Posted by: Thomson Vineyards | September 9, 2010

Buy American. Source Parts From Italy.

Tweeting, Tractoring & Ice Cream

This week marks the last week of mowing cover crop for Thomson Vineyards. When all is said and done, we put down permanent cover crop several years in a row, but this is the first year the crop took off; it got mowed a total of four times this season – mostly by me, Tweeting, driving, and eating ice cream.

On Friday I mowed one block of Chardonnay with pregame help from the old Farmer on Cuttings Wharf. On Saturday I intended to mow the remaining blocks, all day long. Until a little issue about water in Carneros held me up. Who knew? Nahh. Water in Carneros. No issue there.

On Sunday, while The Farmer trouble shot the water issue, I headed down to the young Pinot Noir blocks planted out in clone 667. Mid way down in the property the Ford tractor (we paid way too much for 15 years ago) stalled out. Mid row.

Sunday through Wednesday The Farmer trouble shot the Ford tractor until last night when he called to say, “It’s all taken care of. You can go ahead and mow cover crop. I put the battery charger on and it should be just fine.”

Famous Farmers Final Words. As I primed the ignition and hit the start button it didn’t seem to be going anywhere fast. I proceeded to Bert Williams & Sons parts store, who in turn sent me to Napa Power Equipment, who sent me back to Bert Williams & Sons and then on to Kragen.

Did you know The Napa Valley, rooted in agriculture – deep in vineyards, rewiring heavy machinery, hauling, forklifting, tractoring,  doesn’t have a single tractor parts supplier?

I guess if you want to diversify, or source a niche wine market,  you best look to tractors and screw the $150 bottle upscale cabernet.

Every parts man who looked at the ignition switch wiring clip in my Ziploc plastic sandwich bag recited the same words, “I’m sorry, I don’t pack anything that large.” Now I could interpret that comment several ways, but I’ll leave the rest to your own improv and keep what I was really thinking to myself.

It’s a Ford! Not a Kubota. We didn’t import it, we bought it within a 50 mile radius from the heart of California agriculture – The Napa Valley. Another grower who has some sons in the valley told us they had expended their equipment budget back in June with a down piece of machinery made in Italy requiring Italian parts and a mechanic imported from just south of France.

The 4430 has some sort of dual right brake/left brake; spins wheelies like you’d pull in the highschool parking lots afterhours; the PTO is a bit tricky if you don’t know what you’re doing, but now that it’s my daily driver I think I’m beginning to know what I’m doing.

My point is, it’s not fancy. And so, when I successfully sourced the part from Kragen of all places which manufactures its parts in China, and The Farmer installed the part and put the rig on the battery charger – out I went again this morning to chug, chug, chug. And back to Kragen I went to replace the seven year old battery. Forty-five minutes later and one trip to town from Carneros we were back in business. All in the name of business.

Why’s it so damn important that this cover crop get mowed? I’ll tell you. It’s a rough market out there. Winemakers who are already contracted are asking about the aesthetics, brokers who want to help sell the remaining fruit are working with winemakers who are all about aesthetics, hell The Farmer is all about aesthetics. And all it takes is time, effort, and money. And some tractor parts from Italy.

Nevermind the actual fruit. The cover crop is neatly hedged, trimmed, and beautified. Perfectly acceptable asthetics. Except roadside. That’s the county’s responsibility. Oh, and by the way. There’s rain in the forecast for September 18. That should really get the cover crop looking nice, green, and lush. Just how we like it to look before harvest.

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