Sunday, November 12, 2017

Summer 2017 Recap

November 2017 Blog - Summer Recap
Spotted Bear Vineyards & Lavender Farm
Polson, Montana

            What a fast, frenetic, fun summer we had at the vineyard.  In April, we purchased the 13.9 acres adjacent and to the north and south of the vineyard.  This property has a large orchard, main house, guest house, root cellar and storage buildings.  It originally was the living quarters and the vineyard was a part of the property.  In 1992 the property was divided into 3 parcels, the vineyard, the 2 houses, and a large wetlands area bordering Flathead Lake. It is nice to see the property reunited and functioning as it did so many years ago.  The good things from this acquisition are that we doubled the number of cherry trees that we had, added numerous apple and pear trees and an outstanding English walnut tree.  The bad things are that we quadrupled our work load for this year and also for many years to come and turned a hobby into a full time job.

            I need to write down a few of the things we accomplished this summer so that I can account for where all my time went.  First of all, the grape harvest, it was a great one this year.  The grapes thrived in the long dry summer.  We harvested 500 lbs. of Marquettes and 250 lbs. of L’Acadie Blancs on September 16th that went home with Gary Sloan to Vancouver, WA.  Gary is a talented wine maker who owns and operates “Sul Lago Winery & Coffee.”  With the help of many friends, we harvested the rest of the grapes on September 23rd and 24th. A local Polson winery took 940 lbs. of Marquettes.  Daniel Murphy of “White Raven Winery” in Columbia Falls ( took 300 lbs. of Leon Millets and St. Pepins.

        We had a few issues with the grapes this year, primarily undeveloped berries in the clusters.  We took some time in November to visit the vineyards in Nova Scotia and research growing methods for the L’Acadie Blanc varietal.  It was an incredible trip and will be the basis for the December blog.
         A huge chunk of our summer time went to the planning of our vacation rental property nestled in the vineyard.  A steady stream of contractors was seen during the spring and quite a bit of the summer.  We applied for a “Public Accommodations Permit” from Lake County so that we could rent the cabin.  I cannot praise the staff at the Lake County Planning Office and the Lake County Environmental Health Department enough for their help in ensuring that the process was clear and that each step was carried out correctly.  Things came together right after Labor Day when the permit was approved.  We now have a “Vacation Rental by Owner” (VRBO) number: 1168269 and will open for business around April of 2018 (  Our friends who stayed there this summer, particularly enjoyed the peaceful cabin with its incredible views of the vineyard, Mission Mountains and Flathead Lake.  They enjoyed that glass of wine in the evening sitting on the bench that overlooks the grape vines.  Not to mention the U-pick cherries in mid-July and the fragrant lavender field above the vineyard.
  The cherries turned out to be a significant event last summer.  We were managing the new property, orchard, lavender and vineyard fairly well until mid-July when the Rainier cherries ripened.  After that it was crazy, the Lamberts and Bings came next and we opened a road side stand, offered U-pick for the public and also shipped 2-gallon bags of cherries across the United States to keep up with the abundant supply of fruit.  In 2018, we plan to take orders for cherry shipments on our webpage and make sure that not one incredible Flathead cherry gets wasted.
            I am starting to feel better, in that it was a productive summer and not just a series of reactions to one crises after another.  That is about it, a few other events that are definitely worth mentioning.  We travelled to Hot Springs, MT in September, where Tootie Welker, (facebook shop Maya Rising)  gave us a demonstration on distilling lavender essential oil and hydrosol.  This was a great opportunity to learn about the distilling process and the many uses for lavender oil. 
            In mid-October we planted 400 garlic cloves.  Why?  Because of the enthusiasm and helpful information that we received from Jim and Kathy Catalano of Red Rocket Farms in Whitefish, Montana (  I learned a lot about softneck and hardneck garlic and look forward to an incredible crop of garlic next year and lots of scapes in my stir-fry recipes.
            And last, but not least, the lavender farm had a great year.  Many fresh bundles made it to a wedding on the west shore, lots were dried for culinary lavender, particularly tea, and of course several bunches were distilled by Tootie Welker.  I want to thank Paula Jean of Paula Jean’s Gardens in Paradise, MT ( for all her help and good information in the past on growing lavender.

     More to come next month, on our trip to the vineyards of Nova Scotia and our research on Marquette and L’Acadie Blanc grapes.  We also had ample opportunity to learn about the many haskap farms in eastern Canada.  We purchased haskap juice, tea and maple syrup from Haskapa ( and have increased the haskap plants in our vineyard to 100.

Addendum to the March Blog on plastic drinking straws:
            In my search for alternatives to plastic drinking straws I have found a couple of alternatives.  At the Kitchen Collection in Bend, Oregon I purchase 4 reusable silicone straws that are dishwasher safe and only $2.00.
            At the “Green Light” on Higgins in Missoula, I was able to purchase 4 stainless steel straws.  They have a soft plastic casing on the neck so that the straw doesn’t clang in a soda can.
            At Lehmans, an online market place, I found paper straws.
Reasonably priced and better for the environment.

No comments:

Post a Comment