Autumn Quiet

“During Prohibition hot claret wine gargle becomes popular “cure” for sore throats.”  ~~ Sonoma County Historical Society

This is the quiet time of year.  Nothing particular is happening in Ray’s Garden.  The bed’s have been cleared of summer’s excess, the persimmons and pomegranates have been harvested.  Now we wait for rain.  It’s a quiet time.

Mostly it’s quiet because The Crush is over for the year.  The wine grape harvest is in and it’s up to the winemakers now. Just a few weeks ago it was anything but quiet.  Trucks and tractors and gondolas clattering up and down the roads twenty-four hours a day in a controlled frenzy to get the precious grapes in at their sugar peak.

Now the vineyards are gold and orange — and bare of grapes.

vines 1

vines 2

Many  of the wineries in our part of the world bear Italian names, but it was a Hungarian, Count Agoston Haraszthy, who is credited with first bringing grape cuttings into our region, back in 1857, and in spite of changes in consumer taste, Prohibition, and Phylloxera-scares grapes have flourished ever since.

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Other crops have had their day in our sun:  Wheat was the primary crop here in the years when gold-seekers and entrepreneurs flooded California — until the wheat rust epidemic of the 1890’s pretty well took out wheat completely from California.  Gravenstein Apples still are prized today and pears and prunes once ruled our valleys.  And we never forget that innovative horticulturalist Luther Burbank arrived and set up his experimental gardens in nearby Santa Rosa — giving us, among other things, Shasta Daisies and Santa Rosa Plums.

Today, grapes reign supreme here — and we are entering a time of relative quiet in our vineyards.  Soon the beautiful colors will be stripped from the vines and the fields will rest.

leaves 2

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So Much Better When You Grow Your Own

“More grows in the garden than the gardener sows.” – Old Spanish Proverb

One of my favorite things about Summer is the anticipation of wonderful things to come…tomatoes

There are so far only a couple of actual small unripe tomatoes, but the plants are overflowing their plot and it isn’t hard to imagine the juicy red riches they are going to produce — any day now.

And, of course, you’ll need lots of basil and rosemary to go with them.

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“Why try to explain miracles to your kids when you can just have them plant a garden?” ~~ Robert Brault

It is ridiculously easy to wax lyrical about tomatoes — freshly made pasta sauce — the simple joy of a sliced tomato layered with fresh mozzarella and basil — or just a warm tomato straight from the vine– but I think the thing that provides the most anticipation in Summer is fruit.

This special feeling towards fruit, its glory and abundance, is I would say universal…. We respond to strawberry fields or cherry orchards with a delight that a cabbage patch or even an elegant vegetable garden cannot provoke.  ~~Jane Grigson

yum

Strawberries may be the perfect summer fruit — they are beautiful to look at, fast-growing, and best of all — delicious.  For real anticipation, however, you need a fruit tree.  You cannot hurry a fruit tree along — you simply have to wait for it to produce in its own good time — imagining pies and puddings and jam.

pears

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pomegranates

Food for the body is not enough. There must be food for the soul. ~~ Dorothy Day

Eating a piece of fruit that you have watched grow from a blossom must be one of the great joys of life.  Eating it fresh and warm from the Summer sun may well be heaven, itself.  However we enjoy it, homegrown food is a blessing to be treasured.

Despite eating more than ever before, our culture may be the only one in human history to value food so little. ~~ Barbara Kingsolver, “Animal, Vegetable, Miracle”

Home Territory

 “The sun had already set behind the mountains, and the sky had been drained of color. The trellises of sauvignon blanc flowed down the hill in even rows toward the valley floor. Whatever I was looking for, it wasn’t outside. As far as I could tell, the grapes were minding their own business.”  ~~ Frederick WeiselTeller

While running errands this week I was reminded once again that this place we live in is incredibly beautiful.

valley scene

While this is a blog about the happenings in one particular small garden, the temperate climate here virtually guarantees that every otherwise unoccupied inch of earth will have something growing in it — so I decided to broaden the scope of this one post — to some of that beauty outside Ray’s garden.

This is wine country — premium wine country.  Our particular mix of valley heat and coastal fog is, they say, the perfect climate for wine grapes.  Some of the biggest names in wine originate here so we live and work in the midst of mile after mile of vineyard.  Whether we have have any direct connection to the wine industry or not we live in its midst.  It’s the language we all unconsciously speak.  Our year is marked with the rituals of the vineyard – new berries, “will it rain?”, sugar-content and especially The Crush.  Right now we look at  the new grapes and speculate on what kind of year it will be …

The sun, with all those planets revolving around it and dependent on it, can still ripen a bunch of grapes as if it had nothing else in the universe to do. ~~ Galileo Galilei

close-up

“What I aim to do is not so much learn the names of the shreds of creation that flourish in this valley, but to keep myself open to their meanings.”  ~~ Annie DillardPilgrim at Tinker Creek

We tend to be a monoculture, but that does mean that we are always green and lush.  The vistas never get boring because all of this happens in small valleys divided up by rolling hills. We lie at the juncture of oak savannah and coastal redwood forest so the hills carry a variety of tree life, as well.  Grapes aren’t all we have here.  There are rolling hills for long walks…

hills

and a river runs through it all …

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And on top of all that, the ocean is only one short hour drive away…

beach scene2

“It is a pity indeed to travel and not get this essential sense of landscape values. You do not need a sixth sense for it. It is there if you just close your eyes and breathe softly through your nose; you will hear the whispered message, for all landscapes ask the same question in the same whisper. ‘I am watching you — are you watching yourself in me?’ ~~  Lawrence DurrellSpirit Of Place: Letters And Essays On Travel

Given all this, it is a natural thing to want to continue and add to the beauty within one’s own patch of land — gardening becomes inevitable…..

But it is difficult, sometimes, to compete with Nature.

G'ville