Tuesday, May 15, 2012

our story of trying to grow grapes

Way back in 2005 we bought an old farm house with great visions of restoring it and living off of the land.
I have always loved working outside and I actually find weeding kind of therapeutic. So when we bought 10 acres of neglected grapes - I thought that this would be a great way for me to stay at home and make some money on the side. I secretly felt a little like the Proverbs 31 woman.
First Adam had to learn how to drive this old, beater of a tractor that we inherited when we bought the farm. We didn't think twice that he had to learn how to drive a tractor, get a sprayers license, or that we both didn't know a thing about growing grapes.
In June of 2005, I had a two month old baby, a 19 month old terror, and Adam was working night and day on renavating our house. The grapes needed to be hoed. No problem. I spent hours trying to keep the weeds down and  had the challenge to keep Nate out of the construction zone. This is when we realized that we had the worst soil ever. Pure clay. I broke hoes, cried, moaned, and nursed my blisters. In the end we gave up. Next year would be better we thought . We let the birds have a feast at harvest time and determined that we would try our hardest with these grapes in the following year.
Grapes don't just grow. The season starts in the winter. Adam spent Saturdays pruning or should I say learning how to prune. On Easter weekend it is time to tie the branches to the wires. In the heat of the summer you need to sucker. This is taking the little shoots off of the bottom of the vine so that all of the nourishment goes to the main branches. And, yes, I felt like a sucker. I could hear the rest of my family splashing and relaxing in my parent's pool down the road, but I needed to sucker these ridiculous grapes. Finally that awful job was done. It wasn't nearly as therapeutic as I thought it would be. Adam worked long hours in the office or out of town, and devoted his Saturdays to spraying the grapes.

Finally it was time for harvest. Too late we discovered that the birds already figured this out.
We were behind and it was time to start picking. The previous owners decided that there was more money to be made if you grew table grapes so this is what they had planted. This meant picking all of the grapes by hand, packing them attractively in baskets and trying to sell them. Hours and hours of intense labour. My good, hard-working family came to the rescue. They couldn't stand it when they drove by and they saw the barn lights on and two very tired looking people (Adam and me) dragging the baskets of grapes around. By now the grapes were known as the grapes of wrath.

At the end of the season we knew that grape growing was not for us. We carefully packed boxes full of grapes and we brought them to our neighbour who would sell them at the market.  He took one look at our boxes and in his Polish accent said, "Fuller. I want fuller." We humbly went back home and packed the boxes fuller. Three times he sent us back home. On the third time Adam said, "Thats it. This is over." And that is when we officially stopped being farmers.  We didn't exactly loose money trying to grow grapes but we figured that we only made $0.08 per hour.

Andrew and grandpa

For a few years our neighbours took care of the grapes and after they were done hand picking we could come by and fill our baskets.
This year the rest of the grapes came out so that we could dig a pond. It was a bitter-sweet moment for me. There is something wonderful about walking out to the field and picking fresh grapes.
The grapes also reminded me that it is okay to try hard at something and realize that this is not for you. You never know until you try, and you can learn along the way. It is always nice when family comes along side and encourages you. I am sure that my parents thought that we were a little on the nuts side, but they came and helped. That was a good example for us for when our boys are older and say "I've been thinking....."

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

from the home front

Here are some odds and ends from the past few months.

When we were in Florida, (way back in March)  we went to this colourful little island. We watched the locals catch crabs for their supper
and the sun set.

Andrew learning how to dive. The pool was a big hit for everyone.

This little guy was a handful and a half. He slept in the walk-in-closet of our
room and quickly figured out how to climb out of the playpen. Every night
the doors parted open (think parting of the red sea) and he would look at us with a wicked little smile.
 He may be small and short, but he is very agile.

Olivia does very well with all of her boy cousins:)
The house that we rented had a beautiful canal behind it. The boys spent their time
fishing and we even went alligator hunting in the canoe. There were three baby alligators across the canal.
We found a church near the home that was very welcoming and the preaching was Christ-centred.
We looked forward to being there with the rest of the congregation and felt blest. It is so nice to go on a holiday and be in a church that is truly edifying.

Every day trip that we did, I dressed the boys in orange. We could see people
counting them and commenting on their blond hair. We heard a lot of "are these all of your boys?"
"Are you going to try for a girl?" and we even over heard people muttering, "Have mercy. Look at all of those boys."
Dressing them up in bright orange worked out perfectly. We could spot them easily and do quick head counts.
Liam turned 7 in the beginning of April. He is a fun loving boy who has a great sense of humor:)

And then... we had a pond dug.

Day #1

Getting stuck in the mud. Dad to the rescue!

The boys loved watching the diggers. Andrew woke up one morning and said, "Mom when I woked up I looked out the window and there was an execvator and a bonedozener!" What a wonderful way for a little boy to wake up. It was hard to get work done that week because it was a lot of fun watching the progress and the digging.

Opa taking down the swing set.

The pond has filled up quickly and we are wondering who is going to be the first one to jump in!

Some geese have already made their home in the pond. We also have some mallards and
a great blue heron occasionally stops by.

Hopefully the fence will go up this week because this little guy needs to stay indoors until it is.