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With all the rain this summer, the wild grapes have outdone themselves. We have grapevines at Roshara climbing to the tops of trees that are fifty feet and taller. We have grapevines crawling to the top of the woodshed. We have grapevines crawling over the lilac bushes. We have grapevines hanging over the back trail to the prairie.

I’m reminded when I was a kid on the home farm; one summer produced an abundant grape crop. Pa came home one day, after seeing more wild grapes than he usually did and told my mother we should bottle up some of the grapes so we might have some grape juice during the long, cold days of winter. Ma agreed that would be a good idea.

Pa fetched some unused beer bottles from the cellar where they had been gathering dust, washed them, and began stuffing the little wild grapes into the bottles until each bottle was mostly full. Ma filled the bottles the rest of the way with well water, and then with a bottle capper, they fitted caps to each bottle. They stored the bottles on shelves in the cellar along with all the other fruits and vegetables that Ma had canned.

A month or so later, in the middle of a dark night, a loud explosion awakened us. My brothers and I ran downstairs. Pa had already figured out what had happened. One of the grape juice bottles had exploded. The grapes had fermented. There was glass and juice and grapes everywhere. What a mess they created.

THE OLDTIMER SAYS: Be careful what you stuff into a bottle and seal with a cap.

Jerry Apps, born and raised on a Wisconsin farm, is Professor Emeritus at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the author of more than 35 books, many of them on rural history and country life. For further information about Jerry's writing and TV work go to www.jerryapps.com 

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