I have not written much about my vineyard project in this forum. It just has not seemed like a very interesting topic for most and the whole thing is very new. I figured I would have plenty of time to wax poetic about it at a later date. A vineyard is not something you dive into thinking about the short term. However, something happened this past weekend that changed my mind, the vineyard was attacked and vandalized by parties unknown.
It seems that some person or persons purposefully damaged the vines and small plot of land I and my partner have poured countless hours of our blood, sweat, and tears into, and it is most likely because of some dumb property dispute. The damage was bad but I suppose it could have been worse. We probably only lost about 25% of our young vines and the property damage was minimal considering what happened. It appears that this person or persons opened the gate surrounding the vines and ran a herd of cows in and then out. The cows knocked over a number of the stakes and wires holding up the vines and clearly had chewed on many more. On the plus side they shit all around the remaining vines saving us the trouble of having to fertilize for the next few weeks at least.
I do not blame the cows. They were simply doing as they were bid. They are in actuality a really sweet bunch. I call them the forest cows©™® on account of the fact that they actually spend the majority of their time wandering around the forest that surrounds the large grassland area where the vineyard is located rather then in the pasture itself.
Every time we visit the place after a few minutes they come wandering out of the trees and amble over to the fence to watch us intently as we work. I suppose they think we are going to feed them or something though we never have. Never have they shown the least bit of aggression or tried to come over the fence or in through the gate even if left open. It is almost as if they know that space is not meant for them. However, as with all cows they are followers and they can be herded. When herded they can be moved and even made to run just about anywhere a skilled handler desires. In this case they had been guided at speed en masse through our small gate into the vineyard proper, allowed to linger for a bit, and then chased out again. We know that the cows were let in on purpose for two reasons. First there is no damage to any part of the fence surrounding the vineyard so they clearly did not trample over it to get in and second the gate was left “unlocked” when the saboteurs had finished with their evil business. We were both 100% certain that we had shut and locked it securely before leaving after our last visit.
I was flabbergasted when I first saw the destruction but my partner had already surmised what had happened from the available evidence and quickly appraised me of the situation. There had been no attempt to hide evidence or obfuscate what had occurred in any way. It was quite clear whomever had done it wanted us to know what exactly had been done and that it was intentional. Immediately of course the question of who and why became the focus of discussion.
My partner informed me that the current owner of the land on which the vineyard sits is in a fairly nasty land dispute with another local resident. Apparently this sort of thing is quite common in Kentucky, particularly in the part of the state in which the vineyard sits. It has much to do with the State’s outdated aggressive occupation or “squatter” laws which are by far the most generous to squatter’s rights of any state in the nation. Of course the potential future value of the land is also a major motivating factor. With natural gas thought to be abundant under ground, ideal growing conditions for agricultural products of all kinds, and huge areas of totally undeveloped land with questionable at best ownership provenance there are ample motivations for an attempted takeover of another’s property. The marijuana industry has also moved into the area in a big way and illegal growing operations are rampant. They need land as desperately as the growers of legal crops and the value per acre for them is much higher.
In this case the dispute was a simple boundary disagreement. The vineyard site owner and the other party had both hired surveyors to come out and settle the case. As you might have guessed they came to very different conclusions. The surveyor industry is particularly corrupt in the state and they can be bought and paid for in a variety of ways with bribes, threats, or coercion of all sorts. The courts are even less of a help. Elected judges decide land dispute cases in a county by county, city by city, or township by township basis. As these are essentially political positions the right connections can easily win you a favorable court judgement potentially handing you the rights to millions or tens of millions of dollars worth of land.
In many of these disputes small attacks like vandalism of the sort seen at the vineyard are only the beginning of a protracted war that has ended in serious injury for many and even death for some. Usually it does not come to that and some sort of settlement between parties is often found. Having no skin in the game outside of the vineyard neither of us have any intention of getting involved in something as potentially dangerous as this and have been exploring our options including a potential relocation. The message it would send if we left is a bad one. The vandals will have basically won and chased us off of a spot that was rightfully ours. That said there are people on are side too and I have a feeling the guilty parties will not be walking away without consequence irrespective of our final decision. When that decision is finally made I will have much to say about it no doubt.