We’re Baaaaack!!!

April 19, 2010 at 11:00 pm (bee hive, Bees, Entertainment, Eydie Wight, Hobbies, Insects, movies, music, Plants, Uncategorized, Wine Making, wisteria) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )


Dandelion Wine

By Eydie Wight

Well, here it is midnight and I’m sitting on the couch with the laptop, in my pajamas (I am in my pajamas, not the laptop) Futurama is on TV, and I’m sipping on a glass of Lemon Balm wine. I made a small run of this wine on a whim at the end of last summer, eight bottles total, and I have to admit it’s become my favorite. Lemon balm, also called “Melissa”, is a square-stemmed aromatic herb in the mint family. It’s leaves, fresh or dried, make good tea, especially iced tea. In the summer, whenever I go out, I crush a few leaves between my fingers and then roll them along my arms. The scent is fresh, vaguely citrusy, and mildly minty. I get several cuttings throughout the late spring and up until the first frost from about a one foot by two foot bed on the side of the house. The plant is said to have a mild sedative action, and I’m not sure if it’s that or the alcohol content, but I feel pretty mellow. It was a good day today.

I picked dandelions for my second run of dandelion wine. This is the first wine of the year that I make.

Kamikazi Bird

(Sidebar. I fell asleep shortly after the first paragraph last night, and have now, after coffee, resumed. As I am typing here I am interrupted every few minutes by a thud or series of thuds against the bedroom window. We have this kamikaze bird who sees either the reflection of “his” tree in the window, or sees the reflection of himself in the window and thinks it’s another bird in his tree. It repeatedly bangs into the window. I would think by now the poor thing has brain damage, it’s been hitting the window MANY TIMES a day, starting shortly after dawn, for over a week. I just got the bird book to find out what kind of bird this birdbrain is. So much for animals learning and adapting for survival of the fittest. Thud. There he goes again.)

Mowing Like A Sailor

Anyway, I picked dandelions today while Sammy mowed the lawn. He had to leave the areas where I was picking until the last, and since I seem to wander blithely with my bucket in hand from patch to patch, he must have looked like a drunken sailor weaving around in the yard. It takes about a gallon and a half of dandelion heads for one gallon of wine, and I usually pick enough for two gallons at a time. If you have dandelions like WE have dandelions, that takes about an hour and a half. I went out in the afternoon. Dandelions have to be picked when the flowers are fully opened to the sun. Otherwise they are full of bugs. Although these bugs ARE edible, for the most part, they can make the wine have a bitter flavor. So, if the flowers heads are open, the bugs will either leave when you start to pick, or you can flick or tap them off.

Picking Dandelions

There are many methods to picking dandelions. I’ll share mine with you. It involves beer. My favorite apparel is a pair of very baggy shorts and Sammy’s Blind Melon t-shirt. I stole the shirt from him and cut the neck and sleeves out. The front of it is printed with the picture of the little bee girl from the “No Rain” video. That girl looks just like me at that age. (Hey! Brother John here… I would love to see a picture of you in your dandelion gear!) I never had the cool bee costume (wish I had, I’d have worn it every day) but I did have a black and yellow striped shirt that I appear in several pictures wearing. I also pick dandelions barefoot. Cool breezes and tender spring lawns are meant for bare feet. The only equipment needed is your hands, a bucket, and a can of beer. I use a bucket that has gallon lines marked on it. I tend to use a six gallon bucket because it’s tall enough to use like a walker when I’ve been picking awhile. Some people sit to pick, and I do at times. In fact, last week when I picked my first batch of dandelions in the 82 degree heat, I did sit. I’d pick everything I could reach, stretching out further and further until I was lying on the grass. Then I discovered that if I just rolled to the next patch it was much less bother than getting up to relocate. That worked fine, for about seven rolls. The last time I had apparently parked myself on a red ant hill. Little devils put me on the afternoon banquet menu. So today I would lean on my bucket walker and pick one-handed. I sat the beer on the arm of the glider-rocker that looks down over the grassy slope where the dandelions grow the thickest. Every fifteen minutes or so I would work my way back up to the rocker, sit down, sip a little beer, and just enjoy the day.

Blooms bustin' out all over!

There were blooms everywhere. Tulips and some late daffodils and hyacinths in the cultivated beds and pansies in the flower box. Dandelions, violets, speedwell, grape hyacinth, forsythias, lilac, redbud, crabapple, cherry blossoms, and ground ivy. The Wisteria trees are covered with bloom buds. This is the first year the white wisteria will bloom.

While relaxing, I can sometimes hear a hawk pair that court in the skies (and will later raise their family in a nest somewhere up on the ridge). And always there is the sounds of songbirds, the air is full of chirps, coos, and warbles.

The Italian Honeybee

I have been so tickled this spring to see my friends, the Italian Honeybees, out and about in the yard. Not in as great a number as they were two years ago, but last year there were next to none and I worried about them. I always let the honeybees go first when I’m picking dandelions. I watch them and sometimes have little conversations with them or sing to them, or follow one from patch to patch. My honeybees will be arriving later this spring. The hive is painted a lovely Bahama green and ready to set on its chimney block foundation up in the back of the six tree orchard.

Thud. The crazy bird is back.
Thud.

I have a couple of whimsical rules when I pick dandelions. I try to pick at least a few flowers from all over the yard. That way the wine will reflect home. I never pick all the flowers from a patch, leaving some to go to seed. That way the wine will reflect bounty. I’ve picked thousands of dandelions, and there are still thousands more. And no two are ever exactly alike. Cool! As I picked today my hands become so full of pollen I left yellow hand prints on the bucket. A couple of the bumblebees I saw had such loaded pollen baskets they could hardly lift off from flower to flower.

It's a Dandelion Involucre!!!

After I finished picking the dandelions I took the bucket inside and let it sit while I made supper. That way, not only did I get supper made, I gave the flower heads time to close. Supper was venison chili and a simple dessert. Yummy. Once the supper dishes were done Sammy and I sat down to cut the stems off each dandelion flower head. Some people leave the stem bits attached, but I think the sap from the stems is bitter. We just grasp the now closed flower petals with one hand and cut the stem off at the base. The green “involucre” (a ring of small leaves, or bracts, at the base of a flower or flower cluster), is left on. You can pull the stem away with your fingers but I think cutting is easier. It takes about as long to prepare the flowers as it does to pick them. By that time Sammy and I were both getting tired. So we channel surfed while cutting and cutting and eventually settled on “Captain Ron.” After the heads were prepared I placed them in a bucket, poured in three quarts of boiling water to each gallon of heads, stirred the mess, and put the bucket lid on tightly. The mash will be stirred once a day for a week and kept covered. Then the process of adding the yeast, sugar, and lemon juice will begin.

Thud. Little bugger has to have a headache. He never knocks himself unconscious but the cats are starting to hang out under the tree.

I’d better finish this and try to fit in a few things before work tonight. Maybe play my fiddle a bit. I’ve been working on a Scottish version of “Amazing Grace” using drone tones. And trying to combine two versions of “Bill Cheatham” that I like. And I found a peppy little version of Bach’s Bourree in E minor. (Remember Jethro Tull’s version?) Or I might go for a jog. I should go for a jog. Okay. I will go for a jog!

Sunday Supper: My chili recipe is nothing special except that it uses ground venison (courtesy of Dad) to replace the ground beef, tomato juice Dad and I canned last summer, and a cup of finely diced young dandelion and chicory leaves from the yard. The chili needed a handful of mashed potato flakes to thicken it slightly and was served over brown rice and topped with cubed Colby cheese.

Dessert was easy. Mom made and froze a million zucchini breads last year in our never ending search for ways to preserve the summer squash harvest. I put a crumbled slice of zucchini bread in a small bowl and added a heaping spoon of chunky applesauce. I microwaved this for one minute. Then I added a big spoonful of vanilla yogurt and drizzled the top with cinnamon and honey.

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INKLINGS

March 18, 2009 at 12:38 am (Authors, Books, Brother John, Entertainment, Eydie Wight, Family, Friends, music, poetry, Stories) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , )


By Siggy

Our Guest Blogger... Siggy!

Hello, my name is “Siggy“, and I have been asked to write a “Guest Blog”. I will get right to it; you can find out a little bit more about me at the end (and hopefully, by reading my story about the Inklings)!

Last year, my wife and I watched a documentary of C.S. Lewis, the British author whose impressive list of books includes the well-known, “Chronicles of Narnia” series. (By the way, every book C.S. Lewis published during his life time–over twenty–is still in print.) The documentary was actually a Christmas gift from the year before; one of those things that just are put aside to get to “later”, you know? Well, I guess the time was right, and we put it on to watch. During the program, it was mentioned that Lewis belonged to a small group of writers who got together regularly for several decades (another notable member of the group was J.R.R. Tolkien, famous for “Lord Of The Rings“). They called themselves the “Inklings“. My wife loved this name, and told me if we ever started a writers group, that was what we should call it. We talked about who else might be in the group, and we both suggested our friend and fellow-writer, Eydie — hence, this connection to her blog site!

Our small writing group, Inklings, is very important to me. To me the name is really important. If our group can provide even a little spark and motivation for the participating members it is all worth it. Inklings is a perfect name. I want our small writing group to encourage the writers it in to continue to improve — to be the best writers they can be.

I never forgot an anecdote related by Arthur Gordon which told the story of two writing groups that had met decades ago, when the participants were still in college. The two groups were about equal in talent. One was a group of women whose members were kind to one another and did everything in their power to encourage each other, while the all male group, who aptly called themselves “The Stranglers“, were brutal with one another and ripped into each others work. Years later, not one prominent writer had come out of The Stranglers, but several emerged from the women’s group, including Marjorie Rawlings, author of “The Yearling“.

After hearing that story, I was determined that Inklings would be a place where we could encourage each other, not tear each other apart. We held our first meeting in August 2008, just three of us — myself, my wife, and Eydie. Now Inklings is starting to grow. A graphic artist came twice, she works for the publisher who printed Eydie‘s first book of poetry, “September Butterfly.” In February we gained our first (and second!) virtual members. BlogMaster, Brother John, is now a member and I am sure he will bring us into the 21st century, and beyond, with his networking talents, and hopefully we will be encouraging his creativity in the writing area. My old friend, Sara, who recently married and moved to North Carolina to begin a new chapter in her life, also joined us long-distance. Sara just this past week completed her studies and became an ordained minister because she wanted to marry people! And this month, another person, a registered lobbyist, joined us for the first time and expressed an interest in coming back. As you can see, our growing group is diverse.

Each time we meet (usually at Eydie‘s or our home) we talk and get to know each other better. I usually pull a few passages from my writing resource library to inspire discussion and then we do a few exercises. In the past, they might have consisted of writing about a piece of music one member shared. Sometimes I pick an interesting photo for us to write about. The ground rules are usually the same: write five minutes without lifting your pen, neither changing anything or crossing out. Then we share what we wrote with each other. We usually have a break and a snack or two.

At the moment, Inklings is doing a “chain” story. This exercise will probably take at least two months to complete. One person writes a chapter and then another adds another, etc. We usually have another home assignment. This month we are writing a description of someone, then next meeting we will compare notes. Last month, we shared our stories of one significant event in our lives.

We try to meet once a month, coordinating our schedules to pick a date. So far, it has all worked out. It has been a challenge to figure our how to include the virtual members in our group. E-mail and snail mail certainly help. We are still working that one out. But my goal remains the same: I want each person, present or virtual, to get better as a writer, to NOT compare their writings with others, but only to feel that they are improving as a writer. AND, to be encouraged to WRITE!!!

A bit more about me:

Our Inklings group ties in well with the web site I started in January — “Siggy’s Café for Writers and Poets”, www.siggyscafe.com, and my Blog, Siggy’s Blurbs (which I never expected to be doing, since I don’t like to type!) www.siggyscafe.com/Blog. Inklings and Siggy’s Café are encouraging me as well! At the web site, I want to encourage budding and experienced writers. There are articles on the writing process, a bibliography of suggested reading, inspirational quotes, current and classic poetry, a Word Of The Day, and more. There is also an article I wrote about the best record albums from the 1960’s & 1970’s that are still available today on CD. I absolutely love music, and to me one of the greatest things is sharing or recommending a wonderful piece of music to someone else. I love to write, I love to read my poetry in public, and I love to listen to music.

Should anyone wish to contact me about this post, or just to say hello, you can do so at: Siggy’s e-Mail.

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Valentine’s Day

February 23, 2009 at 7:58 pm (Entertainment, Valentines Day) (, , , )


By Eydie Wight

With Affection And Regard.

Sammy and I had Valentine’s Day off! An unheard of phenomenon. And, we had an EVENT planned. Sammy had gotten us tickets to see the “Fab Faux,” a Beatles review band that was coming to the Harrisburg Forum stage on Valentine’s day. Cracker Barrel and the Fab Faux We had plans to go to Cracker Barrel for dinner. I admit it, Sammy is a Cracker Barrel addict. Is it the fried okra? The broiled catfish? The cole slaw? or the chicken and dumplings? Yeah. Usually it’s all of them. Plus he likes the old time music, TV shows, toys, and candies that are always for sale. Sugar Babies, Mallo Cups, Teaberry gum, and maple sugar. And, what’s not to like about the decorations from times past. Old advertisements for Mr. Suds and Caro syrup, Dutch Maid cleanser and Bromo Seltzer.

We slept in very late indeed, exchanged cards and kisses, got each other coffee and did only the bare minimum of house chores (fed the fish, dogs and cats.) I did not (Granny, cover those angel ears of yours) make the bed. I did not wash the dishes, scoop the cat litter, wash, dry or fold any laundry, mindlessly tidy any out of place items or pick lint off the carpet.

Sammy got dressed in (of course) a Beatles t-shirt with a camp shirt worn open over it. The camp shirt had an acoustic guitar printed on it. I wore (no, Big Brother, I did not wear my pajamas, how come you think I never wear anything else? — Brother John here… well… ??? 🙂 ) a black lacy shirt under a beautiful jacket printed all over with butterflies. And a long jeans skirt and my cowboy boots. I love my cowboy boots and I always wear them over my bare feet. No socks. Just supple leather and low heels that make that satisfying boot sound when I walk.

And walk we did. We arrived for the show in plenty of time, soon realizing that city folk must know the parking genii because we circled round and round for blocks. Every open space was handicapped, permit only, reserved for government employees, fire lane, delivery only, or alternate Tuesdays in July. We finally found a space we could squeeze into in the nearest (but not so near) parking garage. Sammy had to let me out before he eased into the space because the scratch-wary Lexus owner two cars down had taken more than his share and thrown everyone else off. We then walked the multiple blocks to the Forum in the cold, in the sleety rain, in the bitter wind, in my cowboy boots with no socks. But, I stuck my hand in Sammy’s hand inside his pocket and we kissed in the middle of the sidewalk. We were middle aged, in love, and about to hear lots of Beatles music on Valentines’s Day. Plenty of warmth for me.

The Forum is a beautiful venue. The ceiling is painted with signs of the Zodiac. Sammy did comment more than once that Miss Virgo had some pretty perky breasts. I thought the Gemini could have used a little more chest hair. Our fellow audience members, mostly, probably, had seen more than their share of the original Beatles in concert. I saw broomstick skirts and brightly colored shirts, bangle bracelets and shoulder length earrings, and lots of .people ready to enjoy themselves. And the band, oh MY they were good. They don’t try to dress or look like the Beatles, but they try to duplicate every nuance of each song exactly as it sounds on the albums. All the harmonies, alarm clock, rooster crows, clapping, muttering, funny sounds and sound effects. The “Tangerine Strings” (violin and cello) played an “Eleanor Rigby” that melted my heart. The “Hogshead Horns” provided a four man horn section that was top notch. I was toe tapping, singing along, smiling ear to ear having a good time. My only two small criticisms were that my legs are a little long for the closely knit Forum seating, and that we had the token “drunk chick” two rows behind us who kept shouting at the top of her lungs “Play Hey Jude. Hey Jude. Heeeeeeyyyyy Jude!!.” Oh, and the husband of the woman sitting beside me kept mistaking my hip for that of his wife and patting it until I would place his hand back on his wife’s hip. Of course he was the token drunk guy yelling “Free Bird! Play Free Bird!”

We kissed our way back to the parking garage after the show was over, snuck a little (more) mead from the bottle that somehow gotten under the car seat, and drove happily home to wood stove and pajamas.

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