The Joy of Home Winemaking

Of Juice and Thrips and Ceiling Wax
February 2000

Pills and Irises, February 8

Screwing Around, February 20

Lovely Day, February 22

Yeast and Dragons, February 28

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Pills and Irises
Tuesday, February 8

My friend Karen sent this and I felt I had to share it with you. For you non-gardeners out there, she's talking about the iris rhizomes (rather like bulbs) which must be divided every once in a while when they have multiplied and are crowding each other, not the actual iris blossoms.

Karen wrote:

A San Jose Moment

So, Mike's outside planting the last of the irises. It's been a long project, digging them, amending the soil, dividing them, replanting them, giving some away, amending even more soil and planting even more (lucky we have such a forgiving climate that planting in January is possible). He planted the last today and was going through the remainder, putting the best in a box for give away and chopping up the rest for compost.

Then this cop pulls up into the driveway. Planting irises out of season? No, seems there's been a 911 call from next door. Happily, it turns out to have been a mistake, probably an accidental punch of a pre-programmed number.

And here's the San Jose moment: when the cop leaves, he goes away carrying two full bags of irises!

On the cat front, it turned out that Nelly got sick from the horrible orange-flavored goo that was supposed to cure her bladder infection. Discovering this involved a trip to the vet, much money. It's a bad sign when the cat whose hobby is drinking water can't even keep that down.

So we waited for a few days and I had to give her new pills twice a day for 10 days. This was bad news; pilling Nelly is even worse than squirting guck down Nelly.

I was an unhappy person, but it was that or have a dead cat with the ground still frozen.

To my surprise, she was almost good about it. I got her when she was sleepy, showed her the pill, tilted her head up and shoved it in there as fast as I could. After a short struggle I made sure she had swallowed it, and in giddy relief danced around with her in my arms, praising her highly and petting her. "Oh, the cat has taken her pill! She swallowed the pill, Oh Calloo Callay!!! Hurrah!" Denny joined in with a high sarcasm quotient as well. Even though deaf, she could feel the vibrations and knew who was the center of attention.

I checked my fingers. All there. No scratches on my wrists. Hmm.

We offered a treat, which she took. Shock, I thought. She's in shock and is under the weather to boot.

After a few pills, it was clear that what she really liked was the praise and celebration. Of course, it could be that compared to the orange guck, she had decided that the pills weren't as bad, and maybe she's just getting too old to fight too much. Heck, she didn't even expect a treat after a while.

I gave her the last one this evening and she hardly noticed, but she did want the dancing around and chanting. I may have created a monster...but at least it will be a healthy monster.

Repeat after me: "Praise the cat for taking her pill! Her Majesty took her pill, yeehahhh!" Exit stage right, pursued by orange guck and cops with irises.

Hoping all of you out there are well and happy and taking good care of yourselves.


Screwing Around
Sunday, February 20

We spent the last couple of days at work last week screwing around. Perhaps it would be better to describe it as un-screwing around. Not exactly what one would expect in a library.

We were given notice that the movers would be installing our new (to us) 'landscape' furniture three weeks early. We had to have our area cleared and ready to go by this coming Tuesday. Another batch of people would be coming to take down the cubical walls on Monday, but everything else was up to us. It had to be done by Friday.

Libraries run on routine. It's essential in order to handle the huge amount of material that comes through. Routine ran out the door screaming.

Luckily, our two fearless planners had all of the measurements and details figured out, and our building manager had ordered the book trucks and dollies necessary and was able to move the time up.

So, led by the heroic Bernadette and intrepid Jennifer, we waded into the fray, crawling, yanking, pushing and heaving, having at the conglomeration of mismatched desks, tables, shelves, filing cabinets, telephones, computers, and books, armed only with a few tools and some WD40.

About three years ago we had done something similar when the ancient carpeting was replaced, but we'd had more time in which to do it.

This time it was more of a destruction derby. Some of our stuff would be going off to the branch libraries and other offices, but some of it would end up in the dead furniture depot. Another department claimed the card catalogue (used for several years mainly as a room divider and plant stand), some of the computer desks would go to good homes in other library offices. We were keeping all of our chairs.

So we weren't destroying anything, but there was the heady knowledge that we didn't have to put it back together! Sometimes it took three or four people to figure out how to undo the various fasteners. We've worked with bits and pieces of scrounged furniture for so long, there is no real standard construction or fastening method.

We had two people under a desk and another on top, trying to get bolts and nuts to let loose. A couple of people gaily filled two recycling barrels with the old cards from the catalog. Several people would confer on a particularly weird set of shelves. Others loaded the giant book trucks with computers, printers, boxes, manuals, work in progress, and wheeled them down a hall to what little swing room we have. Still others found temporary homes for the various plants.

We got the pieces we were keeping onto dollies and rolled them out into the hall, putting signs on them which stated "PLEASE DO NOT TAKE THESE! WE NEED THEM!" The janitor had caught someone trying to steal them the night before.

I'm sure the noise inside was alarming at times. Library patrons have the idea that only one or two people work in the library, and normally have little knowledge of what is going on backstage. But for two days, they could certainly hear it! The elevator was commandeered much of the time. We banged and clanged, sneezed and coughed and laughed when we had the chance. It was great fun, actually.

Finished up around 6 PM Friday, amazed at how big our space actually is when it isn't full of desks, book trucks, and shelves. We have six employees and several students working in the area, ordering, processing, and cataloging monographs, serials, and gifts for the central library and five branches. Let me tell you, the space gets used.

When I get back to work on Wednesday, the rusty orange and dirty beige walls will be replaced with blue and purple and I'll have the joy of unpacking to face along with everyone else. I'm sure that we'll all be more comfortable and the space will be used more efficiently. Plus, change is good, even in libraries.

We plan to take ourselves out to lunch next week at the Panda Garden Chinese Buffet to celebrate our teamwork and new used furniture: even surfaces, cabinets that work, desks at ergonomic levels, tool bars, filing systems and stacking trays for paperwork. Wheeee! Hurray for the Year of the Dragon, and for un-screwing around!


Lovely Day
Tuesday, February 22

My, what a lovely day outside! It's sunny and warm (in the 40s!) and our 8 inches of snow is melting rapidly. I was so inspired I took the giant root-bound hanging fern outside, plopped it in a snow bank, and divided the heck out of it, then repotted it. Shoulda done it last fall but it slipped past me, then the weather got too cold. It looks a bit bedraggled, and the fronds left are only about 3 feet, but in a month or so it will look fine.

Then, of course, I had to clean up the mess created by dead fronds and roots falling off as I wrestled it down the stairs and out the back door.

Luckily, Denny and I bought a new vacuum cleaner last Sunday. Our old one is over 30 years old and has been showing signs of diminished lung capacity for quite some time. I did my research a while back and determined the model I wanted, poised for the moment it went on sale and we had the money.

Now, I was prepared for the new one to be better than the old, but holy cow, that thing can suck! A canister model, the main cleaning foot has an electric beater/roller gismo. When I tried it out, it cleaned the living room rug lickity split. The task used to take 15 minutes and the results were not thrilling. I vacuumed so much the first day it made my hand sore and I had to stop.

Cleaning up after the fern was a mere 10 minute job, whereas a week ago it would have been a very grumpy half hour and I would have sneezed for hours afterwards. I knew we needed a new machine but this one exceeded my wildest expectations. Amazing.

Also tackled the stairwell book shelf project this weekend. The house has a back stairwell that leads from my office upstairs directly down to the backyard. It doesn't stop on the first floor at all. We think it was added when the house was turned into a duplex years ago. Most of the time we keep the door closed and locked, but I needed a place for my paperbacks and there was no real room for them.

We decided to do very narrow shelves on metal brackets so that no one would be impeded on the way out during a fire. It's a broad staircase. We located studs, measured, hauled up the power tools from the basement, and went at it. I knew we were going to have trouble with the studs. They are all oak in this house. What I didn't realize was that the plaster in the stairwell seems to be made of cement rather than whatever plaster is made of.

It took hours of grunting and groaning effort on (mostly) Denny's part to drill the pilot holes and then get the actual screws in. Little Nell, the power tool junkie cat, was thrilled and played in the plaster dust. Dover ran and hid.

We gave up on the battery-powered drill, used the electric one, and still only managed to get up two shelves. They're long, at least. Being a tall staircase, the shelves will have to be staggered, and will not be possible to install them after a certain height. I thought we might fake it up a little higher, but with the cement/plaster, no way. I kept thinking I should go out and get a masonry bit the proper size, but then we'd would have had to drill the plaster, change bits, and drill the studs, THEN put in the screws. So instead we broke a drill bit. We figure it will take another couple of sessions to get the brackets all up.

But when it's done, there will be a glorious domino effect: getting my feminist SF paperbacks out of the closet and off various miscellaneous shelves, and letting me store the stuff on the floor of the office in the closet, thus letting me get at the poetry shelves once again so I can cull and rearrange them. See, simple!

Of course, we will still need new shelves. We always need new shelves. I'll probably lie on my death bed mumbling about how many regular paperbacks and trade paperbacks can be crammed into a 4' x 8' space and how many shelves to use for hardbacks with Denny patting my hand and saying "It's okay, dear, you can let go now."

Needing shelves gives us a goal in life, at least. And now with the new vacuum cleaner we can clean up the sawdust after with no trouble at all.

So here's to melting snow and happier ferns, emptier closets, and cleaner floors!

Take good care of yourselves, my friends,


Yeast and Dragons
Monday, February 28

Just had an argument over the phone with the bread person at the co-op. My favorite bread company went out of business several months back, and my co-op has taken it over and is producing the bread again. This is good. The unfortunate part is that they are claiming the bread (whole grain sourdough, very tasty) is "yeast-free".

So I wrote a comment for the comment box saying this was wrong, that sourdough culture is a form of yeast. The Bread person called, and was very upset, claiming the bread industry standards say you can say it's yeast-free if it's sourdough and I told her that may be, but sourdough is still yeast. You can ask any plant pathologist. You can look it up in the library: it's yeast.

She said but we just start out with water and flour, I told her, I know, I'm from San Francisco, I know how to make sourdough. It's the airborne yeast that makes it go sour. Honest. Microbiology, get it?

She got pissed off, and I got pissed off and I hung up on her.

This, added to the clerk who tried to convince me that all eggs were brown and the white ones were bleached, ignoring my comments that I had seen white eggs coming out of a chicken, the produce guy who, when I tried to tell him he had the rutabagas in the turnip bin and vice versa, told me there is no difference between a turnip and a rutabaga so it didn't matter (yes, they are related, but one has twice the carbs, and a different flavor), and all the "natural" junk food crap they're pushing, has convinced me that I no longer want to be a member of this co-op.

I also notice there's almost no one working there who seems to be over the age of 25, and I rarely see the same clerk twice. Seems to be a lot of turnover.

Luckily, there's another co-op in town that's much more sensible.

I'll just be careful not to get into an argument with the bread guru.

Semi-productive day. Made (sourdough) bread, tried out a lentil loaf recipe (except I used mashed black beans because that's what I had cooked) that turned out ok. The recipe called it pate but let's not be silly. So there's lunch this week.

Vacuumed (still fun when it goes vroooom). Let the cats out. Let the cats in. Let the cats out. Let the cats in. Goofed off outside instead of writing.

It's so nice out. Just gorgeous for February.

Yesterday my friend Geri came by, bearing gifts from our friend Lauryn out in Eugene, Oregon. We have been trying to connect for over a month, but until yesterday, phone tag was the only result.

Lauryn made the spectacular fish headdress "Salmonchanted Evening" that Karen and Mike gave me last year. So far it has graced the heads of several writers, notably Jane Yolen, Eleanor Arnason, and Rebecca Majesdatter.

Out of the plastic bag came not one but two amazing masks and a smaller piece. One had sparkling orange wings and a face piece encrusted with red and gold 'jewels', titled "Dragon King". It looks very much like one has a dragon wrapped elegantly around one's head. Looks great on Denny.

The other is a silver and white concoction, the title of which I lost in the excitement of looking at it, embellished with frothy white feathers and a big 'moonstone' in the center. Just dreamy.

The third thing was a cloth and beaded woman fashioned as a pin, which is now my official Wiscon adornment.

The amazing thing about Lauryn (who earns her living making wonderful things she sells in her local Farmers Market and has worked in the TV and movie industry as a costume maker) is her ability to take bits and pieces of things most people would consign to the junk drawer, or even the wastebasket, and make something beautiful out of it. Cardboard, scraps of fancy fabric, some hot glue and bits of trim, a few beads, and there you have something with which to celebrate Mardi Gras, a birthday, a victory, love, anything worth celebrating. Her craftsmanship is superb—no weird edges or scratchy bits. Geri has one of her headdresses (The Peacock) which she wore at Minicon last year, to much acclaim.

Lauryn makes all sorts of things, not just head and face decorations. I am hoping she gets her web site up and running one of these days so you can all see her beautiful creations!

Thanks, Lauryn, for the lovely surprise!

Thanks also to Jeff for suggestions about masonry bits, and to Don. Yes, dear, the leftover fern gore ended up in the compost heap. Hope all your plantlings survive!

Take good care of yourselves, my friends,


Of Juice and Thrips and Ceiling Wax
2000: | 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 2000 by Terry A. Garey.