When it comes to the best Father’s Day gift ever, I must confess this one came from what I am sure is a little help from someone who has been looking down and watching over me for some time – my Dad.
I was just 13 when my father passed away from battling cancer. Too young to really understand it. And too young to know just how much I would miss him for the rest of my life.
But in those 13 all-too short years, my father passed a tremendous amount of him on to me.
Like his love of wood-working, gardening, working outside – and probably most of all, building and creating projects from anything and everything.
In fact, nearly all of our DIY plans in our little Etsy shop can be traced in someway to something he once built. He simply loved to build and create.
One of the best examples of that can be seen today, in our farm’s barn that sits proudly in the middle of the property.
A Little History
Mary and I built the barn by tearing down two old barns – and rebuilding one from the remnants.
One of those barns just happened to by my fathers. A barn, that believe it or not, he himself had torn down from an uncle’s farm and rebuilt at my childhood home nearly 40 years prior.
Yes, my dad passed a bit of thriftiness along to me as well :).
One of the best things I remember about the project was finding Dad’s handwriting on boards and beams. Notes he scribbled to help in the rebuilding process. See : The Barn Project
There are actually quite a few family “heritage” items from my Dad on our little farm. I still have many of his old tools, along with his home-built flag pole that flies our country’s flag proudly over the barn.
But this year, I am pretty sure he had a hand from above in helping me to keep something else alive.
The Best Father’s Day Gift Ever
When we first planted our little vineyard at the farm, I remember wishing there could have been a way to have had a start of the grapevines that dad had planted when I was growing up.
He had built a homemade arbor from recycled piping. I can still remember as a child the canopy filling with grape leaves and grapes every year.
I think he had gotten the “grape” bug from his mom, who grew grapes and made wine and jellies her entire life.
Born in 1899, and coming to the US through Ellis Island at 15, my grandmother was an amazing woman who lived to the incredible age of 99.
So with all that history, it would have been really neat to carry on a bit of my dad and some of his grape vines.
Although my mom still lives there today, the grape arbor had finally succumbed to age, and had been razed many years back.
But it just so happened that last year, growing in a bit of the grass around it, there were a few feeble starts of the grapes poking through the early summer soil. And I mean very feeble!
We brought the tiny clumps home in a bag, knowing full well it was a million to one shot to have them survive. Especially with a summer transplanting!
Taking A Shot At It…
We gave them our best shot. We planted them in rich compost. Covered them with a sleeve for protection, and watched over them as best we could.
Much as we expected, they struggled mightily. Of the 5 tiny starts we planted, three died within a few days.
The final two barely held on. And as early fall set in, lost their leaves without growing so much as an inch.
We really weren’t sure if it was due to their deciduous nature, or that they simply lost their battle as well with nature.
A Long Cold Winter
And then winter came. We prayed for a mild winter to protect what I knew would be shallow, fragile, and most likely already deceased roots.
But unfortunately, winter was anything but mild. It was long. And it was brutally cold.
But perhaps even worse, the cold and snow lasted well into March. And there were no signs of life on either of the two plants.
This past winter had taken it’s toll on many plants in our landscape. Including freezing out two protected rose bushes and several ornamental grasses. And if you know ornamental grasses, they are hard to freeze out and kill!
And so the prognosis for those two remaining grape vines didn’t look very good.
Nothing Short Of A Miracle – The Best Father’s Day Gift Ever!
But as late spring arrived, I was amazed one day to see a tiny bud appear on one of the plants. And within in a few days, that lone single plant was covered in leaves.
It was nothing short of a miracle.
And then, incredibly, the 2nd plant, no more than an inch high at this point, sprouted as well.
As amazing as it was, we now had two incredibly hardy grape plants grown from the original vines of my father’s grapes alive and well.
As summer now approaches, they have both taken off. In fact, the largest of the two is already reaching for the second cordon line in our little vineyard.
A proud testament of strength and perseverance, and an incredible gift to always remember my father by.
Honestly, it really is and will always be to me, the best Father’s Day Gift ever.
Here is to the past – and the future. Thanks for looking out from above for those grapes Dad!
Happy Gardening – Jim and Mary