One of the most entertaining aspects of our daily routine is having the pleasure of working alongside the steady flow of international volunteers who come to lend a helping hand at Robert Clay Vineyards. On any given day, we’re soaking in new slang like “fit” (cute) or “sugar baby” (non-native English speaker’s term for our unusually large bottles of soda that can be carried like an infant), taught to us by our new friends.
To date, we’ve hosted 27 volunteers from countries all over the world, including France, Sweden, Japan, Australia, England, and Canada. Affectionately termed “the kids,” they are our constant companions and we get a kick out of showing them around our favorite spots in town as part of the cultural exchange they enjoy during their stay.
Most of these folks find themselves in Mason at our vineyard for the experience—to see what it’s really like to farm grapes and, more importantly, to belly-up to a heaping dose of authentic Texan culture. The unending stream of projects we’ve got cookin’ keeps our helpers occupied with productive days, dirty hands, and the sweaty satisfaction that comes from seeing one’s direct contribution toward the completion of a farmyard goal.
Right now, our attention has turned to establishing order from dormant chaos. Post-winter vegetation is being trimmed back to make way for new spring growth. The sound of weed eaters hums through the aisles as the brown, dead grass is shaved away from the trunks. We’ve also been pre-pruning in anticipation of the major cutback that will need to be performed in a few weeks when the timing is just right.
Mason’s hometown charm frequently leaves an imprint on the hearts of our volunteers and many express the hope to one day see the Hill Country again. One individual in particular has become a staple around the vineyard, having spent three months as a volunteer last year to participate in both pruning and harvest.
We’re excited to welcome back Jessica, who returns to us from her Chick in a Van cross-country adventure to become our inaugural artist in residence. The collaboration sprung from Robert Clay Vineyards’ ongoing commitment to the creative and cultural development of Mason and Jessica’s exploration of nontraditional living spaces. Her focus will involve the construction of a tiny house utilizing salvaged wood and found objects that reflect the gritty, weathered beauty of western Americana.
“It’s wonderful to be back!” she exclaims. “The feel of the community is electric right now with all of the long-term projects and goals that Masonites are busily turning into reality.”
She says of the tiny house: “The concept of home is the ultimate human story. This functional piece of art will be a tribute to the transformation of that which is old, not into something new, but rather into a space that’s timeless.”
On the whole, the contributions of all helpers are integral to the success of the vineyard—it would be impossible to do it alone and much less fun. Therefore we’re deeply grateful for the opportunity to have such enthusiastic travelers bestow their time and interest to our cause. Do say hello if you ever see us around because our visitors have come from far and wide and would love to meet you!