Thar be Bees!

June 1, 2010 at 3:48 am (bee hive, Bees, honey, Insects) (, , , , , , , , , , , , )


By Sammy Wight

Photos from the WightHouse, and our newest addition to the household. Our First Beehive.

Our Bees are a mixed breed of Carniolan, Russian, and Italian. They are very calm and have great temperament. Only the Italian Bees are a bit more calm than ours. They seem to be happy here. We have had them since last Thursday. They reside in our orchard. Our Nuc had 4 pounds of Bees in it, with one Queen. Hopefully she will be busy and lay lots of babies, and we will have an extra 200+ bees a day born. We won't harvest honey this year, but next year we should be able to extract up to 90 lbs.

We are underway with out Dandelion Wine with Champagne Yeast, Plain Mead, Sweet Mead, and still have Blackberry, and Elderberry to go yet. Eydie made herself some Lemonbalm wine that she loves. Not my cup o' tea. Eydie's brother is supposed to be posting stories and photos to our “WIGHTWAY PRESS” SITE, but i haven't seen any lately, just keep an eye out for it. More adventures to follow.

 

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Books, Movies, and the Christmas Spirit!

December 13, 2008 at 5:15 am (Authors, Beekeeper Dan, Books, Brother John, Christmas tree, decorations, Espresso Yourself, Eydie Wight, Family, holiday, hot chocolate, movies, poetry, Recipes, Terry Pratchett, The Hogfather) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )


Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!!!

By Eydie Wight

Lot's of Ornaments!

Well, Brother John has been wonderfully patient with my absentee blog-ism. The last week has been filled with social events, Sammy’s tooth extraction, un-successful hunting, decorating mayhem, and the advent not of a calendar filled with little doorways and goodies but of our busy season at work. ‘Tis the season to be wheezin’ as we respiratory therapists like to say.

Last Saturday I had the “coming out” party for my poetry book at the open house for our county’s Arts Council. I was pretty nervous that no one would show up and I would sit there at the table with an ever increasing mountain of books and a stack of brand new Sarasa black gel pens listening to the clock tick, tick, tick as I tried not to fidget too much in my black velvet skirt, glittery velvet top, and knee high black polished boots. I figured it would have been stretching the eccentric writer persona a bit far to show up in my everyday apparel. Do they make book signing pajamas? Hmmm. They should.

But, not to worry. When Sammy and I arrived Mom and my “earth sister” Joanne were already there and had broken the ice for me. Mom had brought a big batch of my dad’s chocolate dipped peanut butter candy balls and had introduced herself to everyone. My dad’s name is John Richard (he’s called “Dick”) and I tried not to cringe as Mom asked people if they wanted to try Dick’s chocolate balls. It was sort of like a South Park episode. (Brother John here… OMG! It’s as bad as when Granny used to compliment Dad on his cooking… “This is GOOD DICK”). The Arts Council has a gallery of rooms dedicated to the work of local artists. There were artworks on the walls, framed photography, note cards and pictures, music CD’s, jewelry, knitted scarves, purses, and hats, woven textile clothing, and sculptures done in all sorts of media. They had set up two tables for us “Authors” to sit with our books. They had even made a sign. The sign had my name on it. Spelled right and everything. My friend and mentor Tony arrived, our friend Dave was there to provide some acoustic guitar background, fellow poet Siggy set up at the next table and Jonas was there with his book about a half hour later. Suddenly the gallery was filled with people. They were shopping. laughing, eating cookies, pate, and Dick’s chocolate balls. Sammy and I uncorked bottles of our homemade elderberry and blackberry wine and things had the making of a holiday party.

I signed and sold my first seven books! They were all to Mom! But that was okay! It was exciting!

The afternoon flew by. So many of my friends came out to show their support. Some of them hadn’t even been begged beforehand to casually “stop in.” I signed and sold a few more books, one to a perfect stranger, and then during a lull in the crowd we decided to play the part of “starving artists” and all go across the street to the local coffeehouse, “Espresso Yourself.” There were ten of us including Mom and Joanne, Tony, Siggy, Jonas, Dave, Gary, Beekeeper Dan, Rog, Sammy, and me. Mom and Tony were in rare ribald humor and Dad’s chocolate balls were the source of much raucous hilarity. I smiled so much my face hurt. Of course I hugged everyone and the glitter on my velvet blouse left it’s mark everywhere I went. Tony had glitter in his beard, Mom had a little glitter speck on her cheek, Beekeeper Dan had glitter on his shirt sleeve, Sammy had glitter on one eyebrow, Dave had glitter on his guitar.

That evening Sammy and I “found” our favorite Christmas movie for this holiday season. My friend Carole had said her son had told her she “must see” the movie “The Hogfather,” a TV movie from 2006 based on the Terry Pratchett novel. We sat down to watch it, not knowing what to expect, and it was great. Wonderful music score, twisted characters, fantastic sets, dark humor and witty asides. I had gotten together all my paraphernalia to wrap presents and ended up sitting with the same unwrapped present in my lap for over an hour until I just gave up and moved to the couch. As good as the movie was, it was in two parts and nearly four hours long. A combination of the excitement of the day, the couch, the couch blankey, my pajamas, and elderberry wine soon had me romping in dreamland.

That was Saturday, a good day indeed. Sunday I got up early, did the house chores, and started in on my unfinished wrapping. It was a gray, dismal day and as I rewatched the first part of “WolfieThe Hogfather” I wrapped, and wrapped, and wrapped. The stuff was multiplying, I swear. Now, somewhere in the murky ghosts of Christmas past my mom started the tradition of labeling the packages in cute or sometimes just strange ways. Instead of, “To Eydie, from Mom” a package might read, “To Good Girl Eydie Lynne from Barbie Santa.” Or, “To Johnny from the Wolfie Santa.” (What!!! Mom didn’t call me “Brother John” back then???!!! And I miss my Wolfie!!!) Thanks to me, this year we have, “To little Mary from The King” and “To handsome Sammy from the fashion Santa.”

Sunday evening I decided to put up the tree and decorate the house a little while Sammy put up some outside lights. The plan was, this year, since no one will actually be at home for Christmas, to decorate minimally. Sammy helped me bring down the Christmas storage bins from the attic. There were eleven of them and the 30 gallon tree container. All stuffed full of treasures from my nearly five decades of Christmas. I have one lone surviving angel hair (long since banned) ornament from when our Pop-paw was alive. I have a few pieces of Granny’s holly and ivy dishware. I have an ornament I gave big Roger the first year we were married and a half dozen frog ornaments that Greg had collected. I have Rog’s “Baby’s first Christmas” ornament. I have a ballerina, unicorns, a banana, a Boeing plane, Sherlock Holmes, a Scottish bagpiper, Mr. Potato head, and the Mystery Machine from Scooby Do. My life chronicled in ornaments.

Of course I ended up putting out far more stuff than I’d planned because I like my Christmas stuff and I want to look at it for a few weeks. It’s glittery and shiny and full of memories. Better than a bag of gingersnaps and a half gallon of vanilla ice cream to dip them in. Although I wouldn’t say no to eating the aforementioned while I admired my Christmas decorations while sitting on the couch watching part two of “The Hogfather.”

Sammy did manage to get a little deer hunting in during last week. Our work schedule wasn’t too conducive to prime hunting times so we gave our Amish neighbors permission to hunt up in our deer stand. They got an eight point buck and two doe so far from up on our ridge. Two were from our stand, one from theirs. I hoped Sammy would have some luck, but I didn’t relish the butchering process that follows. The year after my second husband died our unidentified neighbor, knowing we counted on venison as a major meat source, offered to share his deer meat with me if I would process it. I jumped at that idea, and sure enough, he arrived one morning with a gutted, skinned, and quartered deer. The first bit of processing is to cut out the tenderloins, the most tasty and tender back strap of the deer. Around here it’s jokingly called “poison meat” as in “You don’t want that old poison meat, you’d better give it to me.” Then the steaks are cut out, chunks are cut for stew meat, and the bits and pieces are ground for burger or made into jerky. I have my Granddad’s jerky recipe. I may include it on the recipe list, but then again, maybe it will remain a family secret passed down through the generations. But (as usual) I digress. The year my unidentified neighbor brought me the deer three of his brothers showed up through the season with deer for me to process and share in the meat. I suspect their mom, knowing I wouldn’t have time to hunt that year, made sure I was taken care of. One reason why I love living in the country.

Sledding Disaster

The unidentified neighbor has nine brothers and sisters. Their mom lives on the “home place” and throughout the year the whole clan shows up for summer picnics and swimming in their big farm pond, the men all come and bring their sons (and a daughter or two) to hunt deer in the fall, and or course, everyone shows up for Christmas. One Christmas when Rog was young there was a big snowfall just before Christmas vacation started. Then there was a freeze so the snow stayed around. The farm has a perfect sledding hill and that year it had a perfect crust for tobogganing. Some of the teenage boys built a big ramp about halfway down the hill and would ski or snowboard off it. All the neighbors, including me, my second husband, and Rog, showed up for the sledding. There was a bonfire to stand around and thaw out in front of, and some of the dad’s were engaged in building competitive snow forts for later snowball battles. We all took turns going down the hill. Mostly toboggans, but some runner sleds, snow tubes, a big tractor inner tube, and some sheets of paraffin coated cardboard. The hill was fast enough that the runner sleds and toboggans were too fast for me. I like my sledding sedate. So I took one of the snow tubes and happily slid down in lazy spirals and curves along with the toddlers. Unfortunately one of those lazy spirals brought me, now sliding backwards and all unknowing, onto the path of the big ski jump ramp. Next thing I know I had an excellent view of the downward slope of the hill. Unfortunately it was an upside down view as the tube performed complete 360 in the air (with me still hanging on out of desperation and shock.) The tube and I landed to applause from all and sundry and calls of “Do it again, Mrs. Hall. That was soo cool!” I gathered my wits and waved as my heart slowed from it’s trip hammer pace and I (hopefully) nonchalantly ambled off in search of home, pajamas, and hot chocolate.

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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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Spiders, Snakes, Aphids, and Bees!

September 21, 2008 at 11:30 am (bee hive, Bees, Brother John, Jasper, Plants, Recipes, Wine Making) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )


By Eydie Wight

Snakes And Bugs And Bees... Oh My!

Today was another of those days when the place for morning coffee was on the deck. I opened the door, let Emy cat out and fended off the boisterous good morning activity of the dogs. I wasn’t out for more than a minute before I went inside to grab a jacket to throw over my pajamas, and slide my new moccasin birthday slippers on my feet. The temperature had dipped down into the 40’s over night. I am surprised that the home hummingbirds are still present, active, and seemingly in no hurry to leave. They continue to dive bomb each other, hover in front of my face, and perch on top of my wind chimes. Emy discovered a few days ago that she can jump on top of the deck rail and walk along it, tantalizingly out of reach of the dogs. They whine, they entreat me to get her down so they can chase her, they finally pretend indifference until she casually strolls over to where I am now leaning against the rail and rubs her face against mine. That does it, the dogs explode in a frenzy of jealous barking, making so much noise I have to trick them away from the house with a stick I throw far out into the yard so that Sammy has a slight chance of continuing his sleep.

Today is the last day of vacation! I love the changing of the guard of the seasonal flowers. Right now there are asters of all kinds in the un-mown areas of the yard. New England Asters willingly cluster around the mailbox, their light blue flowers seeming to glow in the morning light. Small white asters (I’ll have to look those up in the flower book) grow in abundance, creating bushy clumps. Fortunately none of us are allergic to goldenrod, because it is everywhere. My thoughts this morning, besides a song that is stuck in my head, are on wine. (The song, by the way, is “By the light of the silvery moon.” I don’t where all these obscure tunes come from, but this one must be one of my mother’s old barbershop quartet tunes, because it’s not only in my head, it’s in my head in four part harmony.)

Wine, we plan to bottle the blackberry wine today if all goes well. The wine has “cleared” and is a gorgeous color. I keep telling myself what the wine book says, that the wine must “mature” but the little voice inside my head (I think it’s the same voice that’s singing baritone) says, “Drink it. Drink it. Drinkitdrinkitdrinkitallnow.” But don’t worry, the last time I listened to that voice it was telling me that “no, of course not, bell bottoms will NEVER go out of style.” As I wandered around the yard I took notice of several fat rose hips on the Jacob’s Coat of Color Rose. My old wine book mentions that one of the truly exceptional elites of the homemade wines is rose hip wine. The author of the book only made a few bottles a year and prized them above all other. I don’t have nearly enough rose hips of my own, but I know a place where the multi flora rose (wild rose) grows thick. I went there a few years ago to pick some hips for rose hip tea. Like the blackberry session, each fat rose hip pulled me further into the brier warren until I suddenly found myself surrounded on all sides by impenetrable thorns. Thorns grabbing my shirt, pants, gloves, hair, holding me fast until some handsome prince came to magically free me and kiss my waiting lips…Right in the middle of THAT pleasant daydream a deer leaped out of the briers, not more than three feet from me. Well, by the time I tore my way out of the warren, yelping all the way,with the deer gracefully leaping unscathed in the other direction, I was pretty sure I would need plastic surgery and a pint or two of blood.

It’s not unheard of to have September frost, and I’d been planning all week to take the house plants inside for the cold season, so we decided to make that one of our last vacation projects. We really only have one southern exposure window downstairs in the spare bedroom, and each year all of the “big” plants get crowded around this one window until the room looks like something out of Jumanji. When I met Sammy and we began our courtship, he had one fairly big avocado tree that he had grown from a seed. At the time we met this tree was decorated with colored lights and red bows and was Sammy’s Christmas tree. I promptly named her “Iris” and would blow big Co2 laden kisses on her whenever I saw her. (Plants like that, you know. They don’t even care if you’ve had garlic, or Kosher pickles, or never brush your teeth-not that I know about that one, but I know someone who does!!!) Anyway, now, some four years later, Iris brushes her head on the ceiling and throws her arms out in a six foot span. Her “little sisters” (also grown from seed) number four, and we’ve even given some away to loving homes! We also have a beautiful “walking” iris we got as a start from my dad, a robust calla lily, some elderly Dieffenbachia, and a Mimosa pudica (“sensitive” plant). This plant curls it’s leaves up whenever they are touched, then slowly unfolds them again. All in all there were nine plants to bring in. Before they left the great outdoors each plant was trimmed of wind tattered or bug eaten leaves, re-potted if needed, had a scoop or two of potting soil added to “top off” the pots, and was sprayed with a soap solution to kill off aphids.

While I was re-potting and puttering and rearranging, our cats were having an adventure. Sammy called me downstairs from the kitchen where I had been stuffing a pickled egg into my mouth (and yes, Brother John, you DO have to chew them at least once!)

NOTE: Brother John here… you may be interested in knowing that I do NOT like pickled eggs! Probably comes as a surprise to my family. See? You learn something new every day!

Sammy had that mildly interested, not distressed at all, manly tone to his voice so I suspected immediately that the kittens had “found” a new toy in the basement, one that Sammy wasn’t real comfortable with. The toy turned out to be a little ring necked snake. These little guys are hardly bigger than a good sized earthworm and are pretty laid back. Not, of course, when they’re being batted across a concrete floor like an air hockey puck while being chewed on from the backside up by two brave kittens honing their hunting skills. (I guess snakes have a backside…) Sammy wondered aloud two or nineteen times if there were probably more snakes in the basement. We did have a nice sized garter snake in the basement beside the soda tub on our wedding day. Sammy’s not overly fond of snakes. Or the multiple ladybug infestations we get inside the house each winter after the stove is fired up, or the rather large (actually very, very large) hairy wolf spiders that take up residence also in the basement come winter. I actually had a spider one year, before I met Sammy, named Tawanda. She was very curious and liked noise and vibration. Often she would “come out” to check out company. My sister-in-law and her husband were visiting one late fall and we were sitting around downstairs enjoying the wood stove and drinking beer. Enough beer that when all of a sudden my brother-in-law’s eyes bugged out of his head and he said, “Ohmygod, what IS that?”, Tawanda looked much bigger to him than she really was. Tawanda had come over to investigate and was nearly on his foot. Tawanda’s body was about the size of a somewhat flattened walnut. I had difficulty preventing George from flattening her more. Finally, they took pictures and went home claiming I had a pet tarantula.

Today was the kind of day that called for a woods walk and hot soup. I’ve been hungry for a thick, full bodied, stick to your ribs soup or stew. I bought the ingredients to make potato soup but then as the vacation days went by the ingredients disappeared. The milk went into cereal, the sausage went into pizza, the onion went into spaghetti sauce. The potatoes are still there, waiting patiently as potatoes do. I’m like my Scottish friend who, when I asked him what his favorite food was, said “Stovies”. I said, “What’s that?” He replied, “Any thing that’s made from potatoes and cooked on the stove.”

I did get a little bit of a walk in. Just as I was finishing re-potting my plants, Sammy came down the ridge with the camera in hand and said, “You have to come see this. This is incredible.” I said, “What’s that Sweetie?” He said, “Bees.” Well, I was pretty sweaty despite the cool day so I broke off some of the lemon balm that grows by the basement door and rubbed it on my arms. I walked up the hill toward the “orchard” where we have our six fruit trees. To the right of the orchard is the ‘upper pond”. This is an eight by eight round pond, about five feet deep, that is fed by a spring that runs all year long. Sounds lovely but two years ago some tree roots in combination with winter burrowing bull frogs resulted in a series of leaks. Now there is only about two feet of water in the pond, but it is nice, clear water. Between the orchard and the pond is a large patch of yard we decided to let fallow this year. It is covered at the moment with the bushy asters I need to identify. It was also covered with Italian honeybees. Not covered by a swarm, these little girls were busy gathering nectar and pollen from the asters. It was so covered I heard the busy hum of hundreds of bees before I even got close. I watched them for the longest time. I wonder, who has hives near here? I know all the neighbors, in fact, should we take to this beekeeping life, I plan to ask them to let us hive the protected niches of their fields. Could these fine little Italians be a wild hive? If so, will they be okay for the winter? They had such delicate little flights from tiny flower to tiny flower. They were happy bees that day and I wished them a safe trip home and safe winter.

Jasper had, of course, followed me up the hill. He patiently waited for me to interview the bees, and then, when I started back down toward the house, ran a little way up the hill and gave me a look that said, :”Come on. Up this way.” So I followed him up. Jasper is my hiking buddy. He loves the winter, and likes nothing better than the woods in snow. One year he and I set out after a storm had given us several inches of white powdery snow. It was so cold and dry the snow kicked up in plumes as we made our way up the ridge. I lost sight of Jasper, not difficult since he’s white, so I called him. All of a sudden he was there above me, on an outcropping just exposed enough to catch eddies of wind that swirled the snow around me. I had a sudden image of myself in buckskin and furs, my long black hair plaited as I searched beneath the snow for wintergreen berries to take back to add to venison jerky for trail mix to feed the tribe. Jasper and I shared one of those moments when the world is is suffused with joy and all of heaven stops to approve. Today we just walked up to the top of the ridge and then raced back down. Actually, Jasper was the only one racing, but I let him think he won.

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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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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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Capping Off The Blackberry And Mead Wines

August 12, 2008 at 3:14 pm (Airlock, Blackberry, Bungs, Fermentation Lock, Mead Making, metabisulfite, Nutrient, Potassium Metabisulfite, Sulphited, Wine Making, Yeast) (, , , , , , )


Two examples of capping fermentation pails with two different types of Airlocks.

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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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