Me: "Who has the best seat in the house, me or daddy?"

Adam: "Well, Daddy's is nice, but yours is best. Your's is squishier."

Monday, August 26, 2013

The Grapes of (my) Wrath OR ..... Fifty Dollar Jelly

I have a lot of blogging to do, because I have been spending my time LIVING lately.  We have had a very special few weeks.  So, I while I am getting caught up, please enjoy this very random post that has nothing to do with anything. 
One should really do one's homework.
Several years ago I plopped down $3.99 on  bare-root grape vine, planted it, and began what would become a love hate relationship with a darn thing.  That first year the grapes were the size of peas. I hadn't realized that I had purchased a champagne grape vine. Oh well, I thought, at least the birds will eat them if the kids don't want them.
But the kids did want them, as did the birds.  As I am learning with fruiting plants and trees, each year brings new surprises.  The surprise this year was a bumper crop.  Apparently, squirrels aren't into grapes. 
Kathy and I have begun our weekly gardening trade and, unlike last year, this year I am expecting a little work out of the kids.  They happily harvested the grapes and set about plucking them from the stems while I mucked out the chicken coop and Kathy weeded.  They really stuck with it, and had readied a few pounds of grapes for me in no time.  I was going to make jelly
(this is where you may begin laughing.  No, really).
(Um, what is Toby doing?
 besides apparently sitting on Tessa's head)





 (he he, see how I did that, there?)

A Roman Noble and his lunch

Grapes, looking all sweet and innocent. 
 I've got your number, you evil produce.

A sight rarely seen at my house; children working and getting along.

(Begin flashback music....)
When I was a kid we had this amazing concord grape vine that stretched half the yard in the summer.  We harvested a million pounds of grapes from it every year and mom canned about fifty bazillon jars of yummy grape jelly. 
 I remember it so well ... pick 'em, mash 'em, cook 'em, bottle 'em.
  No problem.  It's in my blood.  I am from pioneer stock, see.
I sent the boys to the store for pectin, the price of which my pioneer ancestors would have easily spent on a good cow and a suckling pig ($4.20 a box?!), only to later find a box in the cupboard.  Add to that the soda I let the boys buy for their trouble and I was already into this for ten bucks.
A hunt of the neighbors' kitchens produced a good old fashioned potato masher, and I set to work cleaning and smashing the grapes (also smashed were about 5 small spiders and a few dozen ants, but for those I used my thumb).  Smash, strain, smash, strain, and a couple of hours later I had a greenish grey, cloudy juice.  Yum.  Look out Welch's... your competition has arrived!
Throughout the process I stopped several times to do laundry, cook dinner, nurse, babysit for Ruth's little girl, and deal with Jonah.  Rounding the ten o'clock hour my pioneer spirit had begun to wane.  I carelessly read the recipe for grape jelly and promptly choked on my tongue. SEVEN cups of sugar, it said.  SEVEN!  What kind of crazy inspires a person to make ANYTHING with seven cups of sugar in it?  They were not a pioneer, I will tell you that much! I momentarily pondered reducing the sugar, when a little voice in me whispered, "Don't do it, stupid.  This is a day you will never get back, don't screw it up!"  With a troubled and slightly disgusted look on my face, I began scooping... five, six, seven! Gross.  My juice looked even cloudier now, a definitive troll-snot green. 
Then, well, I don't really know what I was thinking.  I ripped open the pectin box like someone ripping off a band-aid  to get the pain over with, and dumped the contents into the pot of snot.  It wasn't until I had done so that my tired little inner voice said, "Nice job, Julia.  Ever heard of reading the directions?" So just for chuckles I read them, like reading over a test you have already failed and realizing what you got wrong.  Oh, my,... "separate pan" it said. "3/4 cup of water", "boil for exactly one minute" it said.  And that bold "exactly", smugly looking up at me from the little paper as though to say, "yup, ya' blew it, sister."
And in that very moment the pot of snot boiled over, filling the burner trays with thick, bubbly green slime that promptly caught on fire under the pot full of sterilized canning jars.  Thank goodness our smoke detector was working or not everyone in the neighborhood would know; nothing says "You're a looser" like setting off a smoke alarm with your cooking.  The perfume of charred sugar filled the air, and more than one child came in to inform me of how far the smoke had made it through the house.
The fire went out on its own.  In fact, I think it just popped up there to punctuate the ridiculousness of the situation.  I am definitively not a pioneer.  I'm not made of good pioneer stock, like my sister is.  That woman gets up with the roosters and goes to bed with the owls, spending every minute in between making life better for somebody.
You may say, "But, Laine, you have chickens!  That is pioneery!"  Yes, but my chickens eat their own eggs for breakfast, which is both annoying and a little creepy, and they are steadily making one of their coop-mates bald. I refuse to make a sweater for a chicken.
Meanwhile, back at the disaster which was once my kitchen, a frothing pot of greenish sugar-water waited.  I did the only thing I could do;  threw in some yellow food coloring (don't judge me.  Besides, twern't  nothin' after all that sugar).  I have to recoup the cost of this woe-some day by getting the kids to actually consume this stuff, a feat that will not be accomplished with pea-green jelly.  I poured it into the bottles and sealed them.
The directions claim it will take 1-2 weeks for the jelly to set up.  I think that is just a waiting period like for when you buy a gun, so you don't go off and kill someone right away.  If the jelly doesn't set in a week or so, I am much less likely to commit a felony than if I had seen my failure within minutes of filling the jars.
So there you have it.  Ten bucks for pectin, another three or four for sugar,
 add to that minimum wage for time spent,
 not including the sweat-shop labor of the children,
 and that is some pretty pricey jelly.
  I should have done my homework,
and left the grapes for the birds.


shenna said...

ewwww....really EWWWWWW

Jackie said...

You are makin' memories!!!!!! :)

Jan and Carol Van de Wetering Family said...

all I can say is hahahaha...
You may say, "It ISN'T funny!"
To which I must say, It is SOoooooo funny!!!
Not the event so much as the narative.
Know that many successful domestic engineers have been "losers" on many occasions, including me. Last Year's peach jam is peach syrup and I haven't even mentioned my saga of "the Easter dress" I made for Kendra when she was about 10.
So never fear, we're all pioneers in the making if we'll just endure to the end! :)

Anonymous said...

DArn! I wish you had some spare time!
I'd take you with me to Sacramento Suburban Writers Club on second Mondays.
your writing is delightful!
I love your
"I think that is just a waiting period like for when you buy a gun, so you don't go off and kill someone right away."
Jeannie T