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Kevin Merrill

Kevin Merrill

Last week we had a little taste of summer with daytime temperatures reaching the low 90s in some areas. But just like summertime, the fog rolled in and cooled things down after a few days. There was even a forecast of light rain over the next week.

The warm weather was great for our vines. I could almost see them grow from one day to the next. Bloom time is just around the corner. I hope the weather stays mild so we can set a nice crop. Time will tell.

This time of year always reminds me that hay season is beginning. The first cuttings of alfalfa would start around April 1, with grain hay following about a month later. I have told the story of watching my grandfather Sam sharpen several sickles that he would use to cut oats or barley in front of our house with the Cub International Harvester tractor. We didn’t have that many acres of hay to cut, but the Cub was small and only had a five or six-foot sickle bar mower attached to tractor.

As small boys, my brother Dana and I would watch my grandfather go around and around those fields cutting the hay toward the middle until there was no more barley standing. It wasn’t long before we were driving the tractor and cutting the hay.

I was taken back in time last week, listening to several recordings of my grandfather talk about our family and growing up on Rancho La Vega in the 1900s. The recordings were transferred to a CD by my brother Dana from a reel-to-reel tape my dad used in 1967 to capture a part of history through the memory of my grandfather.

The tapes were made when my grandfather came down to our house for dinner, which he did when my grandmother had stays in the hospital. My dad had several different tape recorders and I remember he bought a Grundig reel-to-reel tape recorder from Bob Plant in Solvang. I remember we all sat around the dinning room table after dinner and watched dad set up the tape recorder and almost interview my grandfather.

I can vividly recall sitting at the table listening to those stories. It was easy to be taken back in time as I listened to the voices of my grandfather, who passed away in 1973, along with my mom and dad on the CD. I heard the voice of a young Greg Duer our long-time friend who grew up across the street from us on Alamo Pintado and spent lots of time with us on the ranch growing up.

Stories passed down from his grandfather, Don Roman de la Cuesta, and his father, Eduardo, along with his own memories of growing up on Rancho la Vega near Buellton.

Many of these stories I have shared over the years in my columns. Some I had forgotten, like my grandfather’s take on John C. Fremont and his men as they travelled through the area en route to Santa Barbara. Cattle-buying trips and life in the Santa Ynez Valley during the transition from the Rancho period, to the arrival of the Americans, or yankees as they were referred to.

All stories I will share with you in future columns. In the meantime, enjoy our beautiful springtime weather.

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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

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