I’m getting ready to move into a more permanent home, when I meet the neighbours who are chatting in the long, gravel driveway next door.

only a little bit of a stretch…

New Neighbour Dave: “It’s a busy road.”

New Neighbour Gerald: “Yup.”

Me: “Oh, it’s ok, I’ve lived on main streets in Toronto and New York… I’m not sure busy for you is the same as busy for me.” (*wonders retroactively if this point is in my favour or not… shuts up hastily*)

NND: “Second busiest highway in the Valley”

NNG: “Yup. The busiest one is Highway 1.”

Me: (quietly, not sure if it’ll gain me any points…) “That’s where I live now.”

NND: “Yup, they start as early as 5:30, those chicken farmers, the tractors. I just saw a hemlock truck go by…”

NNG: “You sure it was hemlock? I could have swore it was pine.”

NND: “Well it was definitely one of them. Hemlock or pine.”

Me: (*indistinct leaving-let’s-do-this-again-sometime noises; backs away slowly*)

I have to admit, I didn’t realize that moving here would be so exactly sunshine-sketches-of-a-little-town, nor that I would require more than novice softwood identification skills, but I love it. And I certainly appreciate the comparative slow turn my life has taken out here. Literally: Wolfville is one of a small number of towns worldwide designated as a slow-food community by Cittaslow, the slow food movement founded in Chianti, Italy. My favourite part of what this means is that there is a farmer’s market with real farmers and great local produce – one of the elements I miss most about life in France.

Wolfville is rather a long way from Toronto, so on the way over I stop for a break at the home of a friend, in northern New Brunswick. I’ve known the Halpine family since we were kids, playing street hockey and baseball (and one ill-fated time, flag football) with all of our combined siblings. Fast forward twenty years or so since the Halpines left Toronto for New Brunswick, and here I am, following the same trail to the eastern provinces.

I arrive in the wee hours of the morning, when all you can see is the light in the window which beckons me from across the pond. My hostess is still up thanks to this little boxer puppy and his siblings who need bottle feedings every two hours! In the morning, it’s so cold my camera frosts up, but the pigs and cows are curious about the new guest. There’s even a greenhouse, for fresh vegetables year-round.

Dave is my age, and runs the farm with his wife Kim and their four young sons. When I arrive, the boys are having a sleepover in the barn loft, while Kim is (still!) up, taking care of newborn puppies. The next morning, Dave and I have a lot of catching up to do, particularly swapping stories on how two Toronto kids have ended up as Maritime farmers and discussing growing techniques. My tour of the Homestead includes the livestock barn, the chicken coop right next to it, the greenhouse, the outdoor garden and the maple bush a little further away – all of which is raised/cultivated organically. With the puppies taking up residence in the living room, and a rabbit hutch in the back, the house is just as much an integral part of the farm. Their living room windows double as a greenhouse for potted shoots – some experimental, like the mango and avocado trees, others are herbs and vegetables that will go into the greenhouse. I love seeing this farmer side of someone I’ve known since I was 5. In visiting them, I get a glimpse of what my life will be like in Wolfville since I am joining a farm, not just a winery. (And I have a new source of rabbit which is a little harder to find here than in Bordeaux!) It’s bitterly cold while I’m there, but I’m looking forward to coming back in the summertime when everything is a) warm and b) growing!

An important part of the morning is taking the snowmobile out to tap the maple trees at the edge of Dave and Kim’s property. Dave shows me how to insert the spigot, and moments later, the sap starts to run.

So here I am starting at the new job. I’ve had Lightfoot & Wolfville Vineyards on my radar since my visit to Nova Scotia in 2016. They were not open at the time for visitors – it turns out they were still building their new barn (retail shop/barrel cellar/bistro/event space) – but I did hunt down their wines at a Halifax wine shop and really enjoyed them. They were specifically pointed out to me because they are a biodynamic winery, the only one in Nova Scotia, and one of only two practicing organically. There are only a handful of biodynamic vineyards and wineries in Canada to begin with, so WHAT LUCK that they happened to be in need of an assistant winemaker just as I was wrapping up my degree.

I have now been here for three months and while there are many cool projects to talk about, I’ll start with a little introduction to my new home at Lightfoot and Wolfville Vineyards. This is a relatively new winery in the Nova Scotia scene, with the earliest vines being planted in 2009, the first wines from 2012, and the first wines released in 2014. The visitor welcome space just opened less than a year ago, so it is a neat time for me to be here, experiencing the growth spurts with this operation.

Lightfoot and Wolfville views – the winery from the road. And this stunning view that you have to come into the winery to see.

I have much to learn here, including how to work with hybrid grape varieties. Hybrids are crossings of more than one vitis species – while vitis vinifera hails from Europe – think Chardonnay, the Pinot family, Riesling, etc, vitis rupestris/riparia/labrusca (Concord grapes are a good example) are native to North America and crosses between these grape species marry the wine potential of the European vines with the cold and disease hardiness of the North American vines. While Lightfoot & Wolfville has a strong vitis vinifera portfolio, winemaking with hybrid varieties goes hand in hand with being in a cold climate like this one.

Some of my first views of the property – the crush pad in winter, the barrel cellar and the Wolfville vineyard with Cape Blomidon in the back.

As a biodynamic winery, there is a full farm operation attached to the vineyard, so I sometimes have animal husbandry (aside: why is that word husbandry?Apparently the archaic definition means care of a household… seems remarkably forward-thinking for the archaics, no?) duties associated with my assistant winemaker role. Up until now that has included monitoring the sheep during lambing season, checking the electric fencing, herding the cows to greener pastures (not even a metaphor – the grass was literally greener on the other side of the driveway, so we took them there.

Calves tentatively peering out of the barn during winter time. Me participating in lamb activities, while this yummy mummy on the left wonders if she has any food in her teeth. On the bottom, the lambs have only been there a day or two, but I think this ewe could already use a break! When the warmer weather finally makes its appearance, the pigs are happy to move out to the pasture.

I’ll leave you there for now, and talk about some of my specific projects and this particular vintage in the next post. However, I will not make any promises as to when that will be. It turns out that the rhythm of life here in the (Annapolis) Valley suits me to a T, and I do not often find time to sit down at my computer and write.

 

 

 

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2 thoughts on “this is my life now

  1. Mango and avocado trees?!? Impressive experimentation in that part of the world! Glad to hear the rhythm suits you, sounds rather zen-like 😉 Cheers from one block from Les Capucins (where we’re now living)!

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