Cockleburs and Goldenrods!

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Maybe I’m perverse, but I think the cocklebur plant is a work of wonder and the thistle in bloom is a fresh beauty. Clever of these guys to develop those stickers. The cockleburs are most impressive hitchhikers…just a brush and the little thing has ride. Look at the gnarly plant with clusters of burr-bombs all over it!

The thistles can grow over six feet tall around here. I know because a couple years ago I had a solid wall of them in front of the garage door I never open. The deep green spine-covered leaves set the blazing flower off well. I dense grouping of then in bloom is a real sight to see. I would have a picture of that array except I needed to get an appraisal for a refinance. I thought the appraiser would not appreciate the natural encroachment and would ask about whether the garage door even worked (it doesn’t), so with heavy heart I chopped them. As a consolation, they were spent by then anyway. I guarantee they are in no way endangered around here!

Our state flower is the goldenrod, and I have a widespread distribution of them I know there are a hundred subspecies of them anDownload 090915 035d confess that I don’t remember which these are, or even if there are several different ones. All I do know is they are a sure sign the autumn is on the way. They seem a bit more scraggly that in years before. Maybe the effect of another record hot summer?

Volunteer tulip treeAnd just because I didn’t want to leave his poor little fella out, here’s a tiny tulip tree. A doomed tulip tree cannot be left here next to the strawberries, tis not a good place for it. Yes, I will attempt a transplant. How can I not?

The Last Batches

Nose flattened on the old grindstone, I got all my beverages bottled last weekend! Hooray! That’s three of the six-gallon merlot wine batches, a six-gallon Old Ale and a six-gallon Yorkshire Bitter. That came to 34 fruit juice bottles of the wine and 44 bottles of the ales. For the uninitiated, scrounging, cleaning and sanitizing all of those bottles is more work than making the stuff.Beer 001

That’s all for this year; in fact this is the latest in the year I’ve put any up. Cleaning and stowing all of the fermentation buckets, the bottling buckets, the airlocks and stacking the final finished good really drove the end of summer theme into my brain.

Fermentation does not need to end, though, as I am a fermentin’ fool. In the past, I bought plain yoghurt from the grocery as a starter. Those batches turned out okay even if a little soupy. I remember making a slobber-good coffeecake with some of that, but it wasn’t too toothsome for straight eating. This time I bought a dried starter from Adventures in Homebrewing and some unflavored gelatin for a more robust ferment and for help with thickening. It’s on the calendar for next weekend!

The Sewing Marathon!

 

I threaded up early and kept on until almost midnight Monday night. Take a gander at what I sewed up:

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This is all from one three-day weekend, in between making a devil’s food cake with fudge icing, a double rice pudding, routine meals and clean-up, laundry, yard work and enjoying music and movies. This was not ‘trying to see how much I could do’, it was rather, ‘let’s get this backlog of sewing out of the away’! Some backlog remains, but this weekend it dedicated to my book – it does not write and promote its own self.

 

071415 067Although there is one really lovely tropic print that yanks my attention every time I waltz by to the kitchen. It calls out, “Just some thread, a little elastic! Stitch me up! I’ll be fantastic!”

 

Making Wine Is Healthy?

Labor Day signals the waning of summer. It sends a strong signal to me that I’d better get all my fermentation done. Fermentation does best, especially for the ale, in a warm house. I am really frugal with using heat that costs me so summer ’tis the season. Therefore today there is a batch of old ale, a batch of Yorkshire bitter and three batches of red wine in fermentation.Cabin June 2015 087

I think I have the hundred bottles I need for the ales, unless some are uncappable. Better find some spares. Okay for the ales. What about the wine?

There are enough bale-top Italian wine bottles for one six-gallon batch, maybe. There are enough plastic fruit juice bottles (think Cabin June 2015 074cranberry juice) for one batch and part of the third one. Time to drink up that healthy fruity juice, at least four half-gallon bottles of it, by next weekend!

You Need A Dowser!

I mentioned my water quality and well recently. This is a true story. When I moved from sunny California back to Kentucky to Cabin June 2015 036build the cabin so many years ago, I needed a well – the place was all trees and county water didn’t run there. A fellow came out from Princeton (Kentucky) and asked where I wanted it. As someone immersed in a very technical field for the previous 16 years, I expected he would survey and probe or whatever, use geological survey maps and check the characteristics of neighboring wells and thus tell me where to site it. Very seriously, he explained the hollers and benches in the geology make the aquifer fold around and features could easily vary every few yards. A friend lightly commented that with all of the springs and creeks about, we should be able to stick a pipe anywhere and get water. The driller gave him the eye and said he could drill us 10 holes, all dry and we would pay for every one because he cases (uses pipe) as he drills – you need a dowser.
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It so happened, the driller said his son was a dowser and he could show one of us what his son did.  Always adventurous, I said would try so he taught me how his son did it. We cut a cherry stick and and I practiced holding it level, loose and springy. He direct me to start pacing across the property with the intent to site a good well. The exhileration I felt when that stick decisively pointed down is unmatched to date. He said that indicated one line, now I had to walk from a quarter turn out to see where the lines intersected. I calmed myslef down and did it, finding the intersection.
All the while, my mind was trying to figure how that stick in my hands Cabin June 2015 011could be so sensitive to the water. Magnetic? EMF? That’s when the driller confounded me. He said to think about where we would hit water, one pace away would equal 10 feet deep. Okie-dokie, sounds hokey. I got an indication 3 paces (30 feet) away, but he said that was surface water, to keep going. By then I couldn’t stop, I had to have the map. I had a so-so indication at 50 feet, a good one at 80 feet and a trickle at 100.  On I trod: white sand at 140 feet, an excellent dip indicating a generous flow.
He scheduled us in. He drilled and hit each spot predicted. At 100 feet we had enough water for just us, but the driller had mentioned the white sand aquifer had pristine water – I wanted it. We hit a grand gush at 140 feet, the beautiful silvery-white sand. I have the best water ever, never treated, I could bottle it, 20 years and still going strong – aside from the occasional chunk of mud.

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.

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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.

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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

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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.

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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.