Friday, March 25, 2011

Wine Tasting and Troy Bilt Tillers

  You can't drive anywhere in this valley without ending up behind some minivan with a decal of  a happy family of stick figure parents and kids in decreasing size and a "god is my copilot" bumper sticker.  In that same spirit, I have my own version now. Presented without further comment.
 It's now official, I'll be pouring wine at Desert Market every other weekend, which, according to my careful prosthesis, comes out to twice a month. I've done two sessions so far, the second being last Saturday. I didn't write about the first session, as it went well but ended in a pretty bizarre fashion and I didn't know exactly what to say about it and was concerned that it might be my first and ONLY time there. Several good friends dropped by, including Johnny Montezuma and Susun, neighbors Greg and Nancy, and lots of other folks who formerly knew me as only their kids' teacher. Yes Virginia, it's true. Teachers have other interests besides your kids' ability to reason and do not crumble to dust and blow away after they retire. The day went well and we sold a lot of wine, not to mention beer.

  Things ended in a less than pleasant fashion. A couple known for their, um, FIRM political and religious opinions came in and tag-teamed me during the last hour of my tasting. This fellow had, HAD a business relationship with the owner of the store and so felt it was OK to take liberties and began pouring his own wine. I'll cut this short by simply describing it this way. Imagine, you're stuck behind a tasting bar, people are drifting in hoping to sample some wine and beer, and a loony-tunes and his even nuttier wife are both preaching to you. Looney Tunes is blaming the entire history of the United States and every wrong ever committed on President Obama and "The Socialists", while simultaneously, his deranged spouse, eyes wide and looking reminiscent of the eyes of that guy who shot Gabrielle Giffords, is showing you a carefully highlighted copy of a book of morals written for young people by Noah Webster in 18 hundred and something that she just happens to carry around with her. In addition, she's explaining how the Constitution of the U.S. is based on the book of Leviticus.

  I don't claim to be an Old Testament scholar, but the book of Leviticus is a book of laws. Most of these laws involve what ancient Jews could and couldn't eat, who got stoned to death for fornicating with whom, and under what circumstances it's necessary to take a sheep, a goat, or a chicken to the temple to have it's throat cut by the priests and burnt on the altar as payback for some sin. Granted, there is the phrase towards the end "Proclaim Liberty Throughout The Land", which happens to be on our Liberty Bell, or carved in the lintel of some D.C. building or something. Maybe that's the part she was talking about. Please be aware that I am not anti-Any Religion, I am Anti-Stupidity. She also managed, somehow, to blame virtually all of humankind's illnesses on, and I'm not making this up, GLUTEN. I had no idea what an evil, foul,  insidious, downright EVIL agent gluten is. And here I thought it was just a simple protein found in wheat and other grains that expands and knits things together, making risen bread possible. BOY are my eyes open NOW.

  Neither of this pair appeared to be aware that the other was talking. Each of them felt they had a BIG fish on the line and they weren't about to let me off the hook. My conversion was apparently what they'd been living for for some time. Having no spare Xanax in my pocket (note to self) and having nearly chewed through my tongue being nice, I had to beat a hasty retreat and got out of there as fast as I could.

  It turns out that Mike, the owner, was way more than sympathetic and we now have a nice "No Politics, No Religion, and No Cell Phones" sign posted right on the front of the bar. My second tasting went really well last Saturday. A steady trickle of folks beginning around noon. It turns out that Desert Market is ideally located to catch incoming folks from the valley who are headed to the tasting rooms at Page Springs, and also those who have already been there and are headed elsewhere. I actually like the ones who've already hit Javelina Leap, Page Springs Cellars and the others. They are nicely loosened up and ready to buy more. We sold 22 bottles of wine between noon and 5 out of that little store. I think we can do better as the tourist season cranks up.

  In other news, it's gardening time. When we first moved here, my neighbor, an aging and experienced gardener lectured me; "Don't plant until the mesquites are budding AND you can't see any snow left on the mountain".  That sage advice worked for years, but now, not so much. It's getting hotter earlier each year. One week it's freezing and then  whammo, it's summer and your tender plantings are keeling over in the heat. I never manage to get it quite right, stalling and worrying that it might freeze again. This year we want to have everything in by the first few days of April.  Our oldest garden spot, which now doesn't get enough sun to support a lot, is devoted solely to strawberries, a few herbs, and I planted the rest of it in onions and shallots. Last year's newer, sunnier and bigger plot will be strictly tomatoes and some kind of squash I can manage that won't turn into a monster. French Ronde de Nice round zukes I'm thinking. We're also fencing off the largest and sunniest spot out in the pasture. It has to be well fenced as it will be a big attraction for the goats. It will be for Hopi Red Lima beans and corn. We're going to plant a New Mexico heritage variety of red grinding corn originally grown down by the Verde by Johnny Montezuma his-self. He gave me a big jar of seed years ago and it's finally going into the ground.

  This plot hasn't been planted before, and the other day it dawned on me. "This is a big plot, you need a tiller." Last year, for the smaller space we planted, we utilized Home Depot's "rental" program and bought a little Honda Mantis-type cultivator to bust it up, and took it back for a refund when finished. I don't abuse Home Depot's liberal return policy very often, but hey, money was tight last year. If you've ever known anyone who works for HD, you probably don't have a whole lot of sympathy for that store anyhow.

  As soon as I realized we're gonna need a tiller, I came in the house and opened up good old Craigslist and there, at the top of the farm and garden for sale page, is a 35 year old Troy Bilt Tuffy listed for 25 dollars. Must be a misprint. Years ago Katie's grandfather gave me an ancient Troy Bilt that had been peacefully rusting away under a Cottonwood tree for many years up at Moencopi. "It ran good about 10 years ago". I brought it home and changed the plug and fluids and cleaned the rust out of the gas tank and it fired right up. A few years later a friend of mine was delighted to pay 300 dollars for it.  There is no such thing as a 25 dollar Troy Bilt. Must be a misprint. So I quick called the number on the ad. It turned out that this one was owned by this older fellow in Camp Verde and no, it wasn't a misprint. His comment was almost identical to Katie's grandfather's. "it ran good about 10 years ago, last time I used it".  He had sold his home and was clearing out the typical Camp Verde barn full of all sorts of strange machines, industrial junk and old farming stuff. An interesting fellow, he had gone to school at the one room schoolhouse at the old Child's Power Plant on Fossil Creek. After hearing lots of Verde personal history, he helped me load it up.

The 86 dollar Troy Bilt
  I brought it directly to Ken Bishop's shop in Cornville. Ken and his son Wayne and grandson Coawin can fix anything from a chinese tractor to a 53 Chevy pickup. If there was any life left in that little Troy Bilt, they'd find it. Sure enough, 61 dollars later, it runs like a top. An 86 dollar Troy Bilt. To quote Wayne R. through Johnny M. : "all in a day's Karma".