In the past three years, Labor Day has usually meant going up to Sonoma, cutting brush, sleeping in the tent cabin and generally working. This year, we took a break: a trip to the Russian River with friends, bracketed by two short detours, coming and going, just to see the progress at Sonoma. On one hand, things are moving along, on the other hand, there is so much more to go. I have to keep reminding myself, this is a twenty year project (at least).

After what seems like forever, the barn seems finally to be lurching into its final stages. The Fire Marshall, who came out earlier and mandated a load of extra work like sheet rocking, sprinkler systems and cutting out loads more flamable brush, has finally passed the barn. In retrospect, we’re glad he was tough. With acres and acres of oil filled scrub still on the property, I’m glad we have the extra precautions.

The amphitheater is one of the few projects that has been completed. We had an immovable deadline, the wedding of a friend that we hosted. We went down to visit it and dreamed of the day we can have a Two Terrier Music Series. For now, it seems to be a popular hang-out spot for foxes and coyotes, judging by the copious amounts of poo they’ve been leaving.

Then up to to the vineyards and the organic orchards, which are in their infancy. Our vines are actually producing tiny, pitiful little grapes which won’t start being usable until two years from now. For our next crush, as we have for the last three, we’ll be buying grapes locally. Which is just as well. If you lovingly nurtured and grew your own grapes, then made crap wine from them, you’d have to slit your wrists. As we move along a steep learning curve in our winemaking, it helps keep perspective when we are only experimenting with someone else’s fruit.

The organic orchard, too, seems to be concentrating on plant growth instead of fruit production. Or if the trees are giving us any fruit, something is eating them. We think rabbits are the culprits on the lower branches and birds on the upper branches. So we’re happy about the foxes, coyotes and our bobcat, Leonard, who keep the rabbit population down. We’ll have to put up some owl and hawk roosts to keep the fruit eating birds away.

Pasha, the Ukrainian artisan, (read about him here) has already started distressing the wooden beams in the barn. This involves bashing them with chains, chisels, rough-edged saws and all sorts of instruments of torture to make our expertly wrapped beams look one hundred years old. This has all been very hard on Pete, the foreman on the job, who used all his skill to expertly wrap the structural beams with old redwood. I’m told he was near tears when Pasha started up.

But we met Chris Nielsen, our builder on Saturday and he said the last inspector who came around was confused. He said, “Wait, I was told I was to inspect new construction. This is a remodel of an old barn.” Yes, exactly the effect we were after!

See our progress photos including some exciting close-ups of fox and coyote poo. (I can identify them because I own “The Bumper Book of Poo”. Get your copy by clicking on the link to the left under “What I’m Reading Now.”)