The Making of Harvest Dreams

Hey, readers! Here you’ll find the fun, the craziness, some of the process of publishing a book, lots and lots of photos of grapes (the inspiration for this novel) AND what I am learning in the process. We begin, of course, with the grapes.

Here’s what we all recognize: the succulent grapes at harvest, ready to be picked:

         

But here’s what the vines look like during the winter. The vines have been pruned and are now dormant. You can’t see the tiny buds waiting for spring and more sun and water!

 

    

 Spring! First the all-important “bud break,” the first stage in the vine cycle that ends with grapes and the harvest. This is happening right now (at Truro Vineyards of Cape Cod, on the Cape), this last week in May, 2022. Check out the first leaves.

 

                     

 

Stay tuned: the dramatic flowering is next. If that gets interrupted by storms and the grapes cannot be fertilized, no grapes can develop. Perhaps a secondary growth can happen later (the grapes are resilient!) but a really bad storm can wipe out the whole growth cycle for the year.

I found a few grapes late in the season still flowering so I caught a movie so you can see the flowers

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And they’re here! Check out the baby grapes!!These are from JUNE, 2022. 

All these photos are still from Truro Vineyards, my local vineyard. I love this vineyard! I worked there for many seasons as a tour guide during the summer, giving wine tastings, watching the whole winemaking process and selling the wine in Boston in the winter.

Each photo is of the cabernet franc, to keep the images consistent. They grow three varietals at Truro Vineyards and import lots of grapes to ferment, age and bottle right on the property. MY vineyard, the one I have created in my novel (coming out next April!!), Harvest Dreams, is on the North Fork of Long Island, in the tiny hamlet of Cutchogue. My heroines will grow cabernet franc, merlot, chardonnay and riesling.

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While waiting for next stage of growth, I can’t resist showing you one of the first decisions a novelist has to make, prior to publication: the cover! I love mine. More to come about the book later.

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Luckily there was lots of rain in June, followed by sunshine. Grapes love the sun and do not like to get their feet, uh, roots wet. So, a sandy soil is great. They will dig deep to get down to the water in the soil. All that “digging” makes them stronger.

JULY! Look at them. How they’ve grown! Not clusters yet but you can see the individual grapes forming.

And here it is AUGUST (and my birthday: August 3rd. We Leos also love the sun). Now look at the grapes! They will grow all this month. You see the clusters are filling out. They are heading toward full maturity. Like us humans, they need time to grow. A little intervention helps (like keeping the leaves trimmed so to grapes receive the full sun, cutting the grass, getting rid of weeds beneath the trunks so all the energy can go into grape growth).

And August 15th. The gorgeous clusters are almost fully formed. Again, these are cabernet franc grapes, the shot taken in the early morning sun. The outside will turn a gorgeous blue purple in late September or early October but the inside will remain about the color you see here. More about how and why they change color later. Meanwhile, here they are:

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A wise friend of mine suggested I include in this section any similarities between the writing of my novel and my life itself. Indeed, there are many.

For starters, at one point I thought I would divide the book into three sections: Plant, Grow, and Harvest. Subconsciously, I was initiating the three part rhythm of Elisabeth Gilbert’s memoir (Eat Pray Love). But the division seemed natural for a story about two young women whose passion was to plant a vineyard and eventually make wine. Me? I just turned 76. I’ve had many passions in my life and have happily pursued them. Each had their beginning, a long period of growth (conflict, struggle, doubt, along with the usual learning curve). Fortunately, all ended well. These days, I’m looking at the BIG picture. Like planet-size big. How humankind has evolved to be where we are, and yes, how to achieve that elusive inner peace.

In my novel, my main characters, Kate and Sydney, are dealing with family issues, issues of identity, figuring out how to do what they really want to do, as people around them tell them they can’t or they shouldn’t. Yeah, these are issues from my own life. I might talk more about that as time goes by, but right now, I have an editing deadline. All my responses and revisions to my editor’s comments have to be done by the end of October.

I’ll leave you with a mental picture of a photo I tacked up a short while ago on the wall behind my desk chair. It sits next to the original wall of photos I took of the grape life cycle that you’ll see posted above and below.

It’s a shot of my kindergarten class. A fellow classmate posted this on Facebook. I love that I am smiling and looking directly at the photographer. My hair is in pigtails and I have on a dress, like all the other girls. But I am wearing socks and sneakers while the other girls are wearing their … what? patten leather shoes. (Don’t be offended, but there are many who would call them “girly” shoes. I still have trouble wearing them today). I look relaxed and open. I have a bandage on my shin. I’m happy to see the kid I was back then outdoors playing, taking risks. I am basically that same person today, minus the dress and pigtails.

Time goes by so very quickly! This photo is a reminder to me not to waste a single moment. Or at least try not to. I also remember that as a teenager, that same girl started struggling with trying to figure out who she really was, as opposed to who she was supposed to be. Being different from the other girls  turned out to be a good thing. I figured out I was a lesbian, for one thing, and love who I am. But some core issues still hung around. It’s taken me years to complete this novel. With two Master’s Degrees and a lifetime of accomplishments, writing a novel brought up the tired old issue of being good enough. Damn. That issue still hanging on? Well, to hell with that, I finally say, yes. Yes, indeed. This is who I am. And that is more than enough.

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Labor Day, September ’22. THE GRAPES ARE TURNING COLORS!

Not sure when veraison (onset of the ripening of colors) actually started. the actual day, that is. It’s always toward the end of August. I always think of it as happening after Labor Day here in Massachusetts. I know on Long Island, everything begins a couple weeks earlier. But without further ado, here are two photos:

I couldn’t decide which to post. Both show the glorious color changes

Why do grapes change colors? It’s part of the lifecycle of the grapevines. The process that began with energy (or grape) creation—through photosynthesis— now shifts it energy to ripening the grapes so they will be sweet. The harvest season has begun! There are all sorts of scientific explanations and lots of fancy terminology for the color changes, but it comes down to … this is the way the vines protect the grapes from sun, wind and other stressors. Nature is quite simple and amazing. All we have to do is protect and admire the process.