Thursday, September 30, 2010

The Grapes Are In!

This frog is following me!
Imagine harvesting grapes by moonlight, in the wee hours, with Jupiter shining as brightly as a beacon in the night sky (closer to Earth now than it’s been in over half a century).

Let’s pass over how you look: You’re jet-lagged, you haven’t had coffee or even washed your face, and it is, for godssake, 3:30 in the morning. Plus, you and Prince Charming are both wearing halogen head-lamps held on to your bed-heads with crisscrossing black elastic bands. (I doubt it’ll become a fashion trend any time soon.)

The idea is to harvest the grapes while they’re cold, when the sugar is just right, and before the spate of hot weather turns them to raisins.

There’s a four-hour window of time before the violist-vigneron has to leave for his rehearsal in San Francisco.

Nature is already playing its symphony: frogs, crickets, birds. The lonely sound of middle-of-the-night traffic on the Gravenstein Highway. Our two pairs of grape scissors snipping. (Try saying that 10 times in a row!) The satisfying plunk as the clusters pile up in the grape tray.

When the tray is full, you stumble with it, in the dark, down the rows, over the clods of earth, trampling weeds and peppermint. Trays weighed, weight of each one noted, and then back into the vineyard to start again.

After two hours in the damp and cold, your hands hurt. After three hours, you have a renewed sense of respect and admiration for Cesar Chavez. The closest you have ever come to this labor is Labor: that other middle-of-the night long haul with magical consequences.

It takes two consecutive days of waking in the dark and working until the sun has made the light on your head unnecessary. But, together, you gather all the fruit: 584 pounds of Pinot noir and Pinot gris.

It’ll make about 180 bottles of wine. Santé!

Saturday, September 4, 2010

My Daily Frog

Sorry, I've already found my prince!
All summer long I’ve been planting gardens and planning the remodel of our Wine Country kitchen.

The proliferation of one and the demolition of the other has meant that Wayne and I have been on what I like to think of as a very cushy camping trip for these past few weeks.

I don my rubber boots and (on cold nights) my sou’wester to do dishes on the patio, with a glazed ceramic planter serving as sink and the garden hose hooked up to the hot water tap on the outdoor shower we both prefer to use.

The hot water is a luxury—as is the fridge (relocated onto the same patio) and the ready supply of organic greens, berries, and vegetables from our gardens.

The simplest things (as they always do on a camping trip) involve more work and wandering around than they did before our kitchen was torn apart.

First thing each morning, I toddle out to the patio to retrieve our little stovetop espresso maker, the milk frother, and our coffee cups from the dish-drainer. Like a conjurer demonstrating a shell game, I carefully turn each cup or container over to see if it’s hiding anything.

Why? Because every morning, in the mist that comes in through the Petaluma Gap, I have found a tree-frog sheltering inside a cup or bowl or even (more than once) in my shower-cap, which hangs on a hook outside.

They are lovely little creatures, with iridescent green and sometimes pink markings. In my roses, they look like little ornaments that have been placed there by fairies in the night.

I am trying hard not to be surprised—not to jump or shriek or swear—when one stares at me from inside the terrycloth rim of the shower-cap I’ve come perilously close to putting on with frog intact. Or from the well of the espresso maker balanced in my hands with the other breakfast supplies as I struggle to get through the screen door without dropping anything.

I say the same thing—although perhaps to different frogs—every morning. “Sorry, but I’ve already found my prince!”

And, without ceremony but as gently as possible, I shake him out into one of the potted lemon trees.

I have often, in my life, felt like a princess in a fairytale. But never more so than now, in this glorious fifth decade of my existence, when my cup, quite literally, runneth over.
Wayne, dreaming of his new kitchen

Barbara Quick, Vivaldi's Virgins Book Signing

Barbara Quick, Vivaldi's Virgins Book Signing
Barbara Quick

My Garden

My Garden
My flower and strawberry garden (bathtub view)