Tuesday, September 09, 2014

Grapes and the Pain of Proofreading

This is a good year for grapes.

We have a grapevine that I tend the way I tend the apple trees, the pear tree, and the roses, and that is that I pretty much leave it alone except when I suddenly feel guilty along about February and randomly whack off arms and legs.

And yet, the grapevine always bears fruit, some years 30 fold, some 60, and some an hundred.

One or two years I lost all the grapes to the starlings who somehow know when they're ripe and suddenly appear and strip things down like a plague of locusts.

This year I was amazingly on top of that, and went up in the attic and got a long roll of shimmery netting that I may or may not have gotten with dreamier purposes in mind, and Jenny and I unrolled it along the grapevine and clothes-pinned it in place.

It has worked wonderfully to keep the birds away.
Somebody had to take a section of netting and put it to good use.

And, as I said, it is a good year for grapes.

 We have two kinds, a "white" kind that looks green that's seedless and wonderful for eating.  And a purple kind that's wonderful for juice.

The green ones are a bit over-ripe and the purple ones a bit under, but I decided to do them all together, just so they get done, since we have lots of camping and travels coming up.

Did I mention it's a good year for grapes?

The last two days I have been picking grapes, washing grapes, stemming grapes, steaming grapes, and canning grape juice.

I have been hustling the kids out to pick yet more dishpans full.  I've been getting Dad to stem them for me, which he loves to do, until his shoulders ache and his fingers get "boppich."  (Sticky)
Here's Ben, helping with harvesting.

I use a steamer, which my dad thinks is just the coolest gadget.
I like it too.  You pile the grapes in the hopper on top, and the steam gently extracts the juice, which comes out of the hose into the jar, and then you put the lid on and it seals and you're done.

When you do green and purple grapes together, it makes the prettiest grape juice you ever saw.

I've done about 45 quarts so far.

There's a lot more still to do.

I am physically exhausted.

I am also mentally exhausted because yesterday and today I have also been reading my new book through AGAIN making sure that it's typed up and laid out exactly right before it goes to the printer tomorrow.

Would you believe that even now, like the 4th time through, I found about 25 errors?

Some of them were things I had dithered about, unsure if I should change them or leave well enough alone.  Then, facing a deadline, I panicked and whacked off arms and legs like I do to the grapevines every year.

I don't know why I find it so hard to read my own stuff over and over, but we all have our personal challenges I guess.

When you publish a book, this is the point that feels like climbing Mt. Everest, where you are running out of oxygen and your legs are cramping and the end is in sight but it's still a long climb to get there.

It's also the point where you are appalled at the soupy, lukewarm pan of words you are offering to the hungry public.

In fact, come to think of it, reading your book would be a great punishment, you decide.

Jury: We find the defendant guilty of swindling widows out of their homes and life savings, and of murdering their pet cats.

Judge: I sentence you to a daily read-through of Footprints on the Ceiling, for a week!!

Criminal:  Noooo!!!  Please, please, have mercy!!  Anything but that!!

Quote of the Day:
John 16:21 (KJV) "A woman when she is in travail hath sorrow, because her hour is come: but as soon as she is delivered of the child, she remembereth no more the anguish, for joy that a man is born into the world."
[And that explains quite well how I'll feel when the book comes out and I hold it for the first time.]


  1. Have you ever tried leaving the grapes on the stems? We generally just give everything a decent wash and leave it all attached when steaming it out; doesn't seem to affect the taste of the juice any. We just do Concords, though.

  2. Hope it's a good year for grapes on the East Coast, too! I'm planning to borrow my best friend's steamer in a week or so. Those things are wonderful. I would never can grape juice without them.

    Blessings on your work on your book. I know from the sidelines as an editor that it's very hard to be the writer just before the book goes to press!

  3. Anonymous--Normally I just remove the biggest limbs and leave the rest of the bunch. However, I was trying to keep my dad occupied, so I put him to stemming.

  4. Do you ever make grape pie? It was my grandad's favorite. My mom always made 2, 1 with the skins and one without any skins. (For me, I don't like skins in grape pie).

  5. Here is a vote of confidence for your new book. I always think your writing is refreshingly concise. Maybe that is due to the rigorous editing, but really, I enjoy all your posts... Looking forward to reading it.
    And that is pretty grape juice indeed!

  6. Oh, I wish I had your grapevines! I love making juice with my steamer but have to buy my grapes (concords) by the boxfuls. Yes, those steamers are pretty cool gadgets!

  7. It's a good grape year in Virginia too. I never thought of using a steamer to make juice. Your juice is pretty for sure!

  8. I tried commenting on your last post and something went wrong (read: I probably gave up on myself) and never did. But it was a beautiful, heartwarming story and I wanted to tell you: you're such a good writer.

    Now your "soupy, lukewarm pan of words" line, which is so perfect and so untrue, is making me laugh. Keep climbing, sistah, keep climbing that hill. You got this.