Saturday, September 25, 2010

Pork Chop

I avoid the cliche, Bad To The Bone for not so obvious reasons. This is a story partially about a bone. The rest is just misfortune. Bones are all over the place. Mandy chews one, discards it on the lawn for me to run it over with the riding mower. They're rock hard hard. I jump from the noise the whirling, double set of blades on Fred, the mower, when he runs one over. The dog hides them in leaves, buries them in lawn clippings and under rocks by the silver maples. The pork chop bone had meat on it. Mandy chews fat and gristle until it gleams white.

The afternoon disappears in a wine making buzz. This is the stuff to keep you on the edge of your seat. The totally overcast afternoon will darken quickly at dusk. It throws the cat off balance. He comes in the house at five for an afternoon nap on the back of the couch. Taking advantage of a cornered cat, Dawn and I decide that we're too lazy to whip up a gourmet dinner. "Let's get Chinese food from Richland Center." The twenty minute ride down a newly repaved U.S. highway with a golden afternoon sun peeking through rain clouds is a marvel. Green fields, golden corn fall colors of red, brown and gold on expansive hillsides reminds me why I moved back to Wisconsin.
On the return trip the orange, mercury vapor yard lights next to farm houses are lit up. Recent rains bring the river up over it's banks. Two pastures directly to the north and east of our place are again small lakes. I hit the garage door opener over the visor of the car so we can see better. We unload our leftover Chinese food, a few items Dawn finds at the dollar store and the two tubes of caulk from Wal-Mart. Mandy wanders looking for new scents to discover. I flip on the yellow spot light in the breezeway and go back outside to monitor the dog. The bright light in the new addition blinds me temporarily. I don't see this bone standing on edge on the driveway. Who put that bone on edge? What are the chances the dog left it that way? OW! Something is stuck in my shoe. WTF!. I bend over and there's this bone sticking out of the sole of my leather shoe. Oh, that's painful. I pull it out and limp back into the house.

I untie my shoe, roll back the sock and rub the puncture wound with a gauze pad dripping with peroxide. Dawn offers maximum consolation with a sole question,"Did it bleed?" Like many things she says, I don't ask her the reasoning behind it. The answer will be convoluted and unnecessarily complicated. For some unknown reason she feels that I have an encyclopedia of knowledge tucked away in the far reaches of my brain. On the drive down to Richland Center she notes a field full of Black Angus cattle. "Look at all the calves, " she says. "How many calves can a cow have in a year?" she asks me. About all I know about cattle is the difference between the front and rear. I don't know what a heifer is. I can't tell you the difference between a Holstein and a Frisian or polled Hereford. I speak too quickly and botch a clever response. " Uh just a minute Dawn while I dial up my inner Wikipedia."

OW. OW. OW. It's been one of those days. Do they have a pre-set pattern or do I make them into a series of misfortunes?

I've got five pounds of rough looking pears and slightly bruised apples in a plastic sack in the garage from Bob my neighbor. There's not enough to make a new batch of wine. The pear wine on the kitchen island has a mass of fruit, raisins and must drifting on the top like the Sargasso Sea. The fermentation has slowed. I decide to add more juice to the existing carboy.

I grind quartered apples and sliced peas with my Champion juicer. The yield is approximately three quarts of juice. I add a quart of filtered water to top off the batch at one gallon and slowly heat the must.

When it warms up, I add a cup of sugar, dissolve a Campden tablet and add one teaspoon of yeast nutrient. Gone are the days of tossing crushed fruit into a bucket and tossing in bread yeast. While the sugar, the sodium metabisulfite and nutrient are dissolving, I strain the carboy containing the mass of gunk floating at the top of my existing pear wine. The glass jug is bulky and the strainer clogs instantly. I takes four pours and frequent whacking of the strainer into the side of the compost bucket. Only God knows how many micro-organisms I'm introducing into my partially fermented wine. I taste the wine dripping from the strainer and decide the new juice should have a cup more sugar. This half done wine is too tart.

I check the temperature of the juice cooling in the stainless steel pot on the stove. The package of wine yeast says the optimum temperature for culturing yeast is between 100 and 105 degrees. Remember now, this is Uncle Bob's wine making school. Uncle Bob knows better. Uncle Bob follows his own set of rules. Uncle Bob already has a name for his peach wine-Yellow Fever. Never mind that this is another episode of the "Stupids". Bob isn't going to culture his yeast in a separate container. Making bread Uncle Bob discovers that adding sugar to warm water and some bread yeast causes the yeast to foam over and out of the top of the Pyrex measuring cup. So U.B. adds the wine yeast directly to the cooled juice which the candy thermometer says is 105 degrees. Bob ignores the article about making hard cider he printed off from the Internet. After adding the Camden tablet, the sole purpose of which is to kill wild strains of yeast and other contaminants, one is supposed to wait two days before adding wine yeast. Duh.

The gallon of newly mixed apple/pear juice with all the fixins' goes into the filtered batch in the carboy. I cap the five gallon jug and run a plastic tube into a gallon jug of water. I figure after washing the dishes and cleaning up the spill wine on the floor, I'll be hearing plop, plop coming from the water bottle.

I go outside to do battle with the wasps who have built a nest in the carsiding near the eave of the garage. I check my caulk job on the thresholds of the breezeway so that subsequent rainstorms lashing the back entrance don't leak water into my new space. Inside on the island everything is quiet. The half filled carboy is dead quiet. Check on dog and cat. Walk out to garden and pick dried beans for next year's seed. Think about making pepper/onion relish on Saturday. Dawn has to work the quilt show in town. Apple Fest will be humming with tourists in Gays Mills and the highway will be busy with trucks hauling monster tractors for the Horse and Colt show tractor pull in Viola.

When Dawn pulls up at five the familiar sound of kerplunk begins in the water jug. I am so relieved. Dawn regales me with stories of making goodies for the bake sale and lunch on Saturday's quilt show. She's got five woman helping to peel and prepare fruit. She says the older they get the more these elders behave like children.

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