Featured Parable, Week 1

This one, in spite of it's incomprehensible length (Rache: second draft -- eliminate half the words), is from fledgling sidekick Rachael Starke:

A wealthy man who had recently purchased a very large area of land hosted a lavish party for all the people in his town. At the end of the evening, when all the very excellent food and wine had been consumed, the man announced -

"I want to use the land I've just purchased to produce wine that is even better than what you've drunk tonight. But I have many interests, and won't be here for the length of time necessary to oversee such an important endeavour.

"I have chosen three of you to tend this land for me. I will give you seed from my other vineyards, capable of producing the very best wine. You have only to plant the seeds, tend the vines that grow, harvest them and bottle what they produce. While I will want regular updates about your progress, I will leave you entirely in charge. After the wine has been bottled and allowed to mature, I will host another party where we will all enjoy the results of your labor. Then I will pay you a fair market price for the wine you have made."

The three men the wealthy landowner had chosen could not believe their good fortune. They had all tasted the wine at the party and could tell by its quality that it was incredibly expensive. Surly their efforts would result in both great fame and wealth for their families.

All three men went straight to work. The landowner left it up to each man to choose where he would plant his vines and how he would tend them. The first man worked quickly. He had many other responsibilities, and while he knew tending a vineyard took effort, he was determined not to let all his other endeavors slip. Besides, how hard could growing grapes be? You planted the seeds, watered them, checked on them when you could, and waited for nature to take its course. So he chose the most fertile, flat plot of land he could find, planted the seeds, then watered them.

For the first few weeks, he visited his field every few days, training the vinest onto stakes and making sure everything looked okay. But as the weeks went by, and the man's schedule began to be overhwhelmed with his other endeavors, he visited his field less and less. He ended up oustourcing the day to day work of tending the grapes to professional vinetenders. They sent him updates telling him his vines were doing well, and so he was content to leave the majority of the work to them. Besides, by late summer, he had learned to his dismay what hot, dirty work vinetending could be, and he just wasn't that into manual labor.

The second man took a much more carefully thought out approach. The minute the landowner told him he was one of the fortunate three, he raced home to his computer and bought every book about farming he could find. Interestingly, he saw the landowners name referenced frequently in a many of the books he read, but the references went back a ways, and this man was determined to use only the latest and modern techniques, along with his own highly developed natural instincts. He'd had experience in other types of farming, and was confident that this would give him a serious advantage.

So he set to work - clearing his carefully selected plot of land of every rock and pebble, planting seeds at the right point in the lunar cycle, laying down a state of the art, drip irrigation system that delivered specially filtered water to each vine 24 hours a day. He carefully nursed each leaf and shoot that grew up and around the custom carved stakes he had imported from Bordeaux, hung hemp shades over the vines to shieled them from the hottest rays of the sun, and rejoiced at all the leaves and shoots his care was producing. He spent as much time as possible amongst his flourishing vines, confident that all this leafy goodness would yield an abundant crop.

The third man's approach was decidedly unorthodox. At least, that's how it seemed to the other two farmers. The man didn't select the flattest field, nor the greenest. Instead, he planted his seeds on the rocky side of a steep hill. He planted the seed and trained his young vines onto ordinary wood stakes. Then, as they began to blossom, the farmer would walk carefully and thoughtfully down each row, tearing off leaves and even flowers buds at regular intervals.

As grapes began to grow, he continued the practice - picking off what appeared to be perfectly good grapes, and tearing off branches that were leaving other clusters in the shade, exposing them to the sun's hottest rays. He watered the vines sporadically, content to let Mother Nature do it most of the time, and supplementing when the weather was unusually dry, usually with water from buckets to which he could be seen adding mysterious substances. His vines grew well, although they certainly weren't as prolific as the second farmer's, but certainly more so than the first's.

All three farmers were invited regularly to the landowner's estate to report on their progress, and to receive answers to any questions they might have.

The first farmer visited sporadically, offering up his crew's brief reports (which he first carefully copied in his own hand to make them look like they came from him) and assuring the landowner that he would be please with the results. Leaving quickly, and after only a cursory check over the vines, he returned to his other businesses. He noted as he returned that his staff were no where to be seen, and the vines seemed somewhat sickly, and he made a note to call his head laborer as soon as his other business matters were taken care of.

The second farmer visited the landowner faithfully, armed with scrapbooks of pictures of his vines, and notebooks with pages of data on every leaf and shoot. He talked so excitedly and so long about how all his experience and research into the latest farming techniques were producing such marvellous results that there was rarely any time for questions. Still, the second farmer assured the landowner all was well.

The third farmer, as usual, took a different approach. Bringing nothing with him, he would disappear inside the landowner's front door and not emerge for several hours. The other two farmers wondered what he was talking about all that time, particularly as he almost always headed straight back to his vines to tear off more leaves, break off clusters, and occasionally water with his bucket and the mysterious substance.

Finally, harvest time arrived. All three farmers gathered in their grapes in their own way.

The first farmer found himself in the middle of a very serious business deal, and paid his crew overtime to quickly harvest the grapes and to send them to a local crusher to be pressed and bottled.

The second farmer brought in highly sophisticated machinery, all computerized to automatically detect only the best quality grapes and then use custom hydraulics to apply just the right amount of pressure to produce the right yield of juice. The farmer was amazed at how quickly the machines went through his vines and was excited that their efficiency meant more time for the juice to spend fermenting and maturing into wonderful wine.

The third farmer, once again, did things diffferently. He brought out his whole family to work around the clock, picking the grapes by hand, then, using an ancient wooden wine press, crushed the grapes himself. It was hot, dirty work, and the farmer's posture grew increasingly stooped from his labor. But he finished only a little behind the other two.

Finally, they day arrived. The entire town descended onto the landowner's estate to once again enjoy the landowner's hospitality. The landowner called each of the farmer up to his table and ceremoniously opened a bottle of the wine the farmer had produced.

The owner poured out a glass of the first farmer's wine, held the glass up to the light, and the drank. His eyes widened and he spat the wine unceremoniously back into the glass.

"Isn't this supposed to be wine?! This is undrinkable!! This is a wine of neglect and apathy, not love! You told me your vines were well-cared for! What happened???"

Shaking and stammering, the first farmer said "I was so busy, and so I hired experts from another town to do the most difficult work for me. They said they knew exactly what to do! They told me everything would be fine!"

"Well, they were wrong!" the landowner roared. "Those seeds were incredibly valuable and they were ruined by lack of care and proper handling. You will work in my fields every day until you have earned their value back." And the landowner's security guards ushered him firmly off the property.

The second farmer, having seen the first farmer's undignified exit, was hopeful of a far better reception. He waited confidently as the landowner poured a glass of wine from his bottle, held it up to the light and drank. This time, he swallowed the wine, paused thoughtfully and then said "Tell me how you came to produce this wine."

Delighted, the second farmer carefully and loudly (for the benefit of all the other guests) went over each piece of research, and each book he'd read, and the glorious results his careful techniques had produced. He praised the computerized machinery that had so quickly harvested and pressed his grapes, all leading to the wonderful wine the owner had just consumed.

The landowner smiled ruefully. "Wine, it certainly is. Wonderful, it definitely is not. It is thin and sour. All those leaves and shoots on your vines stole nutrients from the grapes, and lack of strong sunlight meant the flavors of the grapes were never really concentrated. This is, what grapes there were. No vines that prolific produce large grape clusters, only small ones. And those machines? They probably added no small measure of twigs and leaves, and probably more than a few bugs. I can sell this, but will most likely only make enough to cover my costs. There won't be much profit left over for you." And the second farmer quickly found a quiet corner to sit and drink a glass of his own wine (which he personally thought was quite nice) and contemplate his misfortune.

The third farmer walked quietly to the landowner's table and watched him do as he had done with the other two. The landowner held his glass up to the light, paused briefly, and then drank slowly and deeply. He paused and then said "Tell me about your methods, farmer."

The farmer smiled. "Well, sir, they shouldn't be a surprise to you! When you kindly invted me to make wine in one of your fields, I just thought of the wine you offered us at that first party. Now, I didn't know much then about wine, but when I drank that, and you said you had other vineyards, well, sir, I just figured maybe you knew more than I did. And maybe, if I just asked you as many questions as I was allowed, maybe you'd help me come up with the right approach to make the kind of wine you liked. So that's what I did. Each week, when I came to tell you my plan and my progress, you answered all my questions, and gave me all the help I needed! You showed me all the soil reports you'd had done, which helped you know exactly which kinds of seeds would grow best on which parts of the land. And I remember you telling me about limestone, which absorbs water, and offers up just enough to the vines that when they really work for it, gives them both mosisture and extra nutrients. So I made sure to plant my seed exactly where the limestone would make the vines work the hardest.

"Then, the vines started to blossom, but instead of letting them grow any which way, you taught me to actually break isolated grapes off and leave just the solid clusters, and to tear off the leaves that would shade them too much from the sun. That made the grapes actually work harder to grow, and each grape had more sugar and more flavor, than if they were just left alone. And, of course, I always made sure the vines had the right kind of water, the kind that had plenty of that additive you gave me that you said was essential to make really good wine in this kind of soil.

"Finally, when it came time to harvest, I taught my family how to carefully pick each cluter of grapes, and then each grape from each cluster. It took a long time, but you warned me that twigs and stems wouldn't add anything good to the wine, and I just figured it was better to go with what you said, even though I sure did feel like cutting corners more than once! And, well, then you told me where I could find the winepress you'd had used on your other vintages, and I just thought you might like to know that this wine was done the same way. It took a little longer, but, well, you told me that most times it's the longer process that's the better one. And I just kept thinking about that wine that we'd drunk before and, well, sir, that's what I wanted to make.

"So I did. I hope you like it."

The landowner smiled. And smiled wider. And wider. Until he laughed a hearty laugh and threw his arms around the farmer, dousing hin with a good splash of the wine in the process.

"Farmer," said the owner delightedly "this is exactly what I hoped for. In all my decades of winemaking, this is the wine that I always believed could be made. It will make me a wealthier man than I already am, so wealthy that I am compelled to offer you, not just a fair market price for this wine, but also a permanent position on my estate as head vintner. From now on, you will make all my wine, following my methods. You can start tomorrow, when you tear out the vines of your colleagues and replant them, using all of the instructions and assistance I had prepared to offer them in the beginning, if they had only asked."

And the landowner called for a chair to be placed next to his, and the farmer and the landowner ate and drank and talked long into the night, of all the wonderful wine yet to be made.