The Joy of Home Winemaking

Of Juice and Thrips and Ceiling Wax
January 1998

Praising Crows, January 1

Beet Me, January 7

Purple *Pop*pies, January 16

Not For Reading During Lunch, January 23

Title of the Month: Keeping Australians at Home

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Thursday, January 1

Praising Crows

Crow hops through the leaves, looking for a snack,
an appetizer,
something to amuse him or her
on this cold windy day.
It looks like an unrewarding task.

I toss some bread, fresh from the co-op. The bird regards it
suspiciously in the way of crows
and all wild things,
eyes dark,
protecting the soul.

Oh crow, I say,
no one ever tells you how beautiful you are
how black and sleek, how strong—
no one ever tells you how spare and graceful
your feathers are, nor praises your skill in the air.
No one ever thinks to be grateful
that you clean up the road kill,
eat the trash that would attract rats
and worse.
But I'm telling you today
because it's true.
I'm telling you even though
the neighbors might hear and think
I'm a New Age nut
for talking to crows.
Oh crow, eat the clean bread and be glad.

I back away a few steps then wait,
watching the wind blow leaves. It's not polite
to stare.

Crow watches me, considers my character,
then slowly picks up the bread
and flaps away.

The light will stay longer and longer each day, now,
and we should all be grateful.


Beet Me
Wednesday, January 7

Bought some beets at the co-op last week and cooked them up the other day. Canned beets are OK, but fresh beets are so much better, even though they are more trouble.

Cooked 'em (oh boy, humidity!), peeled 'em, cut 'em up, and was trying to decide hot or cold, when I suddenly thought about the low-fat sour cream (no-fat sour cream is, in fact, not sour cream, and barely food, as far as I can tell) in the fridge and the nice fresh little green onions. . . 

So I reinvented the Eastern European food wheel and let it chill for several hours. Yum, great! But magenta, horrifyingly magenta. And if you add alfalfa spouts, it looks even more gnarly. Not something to serve unsuspecting guests. I was afraid to show it to Denny. Kids might like it or hate it, depending on their outlook on life.

Shoulda made wine from the leftover water, but it was only four beets and wouldn't have been very flavorful.

The alfalfa spouts are from the seed sprouter gadget I got from Johnny’s Seeds last year (it was only 8 bucks, but the price has gone up to $12, and other catalogues are charging up to $22 for the same thing!). A couple of dollars worth of seeds goes a long way. I grow cress, mung beans, radish, onions, all kinds. Broccoli is next.

It's so cute . . . you put the seeds in the little round tray, then put another tray over that, pour water in, and it trickles though to the catch tray underneath. You can start three trays in succession and have a continuous supply of spouts. Of course, jars would work just as well. Maybe even better, because the round trays aren't really tall enough.

Got a book on spouting, and the guy advocates growing sprouts in open baskets or linen bags, which is something I can try. In the meantime, I'm having fun.

Lettuce and basil are tiny but happy under the seed starting lights upstairs. Time to start another batch for a succession. In a few weeks I'll cut their little heads off and eat them.

I've got some pansies and impatiens going to try out under the lights at the office, but they aren't even sprouted yet. The worms are busy in their box. I had to put up a sticky yellow trap for the fruit flies the worm bin seems to generate, but hey, I'm farming in January!

A special smile for dear Don, my favorite gardener, in LA after surgery. You can always try telling some lies and see if that helps, but I can't imagine you lying. I'm saving a big hug and a kiss for you for Minicon.

And thanks, Kim in Australia, for the weird things you send through the mail. We never know. The Chinese veg seeds are waiting for April. Myrna's hot peppers and Mog's balloon vine will have to wait till June.

Greetings to everyone who will be at Potlatch next week. Someone out there had better have some Dim Sum for me! Shrimp shu mai, yum!

Well goodness, poor Sonny Bono. At least it was quick. Somewhere, I'm sure, his beat goes on, as do my beets. . . .

Take good care of yourselves


Purple *Pop*pies
Friday, January 16

Found some lovely tissue paper in the bookstore yesterday and took it home, seized with the idea of making some paper flowers. I quickly realized it wasn't suitable for what I had in mind due to being printed only on one side. Then I found some brilliant purple crepe paper I had bought several weeks before.

Ah, purple poppies! What a good idea! I had at it and after much effort produced one very sorry looking poppy that drooped and had lumpy floral-taped hips where no actual poppy has hips at all. Grump.

While looking for wire I found the ragged little sewing box that contains my Leftover-From-The-60s seed beads. At the bottom was a little tag with a tiny pen and ink drawing of a dandelion and the notation "25 cents."

Oh, right—Flower Power. *pop* Suddenly I was transported back to a flea market somewhere in Contra Costa County in '68 or so. It was sunny and hot, and my sister and I had a little table of offerings. She had made bracelets and necklaces, simple but pretty, and I was hawking great floppy crepe paper flowers. I don't think anything we had was over 50 cents. Then, *pop* I was back to Minnesota and winter, with the cat trying to crawl into the paper drawer again. I don't think Meg and I lasted more than a couple of weekends at the flea market.

This has been happening a lot, lately, that *pop* and for a second or two I'm somewhere else. Perhaps the quiet of winter gives the mind more time for roaming around.

A few days ago I saw a battered car by the side of the road with a fellow trying to restart what was probably a dead battery, and suddenly I *popped* back to one of the many times my ex and I had been in the same situation, where the possibility of getting the $25.00 for a new battery seemed so remote we contemplated lying down in the ditch and dying with the car.

Last week I was cooking a batch of pinto beans and *pop* I was at a Pow Wow back in the 70s, making fry bread with Kat and Lena, hearing the drums for the Grand Entrance. There might have been a kid clinging to my leg.

Trying to lift a big bag of birdseed *popped* me back to the days when I could lift a 200-pound VW engine just far enough for my partner to get the floor jack back under it. And almost popped my back again. I left the birdseed for Denny to move.

There was a special on VH1 about the Mamas and the Papas (not very good, mostly old gossip) and Mama Cass' voice caused a *pop* that had me driving down San Pablo Avenue in my light blue '56 Chevy with the souped-up engine. Ah Clarence, what a great car you were.

Some of the *pop*s are nice, some not so nice, but it's kind of interesting. I do worry that this is where my memory is going; out to play when it should be home working on finding my coffee cup (yes, I know, Karen—in the microwave), finding my good sewing scissors (no, not in the microwave . . . ) and remembering to write thank-you notes (thanks for the Australian Wild Food booklets, Kim!!).

Tonight I'm going to try the purple poppies again though, because in the middle of the night I remembered the technique. Besides, who knows where I'll end up?

Stay warm.


Not For Reading During Lunch
Friday, January 23

Took the cats to the vet for their annual check-ups. Naturally they were thrilled. Dover mewed piteously in the car and at the vet's hid his head in my armpit until they needed to check his ears and teeth. Nelly looked all big-eyed and interested until the Doc touched Her Majesty without the proper reverence, then showed her displeasure by drooling in great glistening ropes, dehydrating herself and getting the assistant cat holder (me) nice and wet.

Dover needs his teeth cleaned and his food supply slowed down. 14-year-old Nelly the semi-anorexic needs a little more food (the trick is keeping Dover the Vacuum Cleaner away from Her Majesty's leisurely repasts) and has the well-functioning kidneys of a two-year-old, said the Doc.

My thought was, "What has she done with the rest of the two-year-old?" but that's the way I've learned to think about Little Nell, the Cat From Hell. Her liver is upset about something so we have to retest that in a month and hope it was just that monumental hairball from a few days before.

I'm learning so much about internal medicine these days . . . I had no idea that a severe stress (like falling down the stairs or getting hit by a car) would show up in liver hormones. She hasn't been hit by a car nor fallen down the stairs that we know of, but Dover does chase her around a lot and for all I know she bungee jumps off the radiators (aka Personal Cat Heating Devices) when we aren't home. Other than that, she's perky and alert except when she's yowling to go out, yowling to be fed, yowling for Denny to get up, yowling for Spring, or asleep.

I'm so glad we don't have children.

It's still winter, here. The snow is very pretty, now that we've finally gotten some. My semi-serious boots have started to leak, so I will be checking the sales later on. My serious boots (REI sorrel-like objects) are only for plowing through four-foot drifts, like last year, and not very useful for driving.

Last evening I was walking home through the park (had dropped the car off at the mechanic's to get fixed and was walking home for the exercise) and saw that the big lights down around the lake were on. Several places had been cleared of snow and people were ice skating. On the other side of the lake people were sledding down the hill (hills are not easy to find in our part of the state).

I could hear their voices drifting over through the falling snow. Everything was so darned pretty I kept expecting a director to yell "Cut!". I expect it was the lovely serene mood that kept me from realizing my socks were soaked through.

Stay warm, my friends, check your boots and cats for leaks, and someone had better let me how the Potlatch convention in the Bay Area went.


Of Juice and Thrips and Ceiling Wax
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Copyright © 1998 by Terry A. Garey.