Our First Time in Wine Country!
But first, we had to dance a little jig – meaning I leave early from Ojai, and Jim follows later in the day since the dates overlapped a bit. As arranged with the homeowner, I arrived a few hours after their departure.
It worked because we had two cars, had done the home tour and gone over the tasks during our visit a month earlier. The owner’s left the key and the instructions, and once Jim arrived we were all set for our ten-day stay in Sonoma wine country!
Sonoma, which you probably know, is a popular day-trip destination from the Bay area along with Napa, which is the next city over. Between these two, all around, in fact, you’ll see farms, wineries, and vineyards by the hundreds.
The vineyards stand out: orderly rows of grapes in every direction, going far up into the hills. There’s something incredibly pleasant, even comforting, about the countryside here. Of course, in Autumn it’s a bit brown but lovely nonetheless.
Sonoma lies miles from major highways, nestled between mountains on three sides. You don’t pass through it on your way to anywhere; you have to work hard and want to get there or you won’t.
The home we stayed in was about three miles from the city center in a large condo complex. There were many trees, open space areas, and even a little stream running through the neighborhood.
Since we never saw lights going on or off in many of the units and the complex was so quiet we wondered whether a lot of the units were weekend getaway spots or simply vacant. No complaint there, but it was strange.
The house had everything one would need to live comfortably. It was nicely appointed, spacious, quiet, and had a pleasant private patio. We noticed stunning artwork throughout the house and fun collectibles from the owners’ many trips. The kitchen, complete with all the great cooking gizmos, made preparing meals pleasant and straightforward.
Our New Home
We were surprised and happy to hear that the owners had been instrumental in getting a food/composting collection bin for the whole complex. Of course, there was also the water conservation issue here. Save the shower water for the plants kind of thing.
One thing that Jim fell in love with was the television remote. In every home we’ve stayed in, we run into trouble with the remotes.
Since we change homes frequently, we have to learn new television setups every time we move. (Yes, we know – “You call that a problem?”) But it’s frustrating for us technophobes.
Not in this home! The owner loved his sporting events, and two things go with being a sports fanatic: a favorite team and a great TV. The owner had something we’d never seen before or since: one remote, one button to push and you’re up and running, best set up ever! How did that happen, we wondered?
Now We Get to the Cats
This house came with two mature, and quite large, male cats. The best description might be that these fellows were comfortable: with each other, themselves, their space, and, glad to say, with us.
The guy you see here with Jim’s shoes was a bit aloof just as the owner had described. He came around for some affection during the day but would walk away after a bit. He didn’t revel in it as much as his pal. Our stay wasn’t very long, and that might have had something to do with it.
He had a friendly and calm demeanor and didn’t ask for much. His favorite spot was up on the cat tree looking out the window. We also found him napping in comfy soft places all around the house. He had the quietest meow we’ve ever heard and was perfectly happy to stay indoors.
Our Second Feline Friend
The other fellow was right by you all day long. You’re at the table, so is he, on the sofa, him too, up and around, he’s tailing you. He was very friendly and loved affection. When I was at the table sewing, he watched it all from on top of the supplies. He especially enjoyed lying on the wool stuffing! We had a lot of fun with him.
The cats were usually allowed out on the patio. The one had no interest in exploring far and wide, but this guy was showing more and more interest and would jump the fence. We were asked to keep them inside. This new arrangement did present a bit of a battle for the more adventurous guy, but not a big deal at all. Two easy going fellows for sure!
We had two cars loaded with everything we owned. Yes, we had emptied the storage unit, but we still had too much stuff. Just like Delbert McClinton sings about “Too Much Stuff.” ‘It can wear you down dealing with too much stuff.’ Love that one!
We sorted through it all and filled ten boxes with items that we would keep but wouldn’t need right away. Jim took those boxes to his son’s house in Sacramento and got to spend a day visiting!
By prior agreement, we would be back at this house in December and planned to pick up the boxes and take them up to Oregon for the winter. We’d need all the winter clothing and hopefully be able to get rid of still more things. We needed to get down to one car full which is difficult since our camping gear takes up a lot of space. We’ll have to figure out something.
More House Sits
We had a rush of activity while here regarding future house sits. First, we arranged a second stay at a house in Portland, Oregon. Also, in December – a stay in Corvallis, Oregon.
December was shaping up to be our busiest month ever as we had quite a few others already set up then as well! We also agreed to a house sit in Topanga (Los Angeles). Last but not least, we took a short stay in Los Gatos, just south of San Francisco.
Since that house was relatively close, we took a day trip to visit with the host and meet the dogs. We had a pleasant drive over the Golden Gate Bridge and through San Francisco, which is always fun.
Our visit in Los Gatos was terrific – a great homeowner, an excellent house, and three outstanding dogs! They were lively and loud but a sweet group. In fact, Angela left this house two days early to start the house sit in Los Gatos leaving Jim with all the cleaning – again!
A Day Trip Before My Departure
Of course, we checked out Sonoma during our stay and were glad to find a Whole Foods and other fun stores. It would seem obvious that one thing to do when in this area would be wine-tasting tours. However, that’s not our style: crazy – we know!
However, we did find mention of a Bio-Dynamic Winery about an hour north and decided to check it out. About 15 minutes down the road Jim made his standard one-wrong-turn-per-trip taking a left turn towards who knows where.
Waiting at an intersection to make a U-turn, I saw a little sign for Benziger Winery half a mile up a small dead-end road. “Let’s check it out.” We abandoned our plans and found ourselves driving up this narrow road into the hills.
We soon found the property and noticed a small sign tacked onto their larger sign – Bio-Dynamically grown grapes. That caught our attention: we had to go in and visit. However, it was only 9:30 and most of the wineries open at 10:00, so we both thought they’d ask us to come back later: they had wine to make after all.
The Front Gate was Open
You guessed it! We just drove in like we had an appointment. As we parked in the lot, we saw a sign right in front of our car for a display area all about Bio-Dynamics. We were very surprised.
You might understand why if you’ve been reading our posts. When the little world of Waldorf Schools or Bio-Dynamic Gardening shows up in the big wide world, it is quite the shocker.
We entered this vast display area describing all about Bio-Dynamic Farming, what it is, how it works, and how it’s different from Organic. The presentation went through the entire cycle of the year: what they do at various points, how they grow their grapes, take care of the soil, make friends with the elements. The whole thing right there for the world to see. We loved it!
Though a tram tour started soon and people were arriving for that, we decided to wander around and see what we could find on our own. First thing? We decided to come back another time, take the tour and learn about the entire operation. We’ll get back to you on that.
What a Place!
Here’s what we found as we walked around: vineyards here, olive groves there, three ponds all in a row, winery buildings nestled into the trees, family homes atop the hills surrounding the property. Some grapes ready to pick, others still small. Plants and trees of all sizes, types, and colors. Two huge cows were napping in the shade. Workers here and there, silently, carefully, going about their business.
The sweet smell of harvested grapes, livestock, and herbs of all sorts. Everywhere we went we were compelled to stop and look around at something pleasant to the eye, the ear, the senses. But keep walking, something beckons further along.
We Have to Come Back Here
Eventually, these things struck us: the intense quiet, the orderliness, a sense of harmony and ease. The buildings and grape vines, put in place over the years, supporting cycles that also take years (no rushing in wine making).
We walked in silence mostly, just enjoying the sights and sounds. Finally, I spoke up: “My father would have been amazed to see this.” A bio-dynamic farmer/gardener most of his life, perhaps he never saw such an extensive property, cultivated this way for over 15 years, working with the land, the plants, the animals, birds, even the insects. “This place is what wisdom looks like.”
If you ever find yourself in Sonoma check this place out. You’ll be glad you did. We sure were.
What’s Next – the numbers of our life
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