While the rest of you outside of Southern California are huddled by fires (or freezing your private-parts off), it’s been over 70 degrees here in Blue-Merle Country the last week and the weeds are sprouting. We tried to go organic last year and I let the weeds grow, attacking them with a hoe and a weed-whacker, but the foxtails waxed strong and set their booby-traps finding their way between Bluey’s toes causing another $1,000 vet bill and a violent tongue-thrashing from Bluey’s matron against the environmentalist who let the weeds get out of control. As I have vowed today, and will vow tomorrow, "to make everyone I meet a ‘raving fan’" -- (for this to work as a philosophical way of life "everyone" includes your spouse)-- I am obeying the pleas of The Queen who runs this place to round-up the weeds with a back-pack sprayer, transforming me into a clone warrior from a Star Wars movie. Since it is difficult for me to pick up a pen with those thick gloves, I have asked her to write a letter to the President-elect excusing me from his inauguration, as there is too much work on the farm to attend. The President-elect knows that in our nation’s hour of need when he requires an assistant who speaks Japanese, Chinese, Russian, German & French to help him negotiate the economic recovery and peace with the world’s leaders he can count on me, and, following the example of Cincinnatus of ancient history I will drop my plow and go to Washington with a case of wine as my secret weapon. Meantime, it's out to the vineyard.
In addition to the deadly foxtails (one of those in a dog’s ear will penetrate his brain), there is annoying thistle which spreads faster than mint. The vines have lost their leaves and the buds are beginning to bulge and I wonder if the warm weather may result in an early bud-break this year and how that would effect the grapes and the taste of the wine. Lum says that "good wine is made in the vineyard" and I believe him. The vines look fine and the weeds are only a problem at the bottom of the hill where the dirt is rich and the spraying is soon finished. The buds of the almond trees, however, are bursting and so are the apple trees and this can’t be good for them because it is still too early in the season and apples need chill.
The new President, as the chief steward of our land, will be called upon to weed the government of out of control programs and to plant seeds of future growth. Were it as easy as managing a vineyard.
One of my New Year’s resolutions was to refinance the mortgage – it seems that almost all of our money is going to pay interest to the bank for this property leaving very little for women and wine. By not eating out; by not getting cable or satellite TV; by buying as little food as possible and living on home grown grapefruit, persimmons, avocados, oranges, bread and wine; by not buying a clothes dryer; by not buying Starbucks; by not hiring any helping-hands to assist us in the vineyard and by working hard and earning some commissions I managed to pay off a credit card this week and I thought it the perfect time to contact Chase Home Mortgage about a refinance. Now, like the rest of you, we pay our mortgage on time and we pay our bills and I have never declared bankruptcy and I’m not about to walk away from this property so it is discouraging when the fellow from Chase responds immediately that there doesn’t appear to be enough equity in the home to do a refinance. While laboring in the vineyard thoughts become clear and it occurs to me that I pay the Federal Government taxes each month, and I pay the Federal Government social security each month, and I pay the Federal Government Medicare tax each month and it doesn’t seem to be an issue. They know where I am and they just take it out of my paycheck and they get their money. So how much trouble would it be for The Government to take a mortgage payment out of my paycheck too? Chase Home Mortgage is able to borrow money short term at close to 0% interest from the Federal Reserve Bank of that same Government and at slightly higher rates for longer term loans, and I’m paying Chase 6.5% on a "Jumbo Loan" and they are making a ton of money off of me. Because most of my money is going to Chase there’s no money for me to spend on Starbucks, batteries for the digital camera, restaurants, nannies, vacations, clothes, dog sitters, Home Depot supplies, meat, Christmas presents, college tuition and all the rest, and my not spending, combined with millions of my neighbors in similar situations, is dragging our economy back to the depths of 1932. Now, suppose the Federal Government held my mortgage and I paid the Feds 2.5% interest – not only would the Feds make money (given their low cost of borrowing), but hundreds of dollars a month – if not a thousand – would be freed-up as discretionary income. And if you multiply that by a few million people it becomes "real money" and wouldn’t that be a boost for the economy? You bet it would. We could spend more. We could also save more for retirement. Wishful thinking? Perhaps. On the other hand, perhaps not. "Yes we can!" -- can’t we? For those of you attending the inaugural balls next week, please feel free to pass along this idea.
Back to the weeds and the gophers. The spraying is done (or, at least I’m done) and it’s only 3pm and since I’m the "making a raving fan out of everyone" perfect husband today, next on the list is replacing the light bulbs. We get that done without falling off the ladder and the Queen is impressed and I suggest let’s go down to the local wine shop and taste some wines. It’s Saturday dog days at the wine shop and we can bring Bluey and leave him on the terrace while we taste the wine and get a fish taco across the street when we’re done and it won’t cost that much. It’s our wedding anniversary next week and wouldn’t it be grand to eat out for a change and since I paid down that credit card let’s treat ourselves to a little treat. The Queen says that if we do that I’m going to end up spending money buying a bottle of wine and more so why don’t we just stay at home and enjoy a glass of wine by the gazebo? That’s a great idea I say (since I’m mister enthusiastic today) and I know that she’s right about spending money. So I stuff a bottle of Malbec in my right pocket and a bottle of Blue-Merlot in the left pocket and grab a shovel and a couple of gopher traps and head to "the gazebo" with Bluey. We call it the gazebo because it’s the one flat area of our property with a 220 degree panoramic view to the Pacific Ocean and Catalina Island and Big Bear and all the mountains. It’s the perfect spot for a gazebo after we refinance our mortgage and our Princess finishes college and when there’s some money to spend. It’s priceless to watch the sun sink below the horizon of the Pacific and the sky turn orange and we sample triple cream brie on crackers with fruit of the vine. It has been quite a day. To start, Bluey and I were up before dawn and we jogged the Three-Vineyard cross-country course with a half-moon overhead and a faint orange glow behind the eastern hills to guide us. We attacked the thistle in the vineyard and boxed up a Macadamia tree (for future resale) and I potted a creeping geranium into a hanging basket that I hung on the terrace. Her majesty the Queen of the property was satisfied with our efforts and at the end of the day we sipped wine and ate cheese and talked about a future with a gazebo and more olive trees. I walked over to an area of the Zinfandel block where there was a gap between vines and showed the Queen how, when pruning begins in two weeks, you could take a shoot going up towards the sky and pull it down to the cordon wire to make a cordon arm. And as I showed her, pulling the shoot tightly to the wire, it snapped in my hand.