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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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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Cutting Firewood To Make Nut Brittle

October 7, 2008 at 12:32 am (Andrew Davidson, Arrowheads, Artifacts, Asplundh, Authors, bee hive, Bees, Books, Brother John, Butterflies, Companies, Dogs, Fair Paladin, Family, Fossils, Friends, German Shepherd, GOD, Hiking, Hobbies, honey, Insects, Jasper, mandolin, Monarch, music, Nut Brittle, Pets, Places, poetry, Recipes, Religious, Ricketts Glen State Park, Sylvia, The Gargoyle, Uncategorized) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )


By Eydie Wight

When you chop a walnut tree, sometimes you harvest walnuts!

Sammy and I had had great aspirations of filling our wood shed to overflowing when we were off on our “working vacation” a few weeks ago. And we did bring in several loads. Then, the rains came. Not for 40 days and 40 nights, although the people of Texas probably felt that way, but enough to make our access into the fields a mucky nightmare. So, this past Thursday we sallied forth (well, Sally didn’t go, only room for two in the truck plus Jasper) to our unidentified neighbor’s farm to cut a load of firewood. It was actually chilly, intermittently overcast and with a stiff breeze blowing. Enough so that I had an old gray sweat jacket on and came home with pink ears and a somewhat windburned face. Our neighbor had cut several trees down that grew along the access drive to his 100 acre property. He had done this so that in the winter the sun would be able to reach the road surface and melt some of the ice. I’d been on that road a few years ago when it was possible to skate (or in my case slide on my backside) down the length of it to where the truck was parked at the bottom, unable to make it any further up the drive.

The first tree Sammy began cutting was a nice sized walnut. It was big enough to provide that day’s truckload of wood. And, it was covered with walnuts. I’ve already mentioned that I have this quirky survivalist mentality. To me, a tree full of easily accessible walnuts means a source of protein for the winter should society fail completely and Sammy and I be unable to keep us in squirrel and deer meat in the style to which we are accustomed. The walnuts also mean my favorite nuts for Dad’s Microwave Nut Brittle. The first year he made this stuff (two or three years ago) I thought it couldn’t possibly be any good. Wrong. I put that first piece in my mouth and it had just the right crunch of nutty goodness. Let it stay in your mouth a bit and the whole mess melts into a sweet sticky glue that renders you incapable of separating your jaws for several minutes. (Great for kids if you know what I mean!) Dad has since doctored the recipe to include coconut, confectioners sugar, brown sugar, and peanut butter. I’m going to experiment with (of course) honey this year. I have to laugh at this mental image I have of Dad bringing out the container of nut brittle at Christmas time. It’s like the pied piper if you can picture a gaggle of (mostly) overweight middle aged adults all trying to get their sticky hands into the smallish plastic container at the same time and fighting over the “big” pieces.

My job, when we are cutting wood, is all the ancillary duties. Sammy cuts, I load the truck. I also pull aside and stack the ends of branches too small to cut, hold pieces still as Sammy cuts them, pull out fallen (and usually brier covered) limbs and dead fall, and play with Jasper in between. (Brother John here… I once worked for the tree trimming company Asplundh and, except for Jasper…, these were also my daily duties. The person doing this type of duty was called a “Brushy” back in the day). Well, to add to my list, there were walnuts to collect because, (chant with me Brother John, and Sylvia, you’ve been around enough to join in too) “NOTHING MUST BE WASTED!” I had no idea how many walnuts a tree has when the entire tree has been cut and all the nuts can be harvested. And, not knowing the nuts would be there, I hadn’t brought a bag along. Imagine. I was unprepared! After a minute or so of abject humiliation, and after shortly abandoning the thought of filling my jacket pockets 20 or so nuts at a time, I graciously volunteered Sammy’s jacket (which he wasn’t wearing) and started loading it up with nuts. Each jacket load I would then dump in the front foot well of the passenger’s seat of the truck. Why I didn’t just throw them in the back I don’t know. Maybe nuts and wood, like oil and water, don’t mix in my head. Anyway, by the time the truck was loaded with wood I had enough walnuts to reach up to the seat. I sat in the seat, my feet resting on a mountain of walnuts, and realized that with the back full, Jasper had to ride up front. On my lap. Seventy-five pounds and I hadn’t peed before we took off for home (on some of the finest washboard dirt roads ever traveled).

When we pulled up the driveway I had Sammy stop at the top and let me offload first Jasper (who had enjoyed the trip home immensely, with “Mom” serving as a captive petting machine) and then the walnuts. Drive around the county this time of year and you’ll see many a driveway full of walnuts. The walnut comes off the tree with a thick green hull. This turns brown as it dries. This hull has long been a natural source of brown dye. The first time I hulled walnuts I used my bare hands. I had dyed brown hands for nearly a week. Now I do what everyone else does and throw them in the drive way to be driven over until all the soft hull has been worn off. These hard walnut shells are so tough that even driving over them doesn’t crack them. They scoff at traditional nutcrackers. (Brother John here… I always wondered why people did that! I always figured the nuts would get smashed into little bits, making that a very stupid thing to do. Now I get it Sis!). I place a few nuts in a rag and then take the hammer to them. Dad uses a vise, I think. I’m open to a better suggestion. But, it is one of the late autumn/winter pastimes when the weather is nasty. Sit around the wood stove, crack some walnuts while Sammy cleans a rifle or plays a little sweet guitar. A truly rustic picture. Completed by the image that I am, of course, in my pajamas.

Tomorrow we are going to get a few more loads of wood and meet up with our unidentified neighbor who will be cutting down a couple of the larger trees that still shade the drive. I’m hoping that after the work is done he’ll suggest a walk. He has lived in the area all his life and has shared some amazing discoveries with us. I have been along when a wild honeybee tree was harvested (the bees had swarmed and were given a new hive to populate). I’ve seen heavily fossilized shale covered with the imprints of shells and algae. I went along arrowhead hunting and collected blanks and pieces of arrowheads along with one that was complete. One day we walked into a field of wildflowers. He clapped his hands and suddenly the air was full of fluttering Monarch butterflies that landed on our arms, head, and clothes.

I always keep my “other” eyes open when I am out in the woods and fields. My imagination fills them with fairy worlds that live just beside the one we know. I often feel something else, an energy, or presence, or spirit. These days I call it God. I call it all God. It could be called many things. But I know, on those fall days when I lie in a cut field and feel the earth cool beneath my shoulder blades and the sun is warm on my face and a red tailed hawk soars searching in the blue sky above me, I know that there IS more. It gathers beneath me, goes through me, and connects with things unseen. One of my poems, “Fair Paladin” came from the magic the special places hold, or at least that I imagine they hold.

I have a bucket list. For those that didn’t see the movie, it’s stuff you want to do or accomplish before you kick the bucket. I have three things on my list so far. I plan to live to be a hundred and three so I’m hoping to add a few more.

  1. I want to get my book of poetry published. It’s so close. I want to see it on the Arts Council shelf and on the local artist shelf at Borders. I want my mom to be there when I do my first book signing, hopefully at the Arts Council where I’ll provide homemade blackberry, elderberry, and mead wines for my friends (and maybe a stranger or two) to drink. I want someone to pay real money for a copy of my book.
  2. I want to walk through an airport carrying my fiddle or mandolin to take it on a plane to somewhere and know that I actually play the darn thing well enough to deserve to carry it through an airport.
  3. Goblins Under Tree Stumps #1 Goblins Under Tree Stumps #2
    Fairy Houses Alligator Jawed Dragons
    Hunting for Ice Eggs Ice Egg in the Sky
    Walking Tree Ents #1 Walking Tree Ents #2

    I want to take a hike on the falls trails at Ricketts Glen State Park on a perfect day in the company of someone who sees and feels and loves the magic I talked about earlier as much as I do (Sammy and Brother John would do nicely.) We’ll find goblins under tree stumps, fairy houses, alligator jawed dragons, ice eggs, and walking tree Ents.

  4. Eydie, Brother John here. I have no imagination it would seem. I can’t, for the life of me, figure out which “other eye” vision each of these represent. Hover the mouse and you’ll see one idea, and click on the item to see that and other ideas. It would help greatly if you would define which is which. And maybe throw in a bit of real description as well. Ricketts Glen State Park looks very nice!
The Gargoyle - By Andrew Davidson - An extraordinary debut novel of love that survives the fires of hell and transcends the boundaries of time.

But for now, Sammy is out sharpening the chainsaw on the living room coffee table and me (in my pajamas), a novel (The Gargoyle), and the big brown chair have developed this undeniable attraction for each other. Throw the blue gingham angel quilt into the mix and I won’t be long for this world… Zzzzz.

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Ghost Story

September 16, 2008 at 6:39 am (Ghost, Hobbies, Stories, Uncategorized) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )


By Eydie Wight

Today was a gem of a day. We went to bed expecting rain and wind, and got up to blue skies decorated with clouds in amusing shapes (Sammy has seen a kneeling cherub, Abraham Lincoln, and the bearded face of God, I’ve seen a humpbacked whale with its baby, a plucked chicken, and a fat deep sea diver.) Kind of gives you a perspective on our personalities. It’s been a day of reflection and deep laziness as tomorrow is my birthday! The last year of my forties decade, don’t you know. That’s okay, I’m ready for 50 next year. I like who I am, where I am, what I do, and for the most part, what the future seems to hold. Not bad for half my life. I joke that I know I’m going to live to be 103. I based a poem, “When Lydia Was Ten” on this proposed long, long life. We’ll see…

(Brother John here… Speaking of poems… The Beekeeper’s Promise is now in Eydie and Sammy’s poetry section!).

At the moment Sammy is mowing and I am checking out his fine self on the mower. Sky blue bandanna wrapped around his head and all. Our property starts at an elevation of about 200 feet above sea level and rears up to 800 feet at the top. The roughly two acres that we mow include some fairly steep inclines. Mowing on the riding mower requires a knowledge of physics and a lot of guts. I watch Sammy throw his weight from one side of the mower to the other to counter balance the tilt. At a few points he has to literally stand on one side of the mower so it doesn’t tip over. I don’t mow with the riding mower. I am sore afraid. During the years that I was a widow lady living here alone I push mowed the whole damn yard. Not often, understand, and not well. I had waist high yard in places that could have been cut for animal fodder. (Good for bees though…)

Yesterday was another good day of this vacation. We got a load of wood cut and stacked in the woodshed even though the day was again hot and sticky. I worked on my poetry book (my friend Tony had been over to give me computer advice to get things into publishable form) and started looking through the hundreds of photo CD’s that Sammy has taken. The book will also feature his photo art.

I’ve been thinking my September thoughts of arts and crafts. There are quite a few things that I enjoy doing but put aside for the busy summer months. I often make grapevine wreaths using seed pods, ornamental grasses, pine cones, and wild grapevine I collect. I knit quite well, our Granny saw to that, and I make scarves, purses, baby afghans, hats, and the like. I got interested in making jewelry since I rarely leave the house without earrings. At this point I can’t call it a “talent”, I have to settle for “craft” because all I do is buy beads I like, or buy jewelry at flea markets and garage sales and take it apart to make into something else, and just assemble the lot. But it’s fun and I get as many new earrings as I want! This year I made some Christmas ornaments from bead and sequin kits I bought. I have the beads to make my own designs, but I found that finding the satin balls is difficult out of season. And, I indulged myself in a rather “tacky” latch-hook rug for Christmas. Such a soothing craft.

(Brother John here… Eydie and Sammy have added an Arts and Crafts section to their site. It’s very rough right now but will evolve as I have time to format and shape it).

One last thought before I turn my mind toward supper and going through pictures and yet another poem that occupies my brain cells. Brother John will appreciate this. I know it isn’t the Halloween and ghost season yet, and I have several other ghost stories to tell as THAT season approaches, but I’m sure Brother John remembers Betsy. When we were kids we lived with mom and dad in an old brick house in Fawn Grove, PA. Brother John always said the house was haunted, and perhaps he’ll want to add his own stories which are probably far better than mine, but… One night, when I was about six or seven, I had gone to bed. I slept in part of a duo of rooms that would have once been the children’s room and the nanny’s room. Just an archway in between, no door. My room had a doorway to the attic hall, and a doorway to the old nanny’s room. There was a grate in the floor to allow what little heat there was to come up to my room in the winter, and also to allow me to hear the voices of the grownups downstairs after I had gone to bed. It was a warm night. Back in those days I had long, thick, heavy, curly hair that hung down way past my shoulders. Don’t think because I had nice hair that I was a beauty or anything. I was fat and geekish and about as unattractive a child as you can imagine. Well, my hair was heavy, and in the summer it would get hot so I would fling it over the side of the bed and sleep that way. I had heard my brother tell stories of Betsy (and he should tell the stories HERE), but I had never seen or heard anything I could attribute to her. (Like I said, other stories for other times) But on this night, I could hear mom and dad and some of the uncles playing cards downstairs and hear Brother John’s music from down the hall and his room. (Not pertinent to this story, but Black Oak Arkansas as I remember.) I think I was awake. I suddenly felt a small tug on my hair. I was immediately frozen motionless, my head still, my hair still over the side of the bed, and I began to feel hands finger combing my hair, including a few sharp tugs. (I never combed my hair after that first hurried brushing in the morning.) Then, hands, and they felt like small hands, began braiding my hair. I heard someone humming a tune, one I didn’t know but was able to pick out on my fiddle the next day. I can’t describe it better than to say that the hands felt real, but the humming felt like it was coming from someplace else. The attic, my brother’s room, my parents room, the summer kitchen down below. I don’t know. I kept my neck in that panic stricken position until I really did fall asleep. In the morning, of course, my hair was still in the wild disarray it had been when I went to bed. I discounted the whole thing as a dream. Until, of course, a day or so later, when my brother John said, matter of factly, “Betsy says she likes your hair.”

(Brother John here… Our next door neighbor, back in those days, told me of a woman who had lived in our house long ago. It was a sad tale because the woman had been found hanged in what would later be our upstairs attic). After some reflection, my elderly next door neighbor recalled the poor womans name. When she said: “It was Betsy as I recall”, I literally felt chills going up and down my spine).

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How Much Wood Would a Woodchuck Chuck?

September 9, 2008 at 8:16 pm (Authors, Books, Dogs, Jasper, Recipes, Rosina Lippi, Sara Donati, Uncategorized) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )


By Eydie Wight

Life is but a dream...

Sammy and I had come home from our long weekend of night shifts and slept the sleep of the deep and dreamless. Well, not dreamless. September is always a strange month for me. It is the month when I feel the change of the seasons pull me most strongly. When I was younger and first out on my own I used to change apartments every September. In these later years I roam far afield, collecting flower seeds and odd pods, watching leaves turn and grasses brown. I write more, create more, and dream more in September. So, the dream I had was typical for the month. I always dream in color, and usually in great detail. In the dream I was on top of a ridge admiring the long grasses that moved with the breeze and sloped down to the woods line. An old woman was standing with me, her white hair down to her waist. I asked her, “What must I do?” She told me that I must build a fence of green branches and she swept her arm across what seemed an impossible expanse of space. I started the work, taking only a branch or two from each tree, knowing I could strip the tree and take all its branches as some would do to shorten and ease the task, but choosing instead to roam further and further to find my branches. As I went, I would collect plants and seeds to plant along the fence as it took shape. When I stripped the branches I would fashion bird houses, and baskets that I filled with earth and seeds until the fence became a living thing. Sometimes as I returned I would see the old woman. She became younger as the time passed. And so did I. All the middle age weight came off as I walked and worked and my arms and legs grew muscular again and my own hair grew out long and beautiful. I woke up when I realized in the dream that I really had to pee. I kept looking for a place to pee but kept thinking, “Not here, I can’t pee here.” It’s good I didn’t find a place or Sammy might have had a rude awakening!

Warm hands, warm heart!

A few days ago I had called one of neighbor Dot’s sons who has a hundred acre farm about a mile from us. For the past umpteen years he has allowed us to cut firewood from this, his mom’s, or other properties he owns. He explained a long time ago that a good land steward will judiciously cut standing dead trees, fallen trees, and encroaching trees from field borders. This encourages straight growing timber and lets in more sunlight to field edges. What is culled is firewood. We heat primarily with a wood stove in the winter, using our heat pump only when we are going to be away for more than 24 hours. Our wood stove is a handmade affair my dad had made. The body will accommodate a sixteen inch chunk of wood. Let me just say that I’ve had all kinds of heating systems in my life (gas, oil, coal, electric, hot water baseboard) and wood beats them all in my opinion. With the wood stove going in the basement the floors are warm to the feet and the heat finds every nook of the house. I can stay barefoot inside in the winter and be comfortable.

Pickup that needs a 'Pick-me-up!'

Well, this was the day we had designated as our first day of woodcutting. It was late afternoon by the time we got up and we wanted to get one truck load cut and brought home before dark. We have an old Nissan truck that we use as a farm truck. It has a crunched in front end, more rust than paint, an acrylic driver’s side window and back window that are caulked in place (Sammy is so proud of THAT fix) and a tailgate that will fall off on your foot if you aren’t careful opening it. The gas gauge hasn’t worked in years so we pour a few gallons from the gas can in it each time we use it.

Best to be prepared...

Sammy and I “dressed for the occasion”. Long sleeves, pants, and sturdy shoes. Cutting wood this early in the season has a few considerations. Primarily, until the first hard frost, the poison ivy is still full of juice and vengeful. Until I wised up I used to miss a day or two of work every fall due to oozing, blistered, itchy, raw poison ivy on my forearms from carrying wood chunks to throw in the truck. Secondly, there are still copperheads around while the days are warm and the rocks offer heat and shelter. I’ve never (knock on the woodpile) come across one but it is very much a possibility. A copperhead bite is rarely fatal or even all that serious for an adult but it is frightening, unpleasant, and something I don’t want to have to tell a story about! As the day’s temperature was in the 80’s, humid, and breezeless (not the ideal day to run a chainsaw and heft chunks of wood) we also donned headbands so the sweat wouldn’t drip into our eyes. I know what you’re thinking and yes, of course, we ARE old hippies and we sure do look the part. Sammy has long hair past his shoulders and his headband was a rolled handkerchief. It was also pink and had dancing unicorns and rainbows on it. Mine was a rugged red bandanna. What can I say, real men wear whatever the hell they want and my man likes dancing unicorns and pretty rainbows. Have a problem with that and I’ll beat you up… 🙂

We loaded up the truck with the chainsaw, 2 cycle oil, gas can, chainsaw tool, bottles of water, bug spray, toilet paper, our dog Jasper, and we headed out. Our friend had called us to say he had trimmed and cut down trees that had grown along the fields on his property and we were welcome to the wood. We headed out. The property isn’t too far from home and the short drive led us on a dirt road through Frog Hollow. This is a still wild area where I’ve seen deer, fox, a huge blacksnake hanging from a tree, skunk, raccoon, groundhog, red-tailed hawks, mink, and sometimes fairies and other enchanted folk. One of my favorite poems, “Verbena” (written by my alter ego September Butterfly) came from my wanderings in this area.

Fear the Chiggers!

We drove up the dirt drive and across the fields up to the top of the ridge to park the truck. Despite the high humidity the view here was still breathtaking. We could just see the tip of Buffalo Mountain, seven miles away! And, if we had remembered the binoculars, we could have just made out the clearing that is our own modest homestead two ridges over. Before we got started we sprayed each other down with enough bug spray to have the pesticide environmentalists paying us a visit. This is a fairly recent anointing following our experience when we harvested elderberries for our elderberry wine. We had, on that occasion, neglected to wear suitable clothing or any bug spray and suffered the ravages of chiggers. Chiggers, for those who have never experienced them, are microscopic insects that burrow under your skin and emit an enzyme to liquefy the surrounding tissue which they then feed on. The area becomes red and unbearably itchy. The little bastards are self limiting in about three days but it is a miserable three days. Along with my elderberries I got about a dozen or so bites but Sammy became a metropolis of chiggers. They had condos and apartments and went jogging in the park. He must have had 40 or 50 bites. We now have a borderline irrational fear and hatred of them.

Eydie and Sammy stock up on firewood for the winter.

Anyway, Sammy fired up the chainsaw and I began loading up the truck. The small brush that remained I stacked into piles that our friend will later use his backhoe to push into a huge mound in the field. Come this winter and a good snowfall he will have a magnificent bonfire. The pieces we cut this first load were all small enough that they would not have to be split. Pieces that have too big a circumference have to have the axe taken to them. Our sons are good at splitting wood. One mighty well aimed blow and a chunk is split. Me, I have to use a wedge. And use a wimpy little thunk for fear of missing and chopping into my leg. It isn’t pretty and I generate more heat getting a piece split than I do burning it! We got a truck load of wood cut and we were done in for the day. Cutting wood when the fall air is crisp and clod and the leaves are falling in little dances as you work and the sweat cools as it forms is delightful. Cutting wood when there is no air moving and the sweat soaks into every crevice of your body and the wood chips as they fly stick and itch and make you look like you have a fired chicken coating is a CHORE. And all the poison ivy sits there with a smirk on its leaves and waits to ambush any exposed skin.

We filled up the back of the truck and packed all our gear and started for home. Jasper had to sit half on my feet and half on my lap but with his head hanging out the window he was content. As we drove home with the last of the day’s light we agreed that we would NOT unload the truck that night. I was ready for a shower. We striped off our poison ivy contaminated clothes and hung them outside until wash time. As I padded upstairs to the shower in the clothes God gave me I was glad I live in an area where I have no visible neighbors. And the neighbors would be glad I wasn’t visible just then either!

After we got cleaned up I was “whupped”. Hungry. Cranky. I knew before Sammy even opened his mouth that he would suggest we snap the huge bag of green beans we had picked a few days ago and cook them with some potatoes and ham. And make some of Granny’s homemade cornbread. I was whining, opting for some cheese and pretzels and a beer. But, and chant along with us, Brother John, NO PRODUCE MUST BE WASTED! So, for the next 45 minutes, Sammy sat in the big brown chair and I sat on the floor and we companionably snapped beans and watched politics on TV. Sammy watched politics. I kibitzed until Sammy told me to be quiet so he could hear. I cooked up the ham, green beans, and potatoes in a little chicken broth and made up a pan of cornbread in the big black iron skillet. (Granny’s Cornbread Recipe is in our Food and Wine Recipes section). We put on some corn to boil and Sammy cut up a few ripe tomatoes. I felt much better after we ate. I felt so much better that since I was already in my pajamas I climbed into bed and read an hour or so of Into the Wilderness.

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Canning Tomatoes and Other Painful Processes.

September 1, 2008 at 8:00 pm (Books, Family, Uncategorized, Visit) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )


By Eydie Wight

The joy's of Canning

I got up fairly early this morning for me (who lives in the twilight realm of the permanent night shift worker) and the morning was so stunningly gorgeous that I actually stopped in mid shuffle to the coffee pot and noticed it. Usually the house could have been completely ransacked or have burned to the ground or there could be an insane grinning clown or flesh eating zombie waiting in the living room as I passed by and I would merely nod good morning, mumble something that ended in coffee and pass by. I’m not an all day gotta keep the buzz going cup in my hand constantly need caffeine kind of gal (unlike my Brother John), but me and my first cup have a religious communion. Sammy had opened up the windows yesterday to let in a little fresh air and save the air conditioning while I was blanching Lima beans for freezing and then canning tomato pieces. (More about that later.) But this morning, this morning was simply FINE. I did get my coffee and went out on the deck. It was cool and the mist was still hanging in the hollows. Our plumpest hummingbird was perched on the rail above her feeder. She was chirping away and gorging herself on the sugar water, preparing for the long trip south that is coming soon. When I leaned against the deck rail she hovered about two feet from my face. Probably it was the multi flowered coffee cup, or maybe the tie-dyed tee shirt of Sammy’s I’d thrown on.

After coffee I started in on the house chores. Guido (the fish) was, of course, near starvation and kept butting the glass of the fish tank to get my attention. I hung out the laundry Sammy had washed last night. We’ve had this big maroon towel for ages and the thing STILL will find the one white pair of socks or underwear or hand towel in the wash load and cleave to it until it’s nicely pink. I can firmly attest to the statement that, in Sammy’s case, real men DO wear pink. Especially when they do laundry.

Today, Labor Day, is my self declared day of rest. I did make a “To Do” list yesterday, and I have wandered over a few times this morning to look at it. It is an orderly and well executed list, but I am mutinous today and will resist its allure.

Sara Donati's Into The Wilderness

I had been down at my mom and dad’s last week helping them out after my dad’s knee replacement surgery (more about that later too) and we came back late Saturday night with two carloads of stuff. There were several boxes of produce I had canned and blanched for our freezer while I was there. I also had taken my fiddle and mandolin, chords and lyrics book, my canner in case we needed another one, all my work stuff as I’d gone there right form work, my pillow, four books I never got around to reading, a bag of clothes, my kit bag, the laptop, and my poetry book manuscript for mom to see. Sammy had come down Friday night and brought his clothes, kit bag, pillow, more canning jars, and coolers. We also brought home a gunny sack of green peppers, hot peppers, and cucumbers, a large plastic bag of shelled Lima beans, and a five gallon bucket of tomatoes. By the time all was unpacked it was after midnight. I have to say that, after five nights in the wonderfully antique slat bed in mom and dad’s guest room that creaks with every little movement and would drop slats were it not for the fact that my mom stuffed everything she could fit under it when they knew I was coming, I was ready for my own bed. I lay down on top of the soft, soft quilt that Sammy’s had forever (and may be one of the reasons I married him), stretched out in a few synchronized swimming moves, opened my book (Sara Donati’s Into the Wilderness), and then vaguely remember Sammy taking off my glasses and picking the book up off my face. The home bed is good. It loves me.

That was Saturday night. Yesterday, Sunday, when God rested, I didn’t. I started by blanching Lima beans so they could go in the freezer. I didn’t have many, about two quarts of shelled beans, so it was a quick and easy matter of boiling them at a roiling boil for three minutes, immersing them in the cold water bath in the sink for three minutes, and packing them in pint bags. I then put on the stove to heat three pans of water. The biggest kettle, the medium kettle, and a saucepan. The Goldilocks of canning. While the water heated I hung out a load of laundry. It was time for the tomatoes. This is the point where Brother John should add some dire and doomy music. Canning tomatoes is simple, but it is a time consuming pain. The tomatoes are first washed off, then dipped in boiling water for half a minute or until the skins crack. I don’t have a nice canning basket (Christmas anyone? Mom? Sammy? This is your subtle hint…) so I used an old metal colander that I held with tongs in a death grip to dip the tomatoes. After dipping, the tomatoes go into a cold water bath for a minute. Doing this causes the skins to slip right off. They are then cored, skinned, and cut into pieces. This takes time and the kitchen was hot and sticky and I got a little grumpy. Sammy was out tarring the shed roof so that it doesn’t leak on the shelf where Big Fat Sherman and Mr. Carter sleep. I peeled and cored and skinned and skinned and cored and peeled until the small cuts on my hands (from picking Lima beans) stung from the tomato acid. While that was going on I had canning lids, rings, and jars in a kettle of hot (not boiling water). Once the tomatoes were ready I packed them tightly in the hot jars, using a spatula to remove any air in the pack. I added two tablespoons of white vinegar (dad does grow one low acid variety of tomato and so do we) to the top and a teaspoon of salt, leaving a half inch of head room. I put the hot lids and rings on, hand tightened them, and put the jars in the big kettle of hot water. The jars needed to be covered with an inch of water and I had maybe a gallon and a half too much water in my kettle so I dipped that excess out. I brought the water to a rolling boil and set the timer for 45 minutes after the actual boil had first started.

Then I washed my hands, took a much needed bathroom break and headed out to Sammy to grump some. The day was so beautiful that I had to forestall my grumpage and instead admire the patch job on the shed. I went back inside and washed the green peppers, dried them off, and put them in freezer bags to go in the freezer. Green peppers are simply preserved this way and can be used for cooking dishes or for stuffed peppers for several months. The hot peppers I strung on cotton cord and hung from a hook in the kitchen to dry. They dry nicely for cooking and look good, as long as they don’t hang somewhere that is dusty! I did, as Brother John can well sympathize, forget to rub a little cooking oil on my fingers before handling the peppers. Let me just say that my dad grows hot peppers that greet for the sinners in hell. Half a pepper nicely puts the heat in fifteen quarts of tomato juice. Well, I strung all those peppers, and then unthinkingly rubbed my mouth with my hand. And then rubbed my eye when the heat from my mouth brought tears to it. And then explained to Sammy, who had come inside, why I was crying and cursing as I hauled jars of tomatoes out and set them on a tea towel to cool. (My dad always puts another towel on top of the hot jars to shield them from drafts as they cool. I do too now that I saw him do that. I call it “tuck the babbies in luv”.

After all that, my loving super hubby Sammy rubbed my feet and then took me out in the cool evening air for a country ride to chase the sunset. We stopped at a neighbor’ to give her some blackberry jam, pickled beets, and tomato juice, and to talk to her son about cutting firewood off one of their farms. She gave us some peach jam and four cups of frozen blueberries from her bushes. We stopped at our “egg lady” to get some brown eggs but they were away for the holiday weekend. We did peek at her plump and happy chickens as they prepared to roost for the night. Eggs from these happy “free range” chickens (Beekeeper Dan raises them too) are like nothing that comes from the grocery store. The yolks are dark yellow, huge, and rich tasting.

When we go on our rides we seldom have a destination or route in mind. Usually we take roads as they catch our fancy, always looking for some little back road that, by chance, we’ve never been on before. In the evenings we try to head westerly. Last evening we were truly God led because we saw some of the loveliest meadows, mountain creeks, crop fields, a covered bridge, and beautifully kept farms. The sunset wasn’t spectacular, but it was ruby red. As we got out of the car the Milky Way stretched across the sky and Sammy saw a shooting star. The evening had the faintest hint of the autumn, crisp air and the smell of falling leaves, and I felt both honored and blessed in my life. I had a glass of Beekeeper Dan’s homemade strawberry/blueberry wine, listened to the Country Gentlemen singing “Fox on the Run”, the next tune I want to learn on the mandolin or fiddle, and Sammy took the book off my nose before midnight.

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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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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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