Saturday, January 17, 2009

Young Oak Vineyards - Vol. 27: Goat Powered Lawn Mowers!!!


Hi all:

The vineyard is truly in fallow with only a couple of dry leaves left on the grapevines.  In the cold of our California winter [ah, ... wait a second ... you know, taken from my own personal experiences, ... we Californians are really wimps when it comes to the cold.  It's not cold here!  Its a bloomin' 70 degrees (that's 22 for you metric folk)!  Notice I am in a tee-shirt!  You could live in Finland!  Now that would be cold!!]... So, here in the "relative" cold of our Californian winter, the weeds have grown up, choking the vines.  Some of the weeds are taller than the vines themselves!

We had a nice visit from one of my oldest, longest (?) friends, Duncan MacKenzie & members of his clan, notably his son, daughter & the boyfriend, sister Ann & husband Doug (who took the pictures in this post!  Thanks, Doug!)  After an inspection of the goats, we adjourned to the vineyard where you can see my very healthy weeds.
I have attempted to let the goats wander down to the tall green grass of the vineyard, but they really want to stay in the northern pasture we have created for them.  I think Ellie, the mom, is being a little protective of her little ones.  So I will have to coax them down to the vineyard everyday until Mom is more comfortable with the new local!

Our bee man, Alan, checked out our hive this weekend and things are looking good.  The queen is working away laying eggs.  Alan thinks there are 80,000 bees plus in our hive with lots of new honeycomb.  I got to sample the honey, which was as clear as light corn syrup, but had a wonderful flavor.  Alan said that the clear color was due to only one flower being pollinated right now, although my rosemary, my neighbor's lavender and the mustard grass in the fields are all in bloom.

Hope you are enjoying the beautiful weather, at least those of you in California.  The rest of you guys, put another log on the fire and bundle up!
Happy winter, John

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Young Oak Vineyards - Vol. 26: Happy New YOV !!!

Hi all:

We hope you have had a wonderful holiday season!  The vineyard is entering its dormaint period, so before the leaves all drop and the pruning begins, we have little more time to socialize & play a bit.

Our family's holiday season started with a Thanksgiving visit to my brother Mike's new place in Nevada, west of Lake Tahoe, opposite the Kingsbury Grade, in the Minden Valley.  We had a wonderful time visiting with my sister-in-law Monica, my niece Melissa, her husband Luke & their three children who live in Truckee, while Uncle Mike and my son Scott planned a January sailing trip from Puerto Rico to the Virgin Islands.  The mountain scene above is the view to the southwest of Job's Peak at sunrise from my brother's place.

In mid-December, fulfilling my Aunt Doris's annual family tradition that she started some 50 years ago, Kristen, Scott, the girls & I all dressed up and attended the San Francisco Nutcracker Ballet.  Afterwards we had a fine dinner and enjoyed some nice French wine at Jardiniere  [http://www.jardiniere.com/], right behind the San Francisco Opera House on Grove Street.  Wonderful food and great service!  They have consistently maintained a great menu and are so convenient for the SF opera, ballet, symphony or the civic center.

With the beginning of the winter school break, we began our adventure northward for an old-fashion Christmas family reunion!  Taking the RV, we proceeded north along old haunts of John's near the University of California - Davis past Winters, California to Interstate Highway 5.   The next day after a great breakfast at Oasis Grill at "Exit 8" (town unknown?), we headed northward past Mount Shasta and made for Ashland, Oregon to visit a friend of son Scott's, Mark (an ex-pat of Palo Alto!) who with his wife and their two horses have a beautiful home in the hills overlooking Ashland.  After a nice cup of tea and some good conversation we headed northward again.

Shortly thereafter, we arrived at the Remote Outpost RV Park & Lodgings, which is Kristen's sister's husband's mother's place (Wow - that's a mouthful!).  Its is located south of Eugene on the Coquille River, half way between Roseberg & Coos Bay on Oregon State Highway 42.  Uncle Steve's mom, Charlotte & her husband Gary have made a wonderful place next to the river with woodsy cabins, RV facilities, campgrounds, a colorful common room & grounds.  Additionally, Gary has installed very nice facility for dressing deer & elk for those who are inclined to hunting.   If you are interested in staying there, call ahead for reservations as the lodgings book up really quick.  [phone (541) 572-5105 or email:  remoteoutpost@hughes.net] 

As you can see we had a wonderful White Christmas (See my RV parked behind the main pavilion where we grilled oysters & roasted prime rib in the open air kitchen!)  It was great re-visiting with family & friends, enjoying good conversations after our last get together some eight years back! Charlotte shared with me a picture of my son, Scott when he visited one summer 16 years ago!  We had wonderful meals, featuring the fantastic cooking of the Jones family (Kristen's sister's husband Steve & brother Tim), including those grilled oysters fresh from Coos Bay (Yow, they were good!), steamed clams, prime rib, Christmas ham, garlic mashed potatoes, Grandma Karen's roasted asparagus, etc., etc., etc!  And not to mention the great wines!   Boy, I am salivating just thinking about it all!  Man, those Jones boys sure can cook.  Almost as good as their mom!!

The trip home was quite a long adventure as we went along the coastal route to avoid the snows of a severe winter storm inland.  But we were still buffeted by the winds and rain along the beautiful Oregon coast.  Scott missed out on the excitement as he ditched us early and flew back to attend his 10th high school reunion back in Palo Alto and then prepare for his trip to the Caribbean.  

As we approached Santa Rosa, we got word from Scott back home that our pregnant goat, Ellie, had giving birth to not two, but four baby kid goats on the evening of the December 27th!  Fortunately, our Los Altos Hills neighbor, Laney Harney, is a goat herder from way back and after several phone calls back & forth and much advise, we found a feed store in Petaluma that was open, stocked up on goat nursing supplies and made for home lickety-split!  Here are some pictures of the little ones with our daughter Suzie & her friend Caroline:


I was probably pushing my luck, but we decided to hit the slopes & do a little skiing for New Years.  So we headed for our cabin in the Sierra Nevada Mountains near Pincecrest Lake & Dodge Ridge.  The weather in the mountains was absolutely beautiful with clear blues skies, perfect snow conditions and crowds that were non-exsistent!  I had a great day skiing on New Year Eve, but in the afternoon I misstepped coming off a ski lift, fell down and in a fluke accident, sprained/strained both my right hip and my knees! OUCH!!  Good thing Katie was along to drive me back to the cabin!

I am OK and healing quickly, but I think I have to hang up my skis for the season until after my hip surgery in the summer.  Here's a picture of the view from our cabin of Mt. Cooper (the central peak) and to the right you can make out the upper runs cut through the trees of Chair #7, where I met my demise!  Actually, we can't see this view from our deck anymore as we have a cabin that was built in front of us some years back.  (Should have bought that lot back in 1970 when they wanted the outrageous price of $4,500 for it!)

So, now I am hobbling around at home, getting out some last minute holiday cards, correcting papers for my students and trying to help Kris with house cleaning, as much as one can do with crutches.  And even though my holiday ended on a painful note, we had some wonderful experiences and cherished memories that we will remember for a long time to come.

We hope that your holidays were special and that your families are all well and in good health or at least like me, on the mend!  We are all looking forward to an exciting, peaceful & productive 2009 tending the vineyard and fixin' up our old house!  And we look forward to visiting you all soon!

Our best wishes to you all from down in the vineyard,
Kristen, John, Scott, Katie & Suzie