The Joy of Home Winemaking

Of Juice and Thrips and Ceiling Wax
July 1997

Stormy Episode, July 2

Petunia Knee Strikes Again, July 10

Mosquito Leak, July 18

Squirrel Passing, July 30

Title of the Month: The Giant Canada Goose

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Stormy Episode
Wednesday, July 2

We had a hell of a storm last night. Downtown flooded, I-35 flooded just south of us, between 35th and 46th — they had to close it. Cars were floating.

At one point we couldn't see across the street and I voted we retreat to the basement. So we did. Dover was terrified — he thought we were going to bathe him.

We took on a little water, but not much. Had to retrieve the back door coconut mat — it had floated down the passage way. Most of the plants were fine, except for a few broken delphinium stalks, which I brought to work. I had expected much worse.

You could see the storm coming in and the TV stations did a good job covering it. We picked up much of our rain deficit — 3-4 inches, I heard. There was much more wind damage outside the metro area, and some funnel sightings (I swear I saw one forming, just before we headed for the basement) but no one was seriously hurt that I heard.

The garden has little green tomatoes, and little green grapes. We mulched the tomatoes with newspaper and compost one hot muggy day last week. The big bloom of the roses is about done but other things are taking over. I need to persuade the little white daisies to infest the other half of the front garden.

The maroon hollyhock from last year is now a colony and has started to bloom. It's probably sucking nutrients away from the tomatoes, but it looks so stately.

Here at work the dreaded carpet laying (or throwing, as the carpet layers, er, throwers, say) has come and gone in Technical Services. Our Office Manager did a fantastic job moving everything with a mere handful of student helpers. The carpeting looks great and doesn't stink.

I saw a Bravo special on Dusty Springfield the other night. Always loved her voice. Hair and make-up were always weird but she's toned it down a bit now. French and Saunders were 'interviewing' her — a stitch. It was nice to know she still going strong, and equally nice to hear the old songs.

Denny found a copy of "The Best of Steptoe and Son" scripts. Probably only my Lakenheath chums ever saw it. "Sanford and Son" was an American copy. The British version was much better. The scripts are hilarious. I'm hoping to find a tape of it one day.

Well, off to find all the things I packed in the office move and can't find. After a frantic hunt the tape dispenser turned up in a pigeon hole with the re-orders. I found my magic ID card for the computer in my book bag where I had put it so I could find it again. And no one found and ate the black jelly beans so I guess I'll have to.

Hope all is well with you all out there,



Petunia Knee Strikes Again
Thursday, July 10

Guess I did too much kneeling this spring and early summer because my stupid knee, which used to be known as my motorcycle knee and is now known as my petunia knee, got seriously weird this week. So I'm gimping around on a cane and using a brace that's a bit too tight. Phone nurse said to haul it in next week if it isn't getting better. (Daphne laughs hollowly, still recovering from a knee replacement.) It doesn't like stairs or even curbs, nor does it care for getting in and out of the car or a chair. Wimp.

Denny and I went Up North for the weekend and spent a couple of blissful days staring at trees, flowers, and Lake Superior. Or, rather, I did. Denny read. It felt good to have no responsibilities, no phone calls, no cats waking us at 6 am. It is still late spring up there. The fields and sides of the roads are full of lupines and daisies, orange hawkweed and wild roses. We saw sea gulls, red-winged blackbirds, hawks, a deer, and some cute little hop toads.

Bayfield is very nice — touristy enough to have some interest, but nothing really gross. The art galleries, etc., actually have art in them now and then. We found a couple of used bookstores and a great thrift store. I scored some beautifully embroidered dresser scarves for 50 cents each. They were perfect, and clearly done by someone who was very good. Tiny, perfect stitches, unlike anything I've ever done. I felt like I was rescuing them.

Took the ferry over to Madeline Island and back — got rained on — got sunned on, and read and drank beer in the evening. We brought the cooler with brie and other cheese, some fruit and good bread, but we went out a few times too. Reuben pizza, anyone? It exists, and it isn't bad. The BLT pizza wasn't bad, either, but it was certainly peculiar. We discovered some locally brewed beer and an apple wine.

Just looking at a large body of water was good, even if it doesn't smell like the ocean. But somehow I twisted my knee in amongst the glory of nature.

Back at home the weather was quite cool for a couple of days. I made jelly and jam and gradually realized my knee was not happy. Nelly the cat was out in the backyard with us Monday evening in a drizzle, having shot out the back door because she thought I was trying to keep her in. I wanted to check to see if some seeds had come up, and had the umbrella with me.

Then it started to pour down rain. Nell followed Denny into the garage. He didn't want her there so he thrust her into my arm (the other one was holding the brolly) and we headed for the back door. Rain crashed down from the roof in the narrow walkway; she turned her head to look at it, knowing we would about to get soaked, but too polite (or perhaps too smart) to claw me. She had the look of someone facing a tsunami. BUT!!! We didn't get wet!

Wildly, she looked back at me, then at the water cascading mere inches from us. I realized she was witnessing a miracle.

She had no idea about the umbrella, you see, and thought I was somehow keeping the rain away, WHICH SHE ALWAYS KNEW I COULD DO IF I REALLY WANTED, but never had before, being too stubborn or mean to admit it.

Somehow, in all the years we've had this cat, she has never before been carried under an umbrella.

I'm in big trouble now.


Mosquito Leak
Friday, July 18

Dark clouds followed me from Minneapolis to work, this morning. Looks like we'll have more storms. After today the weather is supposed to cool down a bit.

We have a mosquito leak somewhere in the house. I use Denny as bait and we swat 10-12 every night, and that's pretty much it. They were late this year, but they are huge and ferocious. We don't seem to have many house spiders this year, which is too bad.

We haven't been able to use the AC in the hot weather because of a problem we hope will be fixed next week. Naturally, the weather has been insufferable.

Nelly has taken to lying in the breeze from the fan curled up, but with her tummy exposed. Then she sticks out her paws (the only part of a cat that sweats) and looks like road kill. Dover lies ("like a rug") as flat as he can on the wooden floor and looks pathetic.

The cleome and zinnias are coming into their own, as are the weeds I missed earlier in the season. I am waiting to see if the tie-dye morning glories really have stripes. The leaves are variegated, which, once I figured out it wasn't something icky, is kind of interesting. They are wrapped around strings leading up into the arborvitae. I'm hoping that the effect will be an evergreen with blue and white flowers. Planted Pink Wave petunias in the same containers (two rusted-out canners) to give it some interest in the meantime. They LOVE the wet, hot weather.

Put up the new, improved breadbox on the front porch railings to receive packages. Hadn't noticed that it is smaller than the last one. Painted it Federal Warning purple (I think it means the thing is nuclear) in Rustoleum — three coats, with two coats of primer. Rediscovered my hatred for spray paint. Should hold for a while, though.

That's the news. . . .


Squirrel Passing
Wednesday, July 30

One of our squirrels died the other day. My guess is it was hurt from a fall or a car. At first I thought it was just lying on its tummy in the grass in order to cool off; then I saw the eyes beginning to cloud and that patient, determined look. So I gathered the cats up and checked every once in a while through the window.

It took a half hour for the squirrel to drag itself arm over arm headfirst into the yarrow patch, and then it moved no more. I had debated about going out and finishing it off (ugh) but something besides cowardice held me back; it was that determined look.

Next morning I went out, hoping a wild hope that everything was ok, but no. The bushy tail poking out from the flowers would never move on its own again.

Denny and I gave it a burial when he got home, complete with some leaves to line the hole, a few blossoms and, of course, a peanut. It sounds silly but I didn't want to leave a rotting squirrel in the yard and I could spare a few flowers. At least it didnít end up a squirrel frisbee or crow lunch (although goodness knows, I don't begrudge the crows).

I couldn't tell for sure which of the squirrels it was, little Scar Face, or the Other One. Scar Face is almost healed over; she's no longer little. I think it was the Other One, the skittish one that always panicked when I tossed a peanut. It would come back to get the peanut, dashing to and fro nervously, waiting for me to do something reprehensible. I never did.

I'd be sad except that I know we'll get another squirrel (ecological holes fill quickly in the urban environment). I know that this one lasted pretty well for a squirrel, and death came fast. In the squirrel way of thinking, I feel it probably considered itself a success. It had survived a winter, reproduced, and was fat and healthy till the end. Even that last, hard crawl, difficult as it was to watch, was a success. Squirrel instinct says when something goes wrong — HIDE. And Other One had. Its head and front part were hidden in the yarrow, its squirrely little duty done.

Hope I can say the same when I go.


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