The Joy of Home Winemaking

Of Juice and Thrips and Ceiling Wax
November 1998

Tuning the Toilet, November 3

Winter Mix, November 10

The Plumber Wanted the Unicorn, November 21

Title of the Month: A Theory of Shopping

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Tuning the Toilet
Tuesday, November 3

Halloween came and went. In previous years Nelly, our elderly black cat, has sat on the newel post in the entryway and delighted the children and herself by posing proudly and drinking up the attention, but this year she got a bit bored with the intervals between batches, so she elected to crouch in the front window by the electric skull candelabra and watch more comfortably. It looked quite eerie.

Dover, as usual, retreated to the basement for the festivities, coming up now and then to check if the madness was over. Dover figures being picturesque is for Others.

We got rid of most of the candy, and had no tricks played, except that a squirrel stole one of the pumpkin ears and nibbled the top a bit. The only candle I had that would fit was a nice pine-scented one. A tiny bit strange, but it worked.

Denny and I have been in a flurry of house cleaning and home repair. I tear the house apart once or twice a year. When you have nineteen rooms, quite a bit of dust can pile up before you notice it, then one thing leads to another in the race against entropy.

Hauled out the storm windows and got them in place. Old houses have windows with serious individualistic quirks, and the quirks change from year to year. We coped, still have all our fingers but had to use duct tape on one for extra security. A terrible blow. We are putting off the Dance of the Insulating 3M Plastic for a while.

We are having vented glass block windows put in the basement. The old windows, possibly dating from when the house was built in 19 ought 2 are crumbling and not very secure. The outside water spigot needs replacing, and there's a persistent drip in the upstairs bathtub. We are calling professionals for those.

We took on the athletic (always running) toilet with a toilet tune-up kit (honest, that's what they called it) and succeeded with only one extra trip to the hardware store. When I got down to putting the main replacement piece in (Denny does not fit under the toilet. I barely fit.) I discovered that a little gasket about the size of my thumb was not going to work because of our supply line. They mentioned this as a possibility in the instructions, so I felt it was fair.

Went to the hardware store and no where did they have a dumb little gasket to replace the crushed one. So a nice old guy convinced me to buy a new supply line which comes with its own gasket, and lo and behold, in spite of my suspicions and natural conservatism, it worked.

I did, of course, have to make some weighty decisions about some of the connecting pieces but by thinking really hard and grunting a lot, was able to piece together a sequence of parts that would work, and we had success, in spite of leftover parts. We were elated, and we used no duct tape.

Then Denny bravely raised the shower head holder about a foot. When I installed it originally I installed it for my height, not thinking of the Denny Tallness Factor. We managed to do that without a trip to the hardware store, but it did take several trips to and from the basement and the kitchen tool drawer. We considered duct tape, but knew it would be Wrong.

We were dealing with two screws, but they had to be used with wall anchors and those are nasty horrible things because of having to guess the size of the drill bit that will make the hole not too big and not too small. Plus we couldn't use the drill to screw the screws because of the hose holder being in the way, and I probably didn't drill deeply enough when I drilled the pilot holes. Denny sweated and grunted and finally got everything taken care of with the acoustic long-handled screwdriver.. I hope we never have to move it again. If he ever shrinks it's too bad.

Still have to call the gutter guys. We need gutters to protect the foundation. It's either that or French drains. It might be both.

So here it is November in Minnesota and we still have petunias. This has not happened before. There was a rose out shivering for Halloween, and the white delphinium somehow thinks it's June. It can't last, of course, but it's nice. We will have a hard frost in the next day or two, but life is pretty glorious right now.

Hope all is well out there. May Don's L. A. compost heap grow and grow. May my sister sell her house, my Dad get over the flu, may Mog's docs behave, and may Geri's workload not overwhelm her. Congrats to Steve on his forth coming wedding, and of course, hurray for Cherry in Mark Trail for having her own adventure. We're still working on the poster, Kim, they were out of stock.

Take good care of yourselves, and stay warm (OK, Frank, and excited).


Winter Mix
Tuesday, November 10

Rain, snow, snow rain, sleet, snow, rain. . . .it goes on. This system can't make up its mind what it wants to do. Out state is getting socked with heavy snow, so perhaps we are lucky.

Also got socked with a new governor, Jesse "The Body" Ventura. Some of you emailed wondering what it means, and what it means is enough people voted for him and he got elected. I figure it'll be interesting. He certainly can't be worse than Ronnie Raygun was for California. That would be hard to beat. The only thing I worry about is mandatory push-ups.

Dover the cat was worried earlier today, for the plumber was downstairs replacing the outside spigot and bringing that pipe up to code by making a tremendous amount of noise. Then the shutoff valve, which was so far away from the spigot I had no idea it was a shut-off valve, broke off in his hand. Wasn't his fault, just a lot of rust. Now it's all fixed, and we are considerably poorer, but seeing the section of pipe he removed with its corrosion, I think it was money well spent.

It took Dover an hour to decide to come out from wherever he was hiding after the guy had left. Nelly, of course, wanted to go down and 'help' the guy. She loves the sound of power tools. I wouldn't let her.

The basement is much cleaner than it was. We had to clear out a lot of space for the glass block people, and found all sorts of things, much of which we threw out. Because of the rain, snow, sleet, snow rain, etc., the glass block people didn't come after all, but that's OK. Maybe next week.

The most mysterious object we found was a lovely set of bongo drums in a zippered case. It must have been left over from a party/club meeting from many years past, but we haven't a clue.

Drove down to Rochester with fellow poets Eleanor and Ruth for a meeting at Laurie's. It was a good meeting.

Afterwards she took us to see the famous Giant Canada geese, who winter over at the warm lake created by the power plant. The normal 30,000 weren't all there yet, but it was still very impressive. In view of the goose exhaust we elected to admire them from inside the car. Getting the car out of the parking lot was interesting, because, after all, it's their parking lot. . . .

Then we went downtown so Laurie could show us the Barnes and Noble in the City Center. They put it in an old disused theater, preserving the marquee and doors outside and the lovely old arched ceiling inside. Around the rim of the blue and star-speckled expanse are castles and turrets with flying banners, all in 3D. Very very nice.

On the drive down I saw that most of the harvest is in, and the fields are going to sleep. Different from the height of summer green, when the crops are just about bursting out of the ground. The land rolls gently, and there are many bands of trees and shrubs along the creeks and divisions between farms. It was the start of the deer season, and although I know they need to be thinned, I wished them all good luck, including the hunters. We lose a few every year.

Hope everyone is snug and dry. Take good care of yourselves, my friends.


The Plumber Wanted the Unicorn
Saturday, November 21

We've been having some repairs done around the place lately. The plumber wanted to know where we got the mounted unicorn head over the fireplace. I told him a friend of mine hit it with her car and had it mounted. He gave me a look. I finally admitted she used a taxidermy base and rabbit skins.

I didn't tell him about the one Geri has, also made by Giovanna: black fur, with pierced ears, a ring in its nose and a big studded collar. . . .

The glass block window guys came earlier this week and were in and out and done and cleaned up in 2 1/2 hours! I was astounded. They pre-assembled the windows, of course, but still! The basement is now safe from the threat of a local squirrel kicking the windows out to raid the basement. The wood on one casing was like cardboard.

They didn't see the unicorn, but they liked the Beatle dolls and the wine cellar. I think we are getting a reputation among repair people. And they always ask "Have you read all these books?" when they see the cookbook collection, etc. Answer: no.

Speaking of Giovanna, I attended the open house at the Duck Soup studio today. Giovanna and her jewelry, of course, and Mike and his pottery, and Ken's cartoons made Xmas shopping much more fun and personal. Then there was the buffet of shrimp chips, Oreo cereal, preserved gooseberries, normal cookies, weird cookies, sesame/taro chips we were afraid to open, and the lingering smell of freshly fried donuts from the day before when Mike got ambitious. Weird food buffets are a tradition, you see.

The studio is in a huge old building that once held office furniture. It's large, with flimsy walls and industrial strength beams, floors, and wiring. The whole place is studios. It's sort of a wonderland of artists and old dirty carpeting, with feathers, glitter, and rough sketches leaking out the doors. There are a few used book sellers here and there to weight things down. Always an adventure.

To top the day off I attended the wedding of my eldest niece on the West Coast via the telephone. I could barely hear the ceremony, but caught a few words here and there, and applause at the end. Meant to put on a dress, but forgot. Didn't get any cake, either.

The event was held at my sister's house on fairly short notice, so I couldn't fly out. Meg stretched the phone cord as far as it would go, though.

Hope you all remember to count your blessings this week, and thank Mother Earth for putting up with us.

Take good care of yourselves,


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