After my nostrils were treated to the aroma of decomposed chipmunk before breakfast (I bet you never tasted that in wine -- I tell you there's more birds, squirrels, ants, slugs and chipmunks in wine then espresso and chocolate), I recalled a song we used to sing as children in North Carolina during the last Century:
Great big globs of greasy, grimy gopher guts
Mutilated monkey meat
Little dirty birdie feet ...
That's what I had for lunch.
Bluey and I traversed rows in the vineyard looking for bees (a sign that a bird had pecked a berry) and damaged, leaking fruit. Where we found it, there was sure to be an opening in the netting and perhaps a bird himself. Bluey came across the first sparrow -- he just wants to sniff their butts, not devour them--and I was able to reach in and eventually catch and release. (I was reminded of Snoopy and Woodstock.) We came across another bird, this one lifeless. I tried to pull it out, gently, and about to rip its head off, decided to leave it in the nets. Then we came across a "yellow bird" (shown at left) which we caught, brought to the Queen as a present, then released.
Our friends the honey bees made their appearance in the vineyard the other week, and we took preemptive action against the not so friendly yellow jackets, which I hadn't encountered in the vineyard until the Queen placed yellow jacket traps deep inside a row of vines (I suggested to her to place the traps outside the vineyard). I'm not sure what kind of yellow jacket mojo the traps contain but the person who harnesses a similar hormone in humans that causes women to swarm to men is going to be rich. There is a warning on those traps not to hang them during the middle of the day when the flying stingers are active and you are likely to attract the bastards to you. Folks, there is a reason for this. Pay attention to that warning.
As I walked back to the vineyard I passed the deceased sparrow, bless his heart, whom I could not remove from the netting. He was covered with yellow jackets, and I realized that the yellow jackets would be useful in cleaning up the carcass. When I returned the next day, there was just a skeleton. As I think about it, most creatures under the sky serve some useful function.
Last night, all the neighbors in Blue-Merle Country got together to honor Joe the Wino, hero of The Wine Summit hosted by Sarah Palin earlier in the week. They slaughtered a pig and roasted it and there were more than 100 people and more than 100 bottles of wine. What do you bring as a gift to a pig-pickin' party where the host has everything? I found the answer: Stone Beer. We were proud of Joe who, according to press reports, managed not to make a fool of himself. And I was glad that he honored us by requesting our wine. "Joe, what did Sarah think of the Blue-Merle wine?"
"Well partner, she's a Syrah drinker, K Syrah, Sarah."
"Shakespeare. Good one, Joe."
"When I poured her a glass of your 2007 Petit Verdot she said it was very floral. From her purse she pulled out a bottle of Channel #19 and emptied it. Then filled it to the top with your wine and sprayed it on."
"She's got class. I'm beginning to like her."
"I told her about a good follow-on to Cash for Clunkers our tech group had come up with: 'Cash for Klunkware.'
"I don't get it."
"You see, millions of people have old computers running old software. Under this new stimulus, the government will allow Americans to turn in their old software and receive a voucher to purchase new software."
"Brilliant. And who's going to pay for it? Microsoft?" Joe doesn't like Microsoft.
"How did you know?"
Dinner was served and Joe brought out the roasted pig wearing a Banana Joe's hat, sunglasses, a long sleeve linen shirt rolled up above the pig's knuckles and a Cuban cigar. The Queen would have nothing to do with this mockery and boycotted the event, saying it would bring bad luck. As the sun set and the moon rose the coyotes in the valley woke from their slumber and gave a first call.
"Joe, with all those coyotes living in the valley on your property, isn't there a problem with them chewing your drip lines?"
"Naw, I water them with a water trough. Since I started doing that, I haven't lost a drip line." I guess it kept them from chewing our drip lines also. "Drink at Joe's" must be what the coyotes around here say.
The next morning as I walked though the vineyard and came to the spot where the chipmunk was tangled in the net I found no chipmunk; only a hole in the net. He had been ripped out by a coyote. Another useful function served by Mr. Coyote.
I irrigated the vines and where there was mildew damage in the Aglianico grapes a single droplet of grape juice emerged on a round grape, and I immediately recalled when Coyote Karen was over during the full moon and wine seemed to lactate from her as she had two purple spots at precise locations on the front of her white T-shirt. (Editor's Note: Discretion cautions us from publishing the photo.)
As I hung yellow jacket traps, yellow sticky traps (to keep an eye on the sharpshooters) and replaced 2-gallon per hour water emitters with 1-gallon per hour in an attempt to reduce the vigor of two rows of vines, the Queen busied herself raking then vacuuming the vineyard. As birds destroyed the grapes, she was cleaning the vineyard.
"Sweetie," I started out, "What would you think about fixing the holes in the nets to keep the birds out?" I suggested as gently as a man can say when he means what the hell are you doing?!
"I want to clean up. Please, go and get your own vineyard."
"Why don't you leave the leaves and the canes where they are? It's good organic material for the soil and will help control erosion when it rains."
"Why don't you leave!" When Bluey heard this he exchanged the grapes of wrath for the coolness under a giant grapefruit tree.
Well, this has become the source of a major disagreement and you can tell there's not going to be any birds and the bees between us. I began thinking of taking out a paid classified ad and tweeting: Seek vineyardista lifelong companion who likes composting and organic farming. Will work for wine and birds & the bees. As I thought about that and especially the birds and the bees part the Queen began singing a song about how it was her vineyard, and her dog, and her wine, and her awards and how I wasted her little plastic bags by filling them up with fruit scraps and coffee grinds for the stupid compost pile.... I really couldn't hear what she was saying because the silence of the vines turns the wife's song into sweet wine. When Jesus said love your enemy I think he meant wife. This is not easy.
She volunteered to go into town to purchase clothes pins to make the nets more secure and Bluey emerged from under the grapefruit tree and we cut the last row of Zinfandel and yes we put the cuttings in a neat row along the vines so the organic matter could work its way back into the soil and the rain would be slowed as it fell and trickled down the mountain carrying any topsoil that was left. Next, I put some of the cuttings behind the row in the most inaccessible part of the vineyard and she will never go there to clean it out because the access is difficult and for fear of snakes. I even made a little video of the work. Merlot Mike says it takes 3-guys to net his vineyard and it started out that way with us when we made it complicated by using gas pipes on either side and attempted to lift the netting (wrapped around a PVC pipe) over the vines which resulted in more singing by the Queen. She finally threw away the pipes and took the nets and did the netting herself while I was at my daytime job. She is barely 5 ft. tall and that was an accomplishment and I was more proud of her for the sixth time this year since Michelle Obama ran for First Lady and was proud for the first time to be an American.
The Queen returned about the time Bluey and I finished the netting and we hiked down the mountain and came to my favorite aloe which the Queen doesn't like and had apparently hacked to pieces as she stormed out. She doesn't like the aloe because it starts off cute and fits in a wine glass but as they grow they become larger than a barrel and they have sharp edges and she's always saying dig it out and I was planning to dig it out someday but not today and not this year but in a couple of years and she has taken vengeance on my favorite plant. Upon inspection I see that half the plant is eaten out by none other than Mr. Gopher -- who has been in retreat these last few months. I am pleased by this and even a gopher has his good points. As do coyotes, yellow-jackets and spouses.
I check Bluey's paws for foxtails and we go inside and the Queen has prepared sushi and an omelet made of octopus and vegetables. After lunch I top the barrels of 2008 wine which hold great promise, tasting along the way. Is this a chore?