I always wonder how writers define a where a story begins, and ends for that matter. As I find myself writing today, I'm having trouble introducing our story because it seems the beginning is hard for me to pin down, and I certainly don't see the end.
Preston and I began our adventure to build a winery in our 1920s era brick dairy barn on the acreage we purchased near Stratford, Iowa at the end of July, 2014. But that's not really where it begins. Preston made his first batch of wine while a sophomore living in the dorms at Iowa State. It was a quite terrible watermelon-juice wine that tasted of stale bread and had picked up the unique 'funk' that belongs to the men's floor of Lyon Hall. Through trial and error, he made a few more batches, some better than others, and soon learned that maybe the dorms wasn't the best place to experiment with the whole works. When we finally had a house to call our own, we worked to finish our remodel projects in the kitchen, bathroom, and basement, among many others, so we would officially have a place to invest in this hobby and make some 'good' wine. And we did make some great wine, but not without a few mishaps. I think I did promise to never talk about the time the five gallon glass carboy burst while on my kitchen stove (after the burner 'mysteriously' came on), spilling glass bits and what was a great batch of strawberry wine not only on every surface in my kitchen, but dripping through the floors to an entirely different level of the house and covering everything below as well with the pink, sticky, alcoholic liquid. But we can move on and laugh about it now, right?
My horticultural interests and inspiration from our tours of local Iowa wineries then got me excited about the idea of growing produce for our wine-making and taking this adventure up to the next level, but I soon realized our matchbox-sized yard in town was never going to cut it for Preston's seemingly 'Go Big or Go Home' take on life. I guess I don't remember the exact day or time we decided this hobby could become a lifestyle, but in the spring of 2014 we sold our now-finished house in town and purchased our fixer-upper property northwest of Ames to spread our wings and get our hands dirty. After all, we knew town wasn't for us and getting our hands back in the cool, black Iowa dirt was exactly what we needed.
As you can see from the photos, we got right to work! Trimming and removing trees, hauling out the 'junk' (while keeping the 'good stuff' back), and fresh coats of paint were the top of our priority list. But there's also moments that weren't captured in photos - the look on my face when I found the 48" snake living in our barn (!), the sweaty and disgusting laundry pile that built up as we worked outside in the heat diligently every night and weekend, and the GIANT flames that came up from our bonfire and reflected on faces of friends and neighbors as we celebrated the success of our hard work this fall.