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One Truth For All

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July 24, 2005

Can't Come Soon Enough

Today the household participated in what can only be described as Operation What Are We Going To Do With All These Grapes. There was massive repotting and moving around, and the top of the dryer had to be commandeered for shelf space, as the little buggers have outgrown the window. So far they have failed to fail to thrive.

Once the foundation work is done, we are putting in a greenhouse in the yard, and everybody can move outside. Until then, the laundry room is filled with vines. Also, a few ferns and a brugmansia cutting and some other plant odds and ends. I cannot wait to get this out of the house and into a more suitable locale. I might be dying from exhaustion when the foundation is finally done, but nothing is going to keep me from putting up a greenhouse this fall, short of a court order.

It is interesting to me that the grapes that germinated last have also grown considerably slower than those that germinated first. After a couple of weeks in their own pots, those babies are still weensy, while the first germinators have topped a foot of growth and are sending out side shoots and attacking other grapes. The latest germinators have had trouble casting off the hull of their seeds, and have been struggling for life. Many have just grown up an inch or two and died right off. I guess the late start in life bodes ill for their chances of reaching puberty.

Our plan is to let any grapes that live that long grow to full fruiting size, moved into five-gallon buckets in the yard as necessary. This takes about five years and requires a bit of discipline about removing fruits and pruning. I was hoping that by the time we got that far along, I would have three vines to choose from. I have about twenty good solid growers right now, and ten more weak growers who might catch up. At this rate, in four years I will be trying to pawn off vines on anybody and everybody within driving distance. Look out.

# Posted by ayse on 07/24/05 at 9:43 PM

July 21, 2005


Any day now, I should see massive baby grape dieoff. Until then, I give you the latest photos.

The tallest seedlings are seven inches tall and growing like mad. The ones that are failing to thrive are a couple inches tall and have not set out their second set of leaves.

Seven inches and growing

I am going to have to transplant some of these guys soon: they're pushing roots through the peat pots. May be time to get them some official plastic pots and real saucers rather than pie pans.

Rooting through the peat pots

With my luck there will be no as-predicted dieoff, and I will end up with twenty adult grape plants that I have to find homes for in the garden, or euthanize.

# Posted by ayse on 07/21/05 at 8:06 PM

July 17, 2005

What Business are You In?

I have been doing some material research for work this week. This is pretty simple stuff: go through a specification, find products named there, get data sheets on them, and organize them in a binder. It's a bit easier than it used to be because all that stuff is available online, or it should be.

So here's my peeve of the week: when I go to the web site for a roofing tile manufacturer, in order to get product information for use in a multi-million-dollar project, I have to register and give the company complete contact information and data about the company where I work in order to download the PDF of their brochure.

I mean, what the hell? I have two options for getting this information: I either download it myself and print it out at my own expense, OR I call the manufacturer and have their paid representative mail me a four-colour glossy brochure. Which one do you think is cheaper and easier for the manufacturer? So why do they try to restrict my access to that method? They're in the business of selling ROOFING TILES, not brochures. All they are doing is making me less inclined to save them time and money -- I'm an intern, so having my contact info for a summer internship is not going to help them market to me should I ever end up in a position to choose roofing tile. They're being stupid and stingy about their marketing materials, which is about as short-sighted as you can get.

Businesses that forget their core business plan lose in small ways over long periods. If you sell roofing tile, then you should be letting anybody download your product information who wants it. And giving away CAD details like it's going out of style. Architects and engineers find that sort of thing way more useful than coffee cups or logo caps, and they use it, and when they use it they end up using your actual product. Save yourself some money by telling customers, "Yeah, all that data is on our web site: there's a link right on the home page to a special area for you."

The only people who should charge for CAD details are draftsmen, and the only people who should charge for a brochure are brochure salesmen, should such a profession exist.

# Posted by ayse on 07/17/05 at 9:22 AM

July 13, 2005

Cherry-Berry Pie

Charlotte's cherry tree was in fruit, which gave me ideas for rehashing the cherry-berry pie I made at Thanksgiving. The recipe I used called for canned cherries, which I had never used before and will never use again. I decided to try it with fresh.

Cherry-Berry Pie, version 1

2 pie crusts
3/4 c sugar
2 tablespoons quick-cook tapoica
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 lb sour cherries, pitted
short handful of sour cherries, mashed for juice
1 lb strawberries, destemmed and sliced
short handful of strawberries, mashed for juice
1 tablespoon water (should have been lemon juice but I ditzed on it)

The first thing to know is that you should have that crust ready to go before you do the insides. I always try to cut corners with that and end up having to stay up really late baking or put the baking off a day.

Also, you don't need good, ripe strawberries for this pie. It's nice, but there's sugar in there, and the crispness and tartness of unripe strawberries works fine.

As you all know, I am sure, a strawberry is ripe when the pith comes free with the stem:
Ripe strawberry

A less ripe strawberry has white shoulders and doesn't want to give up its pith. They taste horrible for eating straight up, but they work fine in pie. Pie is how you deal with imperfect fruit, anyway.

The original recipe called for reserving the juice from defrosted frozen strawberries and canned cherries, but I was using fresh, so I used some fruit to make a juice:
Mashing strawberries for juice

This was my civilized attempt to juice a strawberry. I eventually just mashed the thing in my hands. Next time I make this pie I may just puree it:
Strawberry juicing

The recipe works out much like your average fruit pie: mix all ingredients except the fruit itself in a small pot on the stove, until the tapoica thickens up nicely. This is supposed to be 5-10 minutes, but for me it always ends up being more like 20. YMMV and all that.

Dump the fruit in your bottom crust:
Prepared pie

Pour on the thickened liquid, cover it up with a top crust, and pop that sucker in a preheated 400F oven for half an hour or so, until nice on top. You may want to use the tin-foil trick on the edges to keep them from burning. I was being lazy about my crust so I didn't make overhanging edges, so not an issue here.

When it's done, let the pie sit for a while, preferably overnight, to set up. Then eat.

# Posted by ayse on 07/13/05 at 10:01 PM

July 11, 2005

What's Up?

I haven't been posting, because I've been spending all day on the computer and coming home with little desire to sit around on the computer some more. But life continues apace. Work is good; I'm learning a lot about the business of architecture, and a bit about the nature of small companies.

This weekend Noel was away at English Country Death Camp, so my friend Elaine and I went on a trip down to visit my apartment in SLO, taking the dog with us for a bit of R&R from her challenging life of sleeping in sunbeams and sniffing The Pile.

The artichoke was drying out, setting seeds. Dramatic and interesting in a whole new way:
Img 4489 Edited

I liked this little fountain we saw at a store downtown. I happen to have some dribbly teapots I was going to throw away (I hate dribbling hot tea all over the place), so I may make one like it:
Img 4490 Edited

It's been hot, and Rosie was kind of shedding over the weekend so this afternoon I gave her a good brushing, then John took her out for another brushing a few minutes later because she was still kind of sheddy:
Img 4505 Edited

I've been told that you can spin this up to make a dog wool, and knit it, but when it gets damp it smells like wet dog. I think I will continue to leave it out for the birds to make nests from.

In other news, the grape farm is going OK. I've been reliably told that they will all die, but what the heck. I don't have much else to take my mind off the catastrophe of our renovation project. I've had a few casualties so far, and some are thriving a lot less than others, but so far so good:
Img 4491 Edited

It's interesting that the seedlings that sprouted last are the weakest growers.
Img 4492 Edited

# Posted by ayse on 07/11/05 at 9:51 PM