It ‘s been a busy few days at The Havens. Jim ran off to Wyoming for a business meeting with his siblings and partners in the rental business, and that meant that I drove to St. Louis twice in 5 days for airport delivery and pick up. The second he got home the row of Baco noir wine grapes was ready to pick and the Marechal foch was ready to press and put into the secondary fermenters. His brother from Iowa wanted to be involved in the wine making process, so Jim called him and he ran down from his place and spent a few days here.
The upshot of all this activity is that over in the corner of the dining room there are two primary wine fermenters working away. They make a very busy bubbling and ticking sound. The seeds and stems from the Marechal foch pressing had sugar and water added to them and they are making a second run of a dark pink wine in one fermenter. The Baco noir that got picked and crushed on Friday is right next to it. Every time you walk into the dining room you get a strong whiff of the yeasty winey gas that is bubbling off these two wines as they work.
That scent replaces the strong smell of tomatoes that you get when you walk in from outside. While the guys were doing the grape/wine thing I went off to Mennonite country to acquire more tomatoes since ours aren’t producing that well due to the cool night temperatures. We need a few more pints of tomato puree in the food room for winter use. I found a good source and bought 50 pounds. Two thirds of those have been run through the La Victoria strainer and are slowly evaporating down to puree, while the rest of them have been designated for roasting. One batch of those has already been roasted, and the second batch is going into the oven.
It seems that we are going to float today. It couldn’t be a more perfect day for it, what with the cloudless blue sky, lack of wind, and nice crisp temperatures. There is a lot of water in the river too, as it rained a couple of inches last week. It is pretty amazing to have this much water in the river in late August, but no one is complaining. We are not that crazy about dragging our canoes over gravel bars.
Thinking about driving out to the access made me remember a conversation my beloved and I had a month ago. We had already driven past one flattened out ex-animal and not been able to ascertain what it was. We discussed it in passing. I thought it might be a possum, but Jim thought it was too dark in color to be one. Then we passed another one, and this one was obviously a possum, identifiable by the long naked tail. But it too seemed awfully dark, and we both commented on this fact.
Now, I’m not going to get into what kind of relationship you have when you start having in-depth discussions about road kill. However, I will just say that I have had conversations on that subject with several of my friends. In fact, while I was in college I had friends who were very excited to receive any road kill you happened across since they were required to acquire dead animals, dissect them, and recover and identify all the different parasites that were inhabiting them for their parasitology lab. Incidentally, I have been given to understand that this lab will ruin you for any but extremely well cooked meat, and sushi is right out. But I digress.
As we drove along that day, we passed a third dead animal — another possum.
“Gee, it hasn’t been a very good week for possums, has it?” I commented.
“Nope, it hasn’t,” my Chauffeur Of the Day responded. After a moment, he continued, “It seems like they are all a lot darker in color than I expect possums to be.”
I thought about that for a while. “You are right. I wonder if it is regional mutation. Maybe they are better off not being quite so blond around here because of the soil type.”
We traveled another half mile before Jim said, “I wonder if they change color.”
“You mean like the ermine, arctic foxes, snowshoe hares, and willow ptarmigans?”
“Yeah. Like them.”
“I don’t see why not. Possums need to be lighter in the winter too.”
Another quarter of a mile passed. I could see that Jim was thinking deeply. Finally he said, “How do those guys do it anyway? I mean, do they change all their fur twice a year?”
I thought about it for a while, and then I replied. “No, I’m pretty sure they only shed their fur once a year, mostly in the spring, like dogs. It comes in dark, and then when fall comes it changes color to the white color.” I stopped and thought for a while. “But I don’t really know.”
“What do you suppose makes it change to the light color?”
“Oh, I don’t know. There’s probably some sort of signal. Like day length.”
“Or maybe it’s temperature change. Or nutritional.”
“It could be that the hair slowly bleaches out over the summer, and is showing uv damage. Or it could be a hormonal signal.”
“Hmm.” I could see he was thinking deeply some more, so I gazed out the window, watched a hawk circling in the distance. A few minutes later, he opened the conversation again. “There should be some sort of product that could take advantage of that. A hair product. You know how people like to be able to just take a pill to get things done.”
“You mean, like a pill that would make you blonde.”
“Yeah. L’Oreal or Clairol should be working on it, a temporary hair color. You take the pill, and your hair changes to blonde. Then after six weeks, it goes back to its original color over night, no roots, no messy dyes.”
“Wow, that’s a great idea!” We were starting to riff on the advertising possibilities, putting on our best Ad Rep imitation voices.
“A new hair color process!”
“Be blonde for six weeks! Just take this pill!”
“Side effects may include…” I began. “What would the side effects be? Oh yeah, let’s see. ‘Unfortunately, it does that thing the mammals do. You’re blonde for six weeks and then your hair all falls out.’ I can see the poor L’Oreal lab technician trying to explain this problem to the marketing department. “But when it comes back in it is the original color! There would be no roots problem.’”
“We’re working on it!” my husband concluded the riff.
What price beauty? Or at least blondeness.