Taming the Grapevine

I live a few miles from where the Concord grape was developed back in 1849. They’ve become part of the wild landscape. In the fall you can smell their sweet, musky scent along the roadsides. Concord grapevines grow near the woods across the street from my house. The Girl Scouts always get to harvesting them before I think of it, which is okay, because they make jelly which they sell to raise funds, and I buy it at the Harvest Fair. Anyway, they’re welcome to traipse through the meadow and encounter poison ivy and ticks in order to collect the grapes. It’s a lot of work for a fruit with a tough skin and center pits which are large and bitter.

I decided that I should grow my own grapes. I found three hybrids through Gurney’s that are seedless, edible as table fruit, and yet grow in my northern clime.  I had a plan: grow the grapes along the Gem’s enclosure, which the plants would climb, and eventually cover. The vines would provide shade, protection from hawks, and fruit for me (and drops for the hens.) The grapes arrived last spring as small bare root plants. This spring they were reaching for the sky.

sky reaching


They were twining onto the strings that I’d criss-crossed the run with to deter raptors.



It was time to put in an arbor. My husband and son got to work.



You can see that the Gems have crammed themselves into the shade at the side of the Little Barn.


Just a few weeks later and there’s already new shady area under the arbor.



Grapes are forming. The hens look wistfully through the fence. Don’t worry, girls, I think that there will be plenty for you!



  1. The last picture really made me laugh !! She really does look wistful !!

  2. I have blueberry bushes along the outside of the back of my chicken’s run. They adore blueberries and I have a full begging audience when I pick them. I had to put another fence around the bushes to keep the chickens out when I let them out of their run. They were jumping as high as they could to gobble the berries down.

  3. My neighbor has grapes over their chicken run. They never bothered to pick them, until the second year they had chickens. The first year they had chickens, the grapes fermented and the chickens were jumping up and gobbling all the fermented grapes… and acting very silly. :-)

  4. my dad and his friends used to make concord grape wine when I was a child. I can remember the smell….

  5. Love it! Grapes make sense on so many levels: they produce yummy fruit, they provide shade and shelter, they will reduce the ambient temperature underneath a supporting structure, they make great living fences, they can provide privacy … and they’re such pretty vines.

  6. Oh Terry, I got my concord grape vines from Gurney’s forty-two years ago, and they still take over the (tiny) side yard every year with great gusto, no matter how much I trim them in February. They are doing particularly well this year, it being so dry, and I hope to get pots of filling for concord grape pie, which I freeze for autumn/winter treats…that is why I planted the vines: way back when you couldn’t get concord grapes around here (Washington, DC), and I craved my favorite midwestern pie. I have to share my grapes with the cardinals, and an occasional raccoon, but that’s okay. Wish I had chickens to share them with, but there’s not a chance of that… the city fathers will not allow “livestock”, so I tune in every day to see what my “adopted” flock on Little Pond Farm is up to!! Coming to think of it, what the chickens don’t consume might be just enough for a pie or two for your November Pie Party (note caps). :)

    • I don’t have a recipe for Concord Grape Pie. Can you email it to me? I do though, have a very fun story about a college student living off campus in his first kitchen who wanted to bake a blueberry pie. It came out crunchy. Yes – he bought concord grapes at the market thinking that they were blueberries!

  7. My Flemish Giant rabbit Pumpkin who lives with the “girls” LOVES” grape leaves! We have a grape vine on the south side of the coop for shade in the summer. Give your new bunny some for a snack.

  8. Your grape vines and arbor look great! I’m also growing a grape next to the coop for shade and fruit. I planted it last summer and it is just starting to reach for the sky. It’s an Emeryville Pink which is supposed to sweeten up even in our cool coastal summers. My hens love grapes. They’ll have to fight my husband for them. :-)

  9. We buy many of our garden seeds and plants from Gurney’s. Will have to get some Concord grape vines. I have just the place by the coop for them and the roof of coop is hardware cloth, so my arbor is already made. I will wait till next Spring to plant. May be too late this year. The best corn I’ve eaten comes from Gurney’s. Kinda pricey but well worth it. Have you tried “You gotta have it”? We’ve planted gardens for 30 years and it’s the best. Your place is just lovely, Terry. I enjoy seeing all the foliage and animals. Thanks for sharing it.

  10. In our two grape arbors, we have Muscadine grapes, and they grow like the dickens. And can over take a building if not carefully and servely trimmed every year. My grandather choose that kinda of grapes 50 years ago because he could plantings of them for free from our family in NC. We usually just ate them raw and my grandfather when alive use to make a home made wine of them every year. Do you think you might try our hand at a home made wine someday Terry ?

    • Muscadines don’t grow this far north. I’ve heard they’re delicious. No desire to make wine – I’m just looking forward to growing my own table grapes.

  11. I had no idea that your runs weren’t covered. You never worry about hawks? I love the grapevine idea! We have grapevines growing everywhere in our yard, but never a grape to be seen growing. I’m guessing we have no female vines?

    • The Little Barn run is covered with hawk netting. The Big Barn had a tangle of strings and CDs hanging which kept hawks away. Grapes will be prettier and yummier :)

      • Terry I was reading the current issue of Country living, and someone suggested putting up and hanging large silver pie tins to discourage hawks from getting near their hens while in their coop or free ranging. Do you think that could discourage hawks and small birds more getting in your coop ?

        • I already hang DVDs – even better because they flash in the sun. They also reduce the number of sparrows that fly into the barn.