Grapes, Birds, and Bears

kaj ahlmann at Six Sigma RanchAs I write, the winery is gearing up for the earliest harvest in Six Sigma Ranch history. While the grapes are turning purple, proprietor Kaj Ahlmann (who happens to be my father) is getting in touch with his inner outdoorsman. Why, you ask? Because the wildlife at Six Sigma Ranch loves ripe wine grapes almost as much as he does. Let me explain.
rock barrier at Six Sigma RanchWhen we first installed vineyards and the grapes turned purple, the birds arrived. My father did what every new vintner would do, loaded a shotgun and circled the vineyard on an ATV. The shotgun was just for noise; no self-respecting outdoors-man would shoot starlings unless he was extremely hungry. (We’ve since outsmarted the birds with a net that protects the clusters).

bear hair at Six Sigma RanchAnd then, just before harvest, arrived the bear. At 400+ pounds, he attempts to climb the deer fence on an annual basis. The fence crumbles, and he clears out a few rows of grapes.
Last year, the bear actually dug under the fence, and the diligent proprietor was seen hauling rocks on a Saturday afternoon to fill the hole. The effort against the bear is admittedly a half-hearted one. If you meet Kaj at the ranch, he will likely confess that he’s willing to trade a few grapes for a good story.

Christian Ahlmann

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