Kevin Merrill

Kevin Merrill

We celebrate Labor Day this weekend, traditionally signaling the end of summer. Officially, summer ends Sept. 21.

Summer temperatures helped ripen our wine grapes this week, with temperatures nearing the 100-degree mark in many areas, pushing the sugar content high enough for winemakers to give us the green light to pick more fruit.

We begin to see more trucks hauling grapes between Santa Maria, Lompoc and the Santa Ynez Valley. Now we will see how Mother Nature treats us through harvest, because I understand there is a threat of tropical moisture coming our way from the south. Time will tell. In the meantime, wine-grape harvest is off to a good start.

Sept. 1 is always the start of dove season, and my son Clayton and I have been watching the birds for a couple of weeks. So far there are quite a few doves in our area. I hope they are still here on opening day. I can remember many years when there were plenty of birds a few days before the season opened, then the weather changed and the birds would be gone.

I really got interested in hunting, thanks to my grandfather Sam, when I was in the seventh and eighth grades. I can recall getting up early, going out into the hills behind our house and hunting before I went to school. Even if it was for 45 minutes or a half hour, I would see if I could find a few doves before we left for school.

I believe school began at 8:40 in Solvang, and dad and I used to leave the ranch around 8:15 to get to school on time. I think there were a lot more mornings than not during dove season in September when I came home empty-handed, then one or two mornings when I made up for it.

I usually did better in the late afternoon and early evening after school, but even at that it took me the whole two-week season to get enough birds for my grandfather and I to make a stew and feed everyone in our family once.

I don’t think they really minded only having enough for one meal. Usually dove season is split, two weeks in September and two weeks in November, so on a good year we might have had two dove stew dinners.

I’m looking forward to this year’s dove hunting with Clayton. I haven’t quite talked our daughter Kathleen into hunting with us this season, although she has been out with us several times before. Clayton is a pretty good shot and this season he is trying out his new 12-gauge shotgun. I’m sure he will outdo me, which he has done over the past two or three years.

Last week we went into Walmart to purchase our 2017 California hunting licenses. As we were waiting at the sales counter I remembered when I was his age and we used to go to Carl Sides Hardware store in Los Olivos to buy licenses. The only similarity was standing opposite the sales clerk at the counter.

Today all the information is stored in Sacramento electronically. A few key strokes by the clerk and you have your new license. Carl used to take a while to find the box with the new licenses and appropriate game stickers. The whole process took about 45 minutes to an hour. All in all, I think I liked Carl’s methodology better.

Watch out for those grape trucks traveling up and down the road, and enjoy this year’s Labor Day weekend.

Kevin Merrill of Mesa Vineyard Management is a board member of the Santa Barbara County Farm Bureau, and a director on the Santa Barbara County Fair Board. He can be reached at kmerrill@mesavineyard.com

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