Bubble, Bubble! Ferment Without Trouble!

I put a batch of Stout and one of Nut Brown Ale last Saturday. I am delinquent with brewing this year, so much going on and so many demands!Cabin June 2015 076 I have a few cases of bottles to sanitize this weekend in great anticipation of the fermentation being adequately accomplished. Late Spring through early Autumn is the only time I can do a brew as I don’t implement much heating or cooling in the cabin…whatever nature gives me for the most part. Hmmm, I’ll have time to put up a ferment of Porter and a Bitter this weekend after the bottling is done…maybe. We’ll see. It’s gotta last all winter and I do need a way to keep warm.

So I got a late start? Well I did put up two batches of mead (yeah, like the Vikings drank, fermented honey) and have them in the basement snugly aging. One was a classic dry mead and the other has plums in it – that’s got a special name I cannot for the life of me remember at the moment. Megathlin or some such. It was a mess to fool with.

The flavored stuff I’m dubious of, but the dry mead I’ve done before and there is no reason at all for it not to be superb in a year or two. Yes, into the next decade. Got to think ahead, you know. And there’s plenty of space in the basement.

Here’s to bubble, bubble ferment without trouble!

 

How Chickens Got to Hawaii

I get the Science Today feed for the headlines and a brief summary of the latest findings. This one caught my eye a while back:

SciDaily

That immediately brought to mind a painting I did a few years ago. It’s just a hobby but I enjoy making things. Wow, seeing this story about the very thing I’d imagined! It doesn’t matter to me that it’s silly and amateur…it was fun to do!

It’s on a huge canvas and I’d love to say it looks better in person…but maybe not. The textures come out better, anyway. The water looks more dramatic.

Cabin June 2015 068I have another painting I started a few months ago and abandoned when the weather started getting cooler and when I got a few bundles of beautiful new cloth to sew. I decided on making thermally superior long johns instead of painting, go figure. BTW,040 they’ve been so phenomenal that I am eyeing the materials to make more (sew I can wash this set more often)…

It’s another featuring my beloved stick-chicken type character. I have gobs of vacation to use – if the paint isn’t frozen (the room I paint in is over the unheated garage) I may give this masterpiece (HA!) a chance once more. Finish it? No promises.

Dishrags and Dresses

Marla need to earn the dough to be able to go to band camp, but this old lady had to be nuts. What a way to spend a Saturday morning. She’d listened to her mom who’d said this old thing needed the help. Grandpa raised his new hoe and agreed, following her out the door. “Darling, go aid our neighbor. I hear tell the woman down there lives all by herself. You’re lucky the Preacher found out she could use a hand and would pay somebody willing.”

Yeah, she needed help alright. This was her second time here and planned to make it her last. There had to be another job to find in this little town.dishrag

Drying the last of the dishes, the dish towel snagged that darned Velcro glued across the counter again. She ripped it up and the dratted Velcro came with it. Then she noticed Miss Grady stood two paces away. She laid the towel down gently and moved in front of it.

“I have your wages for today. There’s a little extra because of my mess you helped me clean up. Nasty, I know, but at my age I can’t always make it to potty in time.”

Embarrassed for the poor thing, she smiled. “It’s okay, Miss Grady, my Granny did worse than that.” She took the cash and slipped it into the little purse she kept slung across her shoulder. “I appreciate you letting me do the few odd jobs around here so I can go to camp.” So much for her plan.

“I took the free time to make you a Sunday dress, if you’d like to try it on. I mean, in case I got your size wrong.”

Dread drenched Marla’s skinny body. No dress ever fit her awkward form, and who knows what she’d made it out of. She’d seen a glimpse of the sewing room and it was filled with piles of cloth. For all she could imagine, this dress came from the first scraps reachable. stack-of-cloth-to-sew“Thank you. I’ll just take it home; I’m sure it will fit fine.”

Miss Grady leaned back and raised an eyebrow. “You doubt me, young lady. Come on back and let me show it to you.”

Reluctant to be rude after just getting paid, she followed the seamstress back to her lair. They stopped inside the room. Marla raised her gaze from the floor to see a beautiful, cap-sleeved dress on a hanger. She reached and felt of the fabric. The full skirt felt soft yet substantial enough to have some bounce to it; the dress made her want to wear it so bad.

Miss Grady lifted the purse strap over Marla’s head and eased it off. She placed it on the cutting table. “I’ll leave you in here to try it on. Holler when I can come in.”

When the door clicked, Marla shucked her t-shirt and jeans, then her shoes and socks. A new dress! She unzipped it and stepped inside it, holding her breath. She got it zipped up and saw herself in the full-length mirror on the back of the door. “Miss Grady, I’m ready!”Download 090915 002

“Aren’t you a pretty gal. Now, tell me how it fits. I can alter it quick.”

“It’s like it was made for me. And the pattern with the flowers and all is so perfect. I…I don’t know what to say.”

“Honey, you already said all I need to hear. I’m thrilled you like it!”

Marla slumped and frowned. “I admit, I thought you were crazy and didn’t expect much. I’m sorry.”

Chuckling, Miss Grady said, “I am off my rocker; however I can sew fairly well in spite of it. With all this cloth I figured I could finally put some to good use. You can pick any material you like and I’ll make another if you want.”

Marla straightened. “I would, if you take it out of my pay.” Grandpa would make up the shortage for the camp if he knew she’d tried to earn her way. Couldn’t she have both?

“Look around you, dear. Humor me and let me do this for you, please.”

Marla started walking around, fingering the different materials, her mind distracted from money matters. The silks would be too fancy and the solid cottons too plain. She turned at the sound of a scrape and saw Miss Grady had pulled out a chair to sit by her sewing machine. She stepped over and pulled a stool over to sit near her. “Why do you have so much cloth? Were you a tailor or something?”

Miss Grady got a sad look and rubbed her eyes, shoving her bifocals up to do it. “I had dreams years ago of a fellow dropping from the sky to sweep me off my feet. I felt it necessary to have a fine wardrobe to befit my prince. I’d have such a dream and accidentally drop a dish rag and be eagerly expecting him to arrive.” She threw her hands up. “Of course he never showed. I fell for it every year or two for a long while. No more.”

“That’s why you Velcro’d the counter? To keep from dropping the towel?”

Download 090915 018“That’s right. I make it a point to forget my dreams when I wake up, too.” She put her seam ripper and small scissors into a bin and turned the sewing machine light out. “I’m surprised you know the omens; I thought they’d die out with my generation.”

“Granny taught me some, like your ear itching means a person is talking about you.”

“And your right palm itching means money coming in.”

“And a dropped dishrag means a visitor is coming. Did nobody ever come?”

“The mailman would deliver a package or a Jehovah’s Witness would bring me a Watchtower. Yes, always someone. Not who I wanted.”

Marla got up and returned to the material bank. “How about this one, with the different colored polka dots?” She held it up as Miss Grady wiped a tear.

“There’s enough of that for a dress and a matching jacket. Do you prefer a long jacket or a short, bolero type?”

“Long, with a pleat in the back if you can.”

“I can and will.” She levered up on the table to rise and walked over to a pole that spanned the room, full of clothes. “Sort of like this?”

The chocolate brown velvet jacket made Marla lick her lips. “Yes, wow, yes. With the buttons on the back like that if you have them.”

“Well, let me take some actual measurements so I get the sleeves and shoulders right.”

On Marla’s way out, she waved goodbye with her new dress draped over her other arm. All the way home she thought of her Grandpa who’d been so lonely the last three years, and really the three before that while Granny got worse and worse. He could sure use a nice jacket. What excuse could she use to get him there? He loved to garden and her roses looked puny and weedy. Yes, she would tell him to follow his own advice and aid his neighbor. When she remembered ripping the Velcro off the counter, she grinned ear to ear. She hugged the dress close and wondered if Miss Grady dropping another dishrag might not assist her urging in some cosmic way. Grandpa might be very happy to make friends with so talented a woman. And such a payment for her lovely new clothes removed the cloud of Miss Grady’s sadness and the negative feelings she’d harbored earlier. Altogether, it felt so right.

Labor Day Ale!

Yipee, 99 bottles of beer along the wall! Each of my cases holds 25 bottles and one case was shortseptember-ales-old-ale-can one bottle. No matter! In a couple of weeks I’ll have some fine Cooper’s IPA made with a mix of leftover light malt and some fresh wheat malt.

I also started a couple batches of Munton’s; there’s a York Bitter (YUM!) and an Old Ale, both done up with a dark malt. september-ales-mix-in-pailThe dry malt doesn’t look very dark in the picture, but I guarantee it’ll produce the inky brew I crave.

So, that’s 10 gallons this weekend and ten gallons more next weekend. That’s if I can scare up 99 september-ales-capsmore bottles…where they heck did I put them? I have vents that pop and pails with tops and a dapper Red Robin Capper, all waiting.

 

If I cannot locate the rascals, this is what I’ll end up with:september-ales-empty-case

 

Better Late than No Brew At All

 

Back I May, I never dreamed I’d be so overloaded with work this long. Right when I got my new business set up and was emptying the cabin of all valuables for a massive clean-up, I got my job doubled along with having to put more hours in. So, cabin time should be depressurizing time but I’ve have WORK stamped into my bones. Work at the cabin means cleaning up so I can bring my plunder back where I can actually find and use it (yick) or writing/editing/designing for publication. Thus you all have seen stories for a few weeks. When I edit and collect the ones you folks liked best into one volume, I intend to format it, design a cover for it and send it out on its own. Big plans have I!

See? Work…the first and last of my consciousness. Imagine my great alarm when I went to the basement for a few more bitters or porters to stage upstairs and discovered there were only six bottles of anything left! OH NO! So, look what happened pretty quickly:

Beer Buckets - Set Out to Soak in Sanitizer

Look at the log I keep on the cases…never have I had such a late start. Heck, I’m usually all done by now, but I still have at least two more double batches (100 bottles each set) to do before chilly weather sets in!

Cabin June 2015 075

Ale supplies

I have added this to my WORK list, so it shall be done. Here’s to the hope that I can report the two buckets I left to ferment are bottled and two more are started after the weekend!

Hancock Fabrics, Good Bye!

Pile of cloth

Alas! The venerable Hancock Fabric Store is no more. I have such fond memories of Hancock Fabrics, from way back. I won the 8th grade science fair and got $50 cash money for it. I bee-lined it to Woolco Department Store in the Indian Trail Shopping Center so Ma and I could pick out a sewing machine. Not that she was much help – she did not sew at all. I got a Brother, rather plain but highly serviceable.

I made all of our church dresses and made my little sisters colorful outfits for church and school. I particularly remember Poo (Alice) wanting more pockets! I made a yellow tunic with matching flared pants. The cotton material had big white flowers splattered across it, and a red band across the front tunic bottom divided into at least six pockets. I made myself a deep purple pair of hiphugger flared brushed denim jeans…the coolest nerd in school.

071415 018Imagine my delight many years later, when I found Hancock Fabrics had a store minutes from the house I’d moved into! I didn’t actually go in there or even find my sewing machine (a different one, another story) until Ma moved in with me over a year ago. Oh, she needed tailor made church dresses! We both enjoyed roaming Hancock’s, ferreting out the deals, and she loved the quirky and brightly patterned stuff.

When I heard they were closing, bankrupt, I couldn’t believe it. No reorganizing? No restructuring? Nope, just gone. I haunted the store the last few days and bought entire bolts of cloth at 90% off. I got gobs of patterns at $1 each. One always needs buttons and zippers, so into the overloaded cart they went.

Now I have cloth from satins to upholstery to fanciful cotton blends. I have years worth of scrumptious silky, flowery fabrics and all of the smooth linings I hope to ever need. Sure I loved the spectacular deals. I’m so sorely going to miss dear old Hancock Fabrics, though.

 

 

Stop Howling! I Hear You!

I have changed the cabin dynamic and nobody around there is happy about it. I have taken Spring Cleaning to Cat 3an all-time high by clearing out entire rooms, all of them, one at a time. The cabin was stuffed with old boxes of obscure plunder, decrepit appliances, one more project shoehorned into a tight space, too many books (can’t believe I said that) and was generally junky with a couple decades of accumulation. Moving and sorting all this might sound easy, but I assure you IT IS NOT! Stuff to keep goes in boxes elsewhere. Hundreds of them. The remainder is revealed and can be donated or disposed off, tons of stuff.  I have developed marvellous muscles from carrying heavy loads down long flights of stairs. What of the usual and well-loved pastimes that I so looked forward to each weekend?

 

Cabin June 2015 056These are calling to me in a shrill, demanding voice. Some of the squirts even threaten me, saying, “Look you, I’ll dry up if you don’t get a move on! Everything you need is right here, hop to it!” I retort, “Shut UP! You are waiting for me to carve you out a real studio!”Paint tube

 

 

 

 

These grab at my shirt every time I walk by. The weather is  warm! We can ferment like crazy! I walk by swiftly to avoid that, but these suckers are sometimes quite wily and lull me into thinking they are asleep. I tarry a second too Cabin June 2015 085long and GRAB! “STOP IT!”, I say. “You need to much space and time to fool with right now!”Cabin June 2015 076

 

 

 

 

 

Cabin June 2015 087

Cabin June 2015 074

 

 

 

 

 

These cry to me in some foreign language I don’t understand, yet I know they are restless and wish me to transform them into the ephemeral beings that are destined to be. They would turn out to be quite physical if I did the required work. I used the word ‘ephemeral’ because these beverages seem to disappear when I’m not looking. Since I have no opportunity now to carry them to their highest calling, I look away as I slink by. I WANT to put up a few more cases. I will, I promise.

 

No greater din is made than the cacophony coming from these piteous things. I have the old workhorse Cabin June 2015 077machine which has provided me many hours of pleasure and increased my sense of accomplishment – usually. I have so many pieces of cloth they could form their own country. They do have their own language. A persuasively ardent call echoes in my head; they urge me to sit for just a while, feel the scissors in my grip, IMG_1365smooth out the printed paper pattern on a smooth floral cotton blend. The blue cottony material nearly rises from the bag like a primordial beast from the sea in earnest yearning to breathe. I callously shun them. They howl! I put the cover on the machine and snap it down decisively. I shove all of the material into boxes and stack them. They whimper. The guilt is onerous.

 

 

Feb Cabin audio setup light Keys Wing Penny QuoteThe saddest, most hurt of all are these poor, neglected things. They do not cry out. They do not make a sordid scene every time I get near. The microphone had such lofty hopes of being part of a 10 hour narration; she stands there stoically, waiting. The keyboard believes I left them because previously pecked out efforts have not sold well, no return on investment. I’d love to tell those sweet keys that this is not so. I have extensive plans! I know I’ll never get rich with writing, that’s not the point. I have written out of a strong desire to let the stories fly and be free in the skies of this wide and wondrous world, letting the words dance on the clouds! Delays now are unrelated, not their faults. But I don’t say anything. They can’t see that recording will take acoustic material application, that the old computer equipment had no reason to take up so much space. No area was safe from my furious junk attack.

I simply have too much work to do right now! This weekend STARTS cleaning…I know it won’t be easy either. Then fumigating to rid us of the Brown Recluses (I weep for the collateral damage to my beloved Wolf spider friends). Then repairs. Then creating more organized and efficient storage and work spaces. This takes faith, I tell you.

Me worriedDownload 090915 081Bird in basket

The Most Marvellous Bread!

Bread 003Bread 004I have brought many loaves into the world over the years: German Rye, Swedish Rye, French Baguette, Challah, Sally Lunn, Farmhouse, Wheat, lots of different kinds. Now I have finally hit upon the most fabulous, I love it, oh boy bread ever.

The recipe is based loosely on Challah, with substitutions and additions.

Flint Springs Loaded Egg Bread

2/3 cup warm waterblog june 068

3 T sorghum molasses (I just drizzle some in)

3 T Butterblog june 052

A little salt

3 eggs

1C plain flour

1C whole wheat flour

1C multigrain flour

handful of nuts (I love walnuts)blog june 070

Note: the bread machine breaks up the nuts during processing. If kneading by hand, decide how big you want the nut bits.

handful of dried fruit (cranberries, blueberries, raisins, currants)

a little cranberry, cherry or such juice as needed for kneading

2-1/2 t yeast (I buy bulk yeast and keep it in the freezer)

3 T dough conditioner

3 T vital gluten (These last two ingredients help the whole wheat and multigrain behave)

blog june 062

This is a high riser! I let mine bake in the bread machine, but you could easily bake one big or two small loaves as you would any whole wheat recipe.

 

 

 

 

Resolution Update

For anyone curious about the outcome of my big places to record my reading a story as a test run last weekend, I did set all up and give it a try. I have so much clutter in my little home office that I don’t Feb Cabin audio setup lighthave the optimum noise abatement, unless stacks of old college papers and piles of paper detritus collected over the years are acoustic help. That makes me perch my laptop and microphone on the edge of the spacious but largely inaccessible desk. Lucky for me, the cabin in the woods has no traffic noise, no noisy neighbors, no sirens.

All I have to beware is Ma with her radio. I have to wait for her to go out on the porch or fall asleep so I can have the noise turned off. Last weekend she wasn’t feeling well, so she slept lots (no, I was not happy she was sick!). Now that’s she’s feeling better and this weekend will be warm and sunny, I can probably get more recording practice in. I shall make her lounging on the porch as comfortable as possible!

I must not forget Barky, Feb Cabin mutated barkyeither. Mostly she barks at night but if a strange person or animal gets near it sets her off. Once she gets started, Fudge joins in. If it’s a distant hound, they’ll bay back and forth and give me the urge to take a coffee break. I do not holler at my watchdogs for barking!

Okay, what happened: I got the Sony  Sound Forge program registered and working and did the tutorials that don’t require internet as the cabin is off-line. I plugged in my Blue-brand Snowball microphone. I recorded reading the first half of Otto and Socks in Outpost 1 and had some inevitable mistakes. I was pleasantly surprised her hear my reading sounded like a real narrator, to me at least.

That’s where I got in trouble. I thought I could make a new file, snip the correction and paste it in the original. Not so easy. I finally got so tired of trying to edit the first file, I started over. The second try went better, and when I made a goof I stopped, backed up Outpost Snipand started from that point. That seemed to come out better. I was marginally encouraged, so I went on to read part 2. The entire sound file is just over an hour. It is in a ‘wav’ file and I didn’t know what to do with it. Obviously I needed more education in production, so I accessed the ACX Audiobook site help from my work computer (over lunch, of course); they have lots of info on making a sound file good enough to be an audiobook. This weekend I’m going to apply some of what I learned there and see how that turns out.

One thing I discovered when I tried to listen to my file is that the volume is way too low, and that is covered in the ACX Audio Scientist files. Thus, no samples this week, no voting. I have purchased a Feb Cabin audio setup darkgood pair of headphones and now know how to test for acceptable background noise. One really annoying thing was having to use the on-screen audio controls at the same time I had to scroll through the text of my story…cumbersome and the source of most of my needed corrections. I have printed out my stories now, so that is solved. I have hope! Wish me luck!