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Valley People (Sep 7, 2016)

BAD NEWS for downtown Boonville. Claudia Jiminez writes: “This is Claudia from All That Good Stuff. I'm going out of business and having a big sale from tomorrow, Tuesday, September 6, until September 30. Everything must go, from Halloween to Christmas items to everyday gifts and all our greeting cards. All 30% off!”

RESIDENT DEPUTY CRAIG WALKER said last week that he will now issue citations to people who ignore school bus stop signs. Too many people are driving on by while kids are being unloaded. Walker said roughly 75% of the violators are locals, many of whom he knows, and some whom should clearly know better — “like schoolteachers,” Walker added. So starting this week it’ll be citations for the oblivious and scofflaws alike.

FLUGELHORN UPDATE: It’s back with its rightful owner. When Steven Hunter ripped off the instrument, he was already drunk when he left the Philo Grange where the thief had enjoyed the music. Hunter, seconds after leaving the Grange with the stolen flugelhorn, collided head-on with another drunk driver, Colter Milleher, putting both drunks in the hospital. The CHP officer retrieved the horn from the wreckage and sensibly released it at the accident scene to the man who’d borrowed it from its rightful owner. Hunter was subsequently sentenced to five years in jail, a year of which he’ll serve in-County, four of which were suspended for probation. If Hunter stays sober and keeps his sticky fingers off rare musical instruments, he’ll stay out of jail.

Loretta Houck
Loretta Houck

ON THE 24TH of September at the Anderson Valley Fair Grounds between 1 and 4 the friends and family of Loretta Jean Houck are invited to gather to celebrate her amazing life. There will be food, beverage, cigars, pictures and more. We will tell our favorite stories and remember how blessed we are to have known her.

RUSS RASMUSSEN COMMENTS: “Re: Bird Booms: Around here, the 'bird booming' goes on 24 hours a day. Climate change must have turned the owls into vegetarians, feeding on the grapes at night.”

THE YORKVILLE ICE CREAM SOCIAL was already roaringly busy when I arrived at 11, with cars lining the highway in both directions and Yorkville’s efficient matrons, with their annual drill team-like precision, were manning an array of tables loaded with High Roller bounty, from wine to art to home-baked goods. I joined my fellow Boonville emissaries, Dawn and David Ballantine, at the book tables where I found an old paperback gem of “Where Have You Gone, Joe DiMaggio,” in which Joltin’ Joe relays candid opinions on everything from Little League (against) to San Francisco (for). DiMaggio was a celebrity when we had real celebrities. Now, one dies a little at the mere mention of a “famous” person.


THE LOCAL ANGLE: The DiMaggio Brothers, perhaps all three, played a game or two in Fort Bragg in what was called “the lumber leagues.” All the mill towns fielded baseball teams, with “ringers” (really, really good ballplayers) funded by the local mill. Fort Bragg was a semi-pro powerhouse up through the 1950s. The late Vern Piver, probably the best all-round athlete to come out of Fort Bragg, and a pro ballplayer himself, told me that for sure Vince DiMaggio played for Fort Bragg for a full summer. Baseball was the weekend entertainment for lots of mill towns.


PAUL McCARTHY of MendoSportsPlus is a big sports fan. Paul drove over the hill from his home in Elk to watch what he characterized as the "Tony Pardini Show" Friday night “as the talented Anderson Valley signal-caller tossed (and ran in) touchdowns as well as adding a defensive "Pick-6" in Anderson Valley's 76-8 opening season victory over Potter Valley at the Fairgrounds. Pardini even kicked off!”

ALTHOUGH POTTER VALLEY had impressed some local high school football fans in early scrimmages, they were no match for the AV Panthers last Friday night. Effectively, AV won the game in the first quarter taking a 48-0 lead into the second quarter as bench players got significant playing time. The final score ended up 76-8 as AV cruised to an easy and lop-sided victory. Standouts for the evening were tailback JT Carlin, and quarterback Tony Pardini on offense (both of whom are on track for all-league before the season is out), Saul Ochoa on defense and Christian Natareno on special teams who were named Players of the Game.

NCL III football is hemorrhaging teams. Mendocino is out. Point Arena is out, which is a surprise because the fog eaters have always been big high school football people. Covelo is out but will field a jv team. Through the 1950s and early 1960s, Covelo was a small school power. Then dope and bad attitudes took over the town, and Covelo has been a sports desert ever since.

PANTHER FOOTBALL 2016: Tony Pardini QB, FS Sr.; Saul Ochoa TE, DE Sr.; Morgan Kobler TB, CB Jr.; Owen Shock OL, ILB Fr.; Jt Carlin TE, ILB, QB Jr.; Jacob Delgado WR, CB Sr.; Kaleb Devine-Gomes WR, FS So.; Carlos Garibay WR, CB Sr.; Paul Shock WR, CB So.; Christopher Espinoza TE, ILB Sr.; Dalton Lyon TB, CB Jr.; Manuel Franco TB, FS Sr.; Christian Natareno WR, CB Sr.; Ernesto Macias OL, ILB Sr.; Gabe Segura OL, DT Jr.; Miguel Barajas OL, DL Sr.; Chris Guerrero OL, DT Sr.; Ethan Reed OL, DE Sr.; Juan Sanchez OL, DT Sr.; Christian Kuny OL, DE Jr.; Miguel Perez OL, DE Sr.; Rodrigo Ceja TE, ILB Fr.; Giovani Cortez OL, DE Jr.; Jeff Emry WR, CB Jr.; Salvador Flores WR, CB Jr.;

COACHES: John Toohey, Head Coach; Todd Capuzelo, Quarterbacks/Receivers; Scott Johnston Defensive Backs; Andrew Espinoza O/D Line.

COACH TOOHEY reports that so many kids have turned out for his team that he’s “completely run out of gear,” and that he will have to update his roster.

“Mendocino has dropped their program and Laytonville will replace them at the Apple Bowl. We will only carry a Varsity team but will play a single JV only game against Round Valley who does not have a Varsity. Multiple teams including Tomales, Point Arena, and Rincon Valley Christian are rumored to have low numbers. We're incredibly fortunate to have the turnout we do (and with the soccer program having 20+ students, we are a real anomaly as it concerns the recent trends of sports participation). At the scrimmage last week, Tony Pardini and JT Carlin, as expected, stood out on both offense and defense, Tony connecting through the air to JT for multiple scores. Other surprise standouts included Dalton Lyons and Manuel Franco who spent the day in our opponent's backfield, and Morgan Kobler who caught passes out of the backfield and ran hard all afternoon. The entire scrimmage was very encouraging.”

SPOTTED LAST WEEK early morning at the Redwood Drive-In, Boonville, a Mexican kid flying both the American and Confederate flags in the back of his pick-up. I'm going to assume the truck wasn't his. If it is his, he's the most confused guy in Mendocino County.

WINE MATH. We were discussing the giant mechanical grape harvester spotted at Golden Eye vineyards earlier this week. One guy thought it was a labor saving machine because the industry is having trouble getting Mexicans to pick grapes, and even with plentiful and exploitable labor the machine would save the millionaire owners of Golden Eye small amounts of money.

MAYBE, but that argument doesn’t make sense for several reasons. We did some rough back-of-the-envelope numbers.

FIELD WORKERS make $12-$15 an hour for hard, skilled, hot work and they have to do it exactly when the vineyard wants it done and in a short period of time when the sugar levels are optimal and the grapes are at their peak. And they have to do it with minimal damage to the “fruit,” deftly excluding leaves and stems and rotten grapes. And this is accomplished under time pressure over long shifts (with no overtime) during harvests which occur over two or three weeks.

NARROWLY CONSIDERED, there are obvious theoretical advantages to machine harvesting. Industry experts say that having field workers harvest grapes costs about $150-$200 per ton while machine harvesting costs less than $100 per ton, depending on how many workers are used to operate and maintain the machine and its supporting vehicles.

IF YOU SELL the grapes for at least $2000 per ton or more (like most pinot is sold in Anderson Valley these days) you might save in the range of $100 per ton with machine harvesting. If the quality results are comparable, which they frequently are not.

IF YOU HAVE, say, 40 acres of grapes at 4 tons per acre you could save up to 40 x 4 x $100 = $16,000 out of $320,000 worth of wholesale grapes. If you convert those grapes into wine at 2.5 pounds of grapes per bottle, that’s $2.50 worth of grapes in a $20 - $40 bottle (or more). And if you sell your own wine you can convert your 40 acres of grapes into 160 tons of yield or 320,000 pounds which becomes 128,000 bottles. At $20 per bottle that’s about $2.5 million worth of wine, and upwards of $5.0 million at $40 per bottle.

SO THAT MEANS that you might save $16,000 worth of labor out of your $2.5 to $5.0 million gross on the assumed 40 acre vineyard.

BUT SAY you doubled the pay to get more workers for field harvesting. It might cost you another $100 per ton for the 160 tons or another $16,000 out of your $2.5 million to $5.0 million gross (less than one percent of the value of your wine).

THE POINT is that grape harvesting is a very small part of the cost of a vineyard/winery operation. Trying to nickel-nose labor that’s only used for a week or two a year and is a very small portion of your cost/gross with an expensive, unproven machine then whine about labor cost and availability while you spend tens if not hundreds of thousands on winery equipment and tasting rooms and marketing and taxes and interest and non-field staff is the kind of thinking that we have come to expect from the local wine industry.

(BOONVILLE’S beloved community newspaper is willing to function as wine consultant at bargain rates.)

FORMER WILLITS CITY COUNCILMAN, Holly Madrigal, is the publisher of the new quarterly magazine, 'Word of Mouth,“ design and graphics by our very own Torrey Douglass with knowledgeable advice from Linda MacElwee, also of Anderson Valley. 'Word of Mouth' focuses on the local small farm movement and can be found at the Ukiah Co-op and other venues whose emphasis is on the locally produced.

MY WORST JOB? Pulling butter. In 1966 my father (who then was General Manager of the Danish Creamery Co-op in Fresno) asked me if I wanted to fill in for a couple of weeks while one of the butter pullers was on summer vacation. I was 22, in pretty good shape, and had no idea what a “butter puller” was, even though I’d shadowed my father on a number of creamery visits and tours while growing up.

I HAD WORKED at several other San Joaquin Valley creameries during college vacations and knew that most creamery jobs involved man-handling heavy things like 110 pound bags of non-fat dry milk, giant cans of raw cottage cheese, and crates of a dozen half-gallons of soft ice cream mix for use at soda shops. There were also the giant “sholies,” cardboard boxes with 10 gallon bladders of milk used in restaurants and industrial kitchens. They had no built-in handles and had to be hauled in regular milk crates which they didn’t fit into properly. I had done fine with those tasks. So how hard could pulling butter be?

TURNS OUT, very hard. Butter in those days was made in a giant stainless steel horizontal cylindrical “churn” into which tons of cream and salt were pumped then spun until it turned into butter. After several hours, the churn was then slowly rotated into position over a large long stainless steel vat; then the churn door was opened and the churn was slowly turned until the giant glob of butter fell into the vat with a loud “PLOP.”

THE WHEELED VAT was then pushed over to us six butter pullers where it was raised with hand-operated hydraulic pistons into a slanted waist-high position so that the six butter pullers, standing shoulder to shoulder, and after donning chlorine-washed elbow-length latex gloves, thrust our hands into the thick, cold butter and pulled out handfuls of it and put them into boxes that sat on scales behind us so that each box was filled to 72 pounds.

THE FILLED BOXES were then pushed on to a conveyor belt behind the scales and conveyed to the cold room for storage until it was packaged in various sizes for wholesale or retail sale. Then we got another box and did it again. And again and again until the end of the six-hour shift (the rest of the shift was clean-up and short breaks).

AFTER A DAY OF THIS my arms felt like limp spaghetti. The other butter pullers had been doing it for years and were used to the strenuous effort involved — it was hard to even get your hand into the butter, then harder still to pull out several pounds at a time in handfuls. Of course I had trouble keeping up with the five other experienced butter pullers who often needled me about my butter pulling deficiencies — especially since everybody in the plant knew I was the boss’s college-educated son.

AFTER WORK those first few nights my arms were so worn out that I had trouble even lifting a fork. Two weeks later, by the time the guy I was filling in for came back from vacation, I was starting to get the hang of it — getting stronger and getting better at how to attack the task (how much to grab, proper standing positioning, pacing, etc.). After those two weeks I told my father he’d have to find someone else to fill in for vacationing workers in his creamery. I was not pulling any more butter. (Mark Scaramella)

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