Have you ever wanted to sell everything you own and just "take off?" Travel the country's back roads, paddle down a meandering stream, experience breath-taking mountain views, walk among 100-year old trees, and just marvel at America's beauty? That is the dream that my partner, Betsy, and I decided to make a reality. This blog describes our adventure. The food we eat, people we meet, sights we see, and the enjoyment we find in traveling.

Monday, December 3, 2018

Work Camping … At a Maine Winery!

The term “work camping” often leaves people with the idea of working at a campground while living on-site where your campsite is free in return for the hours you work or collect a paycheck.  But work camping is more than that and actually refers to anyone who lives in an RV while working in any capacity - not just at a campground.  Over the years, we have found many different work camping opportunities.  Work camping allows us to earn some cash, defer camping costs, meet new people and form long-standing relationships, and learn new skills.  Last summer I worked at a winery which was filled with wine, music, food, and great people.  It was a new and wonderful experience.

Many people ask how we find our jobs (which we have written about in a previous blog post).  Some of our favorite sites are Workers On Wheels, Volunteer.gov, and Workamper News.  But finding this job was different and somewhat by happen stance.  Back in 2014 we stopped at Savage Oakes Vineyard and Winery (a Harvest Host location) to spend the night and volunteer for their fall grape harvest.  We had a blast!  Like many Harvest Host sites, we parked in a beautiful, quiet place where we enjoyed a good bottle of wine and had a restful nights sleep.  The next day Betsy and I picked grapes for a few hours, enjoyed a picnic lunch (accompanied by their estate wine) in the vineyard, and spent the day watching the beginnings of wine making as grapes were crushed, de-stemmed, and pressed.


Last winter I contacted Savage Oakes to see if they would be hiring a part-time person for the summer (which I saw on their Facebook page the previous year).  Luck was in my favor.  They were hiring someone and agreed to hire me part-time.  I was pretty jazzed about this new opportunity because it meant working in a field I knew nothing about.  While I am pretty skilled at opening a bottle of wine and know a little about wine, I was eager to learn more.  There are so many benefits of work camping and learning something new is one of them.  Savage Oakes did not provide an RV spot for us but did pay a salary for all hours worked.  We found a great campground about twenty-five minutes away where we payed a seasonal rate and enjoyed the quiet campground with a great river view. 

Savage Oakes is a small family-owned and run business.  The property has been in the owner's family for many generations and a big red barn proudly displays a sign with its origin of 1792. The historic farm has changed from traditional uses of livestock and hay to wine grapes and solar panels.  The owners, Holly and Elmer, first planted cold-climate grape vines in 2002 and now have a vineyard with ten grape varietals spanning three and a half acres. Everything regarding their wine is done on-site and growing the grapes is the first step.  Don’t look for cabernet sauvignon or chardonnay here, those grapes would never make it in Maine’s harsh cold climate.  Instead, varieties like Marquette, Cayuga, Marachel Foch, Leon Millot and more make up the contents of your wine glass.  And being Savage Oakes is also a farm in Maine means blueberries are in the mix as well.


So what does working at a small winery entail?  Luckily for me … everything!  That’s my kind of job because I like to keep busy and do lots of different things.  Every aspect of wine production – from grape growing and harvesting to bottling and labeling – is done on-site at Savage Oakes.  There were days when I would work in the vineyard pruning the vines, afternoons pouring wine in the tasting room, tending to the garden, cooking and setting up tents for music concerts, bottling and labeling wine, and of course picking grapes.

           20180629_13483220181005_11444620181005_11191920181005_081244                               20181005_08125520180622_10025320180622_11075920180803_125013

Over the past few years, Savage Oakes has become known for more than just being a winery on the Maine Wine Trail.  They have put together a pretty well-known lineup of musical artists like Melissa Etheridge, Michael Franti and Spearhead, Lyle Lovett, Indigo Girls, Chris Isaak and more.  The little town of Union, Maine (population 2,200) nearly doubles when 2,000 people show up for an outdoor concert where music radiates off the wild blueberry fields, the chickens scurry inside the barn, and the belted Galloway cows seem intrigued by sound checks.  Tents are filled with the smells of food, Maine beer and wine are flowing, and artists sing before beautiful Maine sunsets in open air stages.  The venue is awesome and smaller crowds make for a much more intimate setting with performers mingling into the crowd and concertgoers being invited up on stage. 


In early October the harvest was over, grapes were safely aging in their tanks and barrels, and our campground was closing for the season so it was time to start packing up the RV and figuring out our exit strategy from Maine.  It was definitely hard to say goodbye to such great people that I worked with and others we met during the summer but our nomadic lives had to get back underway.  Leaving was especially hard because we developed a love for the area.  Once again, this was another rewarding work camping experience.

1 comment:

  1. If you feel that was a worthwhile work experience that you truly enjoyed maybe you could reapply for next season and the fact that you are now a seasoned worker should make it easier on both you and the Vineyard itself.
    Be Safe and Enjoy your winter travels.

    It's about time.


We love hearing from you, so please drop us a comment