Kevin Merrill

Kevin Merrill

It always warms up at the end of October for winegrape harvest. I don’t remember it warming up quite so much in years past.

A few days before we picked our last blocks of Syrah, temperatures soared to 101 in Santa Ynez and 99 in Los Alamos last week. Our hand-picking crews began working at 3 a.m. to escape working in the heat and keep the fruit cool.

Our last day of harvest was the 29th. it will probably start to cool off now. I’m ready for the cool evenings we had several weeks ago, when temperatures dipped down to freezing in some areas.

I have always liked October because it is a transition from summer to fall, and the holidays beyond. I always remember homecoming week in high school. During the second and third week of October. While looking at photos from last week’s Santa Ynez Valley News I was reminded of the class floats we used to put together for the homecoming parade in Solvang.

A different time, when each class would find out the location of each float being built by a rival class, then attack it with canning tomatoes being grown in nearby fields throughout the Valley. Somehow the class floats always made it to the parade in good shape and onto the track surrounding the football field the night of the homecoming game for one last chance to show them off.

This year our son Clayton was nominated to be part of the homecoming court at Orcutt Academy High School. His mom got to escort him out onto the field at halftime where they announced this year’s homecoming king and queen. Clayton wasn’t selected as king, but it was an honor to be nominated.

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The following night was their homecoming dance, which has changed over the years since I escorted Theresa Denny as part of the homecoming court in Santa Ynez in 1974.

Our homecoming dance was held after the football game in the gym. Today the homecoming dance is more like a prom, with guys getting dressed up and girls wearing long prom dresses complete with boutonnieres for the guys and corsages for the girls. Several couples get together and go out to dinner and then head to the dance.

They all decide to go to local restaurants and they have a great time. I guess things have changed from 1974. Clayton reminds me of that fact on a regular basis.

Now that harvest is over, we begin to turn our attention on applying fertilizer for the vines to store through the winter, plant cover crop where needed, flush irrigation lines and begin to work on budgets and equipment for next season.

As the weather cools down, I need to get my wood-cutting crew together and go out and bring in some firewood for the cool days ahead.

We turn the clocks back an hour to regular time the first weekend in November. I’m actually looking forward to that, along with a little slower pace in the vineyard.

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Kevin Merrill of Mesa Vineyard Management is a board member of the Santa Barbara County Farm Bureau and a director on the Santa Barbara County Fair Board. He can be reached at kmerrill@mesavineyard.com