The girls each had their own gallon-sized bucket to carry along the little vineyard. We’d been invited to pick all the free grapes we could carry. This was an enticing offer from our friend and neighbor, Marcia Fisher, in the hills of rural East Tennessee. She generously picked off entire bunches of Concord grapes for us, even though not all of them were ripe. I tried collecting individual red grapes, taking a very long time to fill my bucket. Fisher showed us how to find the ripened red grapes as well as the translucent, ripened white grapes.
I sneaked one tougher-skinned, light green muscadine because I was curious what it tasted like. It has a fabulous, mild flavor all its own. Fisher explained that it’s more work to make jelly or other things from the muscadine variety because of its tougher exterior.
Fisher explained that the vineyard was already in place more than twenty years ago when she and her husband, Paul, made their home on the mini-farm. She said the yield this year had been better than usual after installing a ground-level drip irrigation system. They still use conventional growing methods, but assured me that it had been several weeks and a few rains since the last spraying.
The girls enjoyed tasting the grapes straight from the vine. They lost interest and decided they’d rather play with the resident cat instead of picking. Then came their invitation to taste the grape juice and jelly that had recently been made. We got to peek inside the impressive canning cupboard to see what had been preserved from grapes and much more in the family garden.
Fisher insisted on sending us home with bunches of grapes plus several pounds of butternut squash, wanting to share their harvest.
An avid cook who volunteers her time to make weekly church dinners, she sees comparative abundance everywhere in the United States because of her experiences in Haiti. Fisher says, “A bad growing season in the U.S. is an inconvenience to a gardener. But it’s life and death for a gardener in Haiti.” Fisher heads up the board for the Christian School of New Vision in Haiti, where a sugar cane farmer is inspired to give hundreds of children the chance for a future.