Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Gage Garden Extension

“J.P. said he wanted something with a running brook,” Gage Garden Project Manager Rip Winkel said. He looked down a freshly bulldozed dirt corridor in the middle of Marathon. “So that’s what we’re doing.”

J.P Bryan owner of the Gage Hotel and The Gage Garden acquired the old Adam’s Dairy Farm some time ago.

“They had cows back in the 40’s and 50’s,” Sam Caveness said. His brother-in-law, Taylor Adams, now deceased, owned the dairy. “It was a raw milk operation.”

The 18.75-acre parcel will allow J.P. Bryan to extend the present Gage Garden and have a running brook.

“It’s in a flood plain. Some of the old timers have told me that during the strong rain cycle of the 1940’s water would lake from here to the railroad tracks,” Winkel nodded his head to the north. “What’s cool about the flood plain is the 6 feet of topsoil.”

“We plan a running brook down the center, a pathway, exactly one mile around, a couple of bridges and clumps of trees, forests.” He pointed toward several knolls around the property already shaped in soft rolling mounds.

“We’ll plant three varieties of Red Oak, Native Maple, Pine and Cypress. Buffalo Grass and Blue Gamma will hold the dirt down and Bull Rushes along the water. Initially we’ll rely on our irrigation system that can pump 100 gallons of water a minute – 90 lbs of pressure, until nature can take care of itself.”

The wind was blowing and dirt from the project was flying through the air.

“There’ll be several gazebos, protected spots along the pathway to get out of the weather,” he said.

We walked away from the old farm toward the metal sheds near the heart of Gage Gardens. The entourage he led consisted of myself, Gage Hotel General Manager Wilma Schindler, and three marketing consultants; Melissa Baldridge from Denver, Philip Fell from Houston, and Pat Sherby from Austin.

At a small fenced vineyard Winkel pulled his braided beard and continued the tour. “We had a problem with Pearce’s Disease and had to remove the old vines. The soil is so alkaline, you can’t dig around here without hitting caliche, I had to find some varieties that could resist Pearce’s Disease and handle the high soil PH.

“We’ve got Champanelle and Favorite growing now,” Winkel said. He lifted his head a little and smiled. “ Expect to see a vintage wine come out of here in 2009.”

Inside the greenhouse the warm humid air was heavy with a rich biotic smell.

“These plants are for the grounds at the hotel. “We’re building another green house to grow vegetables and herbs for the restaurant,” Winkel said.

“Buy less grow more,” Schindler said. “Fresh organic vegetables are essential to the restaurant.”

“The vegetable green house should be up by next month. We’ve already got Rutabaga,” Winkel, who hails from Colorado, points to a row of potted plants. “Texans need to know about rutabaga.”

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