Monthly Archives: December 2012

Jed’s War on Christmas…Hanukkah…Valentine’s Day…Mother’s Day….Father’s Day

For several years now Bill O’Reilly and the Fox News gang have been proclaiming that there is a ‘war on Christmas’.  Bill is offended by stores that, in an effort to be more ecumenical, wish their patrons a “Happy Holiday” instead of a “Merry Christmas”.

A war on Christmas has been going on in our household for years.  With a name like Horovitz, one might assume that we celebrate Hanukkah instead of Christmas.  But there’s been a war on Hanukkah too, as well as a war on Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Valentine’s Day.   All are waged by my darling husband Jed.

Jed’s ‘bah humbug’ attitude toward Christmas has nothing to do with Jed being an atheist, though he is.  To start with, Jed dislikes all the fuss and bother of the holidays.  He’s annoyed by all the Christmas decorations in the house. He grumbles about having to help put up the Christmas tree.   Christmas cards, of course, are my responsibility, even the ones to his relatives and friends. He doesn’t mind all the cookies and eggnog, or the traditional Yulekake on Christmas morning,  but he mutters about all the calories. Unless there’s a neighbor kid in a pageant, or a friend singing in a choir performance, don’t expect to see Jed in church.

Merlot boy, his glass, and his tree.

Merlot boy, his glass, and his tree.

Most of all Jed hates that he’s expected to buy people gifts for Christmas.  Exchange gifts for eight days straight at Hannukah?  Forget it!  It’s not that Jed is terrible at buying gifts.  He’s actually quite good at it.  But he detests the notion of giving because you “have to”.  For Jed, unless you are giving something because you want to, the gift is meaningless.  So Mother’s Day, and Father’s Day are just events cooked up by Hallmark to sell more cards. Valentine’s Day?  A ploy by jewelers, florists, and candy shops to sell diamonds, flowers, and chocolates.  Graduations get a pass from Jed because he does’t mind rewarding achievement.  But birthdays?  Let’s just say that he announced a few years back that he only wanted to celebrate birthdays that were prime numbers.

Jed’s attitude toward all these traditional gift giving occasions was tough for me to swallow when we were first married.  I love Christmas,  and all the baking and shopping and partying that went with it.  It’s obvious that Jed enjoys spending time with friends and relatives over the holidays, but for him Thanksgiving is a much more pleasant holiday because it’s about food and family.

On our first Valentine’s Day we had gone out for dinner.  While he happily joined me, and expressed gratitude for my gift, it was clear that he was uncomfortable all evening.  Finally,  he told me about his antipathy toward what he termed manufactured events.  He told me that he much preferred to express his love in small ways every day of the year rather than on one manufactured holiday with a gift.

After over 20 years of marriage, Jed has been true to his beliefs.  He thanks me for doing his laundry or cleaning up the kitchen.  He is complimentary about a well cooked meal, or a completed task in the vineyard.  He lets me know that he cares about me in some small way on a daily basis.  I have come to value those real expressions of love from him and the manufactured holidays have come to mean less.

We still celebrate Christmas, with our mini ‘war’ about decorations and a tree.  I still shop and bake and send cards, though less than before.  Now that we’re out on the farm I can decorate the fireplace mantle with fresh juniper branches which we both like. This year Jed even put up the tree, and decorated it himself with a handful of red balls and white snowflakes.  It looks simple and elegant, and I though I treasure the hundreds of decorations that are still in their boxes, I don’t miss them on the tree this year.

Jed's Christmas lighting

Jed’s Christmas lighting

Christmas lights are the source of our other annual ‘war’.  Jed’s OK with having Christmas lights up when I agree to let him do something that is tacky or offbeat.  So some years our house has been tastefully decorated with white candles in the windows, and white lights around the front door.  Other years there have been colored lights strung haphazardly over bushes and around columns.  This year we have some very tasteful swags over the coach lights complemented by a riot of colored lights climbing up the utility pole, over the solar box and the electric fence switches, and up to the security cameras.  It is most certainly festive.

Tonight we will exchange a few gifts, just our family.  Some will be handmade, some will be very utilitarian, and some will be downright silly.  We will have a fire with wood from our farm, and we will play some sort of game together.  We will drink some port, and crack some nuts, and just enjoy some quiet time.  There will be music playing, probably an assortment of weird Christmas songs collected each year by an old music biz friend of mine.  The cats will each get a treat, and a piece of string which has proved to be much better entertainment than any cat toy we have ever bought. There will be no war on Christmas in our house tonight.

But Valentine’s Day is just around the corner.

Categories: Pam's Perambulations | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

20 x 15 x 19 x 70 = 50 tons

In the wild, grapevines can be found sprawling on the ground, climbing over bushes and scrambling up trees and fences.  Good viticulture requires that you tame that vine-y behavior by tying the vines to sturdy trellising so that growth can be managed, and grape clusters kept healthy until they are ripe and ready for harvest.

Geneva Double Curtain

Geneva Double Curtain

There are lots of different kinds of trellising systems for grapevines: the lyre, the Geneva Double Curtain, the Keuka high renewal, the Scott Henry vertical canopy, the Kniffen system, and the Hudson River Umbrella are a few of the more exotically named ones. I have been studying the options for trellising for a couple of years and had opportunities to look at different systems here in New Jersey.  I knew that we needed something that was compatible with the growing habits of merlot vines, wasn’t too difficult or complicated to work with,  and was affordable for a small grower.

Billateral cordon trained system

Billateral cordon trained system

I really liked one particular system used at several of the vineyards in south Jersey.  After Jed and I had a chance to work with it during our apprenticeship last summer we decided we would go with a bilateral cordon-trained system.  This is a relatively simple set up in which sets of wires are strung between two strong end posts and the vines are trained along the bottom ‘cordon’ wire.  The other wires are moved up during the course of the growing season to keep the shoots that climb from the cordon vine tucked up neatly.

So in August Jed ordered all the supplies and we began the task of building out our trellising.  Step one was to install the 40 big wooden end posts along with the earth anchors that keep them upright.  We outfitted the tractor with a smaller augur.  Jed would mark the spot, I’d drop the augur in, and voila in a few seconds we’d have our hole.  Jed would heft the post into the hole and we’d tamp it into place.   Repeat 39 times.

Jed probing a post hole

Jed probing a post hole

Of course, like all things to do with the rocky soil in our vineyard, it frequently never went that smoothly.  Often Jed was down on his stomach reaching into the hole to see what was obstructing progress – usually a big rock.  But eventually we got them all in along with the earth anchors.

The next step was to pound in the 9 ft metal stakes along which the wires run.  There were 15 stakes per row; times 20 rows = 300 stakes.  Big operations use an engine to pound the stakes in.  We didn’t.  We used a time-tested tool consisting of two long

The stake pounder tool

The stake pounder tool

metal handles attached to a heavy metal tube that fits over the top of the pole.  You slam the tube down over the top of the stake driving it into the ground.  You do that repeatedly until the stake is about 3 feet into the ground. By ‘you’ of course I mean Jed.  This tool weighs about 70 pounds, so though I could lift it, I couldn’t heft it high enough to really slam it down over the stake with any meaningful force.  So all 300 stakes were left to Jed.

After pounding 15 stakes on the first row, he silently made his way to the hot tub where he stayed, moaning for a good chunk of the evening.  With 285 still to go I suggested that it was a good time to take the ‘before’ pix of his biceps, but he dismissed the idea suggesting that my time would be put to better use by bringing him another beer.

The next weekend two neighbor boys, Mike and TJ, stopped by to see if we needed any mowing or other work done.  Jed told them that if they could lift the pounding tool over their heads they could help with pounding stakes.  TJ is almost as tall as Jed and was able to do it so he helped for that afternoon.  His brother Mike later confirmed that TJ’s muscles were really sore the whole week.

Jed takes a break

Jed takes a break

Thus, Jed did most of the 300 stake pounding by himself.  He would tackle one row per day, a couple of days a week.  By the end of the project he could do two rows in a day.  The night he finished, we celebrated with beer and a soak in the tub.  He noted that it took an average of 19 lifts to pound each post in.  So, with 20 rows times 15 stakes per row x 19 lifts per stake x 70 pounds per lift he calculated that he had lifted the equivalent of 50 tons over the course of past month.

He still wouldn’t let me take pictures of his biceps.  So I brought him another beer.

Categories: The Vineyard Today | Tags: , , | 4 Comments

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