Thursday, September 29, 2011

Lies, and the Lying Liar who told them

Warning - this isn't my usual happy sort of post.  Today's post is a bit of a "get it off my chest" post, and also an update to so many of you who have asked about the winery and the blueberries.  Ah, the blueberries indeed.  Let's go back in history a little bit, so we are all on the same page.  You'll remember that I decided to move back to Canada in October....just about a year ago.  I had mixed feelings about leaving Iowa, the land that I had grown to love, my friends, my flock, my really good job, and law school, which was nearly finished.  All of that, I decided to leave behind, to start a new life back in Canada, my homeland.  I was excited to be going "home" and excited to be facing a new challenge - working for myself.  I was really excited to be carrying on the tradition of a blueberry wine business that had started nearly 30 years ago.  Lowbush blueberries are a native plant in Nova Scotia, and I was going to be growing them and making the most wonderful sweet velvety wines from these delightful little berries.

You may also remember that I visited the property around Christmas, when it was snow covered and cold and icy.  I spent time talking to the owner who was quite ill, learning a little bit about the business, the history of it, and what I'd be doing.  Richard did much of the leg work on the review and purchase of the property, since he works in real estate, and lived in the area.  It was much easier for him to do it.  I knew the house was desperately in need of TLC and updating.  I knew the farm was somewhat overgrown and would need work, but I was able to see the potential, taking the word of the senior owner, seriously ill, with nothing to lose, as the ultimate truth.

So thus it was, that I came here, with some expectations, based on statements from the owner, including...

  • * he had promised to teach us how to make the wine as soon as we moved in, which would including how to use all the winery equipment - the bottling, the sanitation, the corking, labeling, the use and cleaning of the fruit press, the wine vats, etc.
  • * he had promised to give us the recipes for the 12 wines that he made, stating that they would be in the file cabinet in his home office when we moved in
  • * he had assured us that the 3-point-hitch post hole digger was in great working order
  • * he had assured us that the brush mower on the property was in great working order
  • * he had assured us that the electrical system was "ready to go" and simply needed switches added in the upper level of the house
  • * he had strongly implied that his wife was dead and that he was a lonely widower
  • * he had assured us that within 2 years, the overgrown fields could be brought back into full blueberry production as he had been using them a mere 2 years before that
  • * he had assured us that the oil furnace (normal in Nova Scotia) and wood furnace in the basement were in perfect order
It was a private sale.  We purchased the farm as a residence, not a business.  This was because the interest rates are markedly different for home purchases versus business purchases.  This was also because there was some difficulty with my having been out of the country for 9 years...I was treated as a "foreigner," which meant that down payments even on a residence were necessarily much higher than normal.  A business purchase would have been out of the question.  Accordingly, none of the business aspects were included in the contract, because it would have turned it into a business purchase, which was not advisable for financial reasons.  But why on earth would a sweet, elderly man, who was anxious to pass on his legacy and his knowledge, lie about anything to do with the business?  We trusted him without question.  

So, at the last minute, it turned out that all the paperwork needed to be changed.  Why?  Because we had put all the paperwork in his name.  He informed us that it had to be in his wife's name.  Huh?  But she's....oh...no, she was not dead.  She was very much alive.  She had left him in 1997 of her own accord, and had been paying on the property, which was in her name, ever since.  Wow.  So, all the paperwork was changed.  I was uncomfortable, but by then, we were in "full-steam-ahead" mode.  Small glitch, we thought.  No problem.

Then, suddenly he wanted a paragraph included that allowed him to stay on the property for up to 3 more months, because he was in-and-out of hospital for blood transfusions and other procedures.  We sighed a big sigh, and acquiesced.  Many things were put on hold.  I could have worked for a couple more months, but as it was, I had to live with my dear parents, who were terribly kind about the whole thing and allowed us to inhabit the spare bedroom for 2 months.  Finally...it was moving day.  We were thrilled to be moving ahead.

Since then, we have been unfortunate enough to have learned the following;
  • * the former owner refuses to help us learn anything whatsoever about making wine.  He will not teach us how to use the equipment or what to do with the existing wine in the vats in the winery.  He has stated that his ex-wife is the one with all the information on how to make wine.  She left in 1997.  He was making wine until 2008.  Enough said.  Lies, lies, lies.
  • * the recipes were not in the file cabinet, and he at first kept promising them, and then eventually said that his ex-wife had all the recipes, and we would have to get them from her.  She is a lovely person who has come to visit and has tried to reason with him, to no avail.  She never had any recipes.  She never had anything to do with the wine production.  He's just a liar.  We don't even know if they ARE written down anywhere - they may have been in his head.  Whatever the case...we don't have them.
  • * the 3-point-hitch post hole digger was bent, and completely unusable.  I had sold mine, prior to leaving Iowa, based on the assumption that we had a working one at the property.  Big oops, based on a lie.
  • * the brush mower on the property was rusted beyond use and partially buried underground.  We subsequently learned that he had "built" it himself (he used to work as an engineer for Caterpillar) and it had been the subject of a lawsuit, which he lost, because he had not followed through on a contract to build an operational brush mower for the company that hired him to do so.  Liar, liar, pants on fire!
  • * the electrical system was a complete mess and the upstairs level of the house had no power.  We've had an electrician spend about 3 weeks on the place until we ran out of money, and it's still not done.  
  • * the overgrown fields that we had on the 66 acres we bought had NEVER been used for blueberry production.  He sold the 40 acres of blueberry land before we bought the remaining 66 acres.  The land is not even suitable for blueberry production because it is too wet.  This was not evident in the winter when we viewed it, and we did not know enough about blueberries to know better.  The neighbour who bought the 40 acres might be willing to sell, but that would require us to have some income with which to buy back the actual blueberry land.  Now that was a really BIG lie!
  • * the oil furnace (normal in Nova Scotia) cannot be insured because the tank is metal and we need to have a fiberglass tank installed.  The wood furnace does not heat a large portion of the house because the ductwork does not extend there.  Sigh.  Lies....
This is just the major stuff.  I can't even begin to remember all the small details and issues we've had, many of which were embroiled in lies we were told about the property, its value, its potential, or the existing buildings. One example is that none of the barns, in their present condition, were usable, because they were either falling down, full of rotting wood, or otherwise compromised.  We don't expect two of them to last the winter.  

Everything I left behind was based on the premise that here, I would have a business to run, and a moderate income generated from that business.  I would not have left Iowa if that had not been the case.  I am not usually a risk-taker, and I certainly would not have taken on this property under the circumstances in which I now find myself.  It was a house of cards....lies upon lies that propelled us forward into the purchase, trusting that we had a viable business to run.  The Nova Scotia Liquor Commission, which is the government body responsible for the distribution and sale of alcohol in the province, is simply desperate for the product that this winery used to sell.  They wanted 500 cases as soon as possible.  And here we are, without a single case, because of a lying liar and the lies he told.  

Furthermore, we've learned from neighbours over the past few months, that he was renowned for this sort of behaviour.  In fact, he's been in several lawsuits over time, and has lost them all.  After his losses, he apparently approaches the winning party and tells them it was a "good fight" and congratulates them on their win, but points out with a laugh that they will never see any of their winnings because everything is in his ex-wife's name, and he has no way to meet the judgment imposed upon him.  In fact, nobody around here liked him or trusted him, and most people are not all that surprised by what has happened in our dealings with him.  It seems to be his "usual" way of operating.  

I am not usually a bitter or vengeful person, but this entire situation has made me so angry, so cynical and jaded, so hurt and defeated, that I barely recognize myself some days.  It has been the biggest disaster of my life, and hopefully will be the only disaster of this proportion.  Richard has to keep his job in the city working for possibly the most immoral and obnoxious boss on the face of the Earth.  He commutes over 1.5 hours each way to keep us afloat, because there is no farm winery income.  Meanwhile, I am trying to make the house a decent place to live, removing the years of neglect and slowly updating things, but I can only do so much on my own.  I am also working furiously at my fibre arts, attempting to build stock for the Nova Scotia Fibre Festival in October, so that I can actually bring some income as well.  

Meanwhile, we are taking stock of what we have, our assets on the farm, to see what we can do.  We have winery equipment that is likely outdated and inefficient.  We do have a large space though, with stainless steel counters and sinks, which might be useful.  We have 66 acres of land, including pasture and woodlands.  We are trying to consider all possibilities, such as...
  • growing other types of berries for wine production
  • using the winery space for other purposes, such as a goat or sheep milking facility and cheese production area
  • turning the winery space into a fibre production facility, in essence becoming a "mini mill"
  • installing fences and considering livestock, such as alpaca, angora goats, or other fibre animals
  • growing specialty crops that have a market in the region
  • buying blueberries from the local blueberry production facility (we are in the "heart" of blueberry country") and developing our own recipes, and slowly upgrading the winery facility and equipment.
Truly, we are open to any and all ideas at this point.  Anything is on the table.  We may have lost a few battles and some pride in this process, but we have not lost our personal skills and adaptability.  We will survive, and eventually we will thrive, but there is a lot of healing to be done, and a lot of work in the future.  We are making arrangements to have an agricultural consultant view the property and help us determine what might work for us.  It is bound to be a long and rocky road.

Do you have ideas for us?  Thoughts or suggestions on how to move forward?  We are all ears!  In the meantime, you will find me licking my wounds, trying to stop crying, and trying really hard not to regret all my decisions.  One day at a time.  So, when you ask how the winery is, I'm sorry to say, it isn't.  

32 comments:

Mimi Foxmorton said...

Oh, my sweet luv.......

The Universe does not abandon anyone with as much trust, love and purity as you and Richard have.

I know that most anything else I say right now would just be a crappy platittude but you have come to this wondrous and magical place that can be so much MORE than a mere winery.

You have the potential to have your own piece of paradise. And if that means making coin in a way other than you'd planned well then, so be it.

I picture you, spinning, putting forth the most wondrous fiber arts creations, and being the village mother who tends the flock.

And remember.......no matter what you have to sell you have your first tour bus booked and ready to visit the moment you give the word........

Leap luv.....leap and the net will appear..............

All my love and Blessings........
You *will* turn this around..........I have no doubt.

xoxoxox
~Mimi

ps. Mayhap you could start a SIsterhood of the Goat Farm for all us wayward herders.........
;)

farmer said...

Claire
I'm so saddened by this...what a awful awful man.
Your ideas sound wonderful but it is such a shame to have to be caught in the middle of all this evil. :(

Texan said...

oh my gosh, I am so sorry.

Can you take this man to court? Obviously he is no stranger to the court room. He is notorious for scamming people it seems. Well I guess you would know whether this could be done or not as you are all but an attorney...

If you can, then maybe get back your investment and walk away? Buy a different property? I realize you have put some sweat equity in there but if the land is no good for farming?

I don't understand how people live with themselves that are like that!

Again very sorry to hear all of this.

Lola Nova said...

Oh Claire,
I am devastated for you! What an awful situation to happen to such a good person. I can't imagine how you must be feeling. I am sending all the good thoughts I can muster and will put on my thinking cap for you. I have no idea what grows in your neck of the woods. Maybe an herb that is in demand and goes for a good price like ginseng (or what will grow in your soil)...?

Hugs to you, I know you will make it through, you are in my thoughts.
xo

Pricilla said...

Goat hugs from all of us here. I sent you a message on facebook from the male person.

Pricilla said...

Oh, and Karma has obviously given the SOB exactly what he deserves

thecrazysheeplady said...

Can you lease the blueberry acreage?

I wouldn't care about losing "his" recipes and no account knowledge. Get rid of anything to do with him. That wine wouldn't have been any good I am sure of that.

Hard to make much money raising animals. Cheese sounds interesting though. Maybe a little wine and a little cheese. Wine and cheese tours! :-D

Regardless, that farm has to be breathing such a huge sigh of relief to be rid of him. It will show you what it can do or be and is glad you are there.

Marigold said...

Oy. What a mess! But I am a firm believer in that things happen as they should and for a reason. You just haven't discovered it yet. Boggy land - hmmm - perhaps cranberries? Wild rice? Where there is a will, there is a way, and I know you will find it! I just know it! MiMi is correct in saying that the Universe will not abandon you. You will come up with something bigger and better. That man will get his just reward one way or the other. I just hope you get to hear about it when he does. :)

Spinners End Farm said...

Shake him off and let his influence go.

I like the fiber mill idea and your acreage abound with animals. (Remember you need some angora rabbits!) Is there another fiber mill anywhere nearby? Make lots of connections at your fiber fair! Start weaving Scottish tartans for Antigonish!

Since there is a demand for blueberry wine in the area, why not making connections with blueberry producers and making a truly local blueberry wine? Is there an opportunity for a collective since you have the facilities? I love the idea, and as Mimi so eloquently said "the tour bus is booked".

Not a risk taker? I beg to differ! Look back at all you have done. Maybe survivor with her head held high is a good substitute.

If anyone can make this successful it is you (and Richard)!

Hugs,
Sherry

K Park said...

Ugh. I'm so sorry that you are in this situation.

If I understand your situation correctly, you immediately need cash flow so you can make the property more comfortable and invest further in it. Is there a local community college, community schools program, 4H, entrepreneurship incubator, etc. . . that could perhaps connect you with one or more groups of people who might be interested in renting one or more of your spaces or partnering with you in wine production?

If you partner with someone in the short term, you have a bit more time to figure out if you want to do the bigger investment into wine making.

I'd think someone already into wine making would give you some lessons for all of the currently in process wine (you can't do much w/ it w/o lessons).

angela said...

I am so sorry about all the lies, when this happens just remember that not all people are like this man and there are nice honest people in the world too! I dont have any ideas as I dont know your area at all. Maybe ask the farmers in your area what works and what doesnt.
But whatever you decided I wish you all the luck in the world.

K Park said...

Heck, if you were in Saskatchewan (in other words, much closer to Montana), I think I even know someone who makes fruit wines.

Nancy K. said...

I am so terribly sorry to hear about the horrible mess that evil man created for you. My heart just breaks for you.

I don't have any suggestions Claire, other than to hold your head high and give yourself credit for what you have already accomplished in spite of his lies. You packed up your life and crossed a continent to follow a dream! You are making that abused/neglected shack into a home. You are maintaining your relationship with Richard and providing a loving home for your goats.

You'll come through this. Where I would want to lie down and die, you are already considering other options. Perhaps you've already thought of the one that will work for you ~ perhaps it hasn't even occurred to you yet. Whatever you decide, it will be an adventure.

I wish that there was some way that I could help. I wish that we could ALL help each other! I wish that lies and broken hearts and lost dreams and animal cruelty and child abuse never happened. But wishing isn't going to make this better! You and Richard will. I'll be here, cheering you on...

KEEP DANCING!!!

Flartus said...

Wow, farming is hard enough without suddenly finding yourself plopped behind the proverbial eight ball!

My first thought was cheese, and your background with fiber makes that an easy choice. Goats, alpacas, rabbits...whatever you can use that land for. And cranberries had crossed my mind, too.

Are there many horse owners or livestock raisers around the area? Maybe in the short term you could lease pasture out--at least that would keep things cut down a bit. Or if you go the fibre way, you could do your own "living history" weekends for people to come out, see you spin and meet the prettiest goat in the hemisphere!

So sorry you got screwed...but hopefully this is just a delay, and not a total loss. Bon courage!

fullfreezer said...

Oh, how AWFUL!! I'm sure karma will come back and bite him in the nether regions! But enough of him. He's not worth it.
Find your own wine recipes. Make cheese. I like the idea of cheese and wine. Have bees and make mead or blueberry melomel (blueberry and honey wine). Spin. Do all of the above. Make it a destination! The possibilities are endless.
Best of luck to you. I'm sure you will come up with something brilliant.
Maybe we can ship you something from Iowa to help!
Judy

edenhills said...

If you have the apples, I can provide some amazing apple wine recipes! There's always dairy for cheese and soap. What about pumpkins or strawberries. There's an unlimited number of possibilities once you see what the ag specialist says will grow well. Such a shame that people will treat you that way. I had some of those kinds of lies when I bought my property, but nothing to that extreme.

Teresa

Millie said...

I say let Lucky Nickel butt him!

Mare said...

ugh............ It is so hard to accept that there are such rotten, dishonest, bold faced LYING people out there. But there are... I agree with some of the comments here. Maybe it is a good time to drop the old dream for the farm and sit with it and see what dreams come up for you. Claire, you are such an animal person..and a fiber person. I can see the beautiful roving and yarn...and the cheese.. i can almost taste the cheese..and maybe wine, but you OWN wine that has nothing to do with him. You are such a strong woman. Let it go if you can. Being angry with him and his lies just keeps you tied to him. There is a reason you fell in love with this place enough to pick up and move from so far away. Take some time to get used to some new ideas and maybe you can see the Blessing in it all along...I send my love! mare

IsobelleGoLightly said...

I can never imagine someone like that man who can live in the world like that. Miserable, miserable man. I like Mimi's words, "the Universe does not abandon anyone with as much trust, love and purity as you and Richard have".

Much love from us.....xoxoxoxoxoxo

Louise said...

What an ass. No, sorry, that's an insult to donkeys everywhere. He'll get his, someday, and I hope that you are there to see it.

But, in the meantime, put it all aside, as much as you can. You can't do anything about it, now, and it's best to move forward.

If it's too wet for blueberries, can you grow some other type of berry that tolerates the conditions better. What about elderberries? You're so good with fiber, maybe you can figure out some kind of specialty items that would have a market.

Your place is beautiful. Hmmm, maybe in the future, after you get the house fixed up, you could do some bed and breakfasting?

Marigold said...

Meade! Awesome idea!!!! You could make the hives and usually when someone has bees, they are always needing to get rid of some swarms. That might be a great idea. You could have honey for sale, make Meade, spin, make goat/sheep cheese and soaps. And cranberries still might work. They need the moisture, but they like the acidic soil that blueberries like too. Or blackberries, raspberries ...

Judith said...

I am so happy to have found your blog, but horrified to read all this. What a catastrophe. And what a horrible lying devious evil sod you have had the misfortune to deal with. My thoughts are with you. You will come through this. Mimi has the right of it - the Universe will not abandon you.

Midas P Goat esq said...

Hi Claire,

I rarely post to blogs, but your situation was so compelling. We were planning on moving to Maine, so I was looking for ways to make a living farming. We came across a couple from PA that were growing elderberries, making syrup from them and selling it for about $15 for a 4oz bottle. Being that you have some moist property and you have a winery set-up, this may be an option. Google Maine Medicinals and Maine elderberry syrup for more info.

Good Luck and thanks for sharing Lucky Nickel and her friends with us!

Annie

Midas P Goat esq said...

Hi Claire,

I rarely post to blogs, but your situation is very compelling. When my husband and I were trying to move to Maine, I was looking for a way to make a living farming. We found a couple from PA that used the elderberries that were already on their land and they were making syrup and selling it for about $15 for 4oz. They were selling out within a couple of months. With your moist land and winery set-up, maybe this would work for you. Also check out black raspberry sryup. They both sell well in health food stores, although there are restrictions for growing the raspberries dur to white rust disease. Google Maine Medicinals and Maine elderberry syrup for more info.

Thanks so much for sharing Lucky Nickel and her friends with us! Good Luck!

Midas P

Laura said...

I also recently had a sale blow up rather spectacularly... Suffice it to say that the buyer was the liar and his girlfriend didn't even know...

I like the cranberry idea - Here in Oregon, where blueberries can't thrive, cranberries do. I'll bet if you added bees to your farm, you could make awesome cranberry mead.

Hang in there... The universe will provide for you and take care of him as he deserves.

iowa law said...

Life is an education. Consider the money you paid for things that did not pan out as expected part of the tuition. I am sure many of concepts that were mere abstractions at Drake Law School are now very concrete. Don't waste any mental energy on Mr. Liar. You paid him for the things that were important and you must have enjoyed the performance to so willingly have suspended your disbelief when the various red flags popped up.

Thank you for sharing your story and allowing your friends to learn from your experience. No one will read your tale and say, "I will just leap and the net will appear." No, they will say major decisions and due diligence are good companions. Caveat emptor.

Limette said...

I am so sorry. What a horrible, horrible man.

I have no advice other than, avoid cheesemaking like the plague. We looked into and talked to other cheesemakers and the amount of money it takes is crazy. Plus they keep changing the rules so you have be constantly sinking more money into it. The market is there but the regulations make it impossible to turn a profit.

Bachar Farms said...

Wow!! Amazing how much cruelty there is in the world. I will pray for you guys. Its is my hope that out of all this something incredible and amazing comes out and triumphs over all.

Bachar Farms said...

Wow!! Amazing how much cruelty there is in the world. I will pray for you guys. Its is my hope that out of all this something incredible and amazing comes out and triumphs over all.

Catherine Todd said...

This sort of thing happened to me more than once, but somehow I survived. I can only think that there are angels working side-by-side to overcome these devils that are with us (against us!) all the time. I've run into to many liars in my time and I feel for you. I really do.

All I can say is, in a *few* years you WILL have survived all this and something new WILL have opened all the doors and you WILL be able to look back on this experience and see where this twist and turn in the road took you.

Until then, all we can do is ask God to show us The Way. And my heart is with you all the way. Keep writing. Your blog is wonderful, as it's clear you are, too. Thanks.

Catherine Todd said...

PS: There's a lot of new farmers that take on interns who will come and work for free, just for room and board. Look into this. It could be very exciting and you could have a school for spinning and weaving, too. Along with some kind of wine business later on.

Lots of ideas here, even if they are different from before. And may that liar burn in you-know-where and you can laugh while he has dug his own grave! God is Just and Merciful, and hopefully Justice will come first. In this world AND in the next!

Catherine Todd said...

How about a Kickstarter.com project that could bring in cash right away? You have quite a following that would probably help fund your ideas...