Waxing Dionysus: A Story about Making Homemade Wine

Grape Expectations:

It is a well known fact to my regular readers that I am annually bombarded with bumper crops of my Niagara grapes. A variety that I was told was actually a concord and didn’t find out otherwise until years later when I finally got it in the ground and it began bearing fruit. Fruit of lies and deception.

And to be completely honest, these grapes taste awful. Not a fan at all. But of the three varieties I have, this one of course is the healthiest and most robust. It has been a burden of mine for years now. Why not remove it you ask? Well, it serves another purpose as well. That of a cheap shaded patio nook to beat the heat of summer as illustrated below…

Repurposing an unused clothesline: The $50 instant patio!

And it definitely does the job it was intended to do. The only thing is it does so while bearing the most yawn-inducing harvest ever. However, I do enjoy sitting underneath it during those hot days of drought and strife.

The Grapes of Wrath…and Cool Shade.

This years’ crop is no different.  Once again the vines are loaded with juicy berries ripe for the picking.

The hens might be the biggest fans of these grapes. And who am I to deprive them of such ample vittles?

My friend Matt (who I’ll be talking about later) and I connected via a Facebook page called San Diego Backyard Fruit Exchange around the time of last years harvest. When researching my Niagara grape vine, he came across the following info: “Vitis labrusca ‘Niagara’ is a cross of the V. labrusca Concord and Cassady cultivars, which are themselves hybrids. Concord is a hybrid of an unknown experimental interspecific V. vinifera and V. labrusca pairing, and Cassady is an unintentional hybrid that has V. labrusca in its genetic makeup”

Over the years I tried making homemade raisins, fresh grape juice as well as popsicles . But nothing would take away the lack-luster flavor of the Niagara. The raisins were the best results I’ve had from this vine and were actually quite tasty. However, the time it takes to process all the grapes to make raisins leaves much to be desired. I most likely will not do that again on account of my general laziness when it comes to repetitive and dull tasks.

The juice was way too tart for my liking and this may be because the skins of the grapes were included in the processing. The popsicles also sat in my freezer just hoping that I would eventually love them. But I abandoned them quickly and refused to make eye contact until I was cleaning the freezer out a year later. I apologized in my own way as I slowly lowered them into a stream of hot water in the kitchen sink while doing my best James Bond villain impersonation.

Grape popsicle: “Do you expect me to talk?”

Evil James: “No grape popsicle, I expect you to die” [screams of melty horror]

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Ain’t no Party like a Free Mulch Party!

“May you live in interesting times”

-Ancient Chinese curse (but not really ancient, nor Chinese)

This is what awaited me when I got home last Thursday night after a twelve hour day. And like the fake ancient Chinese curse, it made for a very interesting logistical conundrum. The city dumps a truck-load of free mulch in the street in front of your house and then the city comes and sites you for having a large pile of mulch in the middle of the street.

At least that’s what I was worried about when I pulled in at 8:45 p.m. on Thursday knowing full well that I will have to be working all through the weekend! But never look a gift horse in the mouth. Where should one look a gift horse in anyways?

Perhaps a little perspective should come into play here. Hey reader! Did you know that the city you live in will provide you unlimited supplies of free mulch!? Well, they do if you know where to look. In this instance, here in San Diego, I signed up for Chipdrop. Here’s the deal with that; you get a free truck-load of freshly chipped mulch delivered to your house… whenever it’s convenient and a chipping project is underway in your general area.

In my case, it took about eight months to receive my mulch. You can opt to pay $20 to have them deliver it a bit sooner if you like as a way to grease the wheels. You can select if you want mostly logs, chips and logs, or mostly chips and you can let them know where they should dump it. Unless you’re like me and have a super skinny anorexic driveway, in which case they’ll have to drop it in the street in front of your house. Continue reading “Ain’t no Party like a Free Mulch Party!”

The Calm Before the Storm: Backyard Progress Report Jan 2017

People keep asking me if I’m sick of the rain yet. I give a resounding, “are you mad!?” Who in their right mind would be sick of rain after six years of drought? So, no, I’m not sick of it. I worship it, I adore it and I dance naked in it. Don’t start peeping over my fence now! The very first thing I did when I bought the house, and stared for hours out into the vast expanse of nothingness, was to re-grade my whole lot. I built dry riverbeds and redirected potential flows of water from one bed to the next. And then year after year of drought followed. Finally, this year has above average rains and I get to put my landscaping to the ultimate test. And guess what, it all works (mostly) perfectly. Not a drop is wasted on runoff to the adjacent lots. It’s mine all mine!! Mwahahahaha!

And now that the guinea fowl population has been drastically reduced and the remaining two are too afraid to scratch a single bed or path for fear of the ultimate and final punishment, I can now return to business as usual. I can now finally replant, transplant, deadhead and prune without the bubbling rage and constant destruction.

Better late than never is the strategy for my winter veggie garden. Today before the next storm rolled in I dropped in some late kale, spinach, bok choy and collard greens. The first of the remaining guinea fowl to even look at this bed will end up in the pot faster than you can say, “never get guinea fowl”.

Continue reading “The Calm Before the Storm: Backyard Progress Report Jan 2017”