Tony and I got back early yesterday morning from a short trip to Portland, Oregon, one of my favorite places in the whole world.* Our main reason for going was the WineMaker Conference for amateur vintners.
Neither of us has ever attempted making wine in our lives, but Tony was enamored with the idea of using berries we grew ourselves to make it. He has fond memories of picking wild raspberries, blackberries, blueberries, and teaberries (and carrots and mushrooms) in upstate New York when he was a wee lad. And who wouldn't love having lots of fresh berries in his yard? And I could use some of them in ice creams, which, as I've mentioned on the blog before, I'm very much interested in someday making commercially. So he got us tickets to the conference so we could learn some more about winemaking processes.
If I'm going to mention the conference and our interest in growing lots of berries, which we couldn't exactly do out on the terrace of our apartment, I may as well write that we're in the process of buying a 14-acre, mostly wooded property in Solebury Township, outside New Hope, Pennsylvania, even though it's not a 100% done deal yet. Things are moving along apace, and when our lease is up at the end of August, we expect to be moving to Bucks County.
I've long dreamed of retiring to the Bucks-Hunterdon (aka New Hope—Lambertville) area, where I spent several happy years before moving to Brooklyn for my job and starting this blog. Tony and I have both become convinced that we shouldn't renew our lease here on Jane Street for another year. There have been various annoying problems with our apartment and the building itself that aren't going to be fixed, and we felt like we were paying too much for what we were getting—even though we love having the terrace and greenhouse.
We talked about moving somewhere in the Hudson Valley, though we didn't do any serious house hunting, other than some online searches, before Tony questioned whether we would be happy moving to a town where we didn't know a soul, even if we would be a train ride from the city, where we know a lot of people.
I still have peeps in the B-H area and just south of that area, in Trenton. <shout-out to Pauly Wauly and Danny Boi! Woot!> So we started looking around in West Amwell, a still fairly rural township outside Lambertville, hoping to find a sizable property from which we could walk into town. That latter factor turned out to be not very likely, at least based on the then-available housing stock, but we did see a few places we thought might work out very well for us.
Then our girlfriend Pat warned us about the PennEast Pipeline, which is slated to go through West Amwell (and Delaware Township, where my ex and I had a farm/B&B in the early aughts) and which may very well end up quite close to the two properties we were most interested in checking out. I hope the communities fighting the PEP are able to prevent it from being built, but Tony and I decided it would be prudent to turn our attention to the other side of the Delaware River.
And part of me was more interested in being in Pennsylvania anyway. I'd done the rural central New Jersey thing before. And a big reason why things went south with my ex was he had become dissatisfied with the farm part of our business because the state had stopped him from making goat's milk cheese in our kitchen. Maybe he would have encountered the same roadblock in Pa., but at that time, I became convinced that Pa. is much more farmer-friendly than N.J. because he was convinced of that.**
In the middle of May, we took the Trans-bridge bus down to New Hope and were shown a few homes, including the one we agreed to pursue. I'm going to wait to write more about the home until after it's ours.
I should say that even though I wrote above that I thought I would someday retire to this area, this is certainly not a retirement. We're going to be doing lots of things, besides growing berries, to make income from this property. We'll try a bunch of things and figure out which of them are both enjoyable and profitable. And I intend to stay at my current job for at least a little while longer.
Now, back to Portland: Our flight Wednesday evening was delayed by a band of thunderstorms here in the east that had delayed our plane's arrival with its passengers from Palm Beach. We didn't get to our hotel until after 1 o'clock Thursday morning.
On Thursday, Tony went to a bootcamp on making wines from fruits other than grapes. I went to a bootcamp on making wines from grapes—even though that's not something we see ourselves doing anytime soon, at least not with grapes we grew ourselves—because we wanted to try to expand our knowledge base. These bootcamps were interactive, and we actually got to start the process of making wines that will be consumed at a subsequent convention.
I'm not going to spend too much time on the rest of the convention. We went to some good discussions and heard some good speakers on Friday and Saturday morning. And went to some not-so-good discussions and heard some not-so-good speakers, too. Tony didn't get much from the seminar on making your hobby a business, because the two speakers had both failed at making their hobby into a business. And we blew some things off, including everything after the Saturday morning session and any event where you shared your wines with your fellow conventioners, because we had no wines to share and because we wanted to get out of our hotel and see some more of Portland instead. I'll write about the rest of the trip in Part II.
*Legal disclaimer à la my friend Martha's posts on Facebook: I've never visited during the rainy season. Doing so could very well make me reconsider this superlative.
**He also probably could have legally made the cheese in the kitchen of a restaurant with which he had an existing friendly relationship and which would have wanted to continue being able to purchase his cheese. But he was a bullheaded mofo.