The Joy of Home Winemaking

Of Juice and Thrips and Ceiling Wax
April 1997

The Gopher Dairy Club, April 2

Flopsy Daffodils, April 9

Patience, April 16

How to Grow Fresh Air, April 25

Title of the Month: Channelling in Intermediary Metabolism

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The Gopher Dairy Club
Wednesday, April 2

Saw a poster for the Club. The milking machines must be teeny tiny. . . . The local news papers reported that when the U of M basketball team got into the finals our mascot name got a lot of disbelieving laughter — until the team started to win.

So I guess I shouldn't laugh at the Dairy Club. Unless they really do milk gophers.

My early patch of crocus is in triumphant bloom. With the snow gone (for now, let's not tempt fate) I tiptoed around the soggy yard and checked out various plants to see who had made it. Most of them had, as far as I can tell. Snow pack did its work well. Karen patiently looked at all the mud spots with me (she's a Midwesterner, so she understands) and ooed and ahhed over the tiny, timid bits of green and red. Of course, she has a lilac blooming back home!

The species tulips are 2-3 inches high and by next week we might have a few blossoms on the front terracing with the crocus. Found my pruning shears — snuggled down in the peonies, rusty as all get out. As I remember the snow came quickly last fall, but surely not that quickly!

The cats are fine: muddy paw prints turn up here and there. Dover found a long-dead sparrow which he brought in and we removed just as quickly with its Tales of the Crypt style bare skull and tattered tail feathers. He was so disappointed when we threw his treasure out. Luckily he has the attention span of a house fly.

Hope you are all well and enjoying spring.


Flopsy Daffodils
Wednesday, April 9

Remember last week when I was tra la-ing about spring? Well, we had a hideous windstorm, and then for the last two nights the temperature dropped to 8-9 F.

I think my daffodils at home aren't too bad, but the ones out here on the campus are flat and limp, although some of them are still trying to bloom. My co-worker reports hers (she lives further out of the cities) as completely dead.

Some of the tulips (not as early as the daffies) on campus bought it, but the shorter ones look ok. My species tulips at home look fine. The early patch of crocus, though frozen, was gallantly trying to open its frozen little petals yesterday in the afternoon sun.

All of this is nothing compared to the awful conditions in the western part of the state. You must of seen it — it's been on CNN. Frozen floods. Little Old Ladies being carried out of their houses by rescue teams.

The snow had to go somewhere as it melted, and on top of that, there was another blizzard. People were out sandbagging like crazy where they could to reinforce the dikes and levees. Volunteers came from all over.

In St. Paul the airport has flooded and they might have to close off down town. The crest of the flood in St. Paul isn't due for another week. Here in Minneapolis we should be ok; it's the outlying areas that will get the worst of it.

We knew this was going to happen, of course, and the state did what it could for the river towns but wholly cow, what a mess!

Geri and Don were over to supper last night. After supper we went upstairs to see my seedlings, then finished of the evening's entertainment by looking at my worm farm. I hadn't checked it for a week or so and it had dried out a lot, so Geri and Don helped me water it. What else are friends for?

Did anyone else see the coverage of the Shuttle coming in for a landing? For the first time they showed the approach from inside the craft, and I got so excited I bounced off the couch and scared the cats. WOWOWOWOOWOWOW! They cut away at the last minute but still!

Long ago I attended the first shuttle launch (STS1) with some friends (Hi, Doug) on a press pass (we could have gotten passes from Sky and Telescope because Ctein was taking pictures for them but instead decided that Megatherium Press ((home of a friend's fanzine - Hi, Mike)) would be more fun and we were right) then we drove like hecky darn overland and, in spite of having to rebuild the van's engine in Texas — got to Vandenberg just in time to catch the craft coming in overhead for the landing.

Reliving that sort of excitement (without the exhaustion factor) was kind of fun.

The cats, of course, were not as enthusiastic.

Well, Hale-Bopp, you can't please everyone.


Wednesday, April 16

Why do you live there, my stepmother asked. I wonder, too. After an almost nice weekend during which I grubbed in the earth and planted some peas and some spinach, we got another hard freeze and snow flakes this morning.

Denny is referring to the state as Lake Mississippi. The Red River in the western part of the state has still not crested. The disaster funds need all the help they can get, folks.

Other than planting a few seeds and pulling some very chilly weeds (my gardening usually consists of more destruction than construction) the big excitement this weekend was cutting loose the screens from the upper floors. Some of you may recall that we were unable to finish clearing up the windows that got painted shut from the trim painting last fall and had to shrink wrap all the upstairs windows. Others of you might not recall or might not care, but you're going to hear about it anyway.

Denny bravely crawled up and down the ladder and cut and bashed the screens loose while I held the ladder and said "watch out" a lot. The ground is soft and uneven. It makes getting the ladder seated a bit of a challenge.

Our house is very tall. The bottom level of the first floor windows are about as tall as I am. Then we'd have to go in the house and prepare the next batch from the inside and avoid letting Nelly the cat out. Nelly loves to help when we are on ladders. She almost helped us both to death once by crawling up after me when I was priming.

But at last it was done and we felt quite virtuous. The cat was bitterly disappointed.

The manure in the garage has unfrozen. I plan to haul it out sack by sack and distribute it upon the ground after I finish clearing up the beds.

The mystery of the disappearing xmas tree branches has been solved. I used them for mulch around my precious azalea earlier in the hopes of acidifying the soil. They have been disappearing. I thought it was the wind but aha! Yesterday I spotted a crow trying to make off with the last heavy green one. It gave up and dropped it on one of the roses after a bungled take-off.

One of the squirrels is a mother and I have been feeding her extra treats when I can. It's absurd because I don't want more squirrels around the place but she looks so raggedy I can't help it.

Also learned how to scare pigeons off the roof. First you get their attention and get them to look at you (difficult when they are more interested in procreating). You stare at them severely, point and shake your finger yelling "BAD pigeons, BAD!!" and they take off. Honest. I could get a government grant for it, I bet.

Alas for Allen Ginsberg's passing, but he certainly made his time count. And he made us think in new and different ways.


How to Grow Fresh Air
Friday, April 25

The above is a title that caught me eye as I was ordering books this morning. It's about houseplants that remove toxins from the air, like spider plants, etc. Great title.

Also am somewhat charmed to be ordering a copy of the second edition of the "Beginning Shepherd's Manual". "Cucurbits Towards 2000" was pretty good, too. I picture hundreds of thousands of cucumbers flying in formation towards the future.

Tons and tons of supplies, etc., are being trucked out to the Red River area. People from all over are helping. There was a small traffic jam when I went to donate. It will still be weeks before the water recedes, of course, but in the meantime people need to live.

Used the last of last year's frozen tomato and basil pesto on some pasta last night. Dressed it up with some of Karen's rosemary scented olive oil. Ahhhhhhh. On the phone this past weekend Karen was telling me about the rose jelly she was making from some deep red roses she grows. It sounds great. Mine is always a bit pale but am hoping Mr. Lincoln and Charles de Mills come through and give me lots of flowers this year (roses, not boyfriends).

The peas and the spinach are up, in spite of the cat's and the squirrel's best efforts. The spinach seed was seven years old. Gotta start some chard — Denny will be so pleased...;-)

After that hard freeze a couple of weeks ago (went down to 8 degrees F) the bulbs look a bit ragged. May have lost some lavender and a rose or two.

Hope all is well with everyone out there....


Of Juice and Thrips and Ceiling Wax
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Copyright 1997 by Terry A. Garey.