Every now and then, we’ve lamented that our land is so close to Sonoma Town Square. It’s not really that country. Now that I’m staying up here alone with spotty cell reception and no Internet, believe me, it’s REALLY country. As in kind of scary. I’m starting to understand how the pioneers lived. You rushed to get everything done during daylight hours, then when the sun went down, you hunkered down in the sod cabin and barred the doors and windows.

You also start to talk to animals, plants and yourself. Which isn’t that unusual, except when you realize how fast you get to the point where you are expecting answers. Intelligent answers.

Former Texas Governor Anne Richards used to tell a story about a pioneer woman in the early days of Texas settlement who was given some chickens on the premise that they would provide her with meat throughout the winter when her husband was often away and she was alone. When her husband came back after months away, he asked why she hadn’t slaughtered a single chicken.

She replied: “You have no idea what good company they are.”

Lucy guards the vineyard. Oscar eats something dead. And they are both starting to provide really good conversation.

Lucy guards the vineyard. Oscar eats something dead. And they are both starting to provide really good conversation.

In less than 24 hours I’m at that point. I need a different point of view from terriers and would welcome the opinions of some thoughtful chickens. Because I’ve exhausted the conversational opportunities offered by the grapes, the ATV and the barn walls.

Then there’s the dark. And it gets really, really dark at night here without streetlights or any houses nearby. I thought I’d combine a sunset photo safari with my last foray to the crush pad for the final day’s punchdown of the Cinsault. It didn’t take more than 45 minutes after sunset for it to get very eerie around here. Even the dogs didn’t want to stray too far out of the ATV headlights. So we tucked ourselves up in the barn and settled in for the night – at only 9 PM. Every half hour or so, I ventured out with a flashlight and quickly retreated back into the barn when it shows half a dozen sets of glowing eyes looking down at me from the hill. The rational side of my brain says they are deer. The irrational side is replaying all the horror movies I’ve ever seen.

Were starting to go feral. Here Oscar has found another baby deer carcass and crouches over it in Hyena Mode.

We’re starting to go feral. Here Oscar has found another baby deer carcass and crouches over it in Hyena Mode.

Then he struggles with carrying a kill so ripe that it starts falling to pieces.

Then he struggles with carrying a “kill” so ripe that it starts falling to pieces.

Finally he grabs the juiciest bit, leaves the backbone and heads off for the woods.

Finally he grabs the juiciest bit, leaves the backbone and heads off for the woods. Luckily he was still civilized enough to let me swap him a rotting deer for a cookie.

I think it’s time for the terriers and me to dive under the covers – maybe with a crowbar at our side. I’ve got my Dad’s old Winchester, but no bullets and no clue how to use it. Note to self: this is America. I can have a gun. Somebody give me the address of the local rifle range and the local chapter of the NRA.

Quick Recap of Grape Status

The panic may be off on the rest of the grapes suddenly needing to be picked. It’s turned rather cold – only 70 during the day and about 55 at night. The Brix readings for the Mourvedre and the Grenache were only 23 and 21.25 respectively. You don’t even consider picking until they reach 25, and with this weather, it may be another week or two.

The Cinsault, meanwhile, managed to get itself up to 73 degrees in the primary fermentation vat which was about seven degrees higher than the ambient temperature – so something is happening, although very slowly. I used the old trick of blasting a space heater at the vat, but I’m not sure what good that did.

Finally, Oscar has solidified his title as Commander of the Dead Animal Patrol. He managed to find a fairly intact, although quite ripe, dead baby deer. That makes at least three in the last few weeks, if we can extrapolate by the number of legs and backbones he’s dragged out of the bushes. I don’t know if this mortality rate for young deer is normal or if something is killing them off suddenly. Or maybe these corpses represent a full year’s worth of casualties and Oscar is just now figuring out how to turn on his hyena instincts and seek them out.

That’s the latest. One last walk for the dogs, then I’m barring the doors.

Morning Report on the Cinsault

The grapes are at 65 degrees while outside ambient temp is 55. So they are generating their own heat.

Specific gravity has gone from 1100 yesterday to 80 today. I checked it twice because it was such a big differential. Hmmmm. Something’s happening. Too bad the person who knows what this all means is at a Sales Conference. This afternoon I’ll recheck how the Grenache and Mourvedre are doing.

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