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The natural world. Looking pretty for 3.5b years.

A Long Drive

A Long Drive

Author: Hugh Bollinger/Tuesday, May 22, 2018/Categories: natural history, sustainability, art and design, environment, adventure

                               Old Farm Truck in Cuyama Valley, California (credit: Riled Up Journal)

It was a long drive. Racing straight at 70mph for fourteen hours, on rural roads, from the Rockies to the West Coast makes one a bit jittery. I'd received an invitation from an old friend to attend a workshop on sustainable living and agricultural production. It was to be held at his ranch/vineyard in a valley few knew or had ever heard about though Los Angeles was less than 100 miles south. I would be returning to the semi-arid landscapes of southern California I'd known as a boy.

Crossing the desert was more hostile than remembered and portions seemed withered, abandoned, and blown away by the dry Mojave winds. The roadways revived memories of when a kid's eyes viewed the same landscapes with wonder. At the ranch, cooler breezes and ancient oaks then reminded of another time when learning of the environmental parameters of the home-base had been the objective. The long drive brought back such reminders.


      Architecture of Head-pruning Grapes  (credits: Riled Up Journal)  Outdoor Writing Workshop

The vineyard harkened to a time when 'dryland farming', where you worked with the environment to produce a crop, was the norm. Once, the natural limits of soils and water were used in agriculture to produced grapes with deep roots reaching down to moisture while masterful pruning created a woody architecture of tiny "trees" in the fields. Each year the grapes got older and produced better berries. The vineyard showcased an ecologist and his family's efforts to create as sustainable a contemporary farming system as possible. The proof was in the health of their grapes, the depth of flavors in the wines, and the community of followers who are mindful of attention to details.

            Dryland Vineyard at Sunrise     (credits: Riled Up Journal)   Dryland Zinfandel & Pedro Ximenez Wines

Nearby, industrial-scale vineyards required mass irrigation that tapped into the valley's groundwater and where wire trellises were needed to support the burden of grapes. The vines temselves would be replaced within 25 years, never allowed to develop into 'old vines' the ones which produce the best wines. The vineyards themselves may not be sustainable with the water required to produce their fast-growing vines in any event.

This 'Old California' was my background reminder during the workshop. It was an unexpected nostalgic time and a long drive back to the Rockies.



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