Time moves forward into Autumn with or without us, and RURAL magazine doesn’t get published by its self.
To catch up is like jumping over a puddle, it takes concentration, and skill not to get your feet wet.
It’s been a while I know….
We’ve had an adventurous, and busy summer, and a task filled Autumn helping out at the farm.
The laborious harvest of hops during the last fading heated up days of summer glistening our skin before passing into cooler weather. The sun shining through the diesel fumes of the multiple tractors mingled in our hair and coated our skin.
The prickles of the bines scratching our skin…that’s what they call the 20 foot long hop vines that grow up the rough hemp rope twisting skyward. Cut by hand in the seemingly endless rows the promise of a machine to help out next year sustaining all of us through those days.
It involved many hands, and dull pruning shears that seemed to only hack away at the tough vines, the bending of backs, the roaring of tractors, the squeezing of trailers through narrow rows, bugs, sweat, farm dogs barking happily, and the drone of machines, dust, and dirt in our shoes…a ruined pair of garden gloves that still are overly fragrant with the hop oil are hanging on the line.
The enormous lengths of vine are loaded carefully onto the trailers, care is taken not to tangle them, a 5 hour long trip to the processor for the blossoms to be removed and dried comes after picking.
The day before, hours and many faces, spending time together sitting around a table gently picking the blossoms from the vines by hand for an order of fresh hops. Each hour only yielding a featherweight against the total poundage required.
A space of time for us, during which they, the farmers endlessly harvested the sweetest of summer corn, and chased away the bears that ate over 20% of the grape harvest. Picked the pumpkins, pulled the squash in, culled the last of the cukes, plucked the peppers, topped up the tomatoes, and harvested the garlic before the frost arrived.
I readied the flower garden for winter at my house, stretched out complaining muscles, and worked on the Autumn issue of RURAL magazine.
Farming is intensive, laborious, hot, and difficult…let no one tell you otherwise. We only helped out occasionally, but let us all be grateful that there are people willing to do this job to feed us.
During my spare moments, I continued to work on the pages of the magazine. Crafting a magazine is like piecing together a quilt from fabric swatches sent in by friends, each contribution makes you smile when you receive it and needs to be found a place in the overall pattern before it can be called finished.
During a stretch of stunning weather that seemed to make for a movie set, it was so perfectly sunny and beautiful….
The call came
The grapes were ready to be picked, could we help out?
I put aside the magazine.
Our climate’s combination of an early hot spring and slightly cooler summer temperatures and more rain brought the sweetest fruit on the vines in years…making this a record year they tell us.
The crew assembled in the early morning, the incorrect estimation of a few days work only, evaluated at the end of each darkening day…tacking on more time each night, the vines bearing so much more fruit than we ever dreamed.
It was a huge crop…picked by hand while perching on a upturned bucket, bending forward, fighting wasps. Sticky fingered plucking of fruit, gently toting it down the rows to the huge bins waiting to be picked up by the tractors, with the sun warming morning frozen fingers, and allowing us to lose our layers as the day moved on.
The memory of frost covered vines, and golden leaves just a hazy recollection of the mornings cool start.
Friendly faces most welcome, helping hands coming and going. The moment of escape when the bins totaled enough to start another crushing, our favorite time.
The regurgitation of the machine as it separated the fruit from the stem with surgical precision, each one of us a synchronized team member with an important part to play. Juice squeezed out of the crusher through a long hose making its way into the giant 1500 litre tanks that allowed the grape juice to be converted with the passage of the season into wine.
The sweetness of the vine
Sticky, sweaty, tired, and back sore, we worked for days in the sunshine, the glistening liquid depleted peels of fruit mounded up to be disposed of in the compost.
The nearly black but so fragrant skins of the Marechal Foch [pronounced Mah-reh-shal Fosh, fooo-ch – First say the word and then try the wine….delightful, rich, multilayered, bursting on the palate…those are my words but I’m not an expert, just a fan] grapes tanked the easiest, requiring only to be crushed, but not juiced before proceeding into the tank.
The blush toned clumps of nearly translucent in the sunshine Ortega grapes with their white, crisp delightfully fruity tendrils of muscat, and peach creating a popular sweet wine that filled the bins quickly, our favorite to pick.
The thought of the bears who consumed so many grapes before they could be harvested was both a relief during the endless picking, hey that meant we didn’t have to pick them ourselves, and a sad realization after we finished knowing that they had destroyed the possibility of so many more litres of wine.
The difficult to spell Gewurztraminer grapes tingling in our mouths, summer personified all year long. Pinot Noir, tiny dark treasures that took forever to fill the buckets.
Another year, another few vintages just waiting for the upcoming opening of the winery.
And then the time came for the Autumn issue of RURAL to be published. If you’ve missed it, here is a link. And if you enjoy it, please take a moment to share it with others…it’s an accumulation of the effort, talent, and time of so many wonderful people whom I am fortunate to work with.
My thanks to all of them.
And to you for taking a moment to read this blog. How about leaving a comment and letting me know how it’s going?
Jen @ the light laughed