Air Layering

So this is what “Air Layering” looks like. I know it looks kind of strange, but evidently this is how to propagate (free!) muscadines. Right now the bottle is full of dirt and leaves, but supposedly by september there will be roots in there too, I can cut it free from the parent vine and boom – two vines for the price of…well, a bottle of Sprite. I have 9 vines currently in bottles like this. Hopefully at least half of them will take roots, and I can start to increase grape production. The weather today has prevented my soil sample collections, but I hope tomorrow may be an improvement.

 

 

 

 

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We sell no wine, before its time.

So, I’m thinking of making wine. The backpacking thing seems to be going well enough, and I haven’t really made any new discoveries in it, other than I’m still kind of an out-of-shape slob that needs to exercise. But hiking is pretty much finding time and places to go at this point, and putting one foot in front of the other. I haven’t been experimenting much with it lately, as that might encourage me to spend money on more stuff, which I don’t need.

So I’m thinking of spending money on something bad for me.

See, In South Carolina you can make up to 200 gallons of wine for your personal use, every year. That sounds like a LOT of wine to me. Funny thing is, if you try to take the water out and turn it into brandy, that’s illegal. But that’s also another post.

Not far up the road used to be a vineyard and winery, but it closed down years ago, trees have overtaken the vineyard, and the last I saw, the old winery was an auto repair shop. But the grapes were good to pick. I had a small vine in my back yard, of the same variety.

May 6 Grapes (Medium)

Unfortunately I knew nothing about grape at the time, other than if you pick them and eat them, they taste pretty damn good. I encouraged my grape vines to grow, and they did. I added to their trellis wires, and they took advantage, growing to immense proportions. They now constitute a HEDGE of about 120 feet long, and eight feet high in places. While it effectively blocks out the neighbors, this particular arrangement sucks for grape growing. Sure, I have vines, but I hardly have any grapes.

August 12 Inside the Vines (Medium)

So I bought a book and did research. I’m growing varieties of Muscadines, which is a hardy southern grape, native to this country’s east coast. There are hundreds of different varieties. Mine, I think, are Carlos, but I’m not sure. I bought some a few years ago and planted them, and they have taken off like crazy as well. Last year I had a huge crop of grapes. This year doesn’t look so promising. Why?

I discovered in the book I am reading that there is more to growing a shitload of grapes than just growing a shitload of vines. There’s an art to pruning and fertilizing and such that makes viticulture sort of like work.

When I was young, my mother would find wild vines, spread a sheet on the ground, and we would shake the tree and vines and the grapes would fall. Then she would make jelly out of it. Several years back I wanted to replicate this delicious childhood treat, and picked grapes and bought a pack of Certo, which included a recipe. I was successful, and was able to relive my childhood eating that delicious grapeness. If you never had home made muscadine jelly, you truly don’t know what good jelly is. I can’t even eat that store bought crap any more. Sure, concord grapes are good, but all the jelly companies cheap out and use High Fructose Corn Syrup, instead of real sugar. That stuff sucks, and should be banned from jelly use. Anyhow, you’ll never see mass marketed muscadine jelly. Vitis Rotundifolia is much too picky for that, and commercially much more viable in a drinkable form.

So partly because I just wanted to go, and partly for research purposes, I went to a vineyard last weekend, and spoke to the owner. I learned a lot about grapes, and after seeing a real wine vineyard in production, got a good handle on the basics of what my vines should look like in pruned form, and loaded with grapes.

August 25 Grape Planets (Medium)

 

So I came home and decided a few things. First, making wine at home sounds like fun. I have 10 gallons of previous year’s muscadines in my freezer that I haven’t even turned into juice. I have at least six batches of juice set side for jelly, and I have about twenty-five jelly jars under the counter full of the stuff. So I have ample grapes to experiment with for now. Second, I really have to prune my grapes, which I can do after this year’s harvest. You prune grapes when they are asleep for the winter, so I have to wait.

Third, I need more vines. It seems backwards, but I do. I have two LONG vines and a few short ones. The long ones need to be cut back to shorter versions of themselves and pruned correctly, and new vines need to be added where the empty space will be. Today I started propagating my vines. Funny thing about grape vines is they will grow roots if covered in dirt, so I decided to make 4 copies of my current vines. By doing this, I can make cuttings in the fall and plant the dormant ones. I’ve done it before with good results.

The other funny thing is you can copyright a plant. I had no idea… The same web site that showed my how best to root my plants listed several grape varieties that are copyrighted. You have to buy vines from the nursery, and they can actually PROSECUTE you for rooting your own from the parent vine. What the actual F**K is that about? At least mine aren’t that variety. Mine are regular old muscadines, common and uncopyrighted, available in the woods everywhere.

So, if I get some supplies, I can make wine this fall. After fermenting and aging and bottling, I should have drinkable wine maybe by next Christmas. Wait, what? This wine thing is starting to sound hard. But there is an upside. If I plant grapes in the back yard, the neighbors will probably resent living next to a vineyard.

Which will make me happy…

September 21 Fall comes to the grapes (Medium)

It’s the most wonderful time of the year! School Supply time.

 

 

 

 

 

Summer is two-thirds over, yet the retailers are already vying for who can get school supplies out the earliest. Much like X-Ma$$, the early bird gets the dollar. Around here it’s Walmart that consistently wins out. Lowes always gets my “greedy bastards” award for having Jewish-Zombie Celebration items out first in town, usually by the first of September. But when it comes to school supplies, Wal-Mart wins out.

The bright orange displays with the pencils and notebooks have been hauled out of storage and assembled, and the little flyers from schools set out.

ScanFirst of all – I didn’t scan this so crookedly. The paper has been xeroxed haphazardly several times, and resembles a bar napkin sketch. So let us run down what my kid needs.

One box of gallon ziplock bags. What the hell are they doing? It’s fifth grade. Are there that many soiled clothes to be sent home? What do they intend to collect, crime scene evidence?

3 packs of disinfecting wipes. 3 packs times thirty kids. That comes to ninety packs of wipes, and if there are 20 wipes in a pack, thats 1800 wipes. There are 180 school days. How dirty can they get that they need to run through 10 wipes a DAY? Are they doing surgery in class? Are kids just coming to school dirty and giving themselves sponge baths in the restrooms?

1 Roll of paper towels. I’ll give them that. If you’ve ever used the brown institutional paper towels at a school or government building, you’d want something different, too.

1 Pack of Copy Paper? This one chaps my ass. Copy Paper? Seriously? I have half a mind to buy a pack of paper, type my child’s name up in the corner in 6 point type, and run 499 more copies. Next year I’m ordering paper with a watermark. “This is Kaylee’s Paper. If found, please call…”

Box of Kleenex. Self explanatory. Obviously the kids are very sick all the time and need to blow their nose constantly, what with the need for 1800 wipes.

One pack of dry erase markers. Personally I think the school needs to supply this. My mother never had to send chalk, back when I was a kid. Pencils and notebooks, yes, but never a box of chalk. She even specifies “fine point”. Im going to find the fattest, lightest pastel colors I can. Light green and lavender… I know they make them, I’ve seen them.

Highlighters… I get that. Everyone highlights everything.

The rest of the stuff seems normal, with the exception of some specific items. Mechanical pencils? Really? When I was in school I had these really nice Pentel mechanical pencils that my father would bring home from work. They were costly then, although now they have the same things pretty cheap. They didn’t like you using them in school. I don’t know why, they wrote fine and you didn’t have to get up and grind the pencil away on that ancient gunmetal grey sharpener on the wall. Now they have to have them. Weird.

And a click eraser? What happened to the good old pink rubber thing? It has to click? We have to involve mechanical engineering in our erasing?

Colored pencils? What are they doing? Art? “You will need them for all subjects”. They are going to be doing algebra in Chartreuse? I don’t understand it, but I’ll go with it.

Glue sticks. Every teacher wants glue sticks. I suspect there are warehouses full of glue sticks left unclaimed by teachers at the end of the year. They are probably sold to discount stores like walmart… In fact, I strongly suspect that no new glue sticks have been manufactured since 2003, they all just keep getting passed around.

 

 

Who is John Gault? Who Cares.

“There are two novels that can change a bookish fourteen-year old’s life: The Lord of the Rings and Atlas Shrugged . One is a childish fantasy that often engenders a lifelong obsession with its unbelievable heroes, leading to an emotionally stunted, socially crippled adulthood, unable to deal with the real world. The other, of course, involves orcs.” – Rogers.