This post is entirely out of the usual sequence, but we have to get it out here while the thoughts are still fresh! The rest of the details leading up will still be included, but we have had a frantically busy few weeks and are more than a little excited (save for the snow; that is opposite-exciting).
First off, saluté to Matt (aka “Super FIS”) all the way from Connecticut, who was the first to answer the quiz question correctly in the previous post. Nice work, sir! Uncork a bottle of Bordeaux and celebrate your victory. To all those reading that are new to European wines, they tend to use a different naming convention than we do over here (our focus tends to be on grape varietal-producer-vintage). The names you may be most familiar with (Bordeaux, Burgundy, Chianti) are actually regions with very specific controls on mixing formulas, geographic boundaries, volume, and some of the highest end “reserve” or “guaranteed” bottles need to be tasted by a committee before bearing a name of a given appellation. Generally, you have to be familiar with the region to know the varietals predominantly used in a given wine (Bordeaux = cabernet sauvignon, Burgundy = pinot noir, Chianti = sangiovese) I will dedicate a future post to appellations because there is much to learn about these when sleuthing through all the European wines, and it just so happens that it is becoming increasingly relevant over here (not to mention Augusta, MO was the first ever appellation in the US).
I like to joke that the blog is written with a lag because everything is more cheerful in retrospect. This could never be more applicable than with our planting weekend. In my idealistic mind, I pictured perfect spring conditions, sunny and 70 every day with flowers blooming in the distance and birds chirping. Friends and family would gather and all merrily sing songs as we planted and took a few breaks sitting at a picnic table with BBQ and freshly squeezed lemonade. It was all coming together. I even made the crucial mistake of checking the 10-day forecast just as it was available, took a picture, and sent it to my brother as I was simply bursting with anticipation.
Planting weekend came, and the words I heard more than once were “that’s farming”. Two days prior to planting, the sky swelled and the clouds opened up releasing life-giving moisture to the ground where life was yet to be planted. Grapes don’t like wet feet, and we had a box full of plants and a field full of mud; with standing water in places due to the abnormal amount of rain for the year. Our first day included scooping water out of holes and filling with topsoil and grape vines before more water would swirl in from the surrounding ground. This was a slow and filthy job as mud clung to absolutely everything it touched. All the while we kept a weathered eye above us as the sky threatened to unleash at any moment. Unleash it did. We planted for about five hours before the rain came again, lasting from evening through the following night.
Our second day was spent planting in the brief moments that the rain would let up. I wish I was joking when I say that Dave said a little prayer with each vine that he put into the rain-soaked ground. Welcome to Missouri, little plants.
We still had help show up despite the conditions and we are most grateful. Although they all lamented that there were a myriad of ways they would rather be spending a cold and rainy Saturday, they helped out their friends nonetheless. Dave, Asher, and I planted as quickly as we could, Bobby scooped dirt, Spencer dug holes, and Chris kept his hands warm with coffee (he did eventually change clothes and get in on the action).
Scott even showed up for a brief moment to supervise and add some delightfully sarcastic insights to the situation. Jeremy, our accountant –extraordinaire, turned out to be a jack-of-all trades jumping from hole to hole shoveling dirt and muck with the kind of gusto that leads me to believe he moonlights as a master gardener after he drafts up a 10-k and sheathes his pen. Katy was with us in spirit, brought us food, and cheered us on from a distance as I scheduled planting on the same weekend as the wedding shower (whoops). Luckily, she will still have a chance to get in on the fun!
The sun eventually broke through the clouds on Sunday afternoon of planting weekend, shedding light on three acres of muddy topsoil and goldfish ponds. However, we pressed on. Dave and Marschall showed up, coffee cans in hand to begin paling water from our holes to expedite the drying process. As the weekend ended, we lost nearly two days’ worth of planting..
When things don’t go as planned you can either kick the bark off a tree and grumble or look at the bright side. I’m an eternal optimist. The sun came out on the following Monday, and it ended up being blazing hot (upper 80s) and I returned to my real job the next day, sunburned and exhausted. Asher, Ana, and Stephanie (I haven’t forgotten about you, Steph!) kept at it. Our dear cousin, Stephanie, worked tirelessly with us every single hour we were out there, literally through rain and shine. Digging, scooping, scraping, sweating, planting, staking, grow tubing, and seamlessly never tiring, even as we ventured into the realm of discussing politics and religion. Ah, that’s what family is all about! Thank you again, also for Casey and the kids as everyone showed up to lend helping hands, big and small.
Mom even had the chance to help out but stressed the importance of having a job that didn’t involve digging, bending, or scooping, and Gregg and his miniature sidekick came around to do a little tilling. Dad was always a phone call away for supplies and I’m still confident he will get the chance to do some planting (update: he did). The weather wasn’t perfect and we improvised, but we now have over half of the grapes in the ground!!
Finally, for a brief moment that Monday morning, I had my idealistic spring day. Birds were chirping, sun was shining, and the cool breeze was nourishment for the soul. It is in this moment that I looked to the sky again, only this time it was not in fear of impending downpour but in reverent thankfulness. Yes, it rained all weekend and things went drastically different from planned, but it was just last summer that people in this state and those surrounding were praying for rain for a parched landscape in dire need. The earth was visited and enriched as the ridges were watered abundantly, settling in the furrows and making the ground that was like iron after the drought soft with showers for a blessed growth, and the hills rejoiced around us. Though we were mildly frustrated at working in those conditions, we didn’t let it escape our memory that this rain is an answer to earlier prayers and we are finally escaping a devestating drought.
Not to mention the rare opportunity to do something entirely new and different with people we care about in unpredictable conditions…Memories. It’s sometimes difficult to see the blessing when it’s happening, yet it shows up clear as day in hindsight. For all of this, we are thankful to everyone that came out to help and will cherish the moment, even if we never grow a single grape! Oh, and we still have a bunch more to go, so keep your phones handy.