Kevin Merrill

Kevin Merrill

It’s nice to see the hills turning green and the temperatures cooling down as we race toward Christmas Day.

I am happy to report we have received a little over two inches of rain in the gauge to date here in Los Alamos. Hopefully, more storms are on the way. We are busy planting cover crop on the vineyards, and many of our employees are taking off for two or three weeks to spend time with their families both here and in Mexico.

I recently wrote that Clayton and I were heading up to Redding to go fishing a few days before Thanksgiving. I tested our guide Matt’s patience a few times learning how to cast with a fly rod, but I ended up catching three nice trout in the Sacramento River. I still hear Matt’s instructions in my mind, “See the fly, lift the fly, cast the fly.” Clayton was a better student, but I beat him by one fish for the day.

It was a beautiful fall day as we made our way down the river in drift boats provided by the Fly Shop in Redding. Clayton’s grandfather Jerry and his uncle Bobby accompanied us in another boat, we had a great time and look forward to returning next year.

After enjoying our Thanksgiving holiday with my wife Karen’s family in Visalia, we returned home to start decorating the house for the Advent season and Christmas. We put lights on our house every year and on bushes and a tree in our front yard. I’m not sure anyone can see them but us, but we do it every year as a reminder of what a special time it is. I think we managed to get them all up this year without arguing which string of lights went where.

I always remember my dad and his system of decorating our house with lights, complete with a star that Bailey Dewett fabricated and was tied to our chimney every year. After the lights went up it was time to take a family picture for our Christmas card. Today you can take photos with your cell phone, pick a card and have it printed online from Costco with your photo inserted, and your work is done.

For as long as I can remember, my dad used to take our picture on the ranch somewhere, develop the film and print the pictures for the card in the darkroom he had next to our garage. After the pictures were printed my mom would take each one and insert them into hand-written cards that always had a short excerpt about Christmas from a story like the “Night Before Christmas.” Each small photo was attached to the card with corners that stuck to the paper. She usually would also include a silver star on both the front page and bottom of the card, which was a blank piece of paper folded in half.

I think mom and dad sent out 75-100 of those hand-written cards every year. I believe there are still a few old-time families in the Santa Ynez Valley that kept all the cards mom sent out over the years.

Our daughter Kathleen and my wife Karen picked out our card online and sent our Christmas photo into Costco last night to be printed. Sorry, mom.

Karen and I, along with our kids, Kathleen and Clayton, wish you all a blessed and Merry Christmas.

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

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