We Own a Vineyard

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NICK WRITES

We own a vineyard. Before your mind goes to Bordeaux, France or Chianti, Italy—it is not like that. Don’t daydream of well-manicured grounds encircling the chateau. There is no sipping of the estate’s latest out of Riedel stemware.  No… that is not our vineyard.

 

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Our vineyard is located in Anavyssos, Greece. Greece isn’t exactly a place that pops into one’s head when thinking of wine producing areas, and although the sons and daughters of Dionysus can put out some respectable wines, I can assure you that none of it is being produced in my vineyard.

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This three-goat town is about a 45-minute drive from our northern suburban home in Agia Paraskevi, which is about an additional 30 minutes from the center of Athens. Of course, one can only try and estimate driving times in Greece, since traffic is always the judge and jury of how much prison time you are confined to in your four wheeled cell—I mean car. With a push from the European Community and the 2004 summer Olympics, Attiki Odos Highway, warden of the roadways, has made our commute from Athens to Anavyssos much less of a sentence.

From the tiny little houses sporting refrigerators on their porches, to the new large homes with sea views and swimming pools, Anavyssos is trying desperately to become the newest suburb of the Athenian metropolitan area.   Still there are too many goats, chickens, sheep and toothless inhabitants for it to be elevated into the cosmopolitan address that the residents of these larger homes hope so badly for the town to become.

Here in the village there are basically two groups of people of which we can form a parea, a circle of friends, with. We can hang out with the locals that look upon Nicky after years in Greece still as a foreigner, or we can kick back with one of the pseudo-rich snobs that don’t mind the long commute. Not impressed. I know they couldn’t afford this home in Athens, as the relationships between property values, teeth and livestock are directly proportional. OK, maybe I exaggerate since we have managed to find a nice group of friends here that I enjoy spending time with here on the weekends.

The rural area is great for a toddler. Nicky and I prefer it to the broken sidewalks and dirty playgrounds littered with cigarette butts one sometimes has in the ctiy.

The cottage, across from the vineyard, doesn’t have a sea view or pool, but then again it doesn’t have a refrigerator or washing machine on the porch either. Even though it is a well kept, it is the kind of home that looks dirty even when it is clean. The tiles throughout the house are a miserable swirled design of ivory and brown. Nicky is fond of them saying that they never look dirty. We do not agree. They never look clean.

In this house, the morning ritual includes sweeping up the dead pill bugs, spiders, worms and other creepy crawlers that welcomed themselves in during the night only to die on the floor.   To top it off, like many older homes in Greece, it includes a trash pail next to the toilet so that you can discard your paper there. If you ever find yourself in a situation that requests you to deposit your toilet paper into a can rather than just flushing it, heed that request. I disregarded that rule for quite some time but learned the hard way why the rule exists. I use the trashcan now.

There wasn’t a vineyard when we first bought the house. The house was on a tiny piece of fenced-in land, and included a barren plot across the dirt street that cuts the property in two.   One of my earliest lessons of village life in Greece was given to me by the locals, ‘Plant olive trees or grape vines in empty fields since they needn’t much care, don’t cost much, but will keep the gypsies away.’ Gypsies—as a city boy at heart, I never thought of this. With my newly acquired knowledge of gypsies camping in empty fields, and wanting to avoid this, we planted the vines. The vines have stood watch for nearly ten years now, protecting us from a gypsy invasion, in return they demand only sun, water and minimal upkeep.

 

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Plowing the vineyard is what awaits us this weekend. It is always a production, the voyage and transition from city to country. Like donkeys, we load up the van with all the necessary toys, clothes, foods (that will spoil if left behind), homework, video games, briefcases, and all the other crap that seems to make the journey back and forth. This is the reason that we drive a seven-passenger van when we have only one child. Nicky hates the van saying it is the least sexy vehicle on the face of the earth. She insists it doesn’t suit her style and a sports car would be better.

Packed up and off we go, only first to make that vital stop while still in the city. We pull up to Starbucks. There are no gourmet coffee shops in the village. With one non-fat, caramel, grande café latte (with that extra shot of espresso) in one hand and toting a bag of ground breakfast blend in the other, I am the caffeine cowboy packing heat and ready to survive the weekend.

It is work and a production to get there, but I love it.  I think I could give up the city at times and live a country life.

 

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NICKY WRITES 

The van barely comes to a halt before my young son flies out of the vehicle door and runs towards the fields in a puff of smoke like a vision from a cartoon.  Our son, the kind of boy who wanted to take his family for ice cream with the money he received from the tooth fairy. He’s the kind of boy who doesn’t step on bugs, but moves spiders and worms to safer places.

He loves it here, as does my husband. Of course they do because this is Mommy’s ‘I don’t care house’.   Want to play in the dirt and then come inside? I don’t care.   Want to eat potato chips on the couch? I don’t care. Want to put your feet on the table, or leave your dirty clothes piled on the floor?   I don’t care. For them it is a carefree weekend.

 

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Shouldn’t I love it here because they do? I don’t think so. They are not the ones concerned with no food in the refrigerator, plants screaming to be watered, and dust inches thick.   Work here, work there and I stew in a soup of overtired, overworked nastiness. I really am not too fond of the house these days; it brings me nothing but work, especially in the fall. I love to drink my wine, but growing grapes is hard work. Nick says that upkeep is minimal—not so much the truth.

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A solid night’s sleep and a quick sweep of the pill bugs, and I find myself Saturday morning on the porch with a cherished cup of freshly home brewed Starbucks.  I always am upset that Nick makes us stop for coffee before we head here, but at this moment I appreciate his insight. A sip of coffee and I survey the vineyard filed, ….not bad, quiet, and it’s rather pretty—a moment of Zen…I breathe a little easier.  Across the way, our neighbor has chosen to fill his much larger field with olive trees that flaunt their old age, strength and deep roots. I like the springtime view. Our neighbor’s olive grove is picture perfect then—with all the red poppies, yellow margarita daisies, and blue scabiosa, as if the Goddess Artemis has laid down an oriental carpet of color under her trees.

A grinding noise and the reek of black exhaust pulls me out of my Zen-like trance. Mr. Yianis is  here; 7am as promised.  He is here to collect his pay for the work he did in the field yesterday.  My roadrunner son zips past me as I am paying Mr. Two-Tooth Yianis for a job well done.  I return to the porch with a second cup of coffee that should have taken only ten minutes to brew but instead has taken over an hour because of all the distractions between the porch and the small country kitchen only 15 meters away.

 

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I sit on the porch while our son sits ‘criss cross applesauce’ in the middle of the plowed field. He is obviously upset with barely visible tears. I holler from the porch, “Baby, is everything ok?”   I walk over, but he dismisses my concern, telling me, “It is OK Mom. I’ll take care of it.” Whatever that means.

Afternoon and coffee number three… as I try to enjoy this cup of heaven while I scold myself for drinking way too much caffeine, my eyes are pulled to a new pile in the front yard. There lie matted boulders of red clay piled atop grey rocks and broken, twisted, gnarled vine branches. Some chrysanthemums have been decapitated and lay within this mangled mess. Grass blades have been ripped up and tossed onto this salad of nature in the front yard.    Normally a screech would come out of my mouth to move this mess into the field, but I remember the tears from earlier in the day and instead bring the coffee cup to my lips. Look the other way and let him build whatever that is.

Shouting, as if he is a mind reader,  “Mommy, come here! Isn’t it awesome?”  Frantically pointing,  “Here’s the house for the ants and this one’s for the red bug. See the bridge? I built them a restaurant and gave them crackers. Is that OK that I gave them my crackers?”

Rambling without a breath,  “The bugs, they live here now.   Stupid tractor ruined their houses.  Think they’ll like it here?”

Continuing with heartfelt concern,  “Are they going to think God made this city for them? Will they find their friends?   It’s sad for the bugs that are babies. Will they find their Mommies and Daddies?”

Lifting his head and finally pausing, “Mommy, I hope I saved them and this new city helps them.  I moved them from the place where the tractor messed their houses to this new place in the yard. I hope they like it.”

Baby”, I said as I remembered him earlier teary eyed in the field, “Your new city is wonderful.  Should we get some more crackers for the bugs?”   He smiles up at me and says, “Yes Mom, let’s feed them more crackers.”

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We head to the kitchen with his dirty little hand in mine.

My little family owns a vineyard…and it is the best vineyard in the world.

 

Nicolas and Nicolette Kounelis are the husband and wife team who created the blog “The Adventures of Nick and Nicky”. Read more on our About Us page!

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