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By Staff | Jan 16, 2010

It all began with a daydream about grape jelly.

A few years ago, just for fun, I planted a couple of grapevines. I thought it would be cool to raise some grapes and maybe eventually enjoy a little homemade grape jelly.

OK, so my mother would be in charge of the jelly making. But I would do everything else.

I purchased a pair of spindly little twigs at a local greenhouse and planted them on the south side of the granary. I at first thought I’d been taken. It was difficult to believe that those sickly sticks would ever amount to anything.

To my surprise, the twigs sprouted leaves. And vined out. They even produced a few tiny clusters of grapes. Visions of jars full of jelly began to dance in my head.

But then the reality of winter slapped my daydream like a bucket of ice water. Would my scraggly little grapevines survive our Siberian cold? Should I cover them with blankets?

I was worrying about the wrong thing. One midwinter’s day I ventured out to see how the grapevines were faring. There, where the east vine should have been was nothing. It had been clipped off at ground level.

Tracks in the snow told me that wicked rabbits were responsible. Those barbarous bunnies had made a meal of my poor little grapevine.

This meant war. I began to watch the grapevines from the window, pacing back and forth as I gripped my .22 rifle, muttering “Kill the wabbit, kill the wabbit!” under my breath.

My wife thought I had gone off the deep end. She said not to worry about it, that I was fretting about potential future grapes that were worth maybe a few dollars. But she didn’t understand; there was a principle at stake.

The next spring, to my great astonishment, the decapitated grapevine came back from the root. The non-bunny-bitten plant spread like an invading force, eventually occupying a goodly portion of the granary’s west wall.

I felt a small sense independence when I harvested this summer’s grapes. It was good to know I was no longer at the mercy of the nefarious Viticultural International Nabobs Extraordinaire.

I took my pulchritudinous purple produce to my mother, who reduced the fruit to juice and froze it. I thought we would later turn it into jelly, but then realized that that would add up to a plethora of preserves. I instead opted to try making wine, so I took the grape juice out of the freezer and began to commit fermentation.

At this point I want to point out that I thawed the juice. It’s not uncommon in this region to say “unthaw” as in “The wife has been really chilly toward me lately. I hope she unthaws soon.”

People! Think about what you’re saying. To “un” anything is to do the opposite of the original word. Therefore, to “unthaw” something would be to freeze it, although it has been observed that when certain people undo certain articles of clothing things tend to heat up.

This lingual abuse is similar to the phrase “follow ahead,” as in “He got lost and his wife had to follow ahead of him until he got out of that department store.”

Anyhow, we now have a vessel of grape juice burping away in our living room. In a mere year or so, we’ll have a few bottles of wine. I hope.

There are many things that could go wrong. For instance, I could have been less than perfect in sterilizing my equipment, which could mean we are making purple vinegar. This fairly probable, as cleanliness has never been my strong suit. Just ask my wife.

But I might somehow succeed and actually produce drinkable wine, which would be a great tragedy.

This is because my wife now has a fantasy about me planting a bona fide vineyard. In her mind’s eye, elegant, well-groomed rows of grapes occupy the area that was once our cattle yard, lending our little farm a Mediterranean flair.

Imagine the work. Weeds to whack, birds to battle. And I would have to hire an entire army of bunny snipers.

But that’s not the worst of it. We would come to be regarded as wine connoisseurs and could no longer publicly purchase such things as Boone’s Farm or Two Buck Chuck.

This would also mean we would have to learn to like “dry” wine, a term that has always made me imagine some sort of powder. That’s an awfully bitter pill for a couple of Lutherans whose gold standard for wine is the Mogen David served at communion.

Everything is suddenly so complicated. It’s nearly enough to make me wish that my grapevine daydream had never gelled.

Nelson is a freelance writer from Volga, S.D. Reach him by e-mail at jjpcnels@itctel.com

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