It’s Never Too Late…

Farmgirl 2017

RdV Vineyards

Delaplane, Virginia


If someone asked me five years ago what I’d be doing today, I really don’t think my answer would have included writing a blog, taking art classes/painting, and pursuing my WSET (Wine and Spirit Education Trust based in London) Level 3 Award in Wines and Spirits.  But, here I am.

Five years ago, I was working in a public school setting, modeling correct production of various speech sounds for adorable kindergarteners, teaching some of the most inspiring nonverbal children sign language, and helping charming second graders construct sentences using prepositions, pronouns, and superlatives.  I was mostly in treatment sessions with students or doing paperwork: completing treatment notes, scoring tests, writing up evaluations, or initiating paperwork for eligibility or IEPs (Individual Education Plans).  I also spent a good deal of time in meetings discussing students’ needs for special education services, progress made in treatment, and the occasional behavior issue.  And, although I loved being a speech and language pathologist (SLP), I realized that it wasn’t where I began and ended.  It didn’t define me.  I’m a person who enjoys learning and having new experiences, and even though I loved and appreciated my little patch of grass, I still wanted to look over the garden wall to see what else was blooming on the other side.

Fortunately, I was able to continue to work in the field of speech and language pathology as an independent contractor. This extra time and flexibility allowed me to assist Farmguy with marketing and event planning associated with his business as well as a much yearned for opportunity to focus more attention on our farm.  It also enabled me to think a little more creatively. It’s during this time that I envisioned my children’s book and therapy tool, Clementine: The Communi-CAT, A Guide for Teaching Social Communication Skills.  I self-published this book in 2014, and afterwards, my publisher suggested I start a blog to promote it.

I felt grateful and privileged to work in a field that has such a positive and powerful impact on the lives of others, and while I continued to advocate for people with communication disorders through my job and volunteer work, I didn’t want to blog about speech and language issues every day.  I loved it for the nearly 20 years that I spent doing it, but I wanted to put energy into something different.  I wanted to have a platform where I could express myself through writing and photography, while sharing my love of Green Hill Farm as well as my interests in travel and wine in a creative and uplifting way.  So, in September 2014, I started my blog, Fourth Generation Farmgirl—Wool and Wine to Tractors and Travel.

Earlier that same year, due to our interest in wine, a client of Farmguy’s recommended a documentary film on wine called, “Somm.”  The film follows a group of young men on their journey to becoming Master Sommeliers—or wine experts.  It’s fast-paced, exciting, and a little bit stressful.  These guys were able to identify wines, often completely blind, just by using their nose and palate.  It. Was. Stunning.  They reeled off characteristics of wine, such as; clarity, intensity, color, condition, aroma, sweetness, acidity, tannins, body, flavor, finish, quality—not to mention grape variety, and many times, vineyard and vintage…all in about a minute.  The more I watched the film, the more I was impressed, and I remembered thinking….I want to know what they know.  Afterwards, I talked to Farmguy about taking an introductory wine class just for fun. We took the Level 1 course, passed the exam, and were hooked.  Time passed, and I mentioned that we really should take our WSET Level 2, especially since we have such a strong interest in wine, where and how it’s grown, techniques used in making it, and a love of sharing all this wonderful information with friends and family.

So, this past summer, Farmguy and I signed up for the WSET Level 2 intensive course, and I mean intensive.  This class is usually taken over a six week period with lots of time to process and digest the information; however, since the wine school offering this course is 3 1/2 hours away, we decided to do the intensive, instead.  Our study materials were mailed to us about two weeks ahead of time, and we studied every day for hours prior to the class, which was scheduled on a Friday through Sunday–9 am to 4 pm.  Before the course, we made note cards and drilled each other on the regions of the world that produced Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Riesling, Cabernet/Merlot, Syrah/Grenache, and sparkling wines.  We had to know things like the following:  wine classification systems for France, Italy, Spain, and Germany; how climate affects different grape varieties; the three ways to make sweet wines; labeling hierarchies for Bordeaux, Burgundy, Chianti, and German Rieslings; correct temperatures for serving white, red, sweet, and sparkling wines; how to write tasting notes on countless varieties of French, Italian, Spanish, and German wines; Port and Sherry production methods; processes for making whisky, tequila, rum, and much more.  I really thought my head was going to explode!

Let me just say this, the memory of a 40–something person is much different than that of a 20–something person.  I thought remembering information for my graduate level neuroanatomy course kicked my butt.  I almost cried trying to remember the eight major grape varieties and the regions in the world where they grew.  In retrospect, I’m pretty sure I studied more for my WSET Level 2 than I did for my neuro class.  Anyway, it was worth it.  Leading up to the exam, we were all given practice tests to assess how we were doing.  Farmguy and I consistently scored well and felt fairly confident about the final test.  On the day of our exam, we all came back from lunch and entered a room that had been prepared as if we were taking the SAT:  Our seats were staggered, we were given number 2 pencils and identification numbers, the instructions were read aloud reminding us to put all papers away and not to talk, and the exams and answers sheets were passed out to everyone. Then, we had to carefully fill-in all those annoying bubbles corresponding to our names and numbers, remembering not to begin the exam until the instructor indicated it was time.  At precisely 2 pm, we opened our test booklets and began the exam which was made up of 50 multiple choice questions.

Although the instructor had given us tips on answering the questions by using a process of elimination if we got stuck, I hoped I wouldn’t need to do this, especially since I felt prepared.  I started reading the first question, and when I didn’t immediately know the answer, I read the second, third, fourth, and fifth questions—and then I started to panic.  These WSET people were clever and tricky, and it was quickly becoming clear that this exam would not be straight-forward…at all.  After I re-covered from my internal mini-melt down and got my heartbeat steady again, I continued through the exam, placing stars by the questions I would return to at the end. After the first few minutes, I settled into a rhythm and was doing fine…that is until Riverdance started up in the classroom below ours.  You see, the wine school is located in a building full of dance classes, and what had been silent for most of the weekend now sounded like a full blown Irish jig on steroids—the foot stomping was deafening.  Now, for some people, this isn’t a big deal. But, for me, it was the equivalent of sitting next to a jet getting ready to take off.  I require silence for major concentration, especially for recalling information I just crammed into my 40-something brain just days earlier.

Even though I drilled my fingers into my ears, I still couldn’t concentrate with the unrelenting and vibrating sound coming through the floor.  I could feel my face getting hot as I read and re-read the same question–over and over.  It was difficult, but over the next hour I continued making my way through the questions.  Out of my peripheral vision, I could see other folks getting up to pass in their exams—anxiety draped me like a wet blanket.  I still had eight questions left.  I was so frustrated.  At this point, I just wanted to put my pencil down, hand in the exam, and dissolve into a puddle of tears.  But, I didn’t.  I knew the math for passing with distinction–and that meant I could only miss seven questions.  At this point, I knew there were already a few I couldn’t be completely sure that I had answered correctly.  I went back, focused as much as possible, and completed the exam.  To say I was distraught afterwards would be an understatement, but I had done my best and that was all I could do.  Now, I just had to wait six weeks to see if I passed.  A little over a month later, Farmguy and I were informed that we had both passed with distinction. We were elated!  And, I’m happy to say we’re starting our WSET Level 3 soon.  It’s a ten week course beginning in February, and we’re really excited!

Besides working on my WSET Level 3 over the next several months, I’m also taking a painting class weekly.  I’ve really enjoyed painting and learning more about the concepts and techniques related to creating beautiful art.  Over the past year, I’ve painted occasionally; however, this year I’ve decided to be more disciplined about it.  So, I transformed the guest bedroom into a studio which is more conducive to painting regularly, especially since I don’t have to set up my easel and paints each time I want to use them.  This way, I’m much more motivated to paint every day.

Here’s the thing:  It’s never too late.

It’s never too late to learn, try something new, have an adventure, follow your dreams, embrace your passions, do good, inspire others, enjoy life—and, it’s never too late to climb the garden wall …and bloom!

“Bloom,” 6 x 6 acrylic on canvas

by Tonya R. Hengerer


With that in mind, I’ve decided to share my art and wine adventures through a new feature on my blog called, Art and The Vine.  This new addition will highlight a favorite artist, a museum exhibit, or a piece of artwork (maybe even some of mine) as well as anything and everything wine related.  I’m really looking forward to this journey, and I hope you will join me! Many thanks for reading this long and rambling post, and as always, a heartfelt thank you for following my blog. 🙂 xoxo




  1. Congrats to you and Farmguy on acing your WSET tests!! Whoo hoo!! I am glad you found your happiness. I am far from there and am trying hard to get there. Thanks for your inspiration and that it is possible 😊

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I am excited about your Art & The Vine feature on your blog … two of my favorite things! … and looking forward to seeing more of your art! Love your rose painting. 😊
    Wishing you and Farmguy all the best in your Level 3 course!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you for your encouragement, Donna. 🙂 I’m looking forward to the new feature, too. I think it will be a lot of fun! As for the rose painting—thank you for your compliment. Coming from you, that means a lot! It’s the first flower I’ve painted, and I really didn’t know what I was doing. 😊


  3. Enjoyed reading this blog and your beautiful photos. Being an artist myself, I will enjoy following you I’m sure. Best wishes and hope to make it to your farm to paint soon. And if you ever come to DT Roanoke, stop in the 202 Bldg., I am in studio 13. Would love to meet you.
    Sinc, Sue

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Wow, Tonya, that exam sounded hard enough to begin with, without the added distraction of the stomping! Congratulations to you and Farmguy for passing with distinction!
    As I have mentioned before, I think you have a real talent for your painting and artwork, and I know you always put everything you have into whatever you are doing.
    I know that you will do well in your next exam and I look forward to the new features on your blog. 🙂 xx

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Reblogged this on and commented:
    Tonya’s journey and adventures are amazing. Visit her blog to read about her picturesque family farm, along with fabulous recipes and photographs. We’ll look forward to reading about your WSET Level 3 success soon Tonya!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I was practically sweating in my seat reading about that exam! Huge congratulations to the both of you for passing it with flying colors! And you are right, it’s NEVER to late to pursue your passions. Keep up the fantastic work! xoxoxo

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I love this! As a mom of a special needs kid I know IEP meetings. My sister is SLP so she has seen it from that side of the table. I applaud you in your life choice of helping people, and that you chose to make change. Good for you, and thanks for being an inspiration for those of us who read/ follow your blog.

    Liked by 1 person

    • How lovely! Thank you very much. I’m delighted you enjoy my blog and many thanks for following it. 🙂
      Being an SLP is a wonderful career and opportunity to improve someone’s life. I’ve always been thankful for my choice to be one, because it seldom felt like a job. I hope your child is doing well and progressing in his or her program. All the best!! 🌻


  8. Tonya, you are so talented, with a big, genuine heart. You are sweet and generous with your love and talents. I admire you and Scott, your lives and your wonderful accomplishments ! Keep on doing new and exciting things and sharing them with all us!❤️

    Liked by 1 person

  9. It is truly a pleasure to read of your journeys and adventures. Total delight to view your photos. Inspiring, all of it. Your life seems full, and VERY well-balanced.
    I still don’t know much about wine, but I do know what I like, and that’s nice 🙂
    I never could paint as well as I wanted to, that might be a good pastime later in life — not because I’m putting it off, but because I don’t have enough time or space at present.
    I agree, it’s never too late.Thanks always, for sharing ❤

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you for such a kind and thoughtful comment, Joey. 🙂
      As far as wine is concerned, what you know is the main thing. If you enjoy what you’re drinking, then that is the entire point. You don’t have to know the ins and outs of a grape variety to have a positive experience, you just have to like it! And, with painting or anything else, there’s a season for it. I don’t paint as well as I would like either, but I hope to improve over time. 😊
      Once again, many thanks for your positive and encouraging words. ❤️


  10. Congratulations! Now you need to visit Switzerland and discover our well-kept secret – we produce some excellent wines here, but drink them all ourselves because they are much too good to export!

    Liked by 1 person

  11. First congratulations to you both for a job well done, that is terrific. I totally agree with you about it never being too late to climb the garden wall and pursue something new. I’m sure I’m going to enjoy your new posts on art and wine.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Good for you! What an inspiring story for me. I have some lofty goals for myself, art especially and master gardening. Oh, I REALLY want to be a writer. I want to do it NOW, however, retirement is a few years away. You have made me reconsider waiting. Congratulations and best wishes-I am looking forward to “art and the vine”.


  13. Good for you!! 5 years ago I never thought I would be living on a homestead, soapmaking, picking wild medicinals, blogging! I’m proud of you for following your bliss and reminder others that it’s never too late to follow theirs. Thanks for stopping by our blog this week, you visit brought some spirit to the day!


  14. Such a great post Tonya. I really appreciated hearing some of your backstory. And quite right about the ability to study and memorize taking a dive with age; who knew?! Your description of the test is epic – “Riverdance” no less!

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.