The Joy of Home Winemaking

Of Juice and Thrips and Ceiling Wax
March 2000

Loose Spring, March 6

Time Capsule, March 20

Shabby Dusty Chic, March 27

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Loose Spring
Monday, March 6

On the last day of February I planted lettuce in the cold frame, just to say I'd planted lettuce in February in Minnesota. Then the weather turned really warm. The last couple of days have been more like late April, early May, temps into the high 60s, lower 70's during the day. No mosquitoes.

Sunday and today I didn't even bother with my flannel shirt, just went around in shirt sleeves outside. The fiction group and I strolled along Hennepin Avenue as if we had suddenly been transported to Paris.

An optimistic friend was going to buy flowers for her balcony but I cautioned her to hold off.

By the end of the week we could see snow. The lows are supposed to be in the 20s. The past couple of years we haven't had frost after April 1 or so, but we've had it. The official last frost date is May 15.

Weather in Minnesota continues to fascinate me. There's a certain regularity or maybe inevitability to the cycles of hot and cold throughout the seasons; one never knows what the extremes will be from day to day or even from year to year. They haven't had a "normal" year since I moved here in '82 or '83 or whenever it was. It's always waaaay hotter or colder or wetter or drier than normal.

The ice comes in early or goes out early on the lakes and rivers. Spring is late, summer is scorching, fall is wet, winter lasts forever, or spring is early, summer is cool, fall barely happens and the pussy willows are out in February. Then a foot of snow falls.

We get 10 inches of rain in an hour, no rain for weeks, dozens of tornadoes, no tornadoes, blizzards, ice storms, wind storms, or day after lovely day of sunshine and soft pleasant breezes till we almost think it's normal.

We take the weather reports very seriously around here. I've learned to leave the radio on during the day even when not listening. The first summer here, I walked to the grocery on a sunny day, was in there about an hour and came out to wonder why the sky was green.

Ten minutes later a small tree bent over and knocked me to the ground and instead of having the sense to shelter in someone's doorway, I ran home sobbing because I'd left the windows open in the house and it was pouring down rain. Later, I learned I had survived straight line winds of 70 miles an hour.

After that experience, I check the radio before venturing out even to go around the block, winter or summer.

Today though, has been lovely. The cats thought so, too. Nelly scampered up the apple tree, then looked confused and slightly embarrassed. Dover carefully sniffed the mulch I pulled away from the ligularia and coral bells. The pigeons are courting, the sparrows building in the eaves, and the dandelion leaves are bright green. Nothing else is, of course.

Spring hasn't sprung, but it has loosened up a bit, flexed its muscles perhaps, getting ready to jog in place a bit.

It's a luxury to have turned the furnace down, and to have put a few screens up, but let's not get too silly here. This is Minnesota. I don't think Denny should have put the snow shovels away just yet.

Terry

P.S. to Jeff. The masonry bit worked like a charm! Thanks!


Time Capsule
Monday, March 20

I had this lovely scheme, you see. Upstairs leading off from my office, is a stairwell that goes directly to the back yard. Does not pass GO, does not collect $200. We keep the door down there locked, and the upstairs door closed most of the time. We think it was added for code reasons when the place was a duplex.

In my office is a large closet that has been full of boxes since we moved here well over 12 years ago. I put them there, as I recall, thinking I would unpack them gradually as I had time. They were my women's science fiction collection, fanzines, etc. My plan was to install the narrow bookshelves in the stairwell that I mentioned a while back, get the books out of the closet, and put new junk in the closet, thus clearing up the floor of my office and giving the illusion of being organized.

Well.

We got most of the shelves up and I started going though the boxes. The first few were as I expected, and that was fine. Then I started hitting boxes of STUFF.

Some of this stuff went back to 1977 and before. Notebook pages full of drawings, half-assed poems, notes taken at concerts, readings, and conventions, recipes, directions, multiple copies of old manuscripts, rejections, rants, raves and cryptic messages.

I found old pay stubs from when I worked at the Pacific Stock Exchange and some of my temp jobs, flyers, posters, handbills, receipts, passes to the Magic Cellar, all sorts of junk.

There were bundles of paper I had rescued from the wastebaskets at work, intending to use for first draft purposes. The leftovers were now brittle and yellow. Also found Great Aunt Alice's silverware (yay, now we can entertain six people in style, as long as they don't expect salad or dessert, because there are no dessert forks- I supposed they can use stainless steel or their hands), a necklace that had been missing for years, a broken printer, elderly hard candy in a spiffy tin box, old Natural History and Gourmet magazines, a zillion fanzines and APAs (the SF fan paper version of a chat room, for those of you unfamiliar with the term), including my run of A Woman's Apa, SpinOff, and a few Turbo Charged Party Animals, my set of water color pencils, our marriage certificate, and boxes of old negatives. And I'm not even to the bottom of the closet yet.

What amazes me (beyond the obvious—how long it took me to get around to unpacking all this stuff) is how much I wrote down. I never could keep a diary, but by gosh, I took notes! Most of it I read, shuddered or smiled at, then tossed, but I kept a few fragments here and there. And my handwriting! A lot better in those days.

The other thing that amazes me is my office is in a worse mess. I've got boxes spread out to sort into; Recycling, Up To the Attic, Keep, Give Away, Burn, Bury, Throw in River And Hope It Doesn't Float—the usual categories. Eventually, unless I sneeze to death (I should be wearing a dust mask for this), things will be better.

The final thing I have learned in going though all of this stuff is that although I have changed a lot in the past 20 years, the basic essence of me hasn't, really. I'm probably more cynical, maybe more forgiving of some things, less of others. Much of what I found funny then is still funny to me now. Much of what I found appalling still appalls me.

Most of my note taking these days is mental. I let gravity sift things in my mind these days, figuring the important things will settle to the bottom and stay. I don't know if this is good or bad. But it certainly is interesting. I'll have to pack a few boxes of detritus to open another 10 or 20 years from now to see what I think then.

Out in the garden another time capsule is opening. The garden is coming back to life. If we ever get any sun, the crocuses will bloom. The pasque flowers are showing fuzzy green buds, and the rose canes have some green in the stems. I've already dug up a few dandelions and stray daisies that seeded themselves in awkward places. The day lilies are shooting, too. This year will be the year of divide divide divide and mulch mulch mulch.

Maybe I can use old fanzines for mulch? No, I guess not. One day they'll be in high demand for ethnographic studies or something.

Well, Happy Spring, y'all!

Atchoo!!

Terry


Shabby Dusty Chic
Monday, March 27

We turned over the second compost heap the other day, or rather Denny did, while I supervised and pulled bits of plastic junk out of it—shards of pots, flower labels, potato chip bags, candy wrappers, whatever blows into the yard or gets raked up and pulled up with the weeds. One year I found a slightly rusty but perfectly good professional quality retracting measuring tape. We have no idea how it got there, but we still use it.

The compost was lovely, dark and rich. The vegetables and flowers should be very happy this summer. Then we rebuilt the pile with what had been on top, the mulch we raked up from the front yard (thanks again for the shredded leaves, Maribeth) and the winter's accumulation of kitchen vegetable scraps (the excess that the worms in the basement couldn't handle). Should be yummy a couple of years from now after all the weeds, leaves, clippings and prunings that will go into it have fun melding.

The weather the last couple of days has been darned weird, but that's Minnesota for you. Normally, it's the snowiest month of the year but that is clearly not true this year. So far today it's been windy, cloudy, sunny, with some rain showers and snow showers. I am hoping there won't be any hail or guppies. The lettuces are huddling in the cold frame, wishing they had chosen a different career in horticulture like, maybe, passion fruit vines somewhere warm. The crocuses are convinced it's April and are blooming, urging the daffodils and tulips along.

I guffawed on Sunday as I came upon the ads for Target. They pictured a couple of young girls dressed in jeans with ribbons sewn on the bottoms and Granny glasses, and the headline ran "Hippie Chic". Looking again, it was even funnier—the idea is we are supposed to buy these jeans already decorated!

I swear. There it was. The whole point to decorating one's jeans back in the Sixties and Seventies was to individualize them (and to extend the length when they shrank or to cover holes). I expect nowadays putting trim or embroidery on by oneself will be considered déclassé. "Ewww, you can tell those didn't come from Target. She must have done it herself! As if!! Pah—thetic."

Another good one was the Home and Garden channel. I tuned in a little early for my show and caught the tail end of the previous show. There was a lovely young woman decorating a table with some cloth from India, some Japanese bowls, candlesticks from Mexico, plates from a flea market, etc., solemnly explaining that things didn't have to match as long as they were pleasing to the eye, and this was what Shabby Chic was all about! They flashed back to a couple of other tables she had done in different themes as the credits rolled. I laughed so hard I scared the cat.

Good grief. Half the people I know "decorate" that way. Maybe it's leftover habits from student poverty or the Sixties and Seventies. I don't know, but it certainly is nothing new. In the case of our house it's more like Shabby Dusty Chic. I knew when I bought the unicorn trophy head that it was not going to be found at Gabberts or Hom, but I liked it and thought it would look nice over the fireplace in the dining room. Same with the chartreuse pickle dish, the porcelain gorilla, and the silk ivy that hides the ugly chandelier.

Maybe it only counts now because to do it right you have to hire a decorator. Makes me want to go out and buy a Colonial lampshade and a magazine rack.

Whoops, I spoke too soon, it just hailed like hell. Wow, I wonder if that means we get guppies next? No, probably walleye or Northern Pike. [Editor's note — Better eating than guppies!]

Take good care of yourselves,

Terry


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.