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!