The Joy of Home Winemaking

Of Juice and Thrips and Ceiling Wax
January 1997

Check Date, January 3

Breaking Tail, January 9

Accidentally Robin, January 14

Twinkling Snow, January 23

Jessica's Biscuit, January 29

Title of the Month: Food Authentication

1997: | Jan | Feb | Mar | Apr | May | Jun | Jul | Aug | Sep | Oct | Nov | Dec |

| 1996 | 1997 | 1998 | 1999 | 2000 | 2001 | 2002 | Current Month |

Check Date
Friday, January 3

Have gone through my checkbook and written "97" on the first five just to get me used to it.

My youngest niece was visiting right after Xmas. We had a great time, mostly painting papier-mâché boxes and watching MST 3000 tapes. She's only 11 and 3/4 and is 1/8 inch taller than I am. Didn't recognize her when she got off the plane, even though I had seen her last June.

It was fun to have someone to play with, although I managed to spill a bottle of silver acrylic all over her and the floor of the craft room. She had an apron on, but there was an artistic spatter of dots across one sleeve and shoulder of the black sweater she was wearing. We couldn't get it to come out, so I took a stamp I had carved and put a necklace of stars around the collar, hoping it would look like we had planned it that way. It looked pretty good, I thought. Hope her grandmother and mother feel the same way.

The rest of the paint went on the floor and all over the room. The linoleum has an embossed pattern of wheat stalks in it so those are showing up more than they used to and the vacuum cleaner has silver paint splattered over it in gay abandon. Really jazzes it up.

Hope your New Year Days were as star-spangled, but less spontaneously so than mine!


Breaking Tail
Thursday, January 9

Welcome to central Minnesota, where the snow is officially a foot deep, now, which makes us feel lucky because the rest of the state has two feet on the ground. Feet of snow, that is. I figure that if I have three-foot drifts in my backyard, upstate must be in serious trouble.

In the midst of all of this, something seemed to go wrong with the rear end of Dover. Tried to get him into the vet but he hid, so went the weekend watching him carefully. He was eating and de-eating just fine, but something was really wrong. He could jump up on things but jumping down was clearly not fun. Couldn't sit, either.

I suspected a sprain or a bite. It cost $100 to find that Brave Brave Sir Dover (Any Monty Python fans out there?) had chipped the edge of one of the bones of his tail in such a way that even the vet was at a loss to explain how he could have done it. Of course, there is nothing that can be done about it except wait for it to heal. At least it wiggles now.

It's getting better. Poor cat. And they gave him his shots.

The living room has been deforested. I vacuumed but am sure there is plenty of mulch hiding here and there.

The only decoration still up is the green felt Xmas tree with buttons glued all over it that my great-niece made and (with some help from her grandmother) gave to me. I couldn't bear to put it away.

Denny gave me worms for Xmas.

More precisely, he gave me the box in which the worms will live. Next week I'll get the actual worms and start the composting worm farm of my dreams. I am quite thrilled. He asked me what I wanted and I told him. Not many men would have actually done this. On the other hand, how many women want a worm farm for Xmas?

We have also heard that Bruce the stuffed wombat is now safely and happily living in an Indian reservation somewhere in Washington state. It's a long story, but Denny heard about a kid who wanted one and we had three, so Bruce volunteered. We hear he has become quite a celebrity.

Hoping all is well out there — that the West Coast people are high and dry and the Southern people are getting used to the snow. Take good care of yourselves!


Accidentally Robin
Tuesday, January 14

Last night I accidentally watched a TV show called The Further Adventures of Robin Hood — it's hard to explain, but they were continuing Denny's wrestling match during the commercials and I got caught in a gill net or something.

We became oddly fascinated by this new show. One or two people had British accents; most didn't. The oaks of Sherwood had been replaced by pine. The plot seemed to revolve around a small peasant village being tormented by a horde (the only way they come) of Mongols led by Genghis Khan's younger brother, who, in addition to being very clean, had blue eyes.

Yes, Mongols in England.

The Mongols, like everyone else in the show, rode beautifully groomed quarter horses with finely tooled metal bits and buckles. The Mongols wore very strange costumes with much netting thrown over all. There was no explanation for this. They all had great gleaming teeth except for the leader, who had bad ones. He also had the best false mustache. They spent most of their time 'practicing' on each other in Hong Kong-style antics, while trying to keep their mustaches on. It was my opinion that they'd kill each other off fairly soon, so I couldn't see why the peasants were worried.

Ah, the peasants: nice, clean-looking people wearing a lot of blue and purple. Many wore jewelry in the shape of huge lockets and gaudy crosses. They lived in wattle and daub houses without the daub. Probably because England was so nice and warm and dry in those days. There were no geese, chickens, ducks, pigs, goats, sheep or cows to be seen, and damned few children, which explained the lack of manure, fields, or gardens.

Robin Hood himself was wearing a black t-shirt with some leather and studs sewn across it and beautifully tailored suede trousers. Friar Tuck had a nice razor cut. Maid Marian wore as little as possible and had no scratches or bruises from brambles or the considerable amount of fighting she did. Even Little John eschewed the Lincoln Green. No other Merry Men were to be seen. Maid Marian was wearing red, so maybe she was doubling for Will Scarlett?

Robin Hood had a habit of shooting three or more arrows at once and killing a single person with each one. They just died; not even a groan or a twitch.

At one point Friar Tuck held a piece of regular green basil and argued with a peasant woman about whether or not it was opal basil (which would have been purple) and finally agreed that it was lemon basil (which it wasn't), blithely ignoring the fact that most peasants in 11th century England (or Whenever — this would have for sure been Whenever) wouldn't have known any kind of basil, in all likelihood, especially out in the middle of the woods.

There was much Hong Kong movie style fighting. Jackie Chan would have fit in and added some class. There was some really cute American dialogue like "Let's get out there and whip some butt". I tell you we were in stitches.

The peasants learned to fight back, found swords from somewhere, especially the girls, and learned to set elaborate deadfalls and traps against their enemies. The elderly hippie/commie-looking peasant acknowledged the errors of the sissy ways of peace and took up the sword. He probably later continued as a serial killer but the plot did not elaborate.

Many Mongols were killed, and only once was blood seen. The young peasant boy saved his peasant girlfriend by fighting with a wooden rake against metal swords and lived to tell the tale. Little John got caught in one of the leftover traps as R. Hood and Co. left for who knows where. We laughed and laughed. It was a happy ending all the way around.

There was more, much more, but alas, my mind fails.

We were shown excerpts from next week's show but someone else will have to watch it because we were just too overcome by the experience to ever want to repeat it.

Oh yeah, Hulk Hogan lost. Yay.


Twinkling Snow
Thursday, January 23

It looked so pretty coming down — like glitter-snow on an old movie set — magical. One expected Shirley Temple to come out dressed as the Snow Princess and start dancing. Then I tried to drive in it.

Ah, Minnesota in winter. It wouldn't be so bad except the snow is already so high it's hard to see around corners. It's up past my knees when I wade out to feed the birds. The drifts are worse. Snowplows are having a hard time figuring out where to push the stuff.

This last dusting fell softly on top of a layer of ice left by an icy drizzle, so you can imagine what it's like walking or driving. But it does look pretty, yup yup. And it's quiet, except for the roar of snow blowers and the screams of people having heart attacks as they shovel.

Many thanks to Myrna, who brought me a packet of jelly babies back from England. I think it will do me for a while. They are horrible, artificially-flavored sweets which were the cheapest candy you could buy when I lived in England back in the 60s. Imagine softer gummy bears. One of the Beatles made the mistake of saying he was fond of them and the girls pelted them unmercifully. Dr. Who carried jelly babies for a while, offering his little paper sack to tentacled aliens and animated cacti all over the Universe.

I like the black currant ones the best. Yum. But like I said, once a year is about enough.

One of the prettiest sights this winter is a corner lot along the way home. There are a couple of small blue spruce which have been decorated with blue lights. On top of this is snow, looking like icing, and the blue light glows through it in the dark.

This summer, of course, the light can glow through the layer of sleeping mosquitos. . . .

Hope all is well. Many hugs and good thoughts to Sheila, who can use them.


Jessica's Biscuit
Wednesday, January 29

Happy surprise: There I was, idly turning the pages of the newest Jessica's Biscuit cookbook catalog, and there was The Joy of Home Winemaking, along with Papazian's Joy of Home Brewing.

I was thrilled. Millions of these things go out! In fact, Denny is the one the catalogue is actually sent to, even though he has never ordered from it. No, I have no idea why it's called Jessica's Biscuit.


Another use for duct tape: breadbox cover. We don't use the breadbox for bread. We wired it to the railing on the front porch, lid up, to receive the many small packages we get, since they won't fit through the mail slot. Saves us and the postal carriers and UPS carriers a lot of time.

Well, a few weeks ago the lid, made of tastefully carved faux-wood plastic, broke, and there we were, with a non-functional breadbox.

Replacing the lid took more thought than you would think. I cut a lid in plywood only to find it was too thick to fit on the hinge. This irritated me no end because I even sanded the damned thing. Then I looked for some plastic rigid enough to work but soft enough for me to cut, and failed.

Yesterday, I finally cut a piece of cardboard to fit, covered it in Gladwrap, taped aluminum foil over that, and duct-taped the hecky darn out of it. I put some screws through the cardboard and the holes in the hinge, but they didn't set well. Dug out some nuts which didn't really fit (NOT going to the hardware store, NOT!!!!!), put them on anyway, and duct-taped even more.

Then I put on a board scrap for weight and a handle and used up the rest of the duct tape.

It ain't handsome, but neither was the previous lid, and it works.

It now occurs to me that I could have gotten some masonite, waterproofed it, gotten the proper-sized screws and nuts and that would have justified going out in the freezing cold to the hardware store and that's probably what I'll do when this wears out or freezes off. It took three years for the bamboo and duct tape clematis trellis to die, though.

Last weekend Laurie and I discovered you can use duct tape to hold shut a car window which has gone off its trolley. Alas, it doesn't keep the engine from self-destructing, but it kept Laurie from freezing her face off in the meantime. Gallant Sir Duct Tape!

Gallant Sir Dover was observed last evening swatting fiercely at a piece of chicken from the sweet and sour I had made. I used green fire vinegar for the sour and overdid it a bit, so I guess he felt he had to break off the stingers before he ate it.

Should just pulled 'em off with duct tape. . . .

Hope all is well, with special good wishes for Sheila and also for Don, who had just better behave himself, now.

Isn't it grand how I managed to not use the word 'snow' in this message?


Of Juice and Thrips and Ceiling Wax
1997: | Jan | Feb | Mar | Apr | May | Jun | Jul | Aug | Sep | Oct | Nov | Dec |

| 1996 | 1997 | 1998 | 1999 | 2000 | 2001 | 2002 | Current Month |

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Copyright 1997 by Terry A. Garey.