Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Depth of Summer

This has got to be my favorite time of year. The kids and I take off here and there for trips to swimming holes..or hiking trails on the BRP...or on mini-odysseys to visit old and far-flung friends, where we drink copious amounts of wine (that is me and the "old friends" drinking the wine...we don't share it with the kids..), make great pots of pesto pasta and olive bread and talk of days past and yet to come.

The garden runs amok, rife with oversized volunteer pumpkins, surprise tomatoes and whole colonies of harlequin bugs and those cursed Mexican bean beetles that I pad out gleefully in my bare feet to slaughter each evening with nothing but a flat rock and a large-ish piece of mulch or my bare hands.

At this point, I have lost all pretense of hoping for order. The garden is its own being. The once-bare spot where the potatoes where dug up now hosts a weird quilt of bastard onions, tomatilloes, nasturiums, hopi tobacco and herb plants that I thought would die, and thus put out to pasture in this bleak outpost. Somehow, thanks to the August sun and other unknowable blessings, they now are thriving, dark green and musky in the intense sunlight.

I walk out each day at the hottest point, when the kids are fading in the house, plugged into a video or sucking on a popsicle in the shade, and I inhale this fetid chaos...and I smile. This, my friend, is Life.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Ginger Bug

A couple of bottles of our ginger ale. I love having a worthy purpose for old bottles!

I never thought I'd ever get this excited about a non-alcoholic drink. But guess what folks? I have just made ginger ale!! (or ginger beer, as the recipe I used calls it)

And I'm just going to go on and say it: It's amazing.

It's dry and spicy and zingy. It is reminiscent of that lovely Reed's stuff you spend a fortune on at EarthFare. It was so fizzy that when we Birch and I opened the first bottle this morning it fizzed out like champagne! Very exciting!

I used the recipe from one of my kitchen bibles as follows:

3 inches or more of fresh grated ginger root

2 cups sugar

2 lemons



Make a ginger bug to start the fermentation: Add 2 tsp grated ginger (skin and all) and 2 tsp sugar to 1 cup of water. Stir well and leave in a warm spot covered with a cloth to allow air circulation. Add same amount of ginger and sugar every day or two and stir until the bug starts to bubble (2 days - 1 week

Make the ginger beer anytime after the bug becomes active. Boil 2 quarts water. Add 2-6 inches of grated ginger root (depending on how spicy/gingery you want your drink to be!) and 1-1/2 cups sugar. Boil the mixture for about 15 minutes. Cool.

Strain out ginger and add juice of the lemons and the strained ginger bug. (If you want, you can keep a bit of the ginger bug to jumpstart future batches. Simply replenish with water ginger and sugar.) Add enough water to make 1 gallon.

Bottle in resealable bottles. Bail-top beer bottles or soda bottles work well. Leave bottles to ferment in a warm spot for about 2 weeks.

Chill before opening. Remember -- when you open your bottles, have a glass handy for the champagne-like fizz!

So that's it. So easy! And yummy. And seriously...who doesn't love the sound of the words "ginger bug"?

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

The Mad Kitchen Scientist

That's a lot of funky cherries! Notice the brown slush in the bottom of the box. But even such nastiness will not deter the diehard fermenter. Hey...all those cherries on top are Perfectly Good.

I am totally obsessed with fermentation. At a party at the house of some friends a little more than a year ago, I picked up the book "Wild Fermentation: The Flavor, Nutrition, and Craft of Live-Culture Food" by Sandor Ellix Katz. Check him out here. I haven't looked back since.

Using this book and various resources on the internet, as well as the book "Nourishing Traditions" by Sally Fallon , I have made my own kimchi, sauerkraut, tempeh, carrot-ginger pickles, goat cheese, vinegar, hard cider and ginger ale. The ginger ale is still brewing, but all the other things have been shockingly successful. Well...except for that one terrifying batch of vinegar. But that's for another post.

I have a clandestine source (as in, if I tell you I'll have to kill you) of mass quantities of random organic produce and fruits. It's not a regular supply, so I have to be prepared when a windfall arrives to start fermenting.

Last night on the summer solstice, soon after I had gotten the little one down to sleep, I was just getting ready to do some reading or crochet, when I received a sudden windfall of past-their-prime organic cherries at my door step. About 25 lbs of them! It wasn't pretty folks. These cherries needed to be dealt with immediately!

I dropped my plans for a peaceful evening and immediately went to work sorting, cleaning and then mashing them up for a nice solstice wine. Well, I hope it's nice anyway. I think part of the fun of fermentation is that it's always a gamble of sorts.

Cherries all mashed up and ready to become solstice wine. Too bad it will be almost a year before it's ready to drink.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Update on LIfe in the Twilight Zone

On Monday my car caught on fire. And yes, I was driving it at the time.

Apparently there was this little piece of metal on the back of the battery that came disconnected. Really small thing. BUT it was the only thing keeping the stupid battery from turning itself into a fireball. There had been mysterious electrical problems for months -- mostly, I noticed, after driving on my friend's bumpy dirt driveway. Then suddenly Monday, Birch and I are tooling along Tunnel Road when -- SPARKS! SMOKE! HOLY CRAP -- FLAMES!!!! All shooting out from under the hood.

The engine died. Then it restarted. Then it died again. We were in the middle of the intersection trying to turn onto Riceville Road to get to my friend's house -- she of the Bumpy Driveway -- to pick up my daughter. A man in an electrician's truck shouts "Your car's on fire!" and I totally respond with this only-slightly-less-rude "No shit, dude!" sort of answer (which I later regretted). I got the engine to start again and pulled off the road into the parking lot of a Rite-Aid. Then we jump out of the flaming chariot, I pop the hood and Electrician Guy jumps out of his truck and -- I'm not making this up -- beats out the fire with a rag.

Seriously. Birch and I were ready to run and hide behind the nearest dumpster, and this total stranger jumps in and puts the fire out for me. Wow. He also disconnected the battery for us. How decent is that? Then he made sure we had AAA or something and drove off into the sunset.

The day just got weirder. We ended up spending a few hours in that parking lot after one dead cell phone; a couple of big, fat, time-consuming mix ups with AAA; a siren-blaring visit from the very-adorable guys of Fire Station #8, and finally the arrival of A.) My friend of the Bumpy Driveway and the Helpful Toddler Brigade (i.e. my daughter and her son), and B.) a super-helpful tow truck driver who actually just went on and replaced the battery for me right then and there.

Turns out that if Electrician Guy had not jumped in there and put the fire out when he did, either the engine would have been ruined OR the entire car would have just burned to the ground. So...THANK YOU Electrician Guy!!! I have no idea what your name is or even the name of the company you work for, but THANK YOU from the bottom of my heart!

Oh...did I mention that that same afternoon the wheel almost fell off my husband's truck? He almost didn't make it home. 3 out of the 5 lug nuts on one of his wheels were just GONE. Just like that. It was really strange.

So the next day, I call AAA again to get the truck towed to the shop. They LOVED that. And guess what? They sent out the SAME tow truck driver. When he called me to verify that he was coming, he asked "You're not having battery trouble again, are you ma'am?"

Thursday, January 6, 2011

This Year

According to my friend's sun sign horoscope book, this year (as in the 42nd year of my life) is supposed to be a crux. This is, in many ways, supposed to be the single most important year of my life, as far as learning and evolving. about big expectations.

But it does feel big to me. I can't say why really. I've liked the number 42 ever since I was in college and my friend and I painted that number (along with a lot of really bad artwork) onto the side of her little gray Honda because it is The Answer to The Question in the "Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy."

You know...The Question. As in, "what is the meaning of life?"

Anyway, I can't say how this is going to be such a big year...I can't see any tangible evidence of the possiblity of significant growth...or anything else, really. However, we do have some interesting plans in the works:

Inspired by a random blog (which I can't remember the name of now, or I would post the link) detailing the interesting benefits of living with only the light of the sun and candles, our family is going to try 3 days of no artificial lights. None whatsoever. Not even the refrigerator light! If all goes well, we will extend that experiment in the more light-rich summer months.

Even though I'm still nursing (only a little, but still...) Scott and I are going to do a gentle -- as in For Whimps and Nursing Mothers Only -- cleanse and juice fast together over a weekend. I know I can't go hardcore with it (which I actually enjoy -- I'm a sicko, I know) but I am looking forward to it as a boost to my physical health, which feels like it has been steadily sliding downhill since I got pregnant with V three years ago.

We are joining the Y, man. Yep. YMCA. I've avoided it for years because I thought I'd never use the membership (which isn't cheap). And we really can't afford it. Okay. No. I mean we REALLY can't afford it. BUT I finally realized this: The Y has free childcare. And a sauna. And a heated swimming pool. Enough said.

This is so sexy, I know...I am totally taking a crochet class at the community college. I know it's that thing that grandmas do and it's something that people can apparently teach themselves just from being near other people that crochet, but I am severely Yarn Impaired and I just can't seem to pick it up. So I am taking a class. And I am STOKED! I mean, seriously, I am psyched like I just won a trip to Hawaii or something. I, right?

Happy New Year!

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Making Maeve

This is Maeve. She is the Waldorf "heavy doll" I made for Veda's Christmas gift. Making this "simple" doll was waaayyy more complicated than I had anticipated, but it was very rewarding and enjoyable as well.

I made her from raw sheep's wool that I cleaned and carded, pieces of cotton fabric from an old t-shirt and wool yarn. The hair was very labor-intensive! I wound wool yarn around a rectangular piece of cardboard, taped the sides with painters tape to hold it in place, cut the loops on the sides and stitched down the middle. Then I had to hand-sew each strip onto her head. It took forever!

Her head is a ton of tightly packed wool. Her body contains wool and some lentils to give her weight. I made the clothes from an old t-shirt. I also made her a little wool hat from an old sweater and a backpack so Veda can carry her around like a baby.

Most of the instructions I found in this book, but I had to look up how to make the hair online. I also added the lentils myself because I wanted her to have weight.

Homemade Holidays

Completely amazing dollhouse made by my father.

My big, fat Christmas dinner - kickin' it old school.

Snow People on Christmas!

The tree with gifts

Our Winter Solstice altar
This year, for the first time in a decade, I stayed home for Christmas.

Usually we drive either to Florida or Indiana (and trust me, NOBODY should be driving to Northern Indiana in December!) to visit family. But stress and craziness of all the traveling always leaves me feeling utterly wiped out - mentally and physically. So this year we opted to have a quiet holiday.
We celebrated the winter solstice with a fine meal, gifts and candle lighting, as we always do. Then my son left to go to Florida with his father, which made me sad. But I decided that Veda, Scott and I would do our best to enjoy Christmas this year, even with one of our flock missing.
And was truly wonderful! We awoke on Christmas morning to fresh snow...and it continued snowing all day. I cooked a big, traditional dinner...just took my time since nobody cared when we ate. We build a Snow Daddy and Snow Baby. We went sledding. We sat around and did absolutely nothing. Heaven!
We gave simple gifts...almost all handmade. Scott made me a beautiful pasta drying rack from oak. I made Veda a Waldorf doll I had sewn. She also received a doll house that my father made by hand from pieces of the old oak tree from my parents' backyard.