Sweet Fern

There’s a shady spot behind the cabin garage where rain drips off of the gutterless roof. After about 15 years of mowing the Cabin June 2015 012area occasionally, I decided to try ferns. I collected three different kinds from around my woodland. Insufficient.

TN Online Plant Nursery is a place that sells to the big stores that have nursery departments, like Lowes or Home Depot. I got their fern variety package that included a lace fern, a deer and an ostrich fern that’s supposed to get several feet tall. I also bought a few sets of five native wildflowers to put with them.TN Plant Nursert Logo

They were all doing pretty good until one Saturday I went around to check on them and the dogs had ripped a path through them and the cats had started treating the bricked enclosure as a fancy litterbox. I blocked off the ends to impede transit and replanted the uprooted plants. Then we had a hard winter with late freezes.

Cabin June 2015 041

Here is the best corner at the end of summer with the majority of what I have left after one full year. The hearty will survive! Now that I have it properly protected, I could always make another order…

Clear Equals Beer!

The water directly from the well is clear as of Monday morning. I haven’t had it tested or anything to verify it, but clear has been very good in the past. Having it clear up reinforces my belief that a mud chunk landed in there after the inundation of rain we had a couple months ago.

blog june 053The great thing is that I prefer to use the cold straight from the well to brew! I heat a few gallons in a stock pot to melt the malt and mix the wort. Instead of needing to chill theblog june 045 wort before pitching the yeast, the well water comes from deep underground and is plenty cold to get the fermenting bucket to the right temperature. Packed water is just not the same

Gosh, I want to get started right now, phooey. I used to be able to come home after work and get all kinds of things done. I’m not willing to invest in a three hour round trip tonight. So, Friday night the Munton’s Porter and probably the Munton’s Bitter will become my first straight-from-the-well ferments of the year…oh boy!

It’s the Thought That Counts?

 

blog june 064I’ve been hobbled with my brewing this year because of my muddy water, the tan tinge that makes me cringe. I had two buckets of ale in fermentation that needed bottling. For each batch, I figured I could boil the bulk of muddy water I needed for rinsing and soaking 50 some odd beer bottles, follow with a chlorinated rinse, and end with a rinse of the precious packed water. All was accomplished in the fullness of time. Then I had to fix supper.

So here I am on a steaming Sunday night, stubbornly committed to bottling at least one batch. Discovering I only have a dab of corn sugar in the entire house caused consternation. You put some of the powdered corn sugar into the wort (raw beer) just before you bottle it so it can ferment just enough in the bottle to make the foamy head all ale lovers adore. I could have split the amount, but decided I couldn’t bottle the Bock this week anyway. Oh Bock, poor Bock.

 

Beer 005After duly sanitizing the bottling bucket that same way I did the bottles, in went the corn sugar, stirred in hot bottled water to dissolve. Heave the full fermented bucket up and pour the wort into the bottling bucket, leaving the dead yeast sludge. As midnight came and went, I filled each bottle under the little red spigot, tipping the bucket to get the last little bit.

Beer 007

I have a Red Robin Capper – it sits on top of the bottle on which one has laid a new cap. Pull the handles down and it crimps the cap to the curvy lip of the bottle. Except for the eleven bottles with top curvy lips too thin for old Red to properly grasp. I vacillated between anger and despair. These were the bottles a friend donated from his Beers of the World party. They are not twist-offs, I know better then that. I could not see the difference in advance, but Red could.

I scrounged more bottles, went through the sanitizing rigmarole and finished nigh on 2 AM. I sure hope this batch turns out okay.

Raspberry Disarray

blog june 041

Over the last couple years, I have purchased several red raspberry plants from Stark Bros, an outfit I have been happy with for many years. My continued complete lack of raspberries to pile in a bowl in the kitchen is not their fault. I got not one raspberry this year. Sure, I saw quite a few clusters ripening, I just didn’t get to them first.

I got a book that showed how to string the lines between posts for them to grow across. I read how to fertilize and spray them for insects. I perused sellers of bird netting. I know what I should have done. Naturally, I did little of it.blog june 033

The raspberries mainly survived and are bushy with vines winding through the peach and apple trees. They had a spurt of tiny berries the birds found appetizing. If I can get my act together, in a few weeks I’ll review the pages on pruning and pick up my end of the bargain I made when I brought these hapless plants into my yard. Maybe, depending on the great mess of other stuff I gotta take care of. Looks like I bit off more than I could chew, but the lure of juicy raspberries to stain my teeth remains strong. I can almost taste them, a reminder of care not taken. A slurp of coffee will wash that sorry taste of neglect away so I can go grab a pair of gloves and at least get the major weeds outta there. I really will, in a minute…

My New (Zombie) Heartnut Trees

 

I purchased a couple Heartnut trees from Stark Bros in April and planted them bare roots, right away. I used big fiber pots and made sure they got ample water and sun. I wrote back to the company several weeks ago and asked why they had not leafed out. All they did was sprout a sucker from the grafted base. No reply.

Nuts Tag

I wrote a complaint about the silence, saying I’d sent pictures and the receipt, what more would they want. The Customer Service lady wrote back in apology. She said the Stark server crashed and all the messages recently received were gone. I believe her. Better, she recommended I prune the top third of each tree off to wake the sleepy trees up. Clipper in hand, lop and lop.

Alas, here it is August with no improvement. The suckers from below the graft are alive, but not the grafted part I needed. So they are dead, but partly alive. Zombies! Don’t get too close! Time to complain again!

Oh, in the top picture it may appear the sticks have foliage. That’s raspberries ambling around them.

Resistance Was Futile So I Skipped It

Blog Flour 1

I’ve had great River Whole Wheat Bread Flour and a Great River mixed grains flour on my wish list at Amazon for the better part of a year. Just think, whole wheat bread flour! Only making one loaf a week, my brain said another 50 pounds of flour for the bugs to get into was not justified. More barrels like I use now would take up way too much space. Sensible, but no fun.

 Two things tipped the balance. I hit the bottom of the barrel when scooping my current whole wheat flour AND a good-sized, compact, stackable and sealable food grade storage container went on sale half price. All my qualms were taken care of! (Hush about my compulsion to buy 50 lbs flour to make one loaf a week.)

blog june 066So, here I am at the cabin with my two grand sacks of flour and I will not open them. Duh? I left the nifty storage containers in town, a nearly three hour round trip to go fetch. That will teach me not to be in such a blasted rush to pack up and head to the cabin on Friday evenings. As if a lesson like that would diminish the siren call of home come Friday. Next week to get started on it will be soon enough.

Front Porch Light

Please do not flip the front porch light switch. The light will not come on. What happens is the breaker trips, and the freezer is on that circuit.

I could tape over the light switch. That would be the epitome of lazyness, as the cause of the short needs to be addressed. The cause screeches.

blog june 079I’m pretty sure the creature that lives over the front door is the cause. It is not a mouse or a bird. It drops black pellets and screeches, and sometime chitters away merrily. I have not seen it

Bat? There are many of them around and I love the little guys. We have almost no mosquitoes in the damp place and I thank them.

Rat? Don’t know. I’d rather it be a bat any day.

Meanwhile, I put a bunch of solar path lights around the porch. And I sweep away the droppings…unsightly right in front of the door.

A Lament for Hopped Malt

I started a flirtation with fermentation as soon as my kitchen in the cabin became operational. I was, however, confined to yogurt (success), cheese (not worth the effort) and bread. When my alcoholic husband left, I felt free to try ale and mead.

I’ll save mead for another time (it’s better with age) and count off the merits of hopped malt.

Number One Merit: Quick and Easy

Clean equipment and sanitize it.

blog june 053Add one can of hopped malt to a 6 gallon sealable bucket.

Add about as much plain malt, liquid or dry.

Get a couple gallons of water very hot and add, stirring to disolve it all.

Top up to about 5 gallons with fresh, clear well water.

Stir in yeast.

Put the lid on the bucket. The lid needs a hole to plug in a bubbler vent to let the fermentation gases out in a sanitary manner.

Leave it to next week.

Pour it into a bucket with a spigot at the bottom, adding a little corn sugar for carbonation.

Bottle and cap.

Merit Two: It comes out consistently darned good!

Don’t drink too much at one time.

Notice no boiling, no array of esoteric ingredients, faster, fewer steps to mess up, no need for specialized tools.

Anybody says this is not brewing, I refute the notion with emotion. I say I don’t grind the flour but I still claim to make my own bread. I don’t milk the cow but I still make my own yogurt.

So now that I’ve gone on about how easy and generally great it is, why don’t we all go get some! Too bad, my usual supplier says the main manufacturers aren’t making this stuff anymore. It’s hard to find now, woe upon me. I did get an unsolicited email from a supplier I’d never heard of and they show they have most of what I had been getting for years. I’ll give them and try and hope I don’t receive cans close to expiring.

In Defense of the Bread Machine

A few years ago, central Kentucky experienced an extended drought. Before it ended, my 160 foot well got really low. I scrimped on water, packing water from work for bathing and flushing to get me past the crisis. I must live in town during the week. My dear brother ran the water freely while I was away and killed the well.

Note, he denies this. I had the well drilled to the silver sand, the best according to the driller. I found sand in the shower, in the sinks and a 3/4 inch layer of sand in the tank of the commode when I arrived that Friday night to no water at all. When I drained the water heaters, silver sand poured out. I found the breaker for the well on although I had left it off the previous Monday morning. Need I continue?

I give this preamble to explain why for many months I packed water and scrubbed clothes in the cabin kitchen sink. Hand washing, wringing, rinsing and wringing jeans has a Zen all its own. I finally got the well put back in order and am using the automatic washer once more, happily.blog june 080

Kneading dough on a floury table is a time consuming chore if you depend on doing it blog june 068every week, regardless of how you feel. I equate the activity with wash, wring, rinse, wring blue jeans every week. Neither turns out as good as the mechanically-assisted version would have. I much preferring having mechanical help with both needed functions.

Have I not heard of Laundromats? I prefer to spend my free time at the cabin, not sitting for hours in a $10 a week weirdo hangout. I don’t buy bread either.

Does It Hold Water?

blog june 017

Today I really ought to start a batch of porter. Hot near-summer days with no air conditioning are great for fermentation. I have my fermentation buckets clean and sanitized. All of the ingredients are at hand, rarin’ to go. I can almost taste the deep brown brew.

My well water is muddy green. It flowed crystal clear, better than anything from a plastic bottle, only a month ago. Then we had two bam-bam deluge rainstorms that flooded fields around for miles. My well head is situated high above that, however some of that fast flowing water washed into the well anyway.
blog june 065
The well is only cased (PVC pipe) 40 feet down, the other 120 feet is just drilled. My theory is that that the saturated groundwater may have caused the drilled walls to erode inward at some level. I know the whole well did not collapse because I can still pull plenty of water from the submersible pump that remains at about 150 feet down.

After the first flood I ran copious amounts of the muddy water out to flush the well. It began clearing. The second storm flooded quickly with the ground so saturated. I tried flushing again, getting much more mud out. Now the water is a little muddy with a green tint.

I know how to use bleach to shock the well, killing the green, I simply hate resorting to that. Any other ideas? Does my cause theory hold water?