Kris and I don’t grow a lot of our own food, but we grow enough to make a difference.

In the fall of 2004, the year we moved into this house, we planted a row of grapes. Using only a shovel, I tore into the sod, double-digging a row about three feet by thirty. One of our neighbors had collected and split an old telephone pole, so he gave us some of these massive logs to use as posts for our arbor. We strung up plastic-coated clothesline for support wires. Another neighbor let us take cuttings of his grape vines, pointing out the plants he thought were best.

For three years these vines have grown and branched at an alarming rate. This year, for the first time, we allowed them to bear fruit. We’ve marveled as the grapes have swelled and ripened in the heat of the late summer. Over the past week, we’ve begun to eat them. Today I spent a part of the afternoon joyfully harvesting great juicy handfuls of fruit. This first year’s crop was only thirty pounds, but we know there’ll be more in the years to come.

It only gets better, though: supplementing our harvest with fruit from a neighbor, Kris has been making grape juice. Using a hand-me-down steam juicer, she’s produced 33 quarts, half of which is purple (from Concords) and half of which is white (from Niagaras). It’s delicious — far better than any store-bought juice I’ve ever tasted. (And no sugar added!)

Our total cost for this? Just a lot of elbow grease. The only real expense has been on canning supplies, and most of those can be used again!