Harvest Time and Sonoma County is Raining Drama

Pinot in August, Sonoma County California

Friday, 5AM

This morning harvest got underway with a parade of LOUD, clattering, empty, steel bins being slowly pulled up the hill on the back of a trailer truck. The fork lift that we finally found 2 days ago is at the ready to lift the filled heavy bins onto the trailer.

There is a crew of 32 people; men to do the picking, lifting and sorting and two women, who remove leaves and stems from the grapes as they are loaded into the bins. They arrive in the darkness, covered from head to toe.

Pinot  2013 Harvest
Pinot 2013 Harvest

The farmer has gathered his coolers for the requisite cases of Coke along with 4 bags of ice to keep it cold. When picking is over, 60-70 pieces of hot chicken and rolls will be waiting for the crews. Every piece will be eaten!


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Artwork by L’Adelaide. All rights reserved.

However problems arise…

The tractor’s radiator sprung a leak, our one and only tractor! We need it to trundle our smaller trailer of grape-filled bins down the hill to the waiting truck.

The broken radiator means that jugs of water have to be continually filled and carried to keep the leaking radiator from emptying completely. There’s no time to stop and fix our aging machinery! A new radiator will have to wait until this harvest is over.

old truck in the field
old truck and blackberries

The grapes begin to shrivel as they approach harvest. A little shrinkage is fine but as sugars rise, we find uninvited guests…

Raccoons, coyote, rabbits, mice, voles, birds and bugs enjoy the sudden feast. Coyote pups chew irrigation tubing, seeking whatever lies within. Wasps pierce the skin and suck the pulp out, leaving raisins behind. I suppose one simply plants enough for both us and the others who come to the table…

Such is the life of a farmer!

Pinot  2013 Harvest Pinot 2013 Harvest

If you look at the grape clusters above, you can see how ripe they are. The winery wants the sugars to be between 23-25. Last Monday the sugar tested at 23.8. The temperatures stayed in the high 80’s throughout the week, developing more sugar in the fruit. By the time the grapes are finally harvested and arrive at the winery, they will be closer to 26 if not higher.

The sky was covered in dark heavy clouds as they picked on Friday. We won’t harvest in the rain. Tonight it is raining. The rest of the pinot will not be picked until Monday unless the sun is brightly shining in the morning.{Saturday}

sunshine and clouds

Artwork by L’Adelaide. All rights reserved.

Everything and everyone is on hold until dawn’s light, checking weather widgets and listening to the radio to see what the weather is to be. Waiting are 32 people, not counting us and the foreman. The forecast is for 50% chance of rain by 10AM. We will not pick today or Sunday….

My husband, the farmer, is up and pacing around the house, awaiting 5:30AM. He knows he has to delay picking until Monday. The winery won’t take grapes that have been sitting in bins with rain water. It dilutes the juice. They have the right of refusal which, as you might imagine, would be disastrous! And they do not accept grapes on Sunday.

pinot harvest sonoma county california
Loading grape bins

This is becoming a very long pinot harvest! Following this harvest, we turn our attention to the chardonnay vineyard, that is rapidly ripening. It will likely be harvested week after next, fingers crossed!

That is a little more complicated because instead of one winery, we are selling to two this year, each taking about half the crop. They will harvest on separate days. The tricky part is the grapes all ripen about the same time!

That too is a 2-day harvest of golden, lovely, plump chardonnay! YAY for that though it does sound a bit more complicated!  

Chardonnay Harvest 2013
Chardonnay 2013

38 thoughts on “Harvest Time and Sonoma County is Raining Drama

  1. How wonderful that you have given us an account of your harvest. Most informative with such personality. And your painting tells of the energy of that harvest. Beautiful.

    1. Hello and welcome,
      Thanks so much for coming by and leaving comments on my blog. They are so appreciated. As you can see you are “anonymous”, a new setting I’m trying. The ONE drawback is I don’t know who you are unless you tell me your name! If you prefer not to, that’s OK too. Just wondering… 🙂

      I hope to see you again soon. Do you have a blog I might visit and return the favor?

  2. What a fantastic description of what harvest time is like! I’m getting stressed for you just reading this! I really hope all goes well… and that painting is just beautiful… like a “ripe” sun in full glory. Beautiful photos, too! Tonight when I have my glass of wine with dinner, I will be thinking of all the work and loving care that goes into it : )

    1. Hi Anita,
      HAHA, you are getting stressed reading this? I think I am used to it since life has always been this way for us. It’s a life-style one realizes has other advantages that far outweigh the stresses of this time of year. The hardest part is actually only getting paid once or twice a year and having no benefits, especially health insurance, as people have with the usual types of occupations. On the other hand, no one can lay us off! 😉


  3. A very exciting time at your place! Your painting beautifully reflects the autumn and the activity!

    1. Yes, it’s exciting and busy and then we rest… I wouldn’t have it any other way. thanks for your kind comment on the painting. xox

  4. Wow! Gorgeous pictures, Linda. I even loved the antique truck with the blackberries vines… I had suspected grape growing was not an easy task. I hope Monday is a success for your vineyard. It sounds like timing is everything.

    Blessings ~ Wendy

    1. Wendy,
      Yes, timing is everything in growing, ,especially harvesting grapes. I like that old truck too. It’s one of several. My husband’s father didn’t like to throw anything away so he stuck things in the fields, woods, etc. They are slowly returning to the earth. Thank you for your kind good wishes. xoxox

  5. Thanks so much for sharing your harvesting process, sounds very interesting and appears that timing is crucial. Love all of the pictures. The grapes look delicious.

    1. hi again, Janell,
      how are you? I’m glad you enjoyed reading about our day-night-dawn… 🙂 yes, timing is crucial as is weather. mostly you can do nothing about either. it’s a good teaching actually!! and excepting the seeds, the grapes are out of this world in flavor. xxx

  6. Gorgeous photos. I pray the weather cooperates as you bring in the harvest.

    1. Thanks Tony, I appreciate your good thoughts. Please visit again soon. 🙂

  7. As all farming is, you depend on the weather for a good harvest. Let’s hope Monday will be a success!
    I love to “hear” you tell about the harvest! Beautiful photos of the grapes …and the truck…Good luck Monday!

    1. Yes, let’s…. we have the weights on yesterday’s harvest and it was much higher than we originally thought. now we get to buy a huge scale to keep the trucks from going over weight limits. but still i’d rather have heavier grapes! 😉


  8. What a beautiful post, love the pictures and story, not to mention the art very colorful!

    1. hi Doris,
      I am so happy you liked the post on the harvest. I do one every year and it’s always well-received. I almost said well-“tolerated”. 🙂

      I’m glad to see you again and enjoyed visiting your blog yesterday!

      1. you now my reader really does not work I am going to add you to a folder in my browser so I wont miss a thing 😉

        I do have to tell you, I envy you (the good envy ;)) just by seeing these pictures, my father use to plant cucumbers and I miss all that, for us it was like a fun ritual, and love your story I felt like I was there, have a great weekend and thank you for passing by my blog 😉

        1. I read some people are having issues with it. i think when you do it for your livelihood, it’s not quite so romantic or fun. Tho our grandkids love the whole coming to the “ranch”. We are looking for a horse now for our granddaughter to ride. Thankfully we have the space for it and her to get her way here. I love the idea of that… we live a privileged life only in a different sort of “privilege” and definitely we must be stewards of this land….

          Thank you for your lovely comments, Doris. It’s good to reconnect with you again. XX

  9. “The thankful receiver bears a plentiful harvest.”
    William Blake

    And you, my dear friend, have a thankful spirit! I can feel the sunshine and smell the earth through your photos.

    1. Blake has always had a way with words and they always pierce the heart, it seems. 🙂

      I’m so glad you enjoyed my ramblings, Rebecca. XO

  10. Interesting photos and process. Great harvest. Wonder under what name you process into wine? Rlte

    1. Hi Silvia,
      Yes, “interesting” is one way to put it. 🙂

      We are hoping we will have at least a good harvest. Great harvest is a place grape growers never go until after the grapes have been weighed! Because we grow grapes rather than make wine, we do not process our grapes. We ship them over to St. Helena to the winery we contract with each year. They take everything we grow. A lovely, relaxing situation.

  11. Great harvest! And what a beautiful place❤I’m sure the wine would taste fantastic 😃❤️

    1. thank you kindly, violet. and i hope it does! xooxoxoxox

  12. Wow…. I’m pretty naive about the whole grape process–I appreciated the information about sugar content and the critters who love the higher numbers. LOL We plant for the deer and raccoons, so it’s only fair you plant for your critters as well. And STILL you’ve tipped the scales…….how wonderful! Notsomuch the tractor springing a leak, but wow–what fun as a spectator. (I’ll note I did get a bit squirmy when the rain got added to the equation…….oy….makes for clean grapes? LOL)
    The photos were lovely. I do admit, I was loving the plump pretty ones with no shrivels. LOL Go figure–same deal with the corn. You want shrivels……of you pay hefty dryer prices to GET the shrivels. Your process would prove to be far too unnerving for my likes. Good grief, I was tensing up reading. LOL
    But I did get a smile going from the old car. Yup–you didn’t toss ’em, you parked ’em in case you needed a part or someone needed a fixer-upper……I love wandering the back 40’s where the farmers have stashed their old machinery/tractors/cars. Treasures I tell ya….pure treasures.
    I’ll cross fingers and hope for a sunshiney Monday. AND I’ll stand in awe of the 60 pieces of chicken that has to be waiting for the workers. I’m hoping you had that catered in. There goes the profits!!!! ROFL How close is that local deli? 😉

    1. Hi mel… 🙂 a “bit” squirmy? i got a whole lot squirmy but got the crop off today and it’s a bumper crop!! YAYAYAYAYAY! but we were short 2 dozen men and the chicken never got picked up or eaten… next time, promise. chardonnay coming right up.

  13. The pictures of your grape crop this year are some of the finest I’ve seen. I hope the harvest continues to go well and that you have a vintage year.

    1. thanks, dear heart. we had the best harvest ever in pinot… they’re a slow maturer but that’s bit ridiculous. anyway i’m not complaining! 🙂

  14. Love reading about harvest time – I feel the joy, stress, hope, anticipation and expectation! Gorgeous looking grapes and here’s to an event free picking day Monday! Good wishes on a fabulous crop. Beautiful painting Linda – wonderful vibrancy in celebration of this special time. Hope that Mother Nature cooperates.

    1. Thanks Mary… we did well if you read what i just wrote. Mother Nature definitely came thru. xox

  15. camilla wells paynter September 24, 2013 — 8:23 pm

    Beautiful photos, and your painting is, as usual, inexplicably alluring. It’s the spirit in it, the spirit of the land. It draws one in. It was great to read your explanation of your process–a learning for me. And I deeply respect your willingness to “share,” to accept a certain amount of attrition in exchange for your use of the earth. Many could learn from your example. Coyotes, I have read, can live for up to 9 months out of the year on up to 90% vegetation, and they are very fond of fruit! 🙂

    I like your new portrait photo, by the way. It’s not as dramatic and glamorous as some of the others, but it has a cool, almost deceptive quality: a contrast between the ethereal lighting and soft pastels and the dark intensity of your eyes. Subtly powerful. Do you take these yourself or is there a photographer behind the scenes?

    1. Hi Camilla,
      Fascinating about the coyotes living on practically all vegetation, and that they LOVE fruit…OY!! 🙂 yes, must return back to what she has given us, is my way of seeing these things. i might add there’s not ONE thing we can do about their ravenous appetites!

      thanks for your kind words on the photo and no, no photographer but me. they just happened to work well enough… i get tired of things so have to change it up now and then so always keep things coming, lots of photos taken is included, not usually of me tho. 🙂

      take care of you, my luv. xox

      1. camilla wells paynter September 24, 2013 — 9:52 pm

        Well, I’m impressed with your self-photography skills (as well as your photography skills in general). I’ve tried to do this and it usually results in a close-up of my armpit. 🙂

  16. This is life, if there is one, sunshine and clouds, old truck worn out but a poser no less.

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