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Tuesday, September 15, 2009

A heart knows

We took advantage of a long weekend to get caught up a bit, picking, packing, stacking, pickling and canning, and the bees frantically did, I'm sure, much the same amid the basil blooms.

I have been meaning to make some wine; year before last there was a huge crop of grapes but we had other commitments, and most of what was picked went straight to the chickens. Nothing about that crop was due to any judicious viticulture on our part; we've done about all we could to abuse these vines.

When we moved here, the arbor was on the remotest part of the property where it would never be watered, and although the vines were already fairly massive, we undertook to dig them out and shift them nearer to the house. The largest one, which we call the scuppernong because that's what the grapes taste like to us, barely fit in the wheelbarrow. The other two are a white seedless and a red seedless, not as vigorous, then or now, as the more bitter, seedy "scup." But all moved successfully and pretty much took over the middle of the garden.

The white seedless, for many years, made almost no grapes at all. The red held its own, but the seeded scups are pretty sure to make a crop unless interfered with in some major way. The arbor got out of hand over the last couple of decades, and its supports were collapsing, so last year we gave everything a severe haircut and rebuilt the post-and-wire apparatus. When you cut back grapes that far, they skip a year, so neither we nor the chickens got any last fall.

Now they're back --but with a difference. The red seedless vines look good -- but no grapes. The white seedless are suddenly productive and just heavenly, and we're eating them like there's no tomorrow. Ya never know.

My dad is all about winemaking, and when my parents lived here for a year, a decade ago, he made us a lovely batch of red table wine (now long gone) from the scups and red seedless combined.

I have only made wine once, a one bottle effort -- dandelion wine that turned out well, so I'm feeling lucky. After picking three bushels of the scups, I puzzled a bit over how to crush them, and went with the well-washed electric compost grinder. This thing is not much for shredding, let alone chipping, but it makes an industrial-grade blender, and converted the grapes into a juicy pulp in about three blinks. To boost flavor and kick in the direction I want to go, I also pulped some apples and added a couple of cups of sugar and some wine yeast. Straight table wine doesn't require this, of course -- the grapes have their own yeast.

So now I have three five-gallon buckets of must started, which I'll strain and drain presently into two clean five-gallon carboys with fermentation locks, and then bottle. In a year or so we should know how all this went.

After this rather haphazard experiment, I went after the rest of this year's apples, and Daughter, who is here on a working vacation, went after the tomatoes.

For lunch, I drank a handmade smoothie of applesauce followed by a glass of local Gew├╝rztraminer and Daughter and I sat in the shade of the lilacs, listening to the Adagio from Mozart's Serenade 'Gran Partita' Adagio on the old turntable.

I spent the afternoon making applesauce, and she filled the dehydrator with sliced tomatoes. For a grand finale, we cleaned up the kitchen and dining room to the sound of the Shirelles' greatest hits. A soup of sweet onions, peeled tomatoes, zucchini and fresh parsley and chives simmered in the background.

There are days that are more blessing than a heart knows how to receive.


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