Friday, July 31, 2009

My Vine Yard

Brad Post:

More than an appreciation for their oxygen-producing abilities, there is something about plants I love! There was a time when I was a young man, providing forced-labor in my parents garden, that if you would have asked me I am sure I wouldn't have mentioned the word "love".

Maybe it is in my genetic material, this love of the earth, that drives me to get all "Green Acre-ish" - so my mother would suggest. My grandfather, on my dad's side, a frustrated factory-worker, part-time farmer who worked the brier infested sandy earth around the 1920's-era West Michigan homestead town of Greenville. He never was able to make a go of it and eventually sold off most of his holdings around Woodbeck Lake, less the parcels he gifted his children.

Throughout my life, as location allowed, I would plant a radish here or a cucumber there and if I were really fortunate -- a tomato! When we moved to Iowa from Idaho people shook their heads thinking we were making a mistake, no doubt, but I was hopeful to be moving to a truly unique place on earth. You see, from my days in a geography/geology classroom I remembered the soils and climate of Iowa were absolutely unique to the world - only a tiny fraction of the entire planet has this perfect combination of soil and climate.

Our first year in Iowa was busy landscaping our barren yard with perennial flowers, raspberries, a garden chocked full of goodies, and finally a few grape plants. My precious grapes! In my little yard, a vineyard sprung, containing the tender Niagara and Catawba grape (a little too far north, maybe), later a Concord, St. Croix, Marechal Foch, La Crosse, Louise Swenson, Sabreviox (my favorite), and Edelweiss.

For the past few years, as my gardening and viticulture skills increased, I have been busily taking enology classes from Des Moines Area Community College (DMACC) and have learned a lot. In attempt to learn more I have volunteered to help a friend restore his vineyard and have worked the wine cellar and vineyards of Fireside Winery.

Sometimes I hear people tell me, "oh, I'd love to have a vineyard" usually followed by they are so pretty. They are pretty! I forget who said this about growing grapes, anyway, this person's comment to people who say such things was this: "Do you think you'd love to grow 3 acres of tomatoes?" to which usually brought a, "duh, noooo" response. The grower would suggest it isn't much different, growing grapes or tomatoes - it's a lot of work.

I guess it all comes down to a love of the earth and growing things. I love getting up in the morning to visit with my plants, give them a little pep-talk, and when I leave (maybe after squishing a few Japanese Beetles between my fingers) I feel better.

Maybe one day I'll have opportunity to work a bigger vineyard, to take care of the burgeoning grape plants and help them achieve the highest honor for a grape - to become great wine!

Yeah, I love growing things and I kind of think Grandpa would be proud too!

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