Tuesday, July 26, 2011

What I Look Forward To In Maryland

I promised in an earlier post that I would list what I look forward to about moving to Maryland. This is difficult because I haven’t lived there although I grew up about an hour away. Give me 18 years, and I’ll have a list to battle the Bellevue list (I hope). The items are in no particular order.

I am looking forward to:
• Randy’s BBQ in Hughesville.
• Finding a job. (Earlier today I searched both the DC and Seattle markets for the exact same position. DC listed 75 possibilities; Seattle listed 3.)
• Renovating our house. I really look forward to making it functional for how we live today rather than living with a floor plan that worked 130 years ago.
• Lightning bugs.
• Thunder storms. I was terrified of them when I was little, but now I kind of like them. The Northwest has tiny little storms with a couple of booms and then they’re done. The East has real whoppers that can scare you half to death! It’s good to get the adrenaline pumping now and then.
• Warm weather and sun starting in spring and lasting until fall.
• Snow that is quickly plowed on relatively flat streets.
• Volunteering less. I have volunteered an extreme amount over many years, and it’s time for a break. People in Bellevue have learned that I don’t usually say no. People in Maryland may not learn that one about me. Frankly, I might not even have the time to volunteer.
• Spending significantly more time with my husband since we’ll be more likely to be on the same coast. In 2010, Peter was in Maryland 31% of the year. It’s looking like it will be 36% this year.
• Not having to vote for the fire district or the port authority commissioners. Really, how can I possibly know who is the most qualified?
• A short line at public offices. Since we are rural, our licensing lines aren’t three hours long, and our post office lines are almost non-existent.
• Seeing my family more often. I have four brothers and 10 Thomason nieces and nephews. When they travel, they are more likely to head east rather than west.
• Kayaking on Macintosh Run which is the river alongside the winery. Next door to the winery is a kayak rental company.
• Audiobooks. While I don’t look forward to a long commute, I’ll likely have one. That will allow me lots of time to listen to audiobooks.
• Learning new skills as a chicken farmer. I like the idea of trying to be responsible for at least some of my own food. I don’t know how it will go, but I’m willing to give it a try.
• Reuniting with my dog. He’s currently on loan to my parents until we make our final move. I miss him terribly.
• The sounds of crickets, cicadas, and frogs. Also, the bird population is different. I like the sounds of my youth.
• The pure adventure of it all. I moved to Bellevue when my firstborn was a week old. We had new jobs, a new child, a new community, and not a single friend within 1000 miles. I had never been to the Pacific Northwest, but I embraced the opportunity and made it through with a grin on my face. It’s time to do the same thing in reverse.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Shipping Maryland Wine

Maryland wineries have been fighting some archaic alcohol laws within the state. The state is making headway, but what appears to be an easy fix on the surface is never quite so straight forward at its root.

During the last legislative session, Maryland lawmakers agreed to lift the 78-year ban on shipping wine to or from the state. The ban not only prevented residents from receiving wine shipments, it also prevented wineries from the ability to ship their wine to wine competitions. From a purely economic standpoint, the state had much to lose. The ability of Maryland wines to place well in large wine competitions could only enhance Maryland wine sales and, in the process, tax coffers.

The ban was lifted as of July 1. In my simple mind, I expected that everyone would suddenly be able to ship whatever they wanted however they wanted. If only. First, the United States Postal Service does not allow shipping of alcohol ever. So my first thought of simply mailing a box of our wine to ourselves in Washington needed to be revised. Maybe I’d have to use UPS.

Next, the new law requires a permit in order to ship wine. For wineries to ship to a residence in Maryland, they must pay $200 for a permit. Individuals are not allowed to ship wine themselves. Retail wine-of-the-month clubs also remain banned.

Finally, each state to which the wine is shipped may also require a shipper’s permit. For Washington, the winery would be required to pay $200 per year to ship to individual residences. Since the Washington market for Port of Leonardtown wine isn’t likely to be much larger than Peter and me, securing a permit seems to be out of the question. (If you’re interested in learning more, the Wine Institute hosts an excellent website with information about all the states. http://www.wineinstitute.org/)

Instead, I will continue to hand carry my Port of Leonardtown wine in my checked luggage each time I return to Seattle. I also won’t promise a bottle of Maryland wine to any of my friends anymore. If you want it, you’ll have to meet me in Maryland.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Why We Have a Vineyard in Maryland

I can’t tell you how many times people in Washington have asked me why we have a vineyard in Maryland. If you’re not aware, you need to understand that Washington produces some world class wines. How many world class wines have you heard about from Maryland? Hopefully, Port of Leonardtown will be one. Maryland isn’t recognized for much in the Northwest. Even their famous blue crabs can’t measure up to our Dungeness crabs. The question is a fair one.

My husband’s grandfather bought about 240 acres in Mechanicsville, Maryland, in the 1940s. The land was originally part of a much larger tract known as “Long Looked For, Come At Last.” For many years, the land was rented out to area farmers who grew primarily tobacco, eventually growing corn, barley, Christmas trees, and a few other crops. Tobacco is a labor-intensive crop that is hard on the soil, and it was a relief to not have it growing anymore. With the demise of the American tobacco industry, the family was at a loss about what to do with the land. They brainstormed about a number of different ideas until one idea seemed to stand out from the rest.

Peter’s brother began thinking that a vineyard was the way to go. The rest of the family was skeptical, but Gerald spent hours researching the process and felt strongly that we should give it a try. The family agreed to plant one acre and see what happened. In 2004, we planted 25 vines each of nine different varietals. (Sangiovese, Shiraz, Mourvedre, Touriga Naҫional, Tinta Çao, Viognier, Marsanne, Vidal Blanc, Seyval Blanc)The family learned about planting, spraying, pests, weather, microclimates, harvesting, and making wine.

Since then, we have added five other varietals (Nebbiola, Barbera, Petit Verdot, Merlot, Albariño) and placed most of them into production rows. We are also among the founding members of the Southern Maryland Wine Growers Cooperative which runs the Port of Leonardtown Winery. (Don’t get me started about calling this “wine growers.” I seem to be the only one who cares that we grow grapes not wine.) My understanding is that the co-op currently has 10 member vineyards who volunteer their time doing all aspects of work at the winery.

In 2005, we bought our house in Charlotte Hall. Family members were traveling every week from as far away as Leesburg, Virginia, to work the vineyard, but they had no place to stay the night. The house on the farm is a four room clapboard house that really can’t accommodate multiple families. The house we found is three miles away and was originally built as a home and a dorm to a nearby school. It currently is configured with eight bedrooms and five baths. We now have family around every weekend and often even more than that.

What began as an idea for a hobby to keep the farm going has evolved into a growing family business that will probably remain with us well into retirement.

Friday, July 15, 2011

The Gloves are Off

I’m a medical technologist. I love learning about the human body and the conditions that can challenge it. I especially love immunology and how the body fights to protect itself. I am a strong supporter of many vaccines and have kept my kids’ immunizations up to date their entire lives.

So now I embarrassingly admit to one of my many shortcomings. I was out in the yard working hard cleaning up buried trash and hauling away sticks and branches to the burn pile when I suddenly realized that I was a hypocrite. Let me first explain that I hate wearing work gloves. Hate it! I know they are useful in helping prevent blisters and cuts and what not, but I really don’t like to wear them. I also don’t like tetanus shots. They hurt like hell for three days and basically make that arm unusable during that time. I know all about the benefits of preventative medicine, but it hasn't swayed me to visit my doctor. You know where this is headed.

I was hauling stuff and scratching up my hands and arms when I suddenly realized that I haven’t had a tetanus booster in over 13 years. It’s one thing to be hanging out in Bellevue grooming my yard or sitting in an office volunteering somewhere and be out of date. It’s an entirely different thing to be working without physical or immunological protection in an overgrown yard full of dangerous items that are just waiting for their chance to get me.

Did I mention that my healthcare provider is 3,000 miles away for the next two weeks? The reality is that I would get a booster if I made my way to an emergency room with a deep wound. I know that. I also know how many times in my life I have intentionally ignored wounds.

Maybe I’m being a little paranoid about all this. After all, I haven’t worked in a lab in many years and my tetanus knowledge is a little, uh, rusty.