Excitement Over My New Book!

November 17, 2008 at 7:48 am (Authors, Books, Bottles, Brother John, Carboy, Family, Mead Making, poetry, Siphon, Uncategorized, Wine Making) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )


By Eydie Wight

Welcome Back Brother John and Kathy

First I’d like to say, “Welcome home Brother John and Kathy!” I may work in a hospital but it’s the LAST place I’d want to spend 24/7 time for nearly two weeks. Especially, in Kathy’s case, being poked with needles, tied to monitors, and a being a guinea pig to the whims of residents who HOPE this medicine or this test will fix the problem that they HOPE they have figured out. Medicine is not an exact science but it is an exasperating one! And, in Brother John’s case, days of sleeping in a chair, not being provided with a place to shower, having to eat cafeteria food and Kathy’s leftovers, and making sure that doctors realize they have to wash their hands just like inferior people all can make you just want to curl up and have a Twinkie. Brother John will have to expound on their adventures in ICU land.

Announcing My New Book Of Poetry!

On Thursday I officially turned my book of poetry over to the printers! I am obnoxiously excited and beg forgiveness for shameless self promotion but this has been my dream for so long. Number one on the old bucket list! I had been working pretty hard the last several weeks to get everything in the correct form. I’m not very computer literate and the pictures I was trying to place kept jumping all over the screen, growing larger and smaller at whim, knocking my text right off the page, or disappearing entirely. Last Saturday was a cold, drizzly day so I worked steadily on the book, progressing from page 17 to page 65, typing in poems I only had in hard copy, searching for elusive photos I KNEW we had somewhere in the big Rubbermaid vat of photos, picture CDs, and negatives, and writing the “thank-you”page, content page, and cover pages. Then, I hit a whole slew of poems that needed to be typed into the format and I was so tired. I was whining to Sammy and he came up with the idea that they could be copied from a poetry site I belong to. And then he somehow hit the “X” button. Now, despite what I have been told over and over again, I hadn’t saved any of my day’s work. Yup, back to page 17. I stomped around the house cursing, I slammed the refrigerator door and kitchen cupboards, I finally grabbed the keys and ran out into the rain. I drove to the top of the ridge and sat in the car and pounded the steering wheel and cursed some more and wailed and boohooed. Then I drove back home, made a pot of strong coffee, and re-entered everything. By 4:30 AM the darn book was done except for proofreading and a little editing. Poor Sammy made me the biggest, most beautiful breakfast in the morning.

So, Thursday we drove to the printers. I had everything on disk, which I copied, including a copy for the fire safe. I had a hard copy (one in the fire safe too). The meeting went smoothly and well, even though I had to pop a couple of Mylanta and wished for a much stronger deodorant. I had a little trouble actually handing over the disk and hard copy. My fingers just didn’t want to let go. I did ask them to make sure they tucked in my poems before bed, didn’t let them go out and play in the rain, and if it wasn’t too much trouble, maybe sing to them just a little. Yup, they think I’m a crazy lady. So, December 1st my poems will come back to me in perfect binding form with an ISBN and a price tag. I may have to break out the Scotch. I DID break out the Apple Jack after we left the printer.

It may have been the high spirits, it may have been the Apple Jack “spirits”, but on the way home Sammy had to forcibly restrain me from using the pellet gun on the large inflatable turkey someone had decorated their yard with. I have a deep, abiding dislike of inflatable yard decorations. This dislike leaves pet peeves in the dust and borders on inflatable serial killer rage. First the inflatables started popping up at Christmas. Then I saw inflatable spiders, ghosts, and a seven foot tall Frankenstein at Halloween. Now the turkey. I don’t want to make light of anybody’s right to tacky lawn decoration, but they do make my trigger finger itch.

Take A Look At Our Beautiful Young Mead!

Speaking of alcoholic beverages, the mead is bottled! At the moment the pantry is empty of carboys. We bottled a case of small beer sized bottles and a case and a half of fifths. Young as it is, the Minsi Mountain Mead has a mellow, somewhat earthy flavor. Not too dry, not too sweet. Now it should age for at least a year. We’ll see…

Each year I try to knit several little Christmas gifts. This year I was so excited because I found a knitted slipper pattern that had belonged to our Granny. I remember those slippers. Every family member had a pair in whatever colors Granny happened to have yarn scraps enough for. They were great for skating down the hallway. I can’t remember which cousin it was (I’m thinking cousin Tim) who had the bright idea to lemon pledge the hall first and then skate down it wearing the Granny slippers but that worked GREAT! Kids, try this at home. (I mean knitting slippers but the hallway slide part is pretty good too!) The slippers are an easy pattern to make. (You can follow the pattern here: Granny’s Knitted Slippers but come back when you are done!). I made my first pair the other night after 40 years of slipper less knitting. I chose a thick brown wool and then knitted a narrow cashmere trim to line the foot opening. Unfortunately the kittens think my slippered foot is the best play toy ever invented. I may have to knit them their own pair. They keep dragging the slippers all over the house at night. Usually a soggy chewed on slipper finds its way into the bed during our day sleep.

I can’t believe that Thanksgiving is nearly here. I still haven’t finished all the fall projects (like winterizing the shed where the outside cats sleep and sorting through the flower seeds I harvested.) I do have the heater running in the cat shed and the old comforters washed and set out on the shelves in there. Big Fat Sherman refuses to leave the shed in the winter so he has a litter box even though the whole world could be his litter box. I have neurotic cats.

I remember one Thanksgiving when my second husband Greg was alive. He was quite a good hunter and had shot a fine big turkey with the shot gun. I skinned it, cooked it with all the trimmings (mashed potatoes, stuffing, cranberry sauce, sweet potato casserole, corn, pumpkin pie) and made myself a nice lunch to take to work. Greg and Roger had gone to mom and dad’s for Thanksgiving and stopped by afterward to see me at work and brought ANOTHER whole plate of food! I had been working with one of the hospital residents who was from Russia and had never had a “true American Thanksgiving” I had spoken of the food in glowing terms during the shift and decided, since I now had two dinners, to share the one I had brought with him. I heated everything up and eagerly awaited his opinion. Well, it seemed that I hadn’t gotten all the shot out of the turkey and the resident’s first experience of an American Thanksgiving resulted in a broken tooth and a first visit to an American dentist. Also, I had over microwaved the mashed potatoes and he had to chisel his way through them. The stuffing like wise was “bone dry” and as he struggled politely through it I thought I was going to have to give him his first American Heimlich maneuver.

We had a little bit of a snow shower as Sammy was driving us to work last night. Combined with my double header of “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” and “The Wizzard of Oz” that I watched before coming into work, I’d have to say I’m getting into the holiday spirit. There’s nothing like holiday movies, a nice fire in the wood stove and (you guessed it) my pajamas to make me a happy girl. Add a little snow falling outside, put a cup of hot tea on the coffeetable and some Granny slippers knitting in my hands and I’m a very happy girl.

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Sammy demonstrates the Racking Technique

September 23, 2008 at 8:50 am (Carboy, Mead Making, Wine Making) (, , , , , , , , )


By Sammy Wight

Sammy racks the Mead

Last night we “racked” the Mead, or, transferred it into another Carboy while keeping all the sediment out of the transfer. This is the 2nd time we have done this. The very best part of this task was the “taste test,” and boy is it tasting good! We poured enough to fit into a shot glass, and the little sip i had was packed with quite a “kick!,” which surprised me, but what a great surprise. I was told recently that Mead must sit for at least 3 years before it is good enough to taste, and at it’s best in 6-9 years. WELL, i don’t think i will be letting this batch sit that long. I may put back one bottle to age for some time, but the rest will have to be shared as gifts and for special occasions. I do see, in the near future, several “one-gallon batches” with different flavors.

We taste tested Eydie’s Blackberry wine also, and it was superb! The Elderberry Wine is not quite ready, still a bit cloudy, but… it did taste wonderful! What is so cool about all this is… ”We took the time, effort, and energy to make these wines from scratch, and the bounty from the result is already showing to be very worth while!”

Capping The Blackberry Wine Eydie's Seven Bottles of Blackberry Wine (one is upright in the back)

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Preparing for the Dormant Season

September 13, 2008 at 3:46 pm (Authors, bee hive, Bees, Blackberry, Books, Carboy, honey, Mead Making, Plants, Rosina Lippi, Sara Donati, Wine Making) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )


By Eydie Wight

Super Eydie

I woke up this afternoon to the sound of a steady, gentle, windless rain. I woke up this afternoon to the knowledge that we are off work for a week of vacation! Woohoo! (I hate that exclamation but sometimes if the woohoo fits you gotta go with it.) This is somewhat of a working vacation, a time to get the property ready for the change of seasons from the growing season, to the harvest season, to the dormant season. So, some seasonal things that are in the works this week if the weather cooperates: Wood. A priority. Last year we cut wood from our property and from the adjoining property of our new Amish neighbors. Last year they hadn’t built their home and weren’t yet living on the property so they hadn’t a need to cut firewood from there. Last year had some time consuming components occurred that resulted in the plain and simple fact that we didn’t cut enough wood to see us through. We were reduced to slogging out in mid-winter when the weather cleared enough to allow and cutting a truckload of wood here and there. On one memorable (but not pleasurably so) occasion I was clearing the snow off dead fall with my boot, then pounding the ice off with a stout branch so Sammy could take the chainsaw to it. The days worth of firewood had to be placed around the wood stove the day before it was used to thaw. Sammy developed the habit during those last winter weeks of slowing the car down whenever we saw a particularly abundant woodpile by someones home and drooling, “wood.” The same drooling word applied to tempting dead fall tantalizingly close to the roadsides. We did “liberate” a bit of this. One night as we were coming home from the movies (the nearest movie theaters are an hour away) Sammy put on the brakes, skidded to a stop, jumped out of the car and next thing I knew he was struggling with a frozen hulk of storm downed dead oak. I was not dressed for the weather (although we do carry emergency boots, tow rope, shovel, overalls, sleeping bag, water, granola bars, and in my case a steamy romantic novel stashed under the seat) and I found myself putting the back seats down and spreading an old blanket over cargo space as wet slushy snow filled my “good” shoes and my fingers froze to the chunk of wood as we levered it in.

Our Real Wood Burning Stove!

Another chore for the week is to prepare the wood stove for the season. I always try to hold off having the first fire until Halloween night. This week on the appointed day I will dismantle and carry outside the three pieces of stove pipe that connect the wood stove to the chimney and Sammy and I will carry the wood stove outside. I have two kinds of stove black, both leftovers my dad gave me from his stove. One is a paint on stove black and one is a rub on buff off product. I’ll use the paint on stuff this year because I didn’t black the stove last year and it’s a bit scaly. The stove first has to be gone over with a wire brush to remove scaly rust and accumulations of burned creosote from the last winter’s fires. Creosote forms from the sap contained in wood and from burning “green” wood or wood that still has a high moisture content. Pines and “soft” woods like soft maple contain a higher degree of creosote and as such are less desirable for wood stoves. These “soft” woods also burn faster, requiring more work and attention to keep a fire going. Once the stove is scraped clear I’ll paint the thing with the stove black and allow that to dry. After a stove is blacked and is “fired up” for the first time it will stink to high heaven and give off nasty fumes that will fill the house. That’s a project for a day when the windows can be opened. Also, the first fire should be run “hot” (the dampers opened to allow more oxygen in to cause a hotter fire) to season the new black.

Which brings me to the next chore. The chimney must be checked and cleaned. This is Sammy’s department because I am moderately not okay with heights. I CAN do heights if I have to, when I was widowed the first time (I’m a widow X 2, Sammy is a brave man of strong faith) my dad had me get up on the roof of my house at the time and help in the re-roofing. And I do fly these days without needing to drink heavily as I did my first couple of flights. Now I drink heavily merely for the pleasure (ha ha). The chimney for our house runs outside the east wall of the house. At the base of the chimney, outside the house, is a small metal door for the “clean out”. This is opened at the start of the wood burning season and several times throughout to scoop out the accumulated ash and creosote that falls to the bottom of the chimney. After this is cleaned out, (if I didn’t do it at the end of last year and I’m guessing I didn’t), I’ll take a hand held mirror and angle it up the chimney, if I see light reflected I know the chimney is at least patent. Sometimes during the summer birds will nest in the chimney. Come the start of a fire, any blockage, if not cleared, will not allow oxygen to reach the fire or the chimney to “draft”. In a clear, well functioning chimney, the air flowing over the top will entrain the rising warm air to cause it to be literally pulled out of the chimney. This decreases smoke, which will otherwise fill the house, and also allows the fire to burn more efficiently. A “cold” chimney (one in which a fire is just being started) will also smoke and refuse to draft. This is why a “cold” fire should be started with some quick, hot burning materials such as newspaper twists or pine needles. I find that the dried out stalks of my summer day Lilly’s work great. Once the chimney is checked with a mirror Sammy climbs the ladder to the roof and pushes down the chimney brush. (Go watch the movie “Mary Poppins” if you need to see what one looks like.) A rope is tied to the handle so he can pull it back up to brush out the chimney. After several passes I scoop out the “clean out” and we’re ready for fire!

A few other chores that are on the list for this week are: Bring in the house plants that have enjoyed the summer outside underneath the deck, bring down the fall (and winter) clothes from the attic and pack up the summer clothes, harvest the pears from the one tree in the “orchard” and make some pear butter, harvest flower seed from the sunflowers, Cleome, morning glory, etc. I discovered a few years ago that sunflowers, especially the giant sunflowers we like, make an excellent support for a variety of climbing flowers. I have a large flower bed Sammy named “the solstice bed” because not only does it have all day sunlight, but we grow beautiful sunflowers in it. I plant a few morning glory seeds with each sunflower seed in the spring and have a gorgeous “wall” of morning Glory’s that climb the sunflower stalks in the summer. I have read that the native Americans used the same technique with corn and beans that I will try next year. Another chore (well, I’m REALLY looking forward to this one so maybe chore isn’t the best word) is to get the base prepared for our future bee hive(s) next year.

But, all that’s in the future for now, tonight is an evening to anticipate, plan. and relax. We had some leftovers for supper: ham, green beans from the garden, and potatoes from dad’s garden for supper, a cinnamon raisin bagel topped with Minsi mountain honey for desert, and a look at our wines for entertainment will about fill the rain filled evening hours. The blackberry wine is about ready to bottle and has become a clear ruby red. The elderberry, in puberty to its pathway to the sublime, is still cloudy and will need to be racked soon, and the mead, still fermenting slowly, has just begun to clear somewhat. I did watch a introduction to beekeeping video tonight. The result of the video was that my “Santa” list now includes a bee veil, smoker, and hive tool.

Sammy and I would like to proudly show off our “Girls”. Please click on any of the images to get a larger, clearer view. Aren’t they just beautiful?

Mead Image #1 Mead Image #2 Mead Image #3 Mead Image #4
Wine Image #1 Wine Image #2 Wine Image #3 Wine Image #4

And now, a self indulgent gluttony of the second Sara Donati book, Dawn on a Distant Shore. I wish I had some of our wine, alas, it’s not ready yet. I’ll have to settle for a beer. Sammy, being a southern boy, drinks “red eye beer”, which is beer with tomato juice. My dad has a conniption fit about using good canned tomato juice to “pervert” good beer. But Brother John and Sammy like it. Who am I to say? I eat stuff I pick out of the yard each spring.

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Beekeeper Dan Comes For A Visit (Part 2)

September 8, 2008 at 7:13 am (Barbara Kilarski, bee hive, Bees, Books, Carboy, chicken coop, chicken wire, Chickens, Fenton, honey, Jasper, Lunaria, mandolin, mastiff, New friends, pit bull, Ranger, sedum, Stonecrop sedum, vines, Visit, wisteria) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )


By Eydie Wight

A visit from Beekeeper Dan

I was out on the deck playing a little mandolin and enjoying the evening when I heard the sound of an approaching motorcycle. Beekeeper Dan had arrived. He was greeted by the boisterous and inquisitive Love Mongrels. Felon is a rescue pit bull who at 50+ lbs. thinks he is a lap dog. I’ve tried my best, but he thinks all visitors will welcome his habit of jumping up and butting his head into whatever part of the anatomy he can reach, until he gets petted. Fortunately Dan has two dogs of his own and took Felon’s rude demands pretty much in stride. Jasper was a little better behaved, but I did catch him peeing on Dan’s tire as we went inside the house. I confess I pretended not to see. Just one more pebble dipping my judgment scales to the “hell side”…

We went inside and I showed Dan the flower seeds I had packaged for him and explained that the Lunaria (money plant) was a biennial. I had wanted to include some Cleome seeds but they weren’t quite dry enough to harvest. Cleome, I had discovered when my friend Carole and I visited Scotland a few years ago, is an undesirable roadside weed there and exists in prolific abundance. I find that even though it has a somewhat rank and stinky smell, it has a beautiful pink flower and bees and butterflies absolutely love it.

Sammy and Dan briefly discussed the Beatles motif of our kitchen and then we hauled out for perusal the wine carboys. The Minsi mountain mead stepped up to the plate and showed a little fermentation activity to “Pappa” Dan. Then we were ready to go check out the ‘bee zen” of our property.

Before we discussed bees, however, we went out to the shed to show Dan our current dog house and fenced in run. This was the proposed site of the future possible chicken coop. Dan had brought me a book to borrow called Keep Chickens! by Barbara Kilarski. The existing dog house could probably hold a small pony. It was built when our two dogs were an Old English mastiff (210 lbs) named Fenton and an akita-lab-mastiff mix (110 lbs) named Ranger. Like our dogs now, those two never really spent much time there. Only when we went on vacation and during deer hunting season when local hunters do cross our property. The fenced in area is roughly 20 ft X 20 ft. and shaded with a beautiful wisteria vine. I hastened to explain to Dan that the run has never doubled as a maximum security prison, despite its look. It just happens that our Shepherd/husky mix Jasper can climb anything. When we first got him I would put him in the run when I went to work and come home to find him sitting on the deck. We spied on him and found that he was hooking his hind legs on the wire of the fence and climbing over. So my husband put up inward slanting chicken wire along the top. I came home the next day, Jasper‘s sitting on the deck. We spied again. He was jumping on top of the dog house roof, then up on the roof of the shed, then down to the ground. So my husband put a wire enclosure on top of the dog house roof. Next day, Jasper on the deck. Spy result: He would run and hurl himself against the back of the shed, reaching high enough to catch paws on the edge of the dog house roof where it met the shed. Then he would use that corner where the two buildings met to give enough leverage to literally scale the fence around the dog house roof until he could reach the roof of the shed, then jump to the ground. We gave up but left the dog run as it was.

To convert the former dog digs to a chicken coop will be relatively easy. All we have to do is put some type of covering over the open run such as a mesh or chicken wire. Then we’ll have to cut an opening in the bottom of the dog house to be able to clean the droppings out, and build some type of shelf inside for nests to be off the ground. Dan also suggested some posts here and there for roosting. We talked about chicken eggs, and free range chickens, and my bad experiences as a kid with broody chickens. Tactlessly forgetting that Dan raises happy chickens who are pets and family members, I indelicately told the story of Great Grandma and the blindfolded chicken. Seems that when my Great Grandma was a young girl (about 14) she was sent out to kill an old chicken for the stew pot. Her mother went to check her after some time had passed and found her sitting on the chopping block with the bloody axe in her hand crying her eyes out. A neighbor heard some commotion and looked out his window to be met with the sight of a half headless chicken (like Nearly Headless Nick for Harry Potter fans), flopping past his house sporting a gingham blindfold around its head. Apparently not content with blindfolding the chicken against the coming judgment day, Great Grandma had also closed her own eyes at the moment of truth and missed!

I thought it prudent at this time to steer the focus away from the topic of chickens before I made gentle Dan cry, and talk about bees. Dan said the bee hives should face in a south easterly direction where they will receive the morning sun. The lower part of the yard was too close to the road. Our “traffic” is meager, but I did have a brief image of our Amish neighbors and their buggy meeting our future bees under less than happy circumstances. It would take more than a good will gesture cake to fix that bad bee business. (Yes, I did welcome them to the neighborhood with a Better-Than-Sex cake but I didn’t TELL them that’s what it was called so that was okay, right?)

We walked up past the garden and to the upper edge of our “orchard” (six fruit trees) and found the future spot for our bees. The bees like a clear “runway” back to their hive and we keep the orchard mowed. I asked about mowing. Dan said mowing doesn’t usually bother the bees as long as you mow so the clippings shoot away from the hives. Makes sense. On the way back down to the house we found several tomatoes for Dan and I showed him the “wild” honeybees on the sedum. He said they were Italians, meaning the original bee ancestors came form Italy. These honey bees have golden abdomens with dark stripes.

Blueberry Cobbler

Back at the house we sampled my blueberry cobbler and kept loading Dan’s backpack with canned tomato juice, pickled beets, blackberry jam, blueberry cobbler, tomatoes, a couple of books, empty honey jars (returns), and a lamp or two (remember Steve Martin in “The Jerk?”). I was a little worried that his motorcycle would just upend and leave Dan weighed to the ground by the backpack, waving arms and legs like a flipped turtle while he feebly tried to raise a helmeted head, but my overactive imagination gives me these little visions from time to time.

Sammy and I stood outside for a little admiring the broad expanse of Milky Way that stretched across the sky. Then we went inside, he to watch the republican convention, me to contemplate chickens and the image of myself licking the remains of the blueberry cobbler from the dish. It was a good day.

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Beekeeper Dan Comes For A Visit (Part 1)

September 6, 2008 at 10:03 am (Bees, Carboy, honey, New friends, Recipes, Visit, Yeast) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )


By Eydie Wight

A visit from Beekeeper Dan

We had been anticipating a visit from Beekeeper Dan for a couple of weeks and just couldn’t seem to get schedules to mesh, so when he let us know that yesterday would work out, we were tickled pink. The day before we had racked our wines from carboy to carboy to get rid of the first lot of “settlement” (dead yeasties and fruit pulp and such) and had been delighted to find that our mead was not in “stuck fermentation” as we had feared and agonized over for better than a week, but was still working, just working at it’s own slow pace. Sammy had worried so much that he had driven after work (night shift) to our local wine making supplier and slept in the car (again) until they opened. He was advised to go home, have a home brew and relax and let the mead ferment at its own pace. That was okay with us, even though our yeasties ride the little yellow school bus, we still love them!

I had been having a shamefully laid back day off. I had slept the long sleep of one who was avoiding watching the the republican convention (or any other convention) and woke up early. It was promising to be a scorcher of a day, hot and humid, but the morning offered a coolish breeze as I fed the shed cats and house kittens, cleaned litter boxes, rinsed and refilled water bowls, rescued Guido’s tank mates from his cannibalistic hunger, and fed the dogs. Sammy has decided that we should try to limit our power usage to off grid hours so he had done a load of laundry near midnight. As I hung the clothes out on the line the hummingbirds seemed to be fascinated either by my pajamas or Sammy’s socks and underwear because they hovered for seconds at a time in front of me in a rather quizzical fashion.. Best not to speculate the ADHD mind of the hummingbird. House chores done, I poured my second cup of coffee and wandered out back to check out my fine bed of Stonecrop sedum that was in full bloom. It was covered with honeybees and I couldn’t wait to show Beekeeper Dan. They were beauties, amber abdomens with black stripes against the pink sedum flowers. I watched to see where they went as they flew off. Somewhere into the sun…

Next thing I knew it was time to take a nap. Night shifters as we are, day time functioning requires a mid afternoon nappy. I melted into the bed even before Sammy had finished checking his E-mail. 45 minutes later I sat bolt upright, gasped, and said, “Granny!” Sammy said, “Wzzzt wzzmm?” I said, ” I don’t have any food made to offer Dan!” My grandmother (Granny to us, God rest her soul) would have been appalled that I had company and didn’t offer to feed them something. It’s the code of the country that as soon as someone crosses your doorway you start trying to stuff food into them. I can remember coming home from college to visit my Granny and Granddad and no sooner had I hugged and kissed hello than Granny was pulling out platters of sliced ham or turkey and Granddad was taking a pan of cornbread out of the oven and soon the table was groaning under the weight of “a little snack to tide you until supper”. Sammy was, by this time snoring again so I laid there and quietly tossed and turned and fidgeted and wracked my brains for an idea. We had been putting off going to the grocery store for several days to maybe over a week or so and Old Mother Hubbard ruled the pantry. I had racks of canned stuff I was going to share, but few people other than me can really sit down an enjoy an entire meal of pickled beets.

Blueberry Cobbler

So I lay there, mentally going over every offering of cupboards, pantry, fridge, and freezer. Freezer! I had it! The frozen blueberries from neighbor Dot! The day was saved and Granny’s spirit could rest easy. I got up and in short time had made a blueberry cobbler. Easy, and soooo tasty. Dot had frozen her blueberries in one cup baggies so I took four of these and ran cool water over them in a colander until they had thawed. In a medium saucepan I mixed a half cup of sugar and two tablespoons of cornstarch. To this I added the blueberries and heated the mixture, stirring constantly, until it boiled. This was allowed to boil for one minute (stirring) and then poured into an ungreased 2 qt. casserole. The oven had been preheated to 325 and the blueberries were placed into the oven while the topping was prepared. The topping consisted of a half cup of exceedingly lumpy brown sugar, a half cup of flour, a teaspoon of cinnamon, and a half cup of some multi grain high fiber cereal with oats and bran flakes, honey “clusters”, and rocks and twigs. A third cup of margarine was “cut” into this and this topping was crumbled on top of the blueberries. This was heated through until the topping was browned and crunchy. Since the topping was already crunchy this was a little hard to assess. I winged it and hoped for the best. If you don’t have any “twigs and rocks” cereal a half cup of oatmeal will do. And it really is better if the brown sugar isn’t lumpy. I had to beat mine with the side of the meat tenderizer until it submitted to my demand. (A recipe for Eydie’s Blueberry Cobbler)

Then I put together a care package for Dan of some of my recent canned goods, some flower seeds I’d been collecting (lunaria, hollyhock, poppy, zinnia, and marigold), and his empty honey jars and wine bottle. Next I did a quick poop scoop of the area around the house. Nothing kills the mood of a nice visit more than a shoe full of dog poop. The evening was shaping up nicely so I sat out on the deck with the mandolin and worked on the waltz “After the ball was over…”

Dan arrived on his Italian motorcycle. The purpose of his visit (other than a visit) was to asses our property for “bee worthiness” and discuss the best site for a hive. We also wanted to “talk chicken.” Sammy and I had been meeting such happy, friendly free range chickens over the past week that we wondered if a few might like to join our household. (And not be terrorized by the other animals. I, for one, have heard Guido express a fondness for chicken, should one ever pass near his tank.) More about our visit later.

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Our trip to Scotzin Bros Beer & Winemakers Paradise

August 23, 2008 at 7:00 pm (Airlock, Carboy, Fermentation Lock, honey, Mead Making, Uncategorized, Wine Making) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , )


By Sammy Wight

Scotzin Bros Beer & Winemakers Paradise!

Eydie and I worked last night and after getting off this morning, decided to ride into Lemoyne, Pa to the Scotzin Bros wine making supply store for an extra 6.5 gal. carboy, a few stoppers and 3 more fermentation locks. The store didn’t open until 10am, so we slept in our Saturn until someone came to open. After he had a few minutes to balance his cash drawer, we were invited in early and completed our mission, luckily so because they are only open Wed. and Sat. We have another transfer of wine to make, and we should be set until it is ready to sample.

NOW, we are curious if anyone out there has made Mead with anything other than Honey that might be a tasty adult beverage to try? We welcome recipes from other Mead makers. Our local Alcohol dispensing store pointed out to us a “Honeywine” Mead, so we bought a bottle to try. All i have to say is “Yeccch! Blah!” I did not like it in a wine format at all. So, recipes that make it truer to the 17th Century types, will probably be more acceptable to me. I do want to drive up the alcohol content as much as possible, because it tends to be much tastier with a “Kick” and a “Poof” in your belly when it goes down. I tend to liken it to “Shuttle Fuel” and rest confidently should the Space Program run low on fuel…, we may be able to help! 🙂

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The Funnel Technique.

August 18, 2008 at 7:25 pm (Airlock, Blackberry, Carboy, Filter, Funnel, Strainer bag, Wine Making) (, , , , , )


Here Eydie demonstrates another method of transfer. The Funnel Technique:

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The Siphoning Technique.

August 18, 2008 at 6:51 am (Carboy, Mead Making, Siphon) (, , , , , , , )


Here you can see how to siphon!

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Blackberry Wine

August 4, 2008 at 8:00 am (Airlock, Bees, Blackberry, Books, Bungs, Carboy, Fermentation Lock, metabisulfite, Potassium Metabisulfite, Sue Hubbell, Sulphited, Uncategorized, Wine Making, Yeast) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , )


By Eydie Wight

SWEET!

Sammy and I had been noticing a prime crop of blackberries that were growing in the fallow meadow temptingly close to the roadside about a mile from our house. We kept wondering if anyone would pick them, and, it getting near the end of the season, decided they should be ours! I have an old wine making book written by a British gentleman who talks about getting carboys from the “chemist” for “20 pence or so”. This chemist, for a few more “pence” will also supply siphon tubing, sodium metabisulfite, bungs, and nearly all other materials. I get the idea that the chemists in Britain of that time were a bunch of wine swilling mad scientists. My kind of people! My wine “Bible” suggested several kinds of recipes for blackberry wine. The wine could be made in port style, claret style, as “light” table wine, sweet or dry. Sammy and decided on a port style. This called for four pounds of blackberries.

We loaded up a bucket, a couple of smaller containers (Chinese egg drop soup containers which we have a surplus of), a “snake” hoe (Sammy is always sure that copperheads will just naturally want to be anywhere we want to be), and some bug spray and headed out. We were both wearing shorts and t-shirts which I do not recommend. Blackberries have vicious thorns and they’re not afraid to use them. We started picking berries, Sammy in his selected section and I in mine. His method was to first beat the underbrush to death to mangle or scare away any snakes, then use the hoe to pull the canes toward him to pull off the berries. I trusted that any snakes were well out of my way by the time I had gotten snarled up in the first canes I came across, untangled myself, had three or four more canes attach themselves to my anatomy, dropped the hand full of berries I’d just gathered, cursed a bit as I wiped off the blood, ate a berry or two to see if they were good, and generally wallowed around ripping my clothes and skin to shreds. But, by the time I had picked my first quart, I found my berry Zen. I would carefully move a cane to the point where I could anchor the thorns against my clothing (or skin) to hold the cane where I wanted it and then, by this method, work my way into the patch to collect the berries.

We picked berries until our bucket was half full and the berry patch was picked over. We weren’t sure we had enough, not having any idea how much we needed to make four pounds. I remembered a couple berry patches I had seen while jogging and we checked them out, only to find they were pretty scant in the berry department. Sammy remembered seeing a patch right across the road from home so we decided to make that our last stop. As we walked over to the patch I felt my mouth drop open in awe. The patch was loaded, absolutely loaded with huge, ripe berries as big as a thumb tip. They were so ripe they were falling off into our hands. We picked more, juicier, plumper berries in 15 minutes than we had in an hour. We had a little concern with a yellow jackets nest that was apparently about five feet from where we were picking. We were a little more concerned when the dogs came down to keep us company and started snapping at a few stray yellow jackets.

Back at the house Sammy started picking over the berries (culling unripe berries, bits of leaf, a few aphids and inch worms, that sort of thing) and I started preparing my “tools of the trade”. Now these were, for the most part, new tools of the trade for me. I had only ever made dandelion wine in the “hillbilly” way, bakers yeast, citrus peels for nutrient, allowed to ferment right in the bottles so that the lees settled to the bottom and came as part of the wine. Don’t get me wrong, it was good wine. Good enough that Sammy and I chose it as our wedding toast. In fact, at one point in our post nuptial celebration, I was walking around in my wedding dress with a bottle of dandelion wine under one arm, a mason jar of moonshine (compliments of a certain Uncle), in one hand, and a bag of jello shots in the other. Just so you know, I was sharing these items.

Back to the blackberry wine. The first thing I did was scrub out the sink and fill it with a few gallons of sterilization solution. Potassium metabisulfite at about 2 oz. per gallon of water. What a stink! I think the fumes actually made my voice a little hoarse the next day. I had also boiled a big pot of water which I allowed to cool to use for rinsing. Everything that was used was sterilized in this fashion, soaked in the sink, rinsed with boiled water. Sammy had finished picking over the berries and we tumbled them into our large six gallon bucket. I mashed them with my potato masher until they were a liquid mash. (I found later that using your hands works much better and doesn’t run the risk of scratching your bucket. Scratches can increase the risk of places to harbor contaminants.) Into this mash was added an eighth teaspoon (per gallon) of the metabisulphite and a pint of sterile water. Fruit wines can naturally harbor stray “bad” bacteria which can make the wine taste off. So they can be “sulphited” to minimize this. The mash was allowed to sit for a couple of hours. The metabisulphite causes a little bleaching of the color as it sits but doesn’t harm the color of the wine. While that was sitting I mixed one third of the total sugar to be added (1 1/2 lbs. at about 2 cups of sugar to the pound) into 2 pints of water. I boiled this for one minute and let the mixture cool to about 80 degrees. (Important! the mixture to which the yeast will be added can’t be too hot or the yeasties won’t like it!) I mixed up 1 package of wine yeast in about 2 oz. warm (not hot!) water and let that sit for about 15 minutes. Once the sugar water was cooled enough I added it to the mash with 1/8 tsp. of yeast energizer and 1 tsp. of yeast nutrient, then the prepared yeast. This I stirred vigorously for five minutes. Well, part one was finished! The lid went on the pail. The hole in the pail lid can be fitted with a fermentation lock (not necessary at this point) or taped over. We didn’t have a lock for the pail (ours reserved for our mead) so Sammy found a metal tube which fit and we put a balloon over the tube. We did this rather than tape out of simple curiosity to see how much the first stage would ferment. We ceremoniously carried the bucket downstairs and placed it in the bottom of an old cedar wardrobe I have. The basement temp. stays at about 70, the wine likes 60-80 range. Fruit wines like to be kept in the dark or be in dark glass bottles or they can bleach in color like Grandma’s old sofa.

Sue Hubbell's A Book of Bees

Sammy finished out the evening by having a little of last year’s dandelion wine. I went straight to the apple jack and the warm smooth glow of accomplishment. Tomorrow, mead, stage one. I relaxed for the rest of the evening and began reading Sue Hubbell’s wonderfully written A book of Bees.

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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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