Hurricane warnings divide the world into two kinds of people: the prepared, and us.
The prepared have a generator, purchased well before Home Depot ran out of them. They have batteries and bottled water, canned food and first aid kits, flashlights and radios. They’ve filled all their gas tanks, boarded up all their windows, secured all their outdoor items.
And then there’s us.
Hurricane Earl is supposed to pummel Cape Cod later today, so we’ve taken in anything edible from the garden, gotten the skiff we keep in the pond up on dry land, and made sure we have a few extra bananas.
I thought we were doing just fine until yesterday, when one of my friends sent me a list of all the things you’re supposed to do to prepare for a big storm. It was called a “Hurricane Preparedness Checklist,” but it might as well have been called “Things Tamar and Kevin Aren’t Doing.”
We don’t have an evacuation plan that’s more specific than ‘let’s get the hell out of here.’ Our non-perishable food supply consists of coffee and licorice Scottie dogs. Our only battery-powered radio is the one from the boat.
Some of the items on the list are simply out of the question. “Watch animals closely and keep them under your direct control.” Perhaps we should put the turkeys and chickens in the bathtub. And then there’s the one about making sure you have an ample supply of “sanitation and personal hygiene items.” We don’t pay much attention to personal hygiene even in good weather, and have a hard time believing that washing behind your ears is a priority in an emergency.
I’ll admit that we are doing a few of the things on the list. Our truck has a full tank of gas, we’ve turned our freezer to its lowest setting, and we’ll charge our cell phones. We’ll take in anything that might blow away, and put at least one vehicle in the garage.
My most time-consuming hurricane preparedness activity, though, does not appear on the official list: I’m making grape jelly.
It’s like this. My friend Melissa, the charming and talented proprietress of a little shop called Yummy Goods (and an eponymous blog), has a lovely, well-established grape arbor. While she appreciates the smell and look of the grapes, she doesn’t eat them (“It’s a texture thing,” she says). Nor does she can. When I first saw her arbor, a few weeks back, she told me she’d be happy to let me have the grapes when they ripened.
Everyone should have a friend with a beautiful grape arbor and a generous nature.
The grapes chose this week to ripen, and my top pre-storm priority was harvesting enough of them to make a batch of grape jelly. If Earl blew them all away, it would be a tragic waste.
Yesterday, Kevin and I raided the arbor. We took almost ten pounds of grapes, but there were so many still on the vine that it looked like we hadn’t even been there. They’re a beautiful, dark purple, slip-skin variety – I’m tempted to say Concord, but my grape identification skills aren’t such that I can be sure.
Last night, I washed, stemmed, and crushed them, and simmered them with a little water until they gave up their juice. I drained them and let the juice sit in the refrigerator overnight. I’ve been told that grape juice has a tendency to form tartrate crystals – something I’m familiar with from wine corks – and the juice should chill for at least 12 hours before you turn it into jelly, in the hopes that the crystals will form and you can filter them out.
Today, as the storm closes in, I’ll be making jelly. (And I won’t be using a water bath!)
The two storm-related bad things most likely to happen to us are an extended power outage and a strategically placed fallen tree. In case of the former, we’ll lose some food. That would be unfortunate, but not disastrous. In case of the latter, we could have damage to our house, our boat, our chicken coop, or our truck. Assuming no damage to either of us, that would also be unfortunate, but not disastrous.
As long as Kevin and I have each other, and grape jelly, we’ll be fine.