Hi from Canada. Covid. Well THAT was a year wasn't it? I hope this blog finds you all healthy & safe.
With the kind of job I have, I spent most of the 2020 pandemic just trying to stay sane. Optimistic me faithfully followed protocol & restrictions with the hopes of some normal future after the vaccine. Pessimistic me ran apocalyptical scenarios while stockpiling canned goods & toilet paper. I didn't dare dream of any future international travels. It just didn't feel right.
Sequestered mainly to work and home, I was still able to sneak off and do day hikes around my hometown of Chilliwack on a rare day off.
When late April approached, I knew I had to start preparing the family farm for the season. I quickly realized that my little “hobby” would become my only saving grace for the Year 2020.
I have a vineyard.
It’s small. Artisanal, really. I've brag-blogged about it before Last of the Summer Wine
...but it's not really “travel-specific” for this TB platform, so I don’t mention it much. Anyways, for the past 15 years this little project of mine has consumed my life from May through September.
Which isn't a
bad thing. I love it. It fits nicely into my shiftwork life and has been a worthwhile sacrifice.
PreCovid, I’d spend my entire summer within beautiful British Columbia…and then travel internationally during our colder Canadian winter months. It worked out wonderfully.
During this 2020 lockdown pandemic though, the vineyard has literally saved my life, both mentally & physically, and perhaps a little spiritually.
After long shifts in what I can only refer to as my work clown circus, the vineyard quickly became an escape from all the world's uncertainty.
Spending my days outside in my vineyard, I actually forgot for a minute what was going on. The endless rows of grapevines, hypnotized me into a deep state of peace and tranquility. Plenty of fresh air, sunshine and exercise, all contributed to my mental well-being...and I could still socially distance like a pro.
Meanwhile, the rest of the world seemed to be going a little cuckoo for coco puffs
. The lengthy lockdowns and stay-at-home orders beyond brutal for those city dwellers in tiny apartments.
The grapevines behaved like they knew something was up. By the end of the 2020 growing season, they rewarded me with
The Siegerrebe loaded into bins and ready for transport to the winery for processing.
super abundant yields, largest I've ever had in 15 years. Their swan song? Could they have been reacting to how quiet the world had suddenly become? How blue the skies became? How fresh the air was? Those brief months when jet planes stopped flying overhead, commuting traffic halted, and the 8 billion ambient noisemakers all stopped abruptly. Did the grapes notice?
Or….perhaps it how attentive I was with them this year? Maybe they appreciated me skipping through the rows singing the whole soundtrack to “Sound of Music.” They are Austrian grapes after all.
Or maybe it was because it’s an El Nino year and the conditions were a little more predictable than the previous 10 years?
Whatever it was, the grapes were noticeably happier and fruitier. 2020 will be my most stellar vintage ever.
For me, none of this life of mine would have been possible without the power of visualization.
Twenty years ago, I was working in a career I hated but couldn’t leave. I used international travel as a temporarily fix for my fleeting unhappiness, but I was painfully aware that not only did I have to return but that the job I
It's early May and the sun is starting to get higher in the sky, and the hibernating vines are ready to start budding out.
hated so much actually financed those trips.
So. Long story short, I was going round and round on the societal hamster wheel, feeling trapped. While I continued to live up to my GenX inbred obligations, I also devised an exit strategy. I took university courses during my graveyard shifts and worked towards something. Trouble was, I didn't know what. What would make me really happy?
I did know I loved being outside, I loved getting my hands dirty, I loved growing things. As my studying progressed, Oenology & Viticulture came into the picture. I suddenly saw the light. Could I make a transition from prison guard to establishing my own boutique winery with award-winning wines?
I visualized a clear path of intent, which was to retire from my career of babysitting hardened criminals, to corking my own bottles. With this, I continued to use the power of visualization to conjure it up. I did one of those visualization boards. I pasted pictures of what I thought my future winery would look like. I pictured my wine label. I commissioned my childhood artist friend to paint it. I was ready.
Now all I needed was a vineyard.
Vitis Vinifera Ortega
A cross between Siegerrebe & Muller-Thurgau. Makes a wonderful full bodied white Riesling, that goes with spicy foods, fish & chicken dishes.
I didn’t have any land or the financial ability to buy any, but I did manage to convince my parents to hand over a small portion of their old asparagus plot that was fallow and llama trodden.
After some analysis, I discovered the terroir was absolutely perfect for growing grapes. The fates aligned. The grazing llamas hardly gave notice when I started pounding posts into the ground.
I worked in the fields of my Viticulture professor and for that he gave me some free cuttings for my trouble. I had been taught all the oenology theory, but knew nothing about winemaking. Over the next few years, I hobnobbed with other vineyard owners to try to learn the finicky process, and networked with many wine people. I visited a lot of wineries. I drank a lot of wine. I swished it around in the glass and said wine-biz things. I didn't know what I was doing, I didn’t know what I was saying. But I was determined, and I made people believe in me.
Fast forward 15 years and my tiny vineyard is going strong, my grapes have won awards.
I recruited my Mum aka Mother Superior
Thanks to many neighbours and friends, who help us harvest our grapes at a moments notice
as my volunteer vineyard manager, because I don't live nearby. Turns out she loves vineyard work more than I could ever predict, and is a dedicated employee. I plan to pay her someday.
Vineyards are 6 months of grueling hard work, not to mention being at the mercy of Mother Nature aka Karen. Between shifts, I’d drive the 4 hours to the vineyard and work there on my days off, only to drive back home and go back to work-work four days later. Basically for 15 years I had no other life.
Back to my visualization board, there is a rustic little winery on it where you may find me someday, sampling my white nectar all winter long to finesse it into bottles that I know will just fly off the shelves at the local bottle -O. I can see it.
Unfortunately, I can’t see how to conjure up the million dollars I need to make this part of my dream a reality. So I buy lotto tickets and hold my breath.
In the meantime, I sell the grapes to other wineries at top price. Not only did I ace my analysis 15 years ago by
Vitis Vinifera Siegerrebe
A cross between Mad Angie and Gewurztraminer, this sweet German Riesling grows very well in our dry northern climate.
selecting two varieties that I predicted would become a very hot commodity now, but I also knew the quality would be far superior thanks to our particular climate in this semi arid part of BC. No one else has been able to match the contextual characteristics of my terroir.
As for the future, that’s just what it is. I didn’t have a global pandemic on my vision board, and therefore I had no idea how this will go. Apocalyptic me, knows I could barter my 3600 bottles of wine for canned goods if the world goes tits up. Or drink them.
So for the time being, its me and my 1200 plants on a small plot of land near a town called Armstrong, which is on the fringe of the Okanagan, a fruit growing region in British Columbia, Canada.
International Travel is on hold.
People I know have asked me if it bothers me not traveling right now. It doesn't, actually. Because no one is traveling. Sure, I've still got a bucket list a mile long, but I wouldn't be overly devastated if international travel is no longer an option for me. I got it all
Dad loads all the bins while we pick
out of my system when I was young. Went to so many weird and wonderful places, and I have a head full of memories to draw from at any time. Any travel that happens during my future retirement years will be a bonus.
In the meantime, I’ll see you in the vineyard.
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