1. We have a residence (fully operational although not furnished)
  2. We have a caretaker looking after our property while we are in FL
  3. We have a worker to assist us in setting up the vineyards.

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Episode 4: The DEP Issue

All seemed to be going well until spring when we received a letter from the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) notifying us that our topsoil was washing into the Roaring River. They stated that immediate action needed to be taken to remedy the issue or we would be fined $20,000 a day.

That really got our attention! We were unaware of the situation since we did not live on the property.

Steps we took

  1. Called the grass seeding company: they stated had rained for three weeks and the seeds probably    washed down the slope
  2. hired an environmental company to assess the damage, formulate an action plan, and remedy the situation.

Proposed Action Plan: Suggested re-seeding first and then cleaning up the river.

Mandated Action Plan: DEP did not agree and made us clean the river first.

Implementation: Our contractor assembled a large team to perform the clean-up river. It was completed in about two weeks.


  1. The clean-up was completed as scheduled.
  2. After the clean-up it rained again, and the soil washed into the river again because the underlying issue was not allowed to be addressed first.

Revised Action Plan:

  1. After complaining to the DEP, they allowed us to re-seed the slope
  2. Then perform the 2nd clean-up.


  1. The slope was reseeded, and the grass came in
  2. The river clean-up was performed.
  3. The clean-up were doubled, and the clean-up was delayed due to the DEP decision
  4. The DEP closed the case


We had to wait two more years until the PH level of the soil returned to the level needed for the grapevines to flourish.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Episode 3: Preparing the Land

In the fall Tom decided it was time to clear part of the land for cultivation. 

We hired a forrestry specialist to manage the logging operations because we did not live on the site and could not be there while these activities were going on. Once the plan was put in place the loggers came and cut all the trees in designated areas.

Out of the 47 acres we cleared between 15 and 17 acres total for future agriculture purposes, roads, housing and ponds.

After the loggers left, it looked like a war zone, there was debris everywhere.  We had to hire a graders with heavy equipment to come in and pile-up the debris, dig a very long trench and push the trees into it. 

The wood pile was set on fire and it took over three weeks for the fire to subside.  Later, the trench was filled-in, and we proceeded to grade the entire hillside, creating some terraces on the steeper slopes.

The grading crew also establishes a road tha went up from the entrane all the way to the top of the hill. Another road was established going down the others side of the hill back to the entrance, in effect creating a circular roadway around the future "vineyard" area.

 They dug retaining ponds between the vineyard and the creek to effetively capture any run-off from the slopes and guide them through trenches to the retaining ponds.

We hired a grass-seeding company after the clearing work was completed to stabilize the soil until we could start developing the vineyard.  We purchased a cattle gate and lock to secure access to the property. At this point we reached an important milestone -- completing the land clearing.
Josephine Silvey standing at the future entrance of the property just purchased.

Thomas Silvey and dog (Bobo) looking at the deforested property.

View of the cleared property from the entrance looking up to the future vineyards.

RRV Episode 2: Viewing The Property

Tom was very excited to show me the property it was obvious that he had already fallen in love with it. So we we took a drive from Charlotte to the outskirts of the small town of Traphill in the NC foothills.

The 47-acre property was comletely covered by woods, and was bordered to the west by Brewer Mill Road, north by the east prong of the Roaring River, and adjoining other wooded properties east and south.

The only way to really see the property was to walk through it.  So we entered the woods and headed down towards a sun-filtered flat area where two creeks are joined into one.  The ground was covered by ferns, and a lovely trailing plant I had not seen before called "Running Cedar". We walked along an old logging road as Tom explained that the woods had been logged before probably some 30 to 50 years ago judging from the regrowth.  That is why the woods were criss-crossed with logging roads.

We started climbing a slope to find the eastern border and,surprise, found the remnants of moonshine  sites that were easily recognized due to the telltake signs: located in well-hidden spots, near a water source, sone distance well-traveled paths, littered with crushed and rusted barrels, lacations that were only known to locals who knew the land like the back of their hands.

Along the way I found a deer antler as we crossed a couple deer trails. We also came across some suspicious flowerpots in the middle of nowhere and I was reminded of a 60 Minute Program on television about the marijuana raids over NC a few decades ago.  Maybe some of that was still going on a smaller scale?

Finally we made our way to the othern border of the property delineated by the east prong of the Roaring River. The seller had carved out a narrow 3 acre parcel that was part of the original 50 acres along the river,  starting at the bridge for a distance of about 700 feet.  You can go to the artist's rendering of the vineyard and you'll see it on the left (bottom) side of the rendering.

We walked the property along the river and decided to meet the owner of that property.  So we walked over and knocked on his door.  He invited us in and we had a lovely conversation with him. His name was Jonathan Stuart, and he told us how he found this property some years ago while he was visiting the area and fell in love with it.  He was dating a local area woman at the time, and decided to relocate from Alabama to this beautiful spot on the river where he planned to build a house and marry the woman of his dreams. Originally he lived in a one-room cabin without water or septic.  Later, after he purchased the property, he moved into a trailer and build a deck over-hanging the river. He had a very kind heart and kept all the dogs people abandonned by the river; they numbered six at the time and were not the best behaved dogs around.

 He gave us a short history of the place as we were walking over to the bridg where he pointed out the swimming hole that was very propular with the locals and that was also used for baptisms. Neaby stood the remains of a dam that once stradled both sides of the river and powered two gristmills simultaneously onopposite side of the river. Near the swimming hole, facing east, were the ruins of a sawmill and the miller's cabin that was not occupied at the time and looked very distressed. There were also tall stone pillars that had once supported the sawmill and rusted equipment that had fallen to the ground.

Across the river stood the foundation of the gristmill, and inside the ruins stood three iron rods that held the grinding stones. Jonathan stated that the building was still intact at the time he bought the property and that soon after the purchase was completed, the gristmill was burned down.  The rumor is that the other prospective buyer was so upset that he was not able to buy the property set it on fire on one fateful night,  fled after that and has not been seen since then. It was a dream of Jonathan to someday rebuild the gristmill and have an antique business of some sort.

Since Jonathan was lonely he enlarged the parking area near the swimming hole and interacted with the visitors.  He even landscaped around the swimming hole, erecting a fence and planting some butterfly bushes. There were sometimes seven or eight cars parked there at a time, and people coming around on all-vehicles (ATV). There was a lot of stuff going on under the bridge. At one time an alcoholic woman lived there an entire summer. People drank there, and it was also a popular spot for making out.

Apparently, Traphill has quite a reputation in the state, due to its long history with moonshine, drugs,
outlaws, and the law.  We were told of the murder of a sherriff in the early 1900's in one of the "hollers" not far frrom here. The law feared the locals so much that they refused to patrol or respond to calls from the area after the murder.

The Appalachia rural area is rather poor and devoid of industry and one can understand why the local population took to making moonshine. It was during the time of prohibition and economic downturns when there was a strong demand for liquor and quick way to make money with a minimal investment.
They had to survive in a difficult environment and did whatever it took to make a living. They may not be the most educated people in the world but they have acquired a vast amount of knowledge, and  strong sense of community because they depended on one another for survival. Knowledge had to be shared and passed along from one generation to the next.  These traditions continue to this day.

In the next episode I will expose the relationship between moonshine and NASCAR..

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Episode 1: Buying the property

Roaring River Vineyards
The Development Journey

The development journey will be written in installments to ensure the posts are not too long.  So this is the first installment, about how we came to own this property and how it became a vineyard.

When we started the property development of the vineyard I thought I could keep a photo journal of the process.  I have a lot of pictures and events to post, but it is going to take me a while to upload all that especially now since I have someone revamping my website(  So when it is done, I will spend quite a bit of time updating the site.

From the time we bought the 47-acre property a lot of things have happened and a lot of work was done on the property. Other vineyards may get started more quickly because the owners are working on them full-time, and have a lot of financial resources.  For us, our vineyard did not start that way.

First of all, Tom and I were living in Charlotte at the time, had full-time jobs, and 3 kids in college, and one about to go to college.  We bought the property to be in the mountains, preferably not far from skying slopes.

However the property, we were interested in sold just before we got there.  The seller had some land in the foothills that he thought Tom might be interested in. Tom made an appointment to see the property and the rest is history. Initially we bought it to build a weekend retreat. I liked the land but was concerned about it being so isolated, so I thought we might build a little French village so that other people would live nearby and that way, we would have neighbors living nearby. But things did not quite work out that way.

The village would have to wait for several years while the children graduated from college.  I had mentioned that we ought to plant a few grapevines to give the property a certain Je ne sais quoi?  Tom was surfing the Internet to find out where to buy grapevines and came upon something that would change the course of our lives (except we did not know it at the time). Two weeks later, Tom and I were enrolled in a Viticulture and Oenology seminar at Surry Community College.  This was a seminar about everything you needed to know about growing grapes, making wine, and representation from every expertise relating to growing grapes and making wine, etc.

Before we knew it, Tom had decided to start a vineyard.  He became passionate about it right from the start, whereas I was very apprehensive about the whole thing because we went from:
 building a weekend cabin to starting a full-fledged vineyard in no time at all. I still don't know how he made this leap! Furthermore, Tom new that I had an aversion to living in isolated places.  Traphill is definitely isolated.  There is no town, no shopping, no restaurants, few inhabitants, well you get the idea!

Tom had to work very hard to convince me to go along with that idea.  There are times when I still go back and forth as to whether I like it, can do it, will continue to do it and so on.

So this journey has not been as easy on me as it has been for Tom. His passion for this project was instant and powerful. Tom's nickname at work was "bulldog" because once Tom made up his mind about something he would never let go!  He started a campaign to convince me to go along with him. He is very good at this and I had a hard time saying no to him.  He argued that he was the type of man that had to work and stay busy, especially after retirement.  He stated that he could not just sit and do nothing, that this would kill him.  So he needed something to keep busy.  And, that it did.

So against my better judgment I relented and we became the proud owners of the Roaring River Vineyards.


Friday, February 8, 2013


Welcome to the Roaring River Blog.

Many people have asked me: What made you decide to start a vineyard? or How does one start a vineyard? Well these stories can take a while to answer so I decided to start a blog that chronicles our journey from the point when we bought the property until present day.

The story is told in short episodes that are easy to read and to the point.  The development of our vineyard is still underway and will take some time before it is completed.

My husband Tom focuses on the vineyard management while I focus on planning, construction, design, marketing and vacation rentals.

We have a vision for our business and it will take several more years before all our development projects are completed. So far we have planted our vineyards and are starting to make wine. We are planning to build some event venues, wine-tasting room, and our very own home on top of the mountain.

The vacation rentals are being activated at the end of March 2013 - so check us out on Vacation Rentals by Owners (VRBO) to book your next vacation.

There are many attractions in the local area and there are some on our vineyards as well.  So come and stay with us, we would love to make your acquaintance.

Thank you for visiting our blog, and for joining us on our development journey.

Josephine Silvey