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City Girl

October 19, 2011

As mother-in-law of Will Bucklin and mother of Lizanne (author of the July 12, 2011 blog entry, “Newest Residents at Old Hill Ranch,”) it’s been my delight the past few years to stay at Old Hill Ranch for a couple of weeks each summer while Lizanne and Will take a much-needed vacation.

I observe the bees, take care of the house, veggie garden, and the chickens (ever vigilant about the very aggressive Mr. Rooster: the one day I did not wear the rubber boots, Mr. Rooster gave me several bruises!) But mostly I hang out with Tanner, Little Boy & Little Girl, the latter being the Old Hill Ranch resident dog and two cats. There’s not much to say about the kitties. Cats are cats, and as sweet and affectionate as these are, they pretty much take care of themselves and provide warmth in bed for me – whether I need it or not!

Tanner, on the other hand, becomes my constant companion for the two weeks – never straying far from my side, as we take frequent walks around the vineyard, or water the garden or flop on the couch for a marathon reading session. He especially enjoys the food I cook for him – based, I might add, on what Will used to “cook up” for Tanner when he had more free time. So, yes, some of Tanner’s seeming devotion to me might be based on cupboard love, but I also know that he just loves having a human companion, and as someone who grew up without a dog, this friendship he has bestowed on me has become almost as precious as my relationship with my grandchildren.

It is thanks to Tanner that I see Old Hill Ranch not just as the spectacular vineyard it is, but also as one of the most beautiful, pristine places I’ve ever been. On our walks Tanner has shown me not only the beauty to be found in a gnarled old vine – its branches heavy with those luxuriant bunches of grapes – but also the beauty in the seemingly endless variety of cover crops that Will plants, so many of which flower at various times. (The stands of flowering buckwheat were beyond gorgeous! Will planted the buckwheat to help provide Lizanne’s bees with additional food.) Tanner also has opened my eyes to the wonders to be found in the brush and woodpiles that populate the perimeter of the vineyard. Needless to say, he is looking for “critters” in those woodpiles, so now whenever I see a woodpile I see it as a home or shelter for some form of wildlife and not just a pile of wood. As Tanner races ahead and barks suddenly, I now know to stop and look: maybe he has seen a jackrabbit or a coyote, and if I’m lucky, I will too.

During the two weeks I’m at Old Hill, Tanner and I watch the grapes mature – slowly, ever so slowly this summer due to the cool temps, but mature they did enough for me to see them ripen a bit as I have each of the past few years. It is a never-ending source of wonder to think in time those grapes will be transformed by Will into marvelous wine

For many years I lived in rural southeastern Connecticut and for some of those years our closest neighbors were a family of dairy farmers. Upon meeting them for the first time, I remarked on how much I enjoyed looking at their cows in the field, to which Farmer Steve replied as he looked at me amusedly: “City Girl, eh?” And even now, after so many years, and despite the fact that I never did live in a city (just the suburbs!) my visits to Old Hill Ranch over the past few years have made me realize that indeed, I am a City Girl in a way, but thanks to my sojourns at Old Hill, each summer I feel less like one.

Ellen Gill Pastore
Monterey, CA

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