Travels, Friends, Dark, and Light, and the Breathing Ocean

We walked the beach on that last day.  We alternately dreamed of our future farm in California and the kisses we would receive from Maryjane when we got home.  The air was heady with fresh soil and sea and the birds actively flew overhead.  My skin feels so good in the humidity.  I can breathe better too.  My breath caught though as I recognized a form in the sand behind a rock.  An infant seal clubbed, his spirit and his head missing, decomposing into the soft layers of sand that cradled its small body.  Mankind’s darkness found everywhere.  Glimpses of ugliness scattered vaguely in all the light.  But thank goodness for the light.

We had an amazing time with our beloved friends.  We miss them terribly as the years lapse between visits.  We traversed the back roads and highways, from beach to farm to mountain to sunsets, tasting, drinking wine or waters with lemon from Marigold the Lemon tree who resides sweetly on their fourth floor balcony.  Nourishment in every moment.

We came home to one of our cats, Zuzu’s Petals, missing.  Like losing a penny down the drain.  She is most immersely lost in this wilderness of apartment hell.

And as I sat on that beach in the sand looking out into the widest expanse of water that just graced the sky, and listened to the birds dancing on the rocks, and watched my husband recline and read, I noted the waves as they tumbled forth near my feet and then pulled back into the vastness.  Up and stretched in turquoise waves, then exhaled.  Came forth, pulled back.  I watched the ocean breathe for hours.  She gave, she pulled back, she grew in ferocity, she rested, she was beautiful in all her simplicity of ebb and flow.  She wrote out a poem, a script of life, a beautiful tale.

 

Across Enchanted Woods and Harbors

I found this man who might have been in the woods too long!

I found this man who might have been in the woods too long!

It’s always nice to get off the homestead once in awhile.  If you are on the farm too long you start to think that everything revolves around your little plot of land.  That’s a lot of pressure.  Thinking the world revolves around me getting alpacas can be overwhelming.  I needed to get away.  Every time I tell you all that I am taking a break, or a day off, I am lying.  I can’t take a day off at home.  Not possible.  Call me a super charged housewife or a Ritalin candidate, my days off are best spent in another state so I can’t revert back to chores.  My days off here have been filled with wine country, redwood forests, and seaside lunches.  Not bad days off, if you ask me.

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But while I am lounging around my friend’s patio, watching the traffic and taking in the new plant life, I am also getting recharged and inspired.  Sometimes we need to step away from our little world in order to come up with conclusions.

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In my quest for growing fresh fruit at 6500 feet above sea level, I have concluded that I am going to try to grow raspberries, blueberries, and grapes in five gallon buckets.  That way I can control their climate, their soil, and when it is time to move in a few years, I can just take them with me and plant them on my permanent farm.  I can keep them out of the deer’s’ buffet line, in the sun they crave, and hopefully harvest handfuls of delicious fruit.

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As we walked through the Muir Woods, we took in the intoxicating smell of lush growth, soil, sea.  The unfamiliar birdsongs, the moss growing up giant trees, our steps taking us through the enchanted forest.  It felt so surreal, it could have been a set out of a Disney movie, or Lord of the Rings.  The canopy tree tops, the babbling brook, the rustling in the underbrush.

As we walked though, I started to notice similarities with the terrain I grew up around.  The land looked very similar to Colorado.  The walking trails could have been the same (except for the occasional Palm tree and flowering bush…there are no flowering bushes in Colorado in November!).  The birds were different, but their songs as sweet.  The tree in Leo’s yard across the street is as high as many of the trees in the forest, having seen many, many a decade of pioneers crossing.  We are all on the same space.  I can be happy anywhere.  I realized that I can grow where I am planted, and love the terrain I am on, but also that my next farm, probably still in Colorado, will be at a lower altitude and on an easier plot of land to grow things!

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Oyster mushrooms climbed old trees in the forest.  A delicious example of the bounty in nature.  I need to inoculate a log and get us some mushrooms growing on our humble two thirds of a acre in a tiny part of the planet.

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The next day, from the harbor in Santa Cruz, we dined on frozen fried clam strips (not at all fresh) but enjoyed the scenery of hundreds of sea lions bantering, playing, sleeping, sunning, babies frolicking and getting in trouble with the older lions.

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These experiences show me that we live in a great, wide world with so many people and species.  I should not get so in my head about my own place.  Just enjoy what I have there.  In the whole scheme of the world, of time, does it matter if I get two more goats, one pregnant, that I have no idea how to mid-wife?  We are getting the fence fixed, surely it will be fine this time.  Two alpacas who are adorable and may or may not come near us are coming to live there too.  If we fail at our homesteading quest, does it really matter?  We will surely be wildly successful on our mini-farm.  Keeping my footprint small and taking care of my allotted space, loving the animals and people around me, and enjoying the life I am living right this moment is all that is important.

A Walk in the Vineyards (visiting Napa)

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Is wine just another drink?  A snobby, pretentious one?  An expensive bottle of grape juice?  It is more than that, of course, as I have written in Wine 101 and Wine 200.  The puzzle of finding out where the grapes were grown, in what kind of soil, surrounded by what, in what climate, on old or new vines.  These can all be answered in a glance, smell, sip.  I love that one can find so many complexities and aromas in a simple glass of…well….grape juice.

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And behind all that, the fancy restaurants, the food pairings, the bottles snug in the cellar, is the farmer.  A farmer, workers, wine makers, all making this journey through dinner sensational.

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Homesteaders have been making their own wine for many, many centuries.  Fermenting grapes was a way to preserve the bounty and provided safer refreshment than water at many times.  It is a preservation method, a return on the farmer’s time and energies growing this humble fruit.

Following the vineyard tour of Pine Crest in Napa, I took to memory everything the guide said about the growing of the grapes.  Hillside, sun, distance from the ground, sugar content, days on the vine.  I kept asking questions.  I must grow grapes.  A sad shake of the head met me.  140 days on the vine.

“Oh, I can do that.  I have a four and a half months to grow.”  That is a hundred and forty days after the fruit is visible, after flowering, after Spring, 140 days.

“Oh wait, that is my entire growing season!”  Oh, Kiowa, you high desert land, you’re killing me as a farmer over here!

But you know me, if someone tells me in Napa Valley, where they know grapes and wine, that I can’t grow grapes, I’ll be shopping for Sangiovese and Petite Sirah grapes the second my plane lands back in Colorado.  There has got to be a way for me to grow good grapes.  I will research areas similar to my climate and see what they grow.  Surely along the equatorial line Colorado matches up with somewhere like France across the globe.

Six dollar wines with cute animals on them or fancy Italian words used to be my wine of choice.  Now, you can find a darn good wine at twelve bucks, but I used to think the Costco style wines, in all their bulk glory and appealing labels, were the best wines.  Then I started enjoying red blends, their smooth, creamy textures, albeit void of intense complexity, seemed fitting for any occasion (and still can be).  Though I love a good puzzle.  And the puzzle can only be found in single vineyard wines.

Single vineyard is how you know the grapes came from the same place.  That wine will give you more uniqueness, as it will whisper to you notes about its soil constitution, how far its roots traveled, how much sun it received, how old the vines are.  Its own place on the planet written out in a bottle.

Estate grown means that it is grown on the vineyard owner’s properties, but their vineyards could be miles apart.

Reserve means that it was grown in a particular patch of vineyard, a more expensive wine generally, but a more concentrated memory of where it was grown.  The best area of the vineyard.

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We walked through the vast vineyards.  Watched as row upon row clung to the hillside taking in the glorious sun.  Smelled the sacrificial roses.  They are there to attract insects.  The destructive bugs will hopefully go to the roses instead of eating the precious fruit.

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We walked through the warehouse-looking area where thirty feet high there were stacked newly harvested and resting wine hovering in French oak barrels.  Enormous steel tanks held bubbling early fermentations of wine.  We walked into the cave.  Several miles of caves exist under the buildings.  Rows and rows of oak line the walls filled with their proud vintage.  We tasted a sample right out of the barrel.  It was delicious.  Creamy, interesting, smooth, filled with berries, molasses, spice, and vanilla.  We walked further down the cool caves (incidentally only three degrees cooler than my basement…I can do this!) and came upon a beautiful round table with three dozen shimmering glasses and small plates of cheese.  We went through three tastes of wines, each delightful with its chosen cheese, and savored the romantic cave atmosphere.

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Next Google search; zone 4 grape vines and an oak barrel.