Happy Harvest: Four Tips for Surviving Fall in Wine Country

harvest widow

I don’t do well during harvest.

In case your life does not revolve around brix, grapes, and prayers to the weather gods, you may have missed that harvest has begunHarvest, crush, the months that drain my soul, whatever you call it, has arrived.  We talk in percentages in our house, “We are 3% done,” and my head falls on the table. “Hey, this week, we are 10% done,” and I scream, internally.

I don’t work the wine harvest.  My lovely, talented, brilliant, husband does.  This fall marks my 11th harvest season as his partner in crime, the fifth as a mom, the second as a mom of two.

A few weeks ago, I read this charming post from another “Harvest Widow.”  She speaks with such grace and pride about her husband’s hours in the vineyards and evenings and weekends in the lab.  I want to feel enthusiasm for my husband’s work, but harvest exhausts me. The sense of vague panic that overshadows our lives from August through Thanksgiving crushes me.

But.

I can do this. I can recognize that winemakers are not active military, nor are they police officers or surgeons, constantly on call, and never reliably at home.  At least eight months out of the year, the schedule follows a regular pattern (minus the wine dinners and the sales trips), and I can adult. I really can.

Harvest Life

Last weekend, when he only had to work an hour in the lab, I offered to come along for the journey, our tiny humans in tow.  We drove up Silverado Trail, the early morning light spreading prettily through the vineyards. I have lived here a short seven years, and I have not yet gotten used to the beauty of our valley.

I dropped my husband off at work, and I took the kids just up the road to Farmstead. We ordered hot chocolate, chai, and two amazing pastries. We settled in at long wooden tables, the crisp morning air gradually warming.  The kids climbed on the bench, sat happily in giant wooden chairs, and once a very adult, very wine tasting group started to flood in, we packed ourselves back into the SUV and drove back to the vineyard.

We parked near the front of the winery and went out to visit the farm animals – the peacocks, the chickens, and my kids’ favorites, the goats. My sixteen-month-old daughter shouted, “Doggie!” and started to find grass to feed the gentle creatures. My son, the fournado, ran around, making sure he got to pet each and every goat. They lived and breathed joy.

copy-of-harvestlife_sarah

My husband wrapped up his work. My son told his daddy all about feeding the goats and getting “coffee.” Our daughter toddled over, “Hi, Daddy!” No stress. Only happiness.

I forget, sometimes, that Harvest doesn’t have to ruin me.  Instead, it can inject a fresh shot of joy into my life. This year, I’m going to let that happen.

Four Tips for Surviving Harvest

  1. Build Community – We exist.  We mothers, fathers, husbands, and wives. We live in a semi-single-parenthood state for some portion of the year, and we need to find each other.  For the first time in my five years as a mom during Harvest, I have found a community. We have vague plans to meet. For now, we mostly share links to recipes, but I have more than I had any other year, and that makes a huge difference.
  2. Meal Plan – Honestly, I tend to fly by the seat of my pants. Dinner ideas float around my head a day or two in advance, and we always eat.  When harvest starts, and I need to take care of a large majority of household chores? Meal Planning Mode Engaged.  During harvest, my slow cooker and I become the best of friends.  My family, like most true Californians, can devour some tacos; so, I add chicken thighs and two cans of Rotel to my friends list, too.
  3. Quit Complaining – Seriously.  Complaining solves nothing; in fact, complaining makes it all worse. Instead, I look towards the positives. I look toward the delicious, delicious wine I will taste in 1-3 years. I look toward the weeks after Harvest, when Christmas absorbs us all.  This year, especially, moving from complaining to #adulting wins the day.
  4. Embrace the Season – It took me a really long  time (shockingly long, like years) to stop planning events that would require my husband’s presence during harvest season.  Now, if he can make it, he makes it. Otherwise, the kids and I go about our regular lives. We enjoy pumpkin flavored treats, go on play dates, and visit the pumpkin patch. We venture out into everything Fall offers.

It has certainly taken long enough, but I have finally realized that I cannot let harvest put my life on pause. So, I will embrace this time in my life.  Cheers to Harvest and someone owes me a BIG toast when it ends…

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