The thoughts of a writer.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Domestic Wine and Foreign Apple Juice

The other day as I was mixing up my frozen, concentrated apple juice from Cub Foods, I noticed that the can said, “China” on it. Upon further investigation, the (Cub Brand) can said that the contents came from apples that were from Germany and/or Argentina and/or China. I stared at it, wondering why when a butt-load of apples are grown in the USA, that these apples came from “one or more” of these other countries?

Yesterday, I decided to make a raspberry wine, using wild, Minnesota-grown raspberries. I will tell you, up front, that this is not a cost-effective way to get wine. The benefit is in the artistic creation, the satisfaction of making a fine wine, and using local fruit!

My first step was to drive to Rapids Lake (about a 48 mile round-trip), where I know there are a lot of plants and a lot of berries. I was fortunate to find mulberries too! I was dressed in denim pants and a denim jacket to protect against the many thorns. I also wore a hat and a mosquito net over my head. I was going to be in the “mucky-muck for awhile, and I wasn’t going to suffer too much, except for getting too warm.

The berries were plentiful, but I needed a quite a few for my wine. Note* if you want my wine recipe, I don’t have one. I use berry juice, water, sugar and yeast. The amounts are not measured. Wine-making is a “Zen” thing for me. I may not do it “correctly” for the “experts,” but I make a good wine and it is all natural.

After climbing back up the ravine, I was picking raspberries “topside,” when I noticed some high-quality berries growing up high around a fallen tree. I climbed onto the log, and was picking berries from up there, when the thorns and vines and branches caught hold of my legs, and I was suddenly “hogtied!” I was already balancing on top of this log, and I felt that feeling… that I was going down.

I fell about three feet or so, down through the tangle onto my back. When I realized that nothing was broken, nothing was twisted, and I hadn’t been impaled by any branches, I noticed that half of my berries had spilled onto the forest floor! I tried to gingerly scoop them up. The ground was full of rotting leaves and dirt, so some were not salvageable. Then I got back up, and had to pick more!

Later, at home, I began the process of rinsing the berries and removing bugs, spiders and leaves. Then I heated them up in a pot and mashed them and strained and restrained to remove the many seeds. Most of the concoction was the seeds that I removed, but I also got a quantity of high-quality raspberry juice! I boiled the juice and added sugar. Then I added filtered water and of course, the yeast. I sealed it in a half-gallon carboy with a bubble-lock, and soon it was bubbling away.

After all that, I decided that a bottle of my wine (after six months in the carboy and another year in the bottle), should be worth at least $59.99… no… make that $69.99. I think that fall was worth at least $10!

I guess that’s why Cub Foods just buys the fruit from China…

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Captain's Log - Supplemental

Our recording session yesterday, may have gotten us one song (i.e. "Roadmap"). We also recorded a live version of a song I wrote called, "Freeman."
I wrote the song years ago, and when I first played it for the guys they said they would never be able to do it. I change time in a couple of places. I've been told that I "can't do that!" My response is "of course I can!" and "Don't you oppress me!"
The guys can play it well now, though they claim it took "three years." I doubt it took over one...
My point to them was, that time changes, when everyone knows where they are, actually sound great... and of course... I'm right -they do!
Freeman probably needs more work in the recording "studio." I must admit that after several hours, I was running out of steam. Recording is hard work!

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Take 2

Even though things went well with my initial tracks, Dave and Pete had trouble following it. We tried again with me on acoustic guitar and Pete on drums. Then it was a little tricky at the end with my vocal track. In short, we're use to playing off each other live. We may have to try recording a live version with the whole band together. Today is all about seeing what works. No doubt about it, recording is a work session. Some of the joy of a spontaneous jam session is gone. Still, it's time we put some of our 160+ original songs down on CD...

Recording Session

After a beautiful morning, we're getting some much needed rain. The band is at Dave's house and I can hear Pete recording his drum part right now. I used my acoustic guitar and put down the rhythm part of my song, "Road Map." The first take was all that was needed, and then I put down my vocal track in one take. So far it sounds good...

Tuesday, June 20, 2006


On Friday, June 9th I flew to Charlotte, North Carolina. My friend Alison picked me up at the airport, and after beer and BBQ at Mac's Bar, we went to her beautiful home in Waxhaw, NC where I had my own room (with Internet access) and bathroom! Such opulence... sigh...

On Saturday we went to Linville Falls, and hiked up in the Blue Ridge Mountains. The first photo shows the view from the top, which was more than worth the hike -even in 9o degree (F) heat!

That evening we grilled out, and I enjoyed a local beer, Carolina Blonde.

On Sunday, Alison had work to do (she is a freelance journalist and marketing maven), so I ventured off into the woods in Waxhaw. Later, we toured Waxhaw and Charlotte. We also visited Lake Norman. In the evening, we attended a Tony Awards party given by the North Carolina, Blumenthal Performing Arts Center, in the Booth Playhouse. We watched the Tony Awards, and instead of commercials, two actors cracked jokes and gave away prizes -including theater tickets. There was free food and drinks, and champagne at the end.

Monday we went to Charleston, South Carolina. We took a walking tour of the city and had fish & chips at The Noisy Oyster. The first photo is of me, at Waterfront Park. Notice my dolphin shirt. Do I know fashion or what?

The buildings are incredible, with some being several hundred years old. The beautiful churches had old cemeteries in their yards. I love this next picture I took, as it shows a church built in 1682 (that's almost a million years ago!!!), and the sign in the foreground tells you what you are seeing!

On Tuesday, June 13th, I caught an early flight home, and NWA temporarily lost the luggage of several of us. This is quite a feat on a direct flight! I waited until the last to get in line for a claim, and it paid off. Eventually our luggage found its way down the belt -after most of the other passengers had left with their claim vouchers.

In all, it was a fabulous trip! Carolinians are very nice people, even though I wore my Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge, Volunteer Staff hat! Just call me a Yankee in the Deep South.

Thanks to Alison for the tour and room, and to Dave for scanning my photos!

Thursday, June 15, 2006

The Eagle Meets the Eagle

Thanks to Alison for this picture of me discussing the philosophy of life with a stone eagle in a garden in Charleston, SC. This photo pretty well captures the humor that permeated the trip, amidst some pretty enlightening conversation.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Back from the Carolinas

I just got back from my trip to the Carolinas. More about that will come later. It was a very nice trip, and Carolinians are very nice.
Last night was my first night back, and I needed sleep!
So, the large, tattooed woman who lives above me had a loud party that started at 10:00PM, and continued until after 5:00AM.
This puts me in a bad position, as I don't want to fight with my neighbors, yet I bought into a community where loud, late, midweek parties are not allowed. If it becomes a trend, I will need to do something about it.

Friday, June 09, 2006

Last Day of School

I made it through the last day of school (for the kids)! There were fights and rowdiness. My job for the last two days was to patrol the school with a two-way radio. Today is my last day. We have to go through the lockers and empty any leftovers. Then summer vacation begins!

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Rightful Owner

Last night I played my guitar Jade. She had been stolen, pawned, and then found and returned by police. She was in good condition, though my tools and a few other things were missing.

The guitar, strap, cord, case and whammy bar were there. That was what was important if you were pawning it.

We jammed with the band, and came up with a spontaneous song called, “Sudden Urge to Strangle,” which was inspired by the whole ordeal.

It’s nice to have my guitar back.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

"Kudos" to RI

I send my kudos to Rhode Island, for once again, winning the title of worst drivers in the United States. After having lived there for a short time, and having driven there, I know personally that they are most deserving of this "honor."

From their own paper, The Providence Journal,

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Kevin J. Curtis for President