Kevin Merrill: Graduating into a different future

Kevin Merrill

The first week of June brought warmer, summertime temperatures along with early morning fog to our area. Great conditions for mildew to start growing inside the canopies of our grapevines.

Our crews are busy moving trellis wires to open those canopies to more air and light. We started removing outer leaves mechanically as well. Crops requiring more hand work, coupled with a shorter workday, are stretching our local labor force to its limits. Winegrape production is able to adapt by utilizing mechanization for jobs like suckering, shoot thinning, leafing and wire moving if the vineyard trellis is set up for it.

Work on the steeper hillsides is still done by hand. A large percentage of harvest is done by machines that have been developed to pick and handle the grapes with equal quality as hand picked fruit. Hard to believe, but harvest is not that far away.

Usually, this time of year we think about summer vacation and kids getting out of school. I noticed some schools opening up with the COVID-19 restrictions easing up a bit. It was great to see kids out on the playgrounds running around with no masks. School buses can be seen making their rounds as well, something I haven’t seen in a long time. I'm not sure how long the schools are staying open at this point.

Both our kids are finishing up their online college year and were able to join my wife Karen and I for a trip down to Los Angeles for a combination trip of seeing a doctor, followed by watching the Dodgers beat the Arizona Diamondbacks at Dodger Stadium and then off to Disneyland the next day. That’s a lot of the Los Angeles area for me.

My wife Karen had an appointment with an eye doctor at the UCLA Stein Eye Center where everything went well. After her appointment we headed for the Glendale Galleria where our daughter Kathleen wanted to go shopping before heading out to Dodger Stadium for the game. There is quite a bit of territory to cover at the Galleria and I think we walked about five miles shopping, or mostly looking while we were there.

Kathleen was smart enough to get us preferred parking at Dodger Stadium and we went right in and found our seats. It also helped that most of the seating was at 25 percent. I think we could only have six people in a group and every other row was empty due to COVID-19 restrictions, which made it nice. It was a good game, the cold beer tasted great, the Dodger Dogs were not up to par, but we had a good time at the ballpark.

After the game it was off to Anaheim where we were mercifully at our hotel within 20 minutes. The next morning we headed for Disneyland and California Adventure. My wife loves Disneyland and always wants to stay until the park closes, which thankfully was at 9 p.m. There were quite a few more people there than I expected, most rides were an hour wait.

We got our exercise in that day, there are no people movers or monorails operating due to COVID-19. I think the initial walk from the parking lot to the gates of California Adventure was at least a mile and a half. We walked a little over 10 miles that day.

It was a fun weekend trip and I was happy the kids wanted to join us, but I'm glad to be out of that traffic and back on the ranch in Los Alamos.

Go Dodgers!

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