Grapevines hold many lessons for life… and I am overwhelmed daily by the beauty of creation and the wisdom of its rhythms. The Vineyard Journal contains my occasional jottings regarding the growth and care of our humble two-acre vineyard. My comments also venture toward other crops, flowers and fauna, recipes, new wine releases, events, off-site wine experiences, along with a few philosophical side trips Although the names of family and friends are downplayed for their privacy, we treasure every soul who is a part of the vineyard. Come…watch us grow.
Many of our visitors choose to sit on the porch of the log cabin and enjoy their wine. Sometimes we have to remind ourselves to sit and savor. And it’s difficult to truly enjoy the view when we feel the distracting pressure of pulling an ostentatious weed. One July day I noticed the spring’s planting of pansies in the half-barrels were suffering in the extreme heat. Pansies are not meant for summer anyway and are expected to dwindle. I chose to capture the last remaining bright blooms, being quite edible, and added them to a fruity salad. Scones and muffins were a nice match. The wine is actually from another Indiana producer which I purchased at the Indiana Artisan show. Altogether, a nice moment yet far too rare!
Our tasting room is still under construction but a portion of it became the backdrop for a photo session when our nephew and his fiance came for some engagement photography. Indoor shots featured the newly installed spiral staircase and Grandma Bernice’s famous basement booth. Outdoor shots were very snow-covered! After a little wine tasting, we snapped this – the first of many photos joining two families. For many years, we have prayed for the little boys and girls who would grow up and marry our nieces and nephews. It’s so nice when we can finally meet them!
The vineyard in its overgrown state is happy and healthy. The 2021 season was a Sabbath year for us. With the exception of some trunk training necessary in the Prairie Star block, the majority of the 2 acre vineyard was left unpruned. Grapevines have a way they like to grow but that way is not often favored by man. Untended vines will continually grow from the ends making lots of leaves but little fruit. Vines gone wild may cover the ground or climb a handy tree for support. Pruning keeps the vine growth closer to the trunk, creating more robust canes, and fruit better positioned for harvest cutting. A trellis-trained vine with regular annual pruning is desirable to maintain a predictable growth pattern of fruiting canes.
So why do we have a Sabbath year? After 6 years of focusing hard on producing fruit, the vines need a little break. On the 7th year the unpruned vines create more leaves that enable them to nourish themselves. It’s a refreshing year for the land and the vines. It allows the birds to nest undisturbed in the vineyard. It gives the vine keepers a rest as well.
This year we have the added perspective of dealing with the pandemic as a business and as a society. Perhaps the lockdowns of 2020 were a type of Sabbath rest. Although it was unwelcome – once a person could relax into it – many families enjoyed special times together, playing and eating at home. Pets relished more attention from their people. Some things were left to grow wild, like grass, hair and fingernails. It was a great chance to catch up on some sleep and yes, there was a slight baby boom 9 months later.
Now we are in a transition from our rest to getting back to work. Like pruning in the 8th year, it’s a little more difficult than if we hadn’t taken the break at all. We have to change our strategy and look for the new normal.
A few weeks before we “opened the gates” I strolled through the unpruned vines. I saw so much nice fruit and sincerely hoped someone would come get the Sabbath harvest, free for the picking. My fears were quickly dispelled when shortly after 9 a.m. on opening day, September 8th, a caravan of cars arrived. People carried grapes out in buckets, baskets, bags – by the wagon load! A delightfully heavy crowd would persist for 5 days until most of the fruit was gone…and then I sadly pulled the Marketplace ad. Yet our website had promoted the event running through the 19th so we continued to welcome vineyard visitors and they continued to come through the following weekend. Generally buckets were less full, some finding only handfuls. But determined pickers amazed us by filling 5 gallon buckets right up to the end!
One bucket, two buckets, Red buckets, blue Old buckets, new buckets, Many buckets…few
For many visitors, this was their first experience picking grapes. Several families were repeats from the 2014 Sabbath! Some came alone and enjoyed the peace and quiet. Some came as mother/daughter teams. One group signed in with 13 members! Bayette George, an accomplished photographer and filmmaker, shared photos he took of his family’s adventure. When I first saw the photo above, I was concerned about the large pair of clippers being used. Then I realized how serious and focused these two were, carefully wearing their gloves and I fell in love with the intense look on their faces. Their father had captured the precious moment I hope all our visitors experience – a connection with the land and its Creator.
As people depart, the patio’s overflowing clematis provides a nice backdrop for a farewell photo. These images (and a few more on Facebook) represent only a fraction of the crowd. I feel truly blessed to have chatted with as many as possible. Some left behind various gifts of their own which we will savor and treasure. I am already looking forward to Sabbath 2028 when we can do it all again!
Our vineyard… does not actually have a gate, but the concept of “opening the gates” means that the community is welcome to come in and get grapes, free for the picking. Our first Sabbath year was 7 years ago in 2014. At that time, we had 6 previous years of commercial harvesting so we decided to follow the Old Testament principle of allowing the land to rest on the 7th year. An additional detail forbids enclosing the vineyard which would normally keep out trespassers or animals while grapes were ripe and desirable. So the full objective of the Sabbath is to let the land rest (the owners, workers and animals too) but also to provide the community with an opportunity for free food. In 2014 we announced our plans on Craig’s List and, wow – we had an overwhelming response! (Check out the Vineyard Journal, archive link 2014)
Here we are 7 years later and able to do it again. The Lord’s promise to create an abundance in 6 years proves true that we can happily forego this year as a commercial harvest. Please come join us during this time of community as we “open the gates” again.
This salad comes “in season” the end of July when you can get both fresh corn and blueberries at the farmer’s market! Then pick your spring blossoms before they finally surrender to the summer heat and add them for a special touch. Save any white wine past its prime for the salad dressing. ________________________________
3 heads romaine lettuce 2 ears of corn 1 cucumber sliced, quartered 1 c. blueberries 1/2 c. pecan halves 1/4 c. red onion, chopped edible flowers ________________________________
Cook ears of corn, let cool and cut from cob. Wash and chop lettuce. Add all other ingredients finally garnishing with edible flowers such as violas or pansies. Serves 3-4.
White Wine Poppyseed Dressing: 1/2 c. olive oil 1/4 c. white wine 2 tbsp. sugar 1 tsp. poppy seeds 1/2 tsp. salt 1/2 tsp. onion powder
Enjoy this nutritious bowl of comfort when the weather is chilly.
1 large onion, chopped 3 stalks of celery, chopped 1 tbsp. of vegetable oil (seasoning mix:) * 5 tsp. onion power * 2 tsp. coriander * 1-1/2 tsp. salt * 1 tsp. minced dried garlic * 1 tsp. dried cilantro or parsley * 1/2 tsp. allspice * 1/4 tsp. black pepper 10 c. hot water 8 oz. dried lentil beans (1/2 bag) 2 tbsp. orzo pasta (optional) fresh spinach, stems removed
On low heat, add onions and celery to a soup pot and sweat out the moisture. Add 1 tbsp. of oil and cook slowly until onions become clear. Stir in seasoning mix. Add water and bring to a boil. Prepare lentils by rinsing in a colander being careful to remove any foreign material. Add lentils to boiling pot and cook on medium heat until beans are tender. Skim off any brown foam. Add orzo pasta and a handful of fresh spinach. Soup is ready to eat when the pasta is tender.
Ceramic painting takes both planning and faith since the raw glaze is often quite a different color than the finished product. We are so thankful for the beautiful fall evening we had for hosting the Kiln Creations event. It was a pleasure to see some old friends and meet some new ones. We look forward to a similar event in the spring.
Harvest days are fun and rewarding. But at some point, everything that went into the fermentation tank must come out and those days are long and messy. White grapes are pressed off their skins at harvest and dealt with promptly. The red grapes, however, are fermented on their skins to extract a desired amount of color and tannin. This year we pumped the young Concord wine from the high valve shown. Seeds have settled below the valve. The skins, having risen to the top, gradually ride down as the wine level drops during pumping. When the manway is opened, a deep layer of skins is revealed now resting on top of the seed layer. In the photo above, I am trying out some new gadgets. A sanitary plastic shovel cuts into the cake of skins and is a good tool for starting but I found myself reaching for the flat rake to finish. A bag of sleeve protectors were a gift from my brother-in-law, Paul, which were comfortable and could easily be changed throughout the day. And yes, those are puppy pads on the floor. We use them to absorb big spills.