The Joy of Home Winemaking

Of Juice and Thrips and Ceiling Wax
May 1997

On Hold, May 6

Glass Poppies and Purple Cat Collars, May 8

Ocarina, May 9

Petunia Lust, May 16

Gopher Redux, May 27

Title of the Month: Ruddy Ducks and Other Stiff Tails

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

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

On Hold
Tuesday, May 6

Things seem to be on hold a lot lately. Medical news from relatives is flying in circles. Spring keeps playing canned Bach at me. At work, the End of the Fiscal Year is looming but we are not yet in panic mode — there seems to be ample time ahead for that.

On the other hand, The Lady Poetesses From Hell group met last Sunday and we had a great time poeting, then petted Jane's roommate's two huge mixed breed dogs for about an hour. Grown women shrieking and giggling — covered in dog slobber and dog hair, tsk. The dogs had fun, too.

It was such a lovely day we all went for a walk, amusing the populace. I think they thought we were some form of Religious Door Knockers or maybe a local neighborhood vigilance committee, or maybe the Garden Police, except that we seemed to be having way too much fun. Children stared and pointed.

Afterwards we descended upon our favorite restaurant, Vina, a Vietnamese place that has a wickedly good way with tofu and mock duck. We are a mixture of omnivores, vegivores, semi-vegivores, and semi-hemi-demi-vegivores and Vina usually has something for everyone, even hot pepper wimps.

Alas, they weren't playing the "Mormon Tabernacle Choir Does the Beatles" on the sound system, like they were some months ago. I wanted to request it but was encouraged not to do so. Jane and Rebecca and Laurie are fairly sure a kindly waitron must have deep fried it 'by accident' by now but don't want to take chances. Party poopers. Ruth just smiled. Ruth is a very kind person.

I have embarked upon this year's major garden project, which is The Partial Eradication of the European Bell Flower Project. The flowers are so pretty — very English cottage garden — and they spring up all over the place. The problem is that they S P R E A D. For years I pulled them up here and there but they would come back again. Then last year, I found out why.

Deep down in the earth, below what one assumes are their roots, they establish carrot-sized tubers. If you don't get those, you don't get the plant. Like dandelions, they can sink these tubers into the smallest cracks and strangest places, making them really hideous to remove.

I don't want to get rid of ALL of them (like I did the purslane, alas) — just keep them down to a dull roar without the aid of poison or nuclear warheads. The hot water treatment doesn't work, either. So I dig. I figure 2 hours a week for several weeks dedicated to the PEEBFP will do the trick. I could be wrong. I've been wrong before.

Mother Nature is very sneaky sometimes. However, doing something about something which I can do something about beats being on hold.

Hope all is well out there. Take good care of yourselves.


Glass Poppies and Purple Cat Collars
Thursday, May 8

I seem to have Spring Fever pretty bad. Feel like just walking out of the office and never coming back, thinking: "What am I doing here?" I probably won't, of course, but I feel like it.

Mentally, while at work, I'm living somewhere where I can grow all the squash and beans and tomatoes and blackberries I want and drink tea in my overalls and bare feet on the front steps and not see anyone else unless I want to. I want some hens and a retired horse to pet, several cats, a pond, a house, and a solar powered Pentium and sewing machine. And a huge barn for Denny's books. It isn't clear if I am scratching fleas or just scratching. And there are no aphids. Is this too much to ask?

Probably. On the other hand at home the pie cherry treeling is blooming and the six Chinese cabbage are looking good. Spinach is flat because of Dover, but still game. Peas are happy as peas. Some of the tomatoes are enclosed in Wall O' Waters to keep them safe and warm. The hollyhock is taking up room where I could put another tomato, but hey, it's a hollyhock.

The cats have forgiven me for changing their flea collars and giving them new license plates. They hate it when I do that. Dover gets a purple one this year. Blame Denny. Dover had just achieved a uniform gray coloring from rolling in the vegetable beds and was leaving smudges where he sat, so I also gave him a wet rag bath. This did not help our relationship but it helped the furniture. He's still pretty filthy. I am eyeing the laundry tub.

Last Sunday, at the Mayday festival at Powderhorn park, the parade was paraded and the Sun came over the water on canoes to save the Tree of Life. That's what I assume was happening. We were too far away from the center of the crowd to hear the announcers on stilts (acoustic PA system), but could see the giant Heart of the Beast puppets and caught the gist of things. This year involved frogs, for some reason. There were lots of kids dressed up in frogs and many other water symbols wandering through the crowd.

Some friends and I went to see the Chihuly glass exhibit at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts and were blown away by it. This guy works large. Each room had only a few pieces in it but they were so beautiful and intriguing and the setting was so well done, that we spent a lot of time viewing each one. In a way it was like being thrown back into the sixties or Alice in Wonderland, sans drugs. One room was giant multicolored poppies, another started us humming "In an Octopus's Garden" and then there was the glass ceiling with huge flat pieces and dainty little Venetian pieces all over it. The best way to see that one was to simply lie down and say "Wow, look at the colors man. . . ."

At the end they show you a video with Chihuly and his crew working like slaves around a huge glowing furnace, shifting and shaping these pieces of molten glass about — moving like dancers or the Flying Karamazov Brothers. Each person knows just what to do, when to start and stop, when to lend a hand, when to take the piece in asbestos arms and when to chuck it back in the furnace. It's startling to go through the exhibit of perfect, smooth, massive art, then watch a video of the hot, sweaty dangerous production.

If it comes to a town near you, visit.

Hope all is well out there!


Friday, May 9

Lest it be thought that working in the library on the ag campus is boring, allow me to offer you this sample.

A book called Adding Value to Root and Tuber Crops just came across my desk. It's put out by CIAT, and gives examples of product development overseas. How many ways can you market cassava, etc.

Leafing through out of curiosity my eye was caught by Project 9 — "Development of a Sweet Potato Beverage in the Philippines". What? I thought. Yes, there was a photo of some little kids earnestly sucking on straws.

Skimming the article I learned. . . the Philippines has lots of sweet potatoes. . . third biggest crop. . . small farmers needing an outlet. . . dried sweet and sour sweet potato(!), jam, catsup, . . . and non alcoholic SP beverage were tried. SPs have tons of vitamin C and A, lots of calcium and magnesium. . . uh, yeah. . . she said cautiously. I like sweet potatoes, but. . . a beverage?

They tried it.

Artificial flavors "significantly" improved the aroma. I'll bet.

So they made up some samples, some with and some without guava flavoring. People seemed to like it. However, some were worried that too much starch in the beverage might cause flatulence.

"Ten volunteers confirmed that consuming one 8oz. bottle of the beverage daily did not cause flatulence."

There you have it. But don't wait around for this beverage to show up in your local grocery. They worked on this project for five years, then it turns out the factory burned down — it doesn't say why or by whom. An era was over.

That does it — I'll have to try making sweet potato wine. With or without guava flavoring.


Petunia Lust
Friday, May 16

Ah, my kind of weather: cool and damp. No one else likes it, mind you. In the paper this morning they ran an article for impatient gardeners who wanted to get their bedding plants out now, cautioning them that it was still too cool for most things beyond peas, cabbage, lettuce, etc., and maybe marigolds.

The Horticulture Club is having its annual plant sale, and, of course, I bought some. They have good perennials, shrubs, and trees as well as the usual annuals — however, I must indulge my lust for petunias! The ones I started from seed are still small. The ones I buy I can baby through another week or two before I plant. Petunias are tougher than most people think.

We went up north to Detroit Lakes to visit Denny's Mom for Mother's Day. The trees hadn't leafed out at all up there, yet. There were even a few flakes of snow. Many trees were broken from the record snows. But the countryside looked nice, and a few farmers were getting seed into the ground. Twenty miles west towards Fargo was a different story, I'm sure.

We drove Myrtle around the fields and she told us who had lived where, and who had bought it after they died, etc. It made plain dirt a lot more interesting and personal.

This year we were not able to take her to the truck stop for Mother's Day dinner (lunch) because it was too full, of truckers and their mothers, I presume. Durn mother truckers.

Every other place was full on Sunday, even the KFC buffet. (Thank goodness.) Sadly, and hungrily, we were hoping Denny's sister would make us a sandwich when, out in the middle of seemingly nowhere, we came upon Joyce's Junction — a tiny eatery with about six booths. It was very clean and kind of cute, so we dined on fried whatevers and french fries (I don't think any food on the menu came unfried) and honor was satisfied.

I worry about next year, when Joyce's will probably be full, too. We could just kill a wild duck and broil it over a campfire. For me, of course, it will have to be mock duck. Maybe we could sneer at it before we slaughter it.

Hope all is well out there


Gopher Redux
Tuesday, May 27

Just found a flyer in the hallways here at the U advertising the Gopher Dairy Club barbecue. You remember the Gopher Dairy Club? I am, of course, horrified. The ones that don't produce must get reduced, I guess. I wonder how many gophers constitutes a serving? Now I know why there is no gopher-flavored cat food; the Dairy club eats them all.

One of the big tea companies in the UK has developed the pyramidal tea bag. It's supposed to make the tea taste as if it were brewed properly. Doesn't say whether or not the taste is sharpened, or preserved. Sounds like a pyramid scheme to me.

Planted marigolds last night. They seemed a bit uneasy but I assured them they'd be fine, just fine. "Look," I said, "you've been in training for a month and now's the time to go for the gusto. The weeds look great. . . ."

Dover the cat evidently has achieved a goal. In spite of my efforts he is no longer white, but the color of a half-composted coffee filter. When we look in the backyard, we can't see him unless he moves because he's stalking mice in the compost heap. So far the color change has not helped him catch a mouse. Maybe he should try Clairol instead of dirt.

Sure, I should turn the compost, but then what would Dover and Nelly do for amusement?

Take good care of yourselves,


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.