Eydie and Sammy meet beekeeper Dan

August 3, 2008 at 11:00 am (Bees, honey, Mead Making, New friends) (, , , , , , , , , , )



By Eydie Wight

On the way home from Brother John’s house Sammy and I were discussing how every component needed to start our mead making attempt had fallen into place except the honey! We had priced honey at four or five places from the health food store to Sam’s club to the local grocery stores. We had also put out an all points bulletin to our friends to see if anyone had any leads on honey. Well, we had actually heard from three people who suggested the same person. I knew Dan slightly from his too infrequent visits to our writer’s group. I think I remember one piece that he had written about the sea that was very deeply attuned to the earth and it’s rhythms. I liked it and hoped he would keep writing. Sammy and I heard that Dan had begun beekeeping and possibly had some honey for sale. We called the number, left a message, missed his call back, left another message, played some phone tag, and finally got through as we were on our way home. Dan (our hopeful honey supplier) invited us to come by his house and check out the honey he had.

What a completely excellent way to end the best weekend we had had in a long time! Dan lives in an old farmhouse that has so much character. I didn’t want to be rude but I kept looking. There was an old wood stove in the living room, and varied artwork on the walls, two loving dogs to be petted, friendly cats (one a big orange poly dactyl, another a young yellow fellow just full of curiosity and life), bee books and articles inviting a good read at the kitchen table, china cats and knickknacks. I felt a wave of nostalgia, it was like being in my Granny and Granddad’s home again. It was comfortable. It was lovely.

We started talking about homemade wines and Dan mentioned that dandelion wine was one of his favorites. Well, I just happened to have part of a bottle that Brother John had given back to me (it not being one of Brother John’s favorites) and I dashed out to the car, tauting the virtues of my wine all the way. My dandelion wine is made the old fashioned way with baker’s yeast, fermented in the bottle, with the sludge allowed to sink down to the bottom. Dan brought out a bottle one of his friends had made that make my wine look like pond scum. He dandelion offering had the color of the first warm spring sunshine and tasted like a smile. Next thing I knew Dan had given us a bottle of his homemade strawberry wine to take home.

We started talking about bees, and beekeeping. Dan explained that he is new to beekeeping and has gotten involved after hearing if the dwindling of the American honeybees. He has four hives now and does all he can to not distress the bees. He told us he can tell a happy bee buzz from an unhappy one. I was sold right there without ever seeing (or tasting) the honey. Of course then I saw the honeycomb with it’s loaded amber treasure and had a spoonful. I was hooked. We bought 25 lbs right then and there, enough for the mead and a few jars for us. Dan also gave us some eggs from free range chickens. When I cooked them the next day they had the biggest, yellowest yolks I had ever seen! Sammy and I agreed that we had been truly blessed to meet such a gentle, courteous friend as we found in Dan.

We even talked on the way home about trying our hand at beekeeping. I have seen so many honeybees at our place, especially around my lavender, hyssop, and lemon balm. I think I could give them a happy place to live. We slept so peacefully that night, visions of honeybees and big yellow cats companionably drinking mead at the kitchen table…(Maybe I shouldn’t have had that second glass of wine!)

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A visit with Brother John!

August 3, 2008 at 10:00 am (Family, Mead Making, Visit) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )


By Eydie Wight

Like I said, Sammy and I were having a really good weekend. On Sunday, we decided to drive down to Lansdowne to visit Brother John and Kathy. My parents were going to be there and the menu was BLT’s with fresh homegrown garden tomatoes, fresh homegrown corn on the cob, and fresh homegrown peaches for dessert. Our dad has the Midas touch, the ultimate green thumb of gardening. It’s like gardening is a religion and he is the high priest. Each year he brings us buckets and small cartloads of fresh fruit and veggies. Both Brother John and Kathy, and Sammy and I strongly believe that it is the deepest sacrilege to let any of this bounty go to waste. (In fact, Brother John wrote his first, and only poem about just that very thing! Check it out in our Poetry Section). And since I have my own albeit less than worthy garden, we’ve learned to improvise. In true Bubba Gump fashion I make fried squash, squash in salads, squash casserole, squash pancakes, squash bread, squash pickles, canned squash, squash soup, squash and broccoli in cheese sauce. I’ve been known to lie awake in panic thinking I should get up and go eat a raw squash just to reduce the sheer numbers needing consumption.

Dad 'Making Bacon'

Well, shortly after we arrived, Dad, Sammy and I started husking corn. Now my Mom has the deepest of aversions to even the tiniest scrap of corn silk. So we sat outside in the warm (freaking hot) sun talking (and sweating) about gardening, the corn crop of Sammy and I that was beautiful and bountiful and inedible because the the sewage leak, and picked the corn silk off a dozen or so ears for about an hour. Then Dad started cooking bacon while Mom and I cut and peeled tomatoes (another ick for my mom, tomato skin), and cut up lettuce. Sammy peeled the peaches (naked fruit is popular in my family.) We kept trying to get Dad to let someone take over the bacon while he sat down (he’s headed for a knee replacement in a few weeks) but, no one, repeat no one, can cook perfect bacon like Dad. We didn’t argue with him too much because we all know that, no one, repeat no one, can cook perfect bacon like Dad.

After we ate to the explosion point (I did go light on the corn at only four ears smothered with butter and salted like the briny sea) and cleaned up the dishes, I wandered over to the music cases and got out the mandolin. I picked out a few tunes while Brother John opened up Sammy’s guitar case. Sammy was already deep in a postprandial nap sitting up on the couch with his head thrown back, five seconds away from the rumbling snores that accompany his Bipap-less sleeps. Dad was on the big chair with that glazed look in his eyes that said a nap was ambling in his direction. Brother John started poking Sammy in the stomach with the guitar, poking harder and harder until Sammy finally stirred with a “I don’t want to go to work, ten more minutes.” I made the mistake of getting up to pee and lost the mandolin to John’s possession is nine tenths… I hadn’t brought the fiddle this time so I had to sing. We don’t get together very often so we do more pickin’ (trying to find a good key) and grinnin’ (oops, not that key) than tuneful artistry. I always had the reputation of only being able to carry a tune if I had a stout bucket, and only having a maybe one octave range on a good day, but Mom sang in a barbershop quartet for years and Brother John and Sammy are no strangers to a melody so we get the job done. We played and sang our grandfather’s usual tunes (Redwing, Old Joe Clark, Sourwood Mountain, and You Are My Sunshine) and Wildwood Flower, and some old hymns like I’ll Fly Away and Swing Low. My mom stole the harmony parts which I usually sing so I was haphazardly doing lead. I hate being Captain Kirk, I want to be Mr. Spock. But it was fun. Mom and Dad left and we picked around some Celtic tunes I like (House Carpenter, Star of the County Down, Sweet Afton) and then it was time for us to go. We discussed the proposed mead adventure standing by our car outside in the beautiful evening air while the mosquitoes treated Sammy like my Dad’s fresh garden produce and then started for home.

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We visit our friend Lew and get some equipment.

August 3, 2008 at 9:00 am (Bungs, Carboy, Fermentation Lock, Mead Making) (, , , , , , , , , )


By Eydie Wight

My friend Lew had generously offered to lend us two carboys, bungs, and fermentation locks that he wasn’t using at the moment. Actually he generously offered to lend us two carboys, bungs, and fermentation locks that he was borrowing from a mutual friend Sylvia who wasn’t using them at the moment. I work with Lew and used to work with Sylvia. Lew is a great guy, great sense of humor, do anything for you, give you the shirt off his back, cancer survivor, one of the best people I know. In the fall of each year, Lew and Sylvia make red wine. I’ve had a bottle or two, it’s good stuff. In fact, several years ago I met Sylvia at her house after we worked night shift and we drank a bottle of homemade wine while watching “The Big Chill”. Story for another time but I did eventually make it home and after all, I’ll probably never see that nice gas station attendant again. Anyway, I’m rambling. Not rambling as much as the day we watched “The Big Chill”, but nevertheless…

We called Lew’s house to get directions and talked to his wife, Angela. Now let me just say right out of the gate that Angela is a lovely, super intelligent woman whose directions were correct, concise, and easy. We just sort of didn’t follow them. We mistook a Karns grocery store for a Giant. And I couldn’t read my own handwriting. I’m quite sure that when I’m discovered posthumously as a great modern American poet, generations of students will work on hundreds of doctorates trying to decipher what exactly I did write in all those little notebooks and scraps of paper. Sammy was still at the point where we hadn’t been wandering aimlessly for too long and so he was amused at my conjecture that although we probably weren’t looking for “Compost Lane”, it was something approaching that. After a nice little tour of Hershey and accidentally taking a nice little tour of Palmyra, we found “Lamppost Lane”, followed by “Tally-ho” and finally “Cobblestone”.

Lew’s house is big, beautiful, and upscale enough to make me a little nervous about touching stuff. We were greeted by Otis (Redding), one of those pugs that look like the offspring of Peter Lorre and Bette Davis. Degas (pronounced Degas, not De’ Gah) was the other canine greeter. We followed Lew around to the back to see the new pergola he had just built. Very nice. Angela came out holding another member of the family, Isaac (Hayes), a young Red-fronted Macaw. Angela was petting Isaac and playing peek-a-boo with him and I was admiring Isaac’s beautiful red, green, and blue plumage and Lew was telling us about Isaac’s extensive vocabulary and then Angela said to me, “Want to hold him?” Oh Lord. I had heard stories from Johann, another co-worker who has stayed at the Casa de Lew several times, that Isaac was possibly possessed by the devil and speaks in tongues. And then, there is that little episode from my childhood concerning me and the chickens that has scarred me for life, but that’s another story for another time. Needless to say, disconcerted but wanting to make a good impression, I held out my hand in the “perch” position. Isaac, helped by Angela, stepped over, looked me up and down, and promptly took my finger in his beak. “He’s testing his perch”, said Lew. It was like that time in the Girl scouts when I got to hold some one’s pet blacksnake only to have it constrict around my neck. The pressure on my finger increased as I was saying (calmly, I think), “What a pretty bird. Pretty bird.” (That is possibly cutting off my finger now. No blood, that’s good, but crushing injuries can be just as bad as amputation…) Isaac went back to Lew at the first opportunity and the bird and I breathed a mutual sigh of relief. Birds don’t like me. I must have wronged the species terribly in a past life.

Well, we got our equipment, Lew gave us a bottle of his wine, we had a great visit, I didn’t spill or drop anything, and we made it safely home.

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Our trip to the wine store for equipment.

August 3, 2008 at 8:00 am (Bottles, Bungs, Carboy, Fermentation Lock, Hydrometer, Mead Making, Nutrient, Potassium Metabisulfite, Siphon, Strainer bag, Yeast) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )


By Eydie Wight

My husband Sammy and I were having a really good weekend. We had had a long, gray, spate of “not winning the lottery” (again), having our septic system spew raw sewage out into our beautiful corn crop (human poop does grow good corn-not safely edible corn-but good corn), having our safety net of painstakingly horded cash mysteriously disappear from its hiding place, having the air conditioning go out in the car three times while at the same time listening to the musical grindings of the brake rotors in the other car, and having our kitten Ophelia become very ill very suddenly. Our motto for awhile there had become, “Let’s kiss the ass end of this day goodbye.”

But, we were having a really good weekend. Saturday we decided to finally make the hour drive to the beer and wine making store. We held hands and talked of pleasant things like our proposed mead making and the possibility of another trip to the Bahamas next year when I reach 50. I had a list of things we needed for the mead. I always feel better when I have a list. When I drop dead some day it will be with a list in my hand with all the items crossed off. On the drive to “the city” Sammy called a friend who he hadn’t been in touch with for a long time. The two of them, Sammy and Ramey, used to have an acoustic duo. back in the 70’s. I have a picture of the two of them on my locker at work. When people ask me, which one is your husband, I either reply, “the fuzzy one” or “the Dan Fogelburg looking one”. Ramey I call “the Glen Campbell guy”. Anyway, Sammy and Ramey talked until we had reached our destination and then we parked and sat and they talked some more, catching up on 30+ years of news.

We finally figured out that the entrance to the store was actually down an alley. As we drove down the alley Sammy stopped, backed up, and said, “Hey, did you see those drums? Somebody put a snare and a tom out for trash.” I said, “well, you can’t pass up looking at that, we could use some drums.” So, Nine Inch Nails sticker and all, the drums were loaded into the car.

As we parked in front of the store we saw a van with a Bucknell wrestling sticker. We looked at each other and at the same time wondered how our young friend Luke was doing. He is an honors student, fantastic musician, savvy wrestler, and he goes to Bucknell. We miss him. We entered the world of “everything you need or want to have to make really ostentatious and hopefully drinkable beer and wine” and stood gaping like fish out of water. Buckets, carboys, wine yeasts, wine nutrient, yeast energizer, siphons, fermentation locks, bottles, corks, potassium metabisulfite, strainer bags, bungs, hydrometers, thermometers. And we saw young Luke there with his dad! After hugs all around he told us he was there shopping for the ingredients to make his own probiotics. Well, we were assisted in our purchases by a knowledgeable and personable kid who is probably old enough to drink but young enough to get carded for the next 10 years of his life, and headed out. Outside the store we called Lew, an amateur wine maker I work with who had generously offered to lend us two carboys and some other equipment.

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