Why Garden? … or wine?

“… the work it takes to make something small or large into something beautiful”

Interview with Entrepreneur/Gardener/Wine lover. 

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Meet my father-  David Brantley.

I live in London and he lives in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. But of the MANY things we have in common- my two favourite ones are – gardening and wine.  Oh… and we love the buzz of city life too.

At the start of our blog last fall- The Urban Farmer London- I thought about where my own desire for rural lifestyle in the city all began. It was actually quite easy to figure out.  My love of gardening, cooking, and hobby or more obsession with wine started with this crazy-busy entrepreneur who is my Dad.

Somehow in the midst of his jam-packed-schedule of business meetings, sport events, social calendars and everything else he juggles- he finds the time to stop and garden… or rather, buzzes around in it.  I grew up watching him do this and I guess it had lasting effects on my own life.

This had me curious as to what drew my urban father to his own rural lifestyle and why he still carves out the time for it in his demanding schedule.   (The picture above is taken on his visit to London last fall)

“…it’s just the simple appreciation of the beauty in it.”

I started with gardening and began with the question I never had asked him before.

‘When did it all start for you?’

He had to think back a bit, “I  believe it started back in the mid-80s.”   This would put my newly 60 year old father back in his 30s.

Inspiration

“Who inspired you?”  Though his own mother was a gardener herself, to my surprise his response was not immediately about her.

“I don’t know, I think it’s just the simple appreciation of the beauty in it.”   He contemplated a bit longer than I expected, “I think its also the work it takes to make something small or large into something beautiful.” He began to unpack the therapeutic side of it in connection with his busy lifestyle.

Therapeutic

But thinking more to the deeper reason of doing it, he returned back to the beauty. “I think it’s also the gratification of turning something into something beautiful and in a relatively short time frame.” Knowing the nature of his business- the grind and also the patience required for its long term rewards- I understood exactly what this simple aspect that the garden lifestyle gives a man like this.

Urban Gardeners

We moved onto the type of people who garden.  I was interested in his thoughts on this as I am constantly surprised of this false stereotype- that gardeners tend to be retired or just with loads of time on their hands.

So I asked him, “What type of person do you think is drawn to the garden?”

“Typically- its often not the most predictable person. Not one personality is found which makes it (gardening) even more interesting.  From the wealthy to the pragmatic or the sophisticated to the simple, the rural or the city dweller. It’s a mix.”

It’s simple. One word: work”

I followed up with another question, “So then why do you think people choose not to garden?”  This he answers without a second of reflection.

“It’s simple.  One word: Work. It’s a LOT OF WORK.”  He chuckles, taking another sip of wine.

I then go on to explain our new blog and our curiosity of the mingling of urban and rural lifestyles- in both values and practice. He began to talk about how his wine hobby that also enhances his fast-paced urban life.  A wine enthusiast but living far from any quality wine regions- he takes part in small vineyard programs in the United States that connect consumers directly to the vineyard.  His favourite being California Wine Club. He feels this is another way that he’s able to have a sense of the rural life in the city.

Wine and … gardening? 

I probed further, “Do you think wine and gardening are connected in some way?”

“The correlation between the process of making wine and gardening is very close to me.  Growing the perfect grapes is essential to making a good wine, but not everyone who appreciates wine is drawn to the soils and climate as I am. Again, its a mixture of personality types.”

Then we got into the juice of our shared and most coveted drink.

He continues- “I love the convergence of art and science in a compressed time period. The fact that each wine takes on a unique personality of its own- down to even the barrel that they are produced in- its just fascinating to me.”

“…to have a vineyard of my own.” 

As opposed to the garden, the most challenging part of this hobby is not the physical work involved.

“Finding good wine at a good price.”  He laughed again saying this may be why he spends increasing amounts of time on this hobby over his garden in his older years.  “But it’s true- with the internet and information age I believe that the wine business is constantly growing. I continue to look for better websites, blogs to broaden my knowledge and lighten my pocketbook and also educating me on the people that are doing what I HOPE to do in a few years-  have a vineyard of my own.”

We clink glasses to a shared family dream- Brantley Vineyards– or I should say the one I decided to join in on many years ago.

“Someday, somewhere Dad.”  We smile… and order another glass.

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How to make your own vinegar


How to make your own vinegar

Welcome to the Urban Farmer! We’re going to kick off this blog with a ‘How to’ post perfect for the holiday season…there will be a lot of parties and a lot of wine, which MIGHT not get completely drunk.

If you do end up with half finished bottles that you simply can’t face drinking yourself, there’s no need to pour them down the sink. Instead, try to make your own vinegar, it’s very easy and weirdly satisfying to do!

What you will need

To start with you will need some leftover wine. The quality of the wine will ultimately reflect in the flavour of the vinegar, so make sure you use wine you would actually drink. Get yourself a glass container such as a jar and some muslin/cheese cloth. Lastly, get your hands on some mother culture. This is the magic ingredient which will help turn the wine into vinegar. One of the easiest ways to get the culture is to buy unfiltered vinegars such as apple cider vinegar which specifically contain mother. You can then let the mother harvest and then transfer to your new vinegar or buy vinegar culture.

What you will need
What you will need: wine, a container, muslin cloth and vinegar culture

Getting started

Once you’ve got all the necessary tools, you’re nearly there. Pour some of the wine and vinegar culture (follow instructions that came with the culture) into the jar. If you’re getting the established mother culture from other sources of vinegar, you will see that it will probably float in your container. This is a sign the culture is fresh and at its best.

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Pour the wine and mother culture into clean containers
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Cover the containers with muslin cloth

Cover the jars with muslin cloth and tie it with string or use an elastic. This will keep flies out, but more importantly will give the wine and mother culture the air it needs to do develop.

The waiting game

Once the jars are covered, place them somewhere dark, such as the back of one of your kitchen cupboards. Whenever you’ve got some leftover wine, pour some into the jars (try to keep red and white separate…rosé is flexible!). Give the process at least 2-3 months. After this time, check your vinegar and quite simply taste it. You will know if it needs more time (still tastes like wine) or is ready to be poured onto your salad or chips!

The finished product
The finished product