The Joy of Home Winemaking

Of Juice and Thrips and Ceiling Wax
November 1999

Happy Word, November 8

Deliriously Lovely, November 15

Keeping Warm, November 30

Title of the Month: A Week With Elephants

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Happy Word
Monday, November 8

Yesterday Denny and I put up the storm windows, so of course today it's 72 degrees here in Minnesota. I was out back in my shirt sleeves picking up bits of sticks and plant debris. We haven't had any rain to speak of for several weeks, so I'm watering the cherry tree and the perennials to make sure they have water when the freeze comes.

Let me tell you, this feels nice but strange for November! There are still a few flowers but mostly the rest are deceased and pushin' up the parrots. The trees are nekkid, shrubs almost so. The squirrels are getting fatter and fatter.

Attended the Ska-crow viewing at the Livingston's coffee house. Some friends had made a scarecrow for the State Fair which got a mere fifth place because, we suspect, the judges didn't get the joke, but the Ska-crow was welcomed as a work of art by the coffee house and I'm sure has many admirers for its dreadlocks and toy saxophone.

These are the same people who constructed a Mark Trail scarecrow for the Fair last year. This year they did Cherry, Mark's wife, and of course the Ska-crow. Erik, Paula, and Mary look like such reasonable people most of the time....

My two writing groups met, with good writing and a lot of laughter. I worry that we have too much fun at these things—gosh, are we taking ourselves seriously enough? Hope not.

Also attended Fallcon/Ditto briefly the same weekend, but wasn't feeling well, so stayed home for most of it. The last couple of weeks have been somewhat stressful, but do-able. Had some minor surgery which went well. Today's Happy Word is "benign". Lovely word.

So, the skies are blue, the air is warm, and I got a check for $1.65 for a poem. Denny brought home a new Terry Pratchett novel. A very good day all 'round.

Denny also brought home James White's last novel, SECOND CONTACT, published posthumously. It is true, dear James named a spaceship after me, the "Terragar". Of course, if Geri hadn't mentioned it I would have never dreamt he meant me. But he did, and now I am immortal.

Also immortal is the late Walt Willis, another longtime Irish fan who passed away a few days ago. Walt's writing was mostly fan writing and it was just about the best that has ever been. I feel so honored to have actually met him, and of course James. Thank you Geri—it was all your doing, and you did it well.

Hope all is well out there and that you are all taking good care of yourselves.


Deliriously Lovely
Monday, November 15

The weather is still deliriously lovely (for Minnesota in mid-November). Only a hint of the possibility of snow mixed with rain at the end of the week, but I will believe it when I see it. Found a few dandelions lurking here and there with their cheery yellow faces. Watered them.

I've been going for walks in my shirtsleeves, and doing a little yard work, as my hands allow. Have to admit I got chilled sitting in the garage priming a newly made bookcase yesterday, but if I had been out in the sun, it wouldn't have been so bad. Only got the one primed, have to wait on the other, cause my hand got sore and I dutifully quit.

Saw the hand therapist for what I hope was the last time today. My grip is up to around 70 pounds on both hands! This is up from 40 or so, with at least 80 as a goal. I am now allowed to graduate to doing the strength exercises with soup cans for weights (hmmm, mushroom, tomato and kangaroo, or prickly pear with goat cheese and crunchy bits?), and she thinks I'll make a full recovery. Cautioned me to take precautions, though. I said okey doaky. After months of being semi-useless, I am not about to get careless.

I have some 5-pound weights but have to get 2-pound weights for these particular exercises. They are deceptively simple, and very effective. Got a 'fat' pen for handwriting, and some pencil grips. Need a split keyboard for home, since I adapted to the one at work so well, and it does help. Maybe tonight.

I see the hand doctor first week in December, in the hope he sets me free. Of course, the right hand is sore today from the tests, but it's not bad.

All you keyboarders and mousers out there, check your ergonomics! Take breaks, do stretches, don't think: "Oh, later, when this project is done...." An injury like this is very tedious.

Many thanks to Don and Geri for taking us 'in' to dinner last week when I wasn't feeling well. It's always nice to see the sweetest man in the world, of course!

soup, two three four, soup, two three four


Keeping Warm
Tuesday, November 30

I'm upstairs in my office and forgot to bring my warm flannel shirt. Casting around for something to keep me warm, I have found the knitted patchwork a dear old friend had given me long ago. It's a sampler of knitting stitches made with leftover bits of yarn ranging in color from mustard to international orange to turquoise.

Sue was just going to throw them away and I asked for them. She showed me how to slip stitch them together, which I did with us both laughing like mad at how crazy the whole thing looked when I was done, with its uneven lengths, clashing colors and patterns. I treasure it. It makes me feel loved every time I wear it.

Sue was a wonderful woman. I count her as my third grandmother, even though I was grown when I got to know her best. She was not a pretty woman. She was overweight, smoked constantly, wore dresses with the occasional stain or cigarette burn, wasn't very good at keeping house, but boy could she cook. Born in Kansas around the turn of the century (the last time it turned), she had come west to California with her widowed mother and eight siblings. She worked hard, as did all the children, got as much education as she could at the time, which wasn't much, married, and had her own children. She and Art never had much money, but they never lacked friends. In her fifties she went to junior college and got her AA degree while working as a practical nurse and a cook.

She gave me many gifts, mostly when I was an adult woman, living newly divorced in the tiny house next door. Sue taught me how to sew, how to can, how to make simple food taste wonderful. She also taught me to value myself, to have opinions, to enjoy life, to look and think beyond the immediate situation. She taught me that poverty was not a sin, nor was being rich a virtue and that generosity is never out of style. She taught me to accept and give gifts with grace. A couple of very dark times she saved my life.

At lunch time, her grown daughter or son and any old friends who were in town would gather at Sue's old oak table. Many of them were older working women: a clerk, a teacher, a secretary. Lunch was usually a hearty soup and bread, plenty of coffee, and far too much tobacco smoke.

But it was the conversation that was important. It was liberal as all get out, ranging from current events to past history to personal events, and it was always thoughtful, interesting, and full of vim and vigor. There were never angry words, although there were differing opinions.

I was fascinated, especially by the women, who spoke up and had no fear. They were practical, hard working, sensible, had their share of tragedy and joy. They were not afraid to be well read, well informed or to show their intelligence.

In that day, it was very unusual outside an academic setting. I don't think anyone used the word feminism, but it was there.

Any day of the week I could show up, and the lunch forum would be in session. And here's the most important gift: once in a while I would give my opinion, my raw, inarticulate, early twenties, hand to mouth scruffy opinion, and they listened. I was not mocked, no one laughed, although I'm sure the temptation must have been great. They listened, especially Sue. I was usually too shy to say much but by gosh I was allowed to say it. It was the only time in my twenties that anyone older than me paid any attention to what I had to say, and it was remarkably empowering.

Sue passed away a few years later. I loved her, I missed her, yet it took me a long time to understand just what she had passed on to me. The raggedy lap robe, yes, survival skills, certainly, but most precious was the certainty that I had a right to exist, a right to earn a living, and a right to speak my mind.

And so I do.


P.S. Shameless plug: If you are looking for some tasty, unusual gifts to give this season, please check out my friend Karen's web site:
for lovely herbal and floral jellies. Karen grows her own roses, lavender, rosemary and makes them into delectable, versatile treats. We had the Mulled Wine jelly with our turkey at Thanksgiving and it was delicious!

Of Juice and Thrips and Ceiling Wax
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Copyright 1999 by Terry A. Garey.