Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Bloop. Glug.

So one puts in some tiles around the firepit (now I have to sink the rest of the second ring around, which seems to have a 6:4 ratio to the first; if the first ring was 24, the second will be 36, and the next 54; it's getting expensive) and there are dandelions everywhere. Time to make dandelion wine! So I picked them and spent a day trimming off the green part (it is said to make the wine bitter) and the VERY NEXT DAY there were just as many dandelions. I picked them again. This time I trimmed about half of them (we had a spell of 80+ degree heat and everything was too hard) and found that I could just pull the yellow off the blossom after the flowers had spent another day sitting in the measuring cup. Much faster and less fiddly than using a knife. And the next day... there were even more dandelions. I made a third batch and that is enough, even though I have now drunk the last of the 2008 batch, and 2009 is waiting for me to bottle it. I have now actually removed (in bottles) about half of the gallons of wine-on-the-way occluding that corner of the counter, and the three freshly added gallons of dandelion '10 are gurgling away. I am supposed to bottle them after 6 months, not 18.

My father decided he did not want to drink commercial root beer, as he is unhappy about drinking corn syrup. I got a book. We had all this black or sweet birch that Sarah was kind enough to cut down and then cut up (out of the driveway, and the twigs into 2" lengths). I boiled about a gallon of twigs in about one and a half times the same amount of water almost swooned form the smell. It smells much nicer than wintergreen, to me, and adding sugar to it made it delicious. I wanted to drink it all. But I added more sugar (my dad has a sweeter palate than I do, and carbonated needs more strength of flavor than still) and then a tiny amount of yeast, stirred it all up and capped the bottles. 48 hours at room temperature is MORE than long enough to carbonate the bottles. I put them into the refrigerator -- since one is not using the yeast to make alcohol, just fizz, you want the fermentation to stop before the yeast eats all the sugar--and waited a day. It's not bad. I used bread yeast, but I may try ale yeast and see if it leaves less of yeasty niff. In any case, I shall try to make an extract so my dad can mix it with soda water, since explosive bottles are scary things to drive to Boston.

Sarah is trying to get me sassfras bark. In immoderation it's not terribly good for you either, but it's supposed to be closer to the taste of root beer than the birch. I have never been able to make much difference between root beer and birch beer anyway. But it was very cool to boil twigs and make something that smelled that good.

If anyone needs a kombucha mother, let me know. I was reading this and had a failure of making my own vinegar (I think the problem was the same reason the wine was so bad; I had not fermented it enough to make a decent amount of alcohol, so there wasn't much for the vinegar process to work on. Then on a whim I bought kombucha drink at the co-op and found it a) delicious and b) exactly like drinking really nice vinegar. So I got a kombucha mother and have been fermenting sweet tea. If you like tasty sour, try it. I've been mixing it half and half with fruit juice. It's fizzy and delicious and very easy. I don't know if it will save my life or cure cancer or anything (I hope I don't need that anytime soon) but live fermentations are pretty much a good thing for the body, it has practically speaking no alcohol, and it tastes great. And wow can it build up ahead of steam in its bottle.

So the floor here is sticky and Doug keeps mopping it.

I have been working on a decent vegetable bed, one to contain actual soil, in the sense of organic matter rather than variations on rocks left behind by the glaciers. I have not finished the second one yet. Filling the first one (half about 12" deep and half maybe 16"), with a mixture of imported loam, the sifted and de-rocked native crap, and the contents of five years' worth of haphazard compost-heaping (black gold, it was amazing) was a lot of work. I hope I get some results. I think it would make me happy, if I were a plant. In the pretty cool raised bed thing I got from Gardener's Supply, I planted soybean 'Envy' for edamame, some cilantro seedlings, some basil seedlings, some cilantro seeds, and some garlic and onion sets today. When I find the right tomato plants, I will get them, but the NH frost-free date is not for another week and it has actually been quite cold. So no hurry. The raised bed thing is dark green polypropylene and has nothing the can be put together backwards or upside down, which meant even I found it pretty delightful. I can see one spear of the asparagus I planted coming up. It never rains any more. I use leaky hose.

The salamander tadpoles seem to be developing, slowly, in their eggs; the leopard frog tadpoles look like they will be sprouting legs any minute. There are blackflies, though not all the time; the same with mosquitoes. But I can also hear the wood thrush and yesterday the hummingbirds arrived.