Grape Stomping

Hot Springs
Morning harvest
My grape processor
Watercolor I did in Boulder CO 15 years ago
On the vine
Years ago a friend served me fresh-frozen, thawed red grape juice from her wildish vineyard of Concord grapes. Up till then, I hadn’t even liked grape juice!

My young grape vines produced beautifully this year, as did the older one. Last night while floating in remote hot springs [see pic], my friends and I nibbled grapes and discussed the qualities of various juicers on the market. I listened, they talked. It was evident that the only way to get grape juice from the grapes we hadn’t eaten would be to purchase a $400-$500 juicer. That was last night.

This morning, I had an “aha” moment (embarrassing because it’s so obvious). My first mental picture was of Italians stomping on grapes. Perhaps the French stomp also, but it seems better suited to the hedonistic leanings of the descendants of ancient Rome.

Rather than stomp my grapes, I put them in a bowl, took a full bottle of V8 juice for weight, and did a mini-stomp with a substitute foot. Then I dumped the mess into my regular strainer, nothing fancy. It dripped for a few minutes, enough for about a half glass full. Drank it.

Fanfare, please! Souza march music! Beethoven’s 9th! Pooh and his honey pot!

The fullness of flavor astonished me! There’s so much more to grape juice when it’s not filtered and cooked (though some done that way are good, like Newman’s Own Concord Juice). It’s how grapes have been done for eons! Why do we think we need processors?

Wow! I feel good today! It’s already 9:27 a.m. and I must get on with the Amara (working title) rewrite! First, though, I’m going to pick some more grapes, take pix, and show you my equipment and the hot springs.

First Draft Done!

Last Tuesday, 2/21/2012, I finished the first draft of Amara, the sequel to The Amulet.  Now I wait a few weeks before reading it through to see if it holds together at all well.  And then start the first revision.

I spent so many hours writing and researching almost every day, that at first I didn’t know how to handle the extra time I gained by finishing.

Fortunately, I got work calls, then the weather warmed and the garden called.  Weeks before, I had planted seeds – carrots and spinach.  Maybe it was Wednesday morning – no, I was subbing that day and Thursday, so it must have been Friday morning that I went out to check if the seedlings had come up and saw a little fat lizard in the middle of where I expected seedlings to sprout.

Hurrying inside, I googled about lizards in the desert and discovered that they’ll eat most anything, including seeds.  Aaarrrgh!  The netting over the garden bed probably deters the little critters and such who wander in, but nothing can keep a lizard out!

Saturday Thrim and I drove in to Barstow and went to Home Depot where he got cement to keep the new fence posts in place, at least the corner ones, and I bought spinach plants and a rosemary.  Giving up is a form of winning.  At least the result will be edible.

I’m including a picture of my violets which are blooming idiotically.  I first tried violets in Champaign IL where we lived for six years.  Our house had a south-facing windowed sunporch, perfect for violets.  This is the first time since then that I’ve had such good conditions, including an air-conditioned house.  Good results, right?

Researching Amara was so much fun!  Like hair coloring.  I needed the mixed-background Tadpole (mom northern Europe, dad northern Africa) to get his tightly curled light-brown hair darker.  Romans used boiled walnut shells!  One recipe said to add leek, probably as a fixative.  In calligraphy, we use walnut ink for a delicious dark-brown color, so it was a kick to find another use for it.  I need to address the running of the dye onto the boy’s face and Amara’s hands.  How easily is it removed?  How long does the hair retain the color, especially if the kids are boating on the river and getting wet?

Note for today:  Mix up some walnut ink with an onion and test it on my hands – and a tiny bit of hair.

A huge discovery for me was finding that the Loire river has its beginning about 80 miles south of Roanne, which is 54 miles west of Lyon.  The kids needed to escape somewhere, so I sent them west.  There’s also a Roman road going north from Roanne because the kids need to get to the port of Juliobone.  Web photos of Roanne show the Loire to be calm and wide, so I decided to put Optimus on the road and let the kids go by boat like people do now, when they rent barges to float down the river.

It’s odd to write “floating down” when you’re going north, because I always consider north to be “up” and south to be “down.”  The Nile always confused me – Upper Nile and Lower Nile flowing south to north.

I guess it’s like mountain ranges.  If you grow up with mountains going east-west, that’s how you know your directions.  Then if you move to where mountains go north-south, it takes years to unwind your instincts, so you are constantly getting lost.  It’s true.  I grew up with east-west and moved to north-south (Colorado).  It’s a wonder I ever got the kids to school (north) those first years.