Monday, September 28, 2009

Wine, Knittin', and Wrong (Only because that one was easier to come up with something than Shoes, Ships, and Sealing Wax, Cabbages and Kings)

The elderberry wine is happily bubbling away in its carboy. When a sufficiency of sediment has settled out, we'll re-rack it, then re-rack again if more sediment presents. Then into bottles it will go, corking will commence, and the wine will be laid down to age. Sometime around this time next year, we'll be tasting it. Then, and only then, will we know if we screwed it up or if we produced a wonder.

The ugly pillowcase that was sacrificed is now a new and terribly interesting color. It's still ugly, but it's now a prettier ugly.

Madman decided to re-pitch yeast in the mead and add some honey. (His avocation is beermaking, so I defer to him in all things brew-y. We are both masters of yeast - I bake, he brews, and life is eternally good.)
(Just as an aside, we hauled out the mead carboy at around 9am yesterday. After looking, and smelling, we decided to taste. He siphoned out a good sample, we tasted and tasted. "Hmmm... Not bad..." "Much better than the last time we tasted it." "Is there alcohol left in here, ya think?" "I think there is! Here, have another taste." Is it decadent to be sampling mead at 9oclock of a Sunday morning?)

I ripped out the failed swatch, shifted down a needle size, and cast on again, with one less repeat of the pattern stitch. I've got this much done. Help me now pretend I don't see a rather large mistake on the left side...

I said, we're ignoring that...
So, if for every repeat of a diamond, I have to rip back half a diamond, how many repeats will I have to knit before
a) I finish the scarf, or
b) I commit hara-kiri with a set of size 00 dpns.


Sunday, September 27, 2009

Sundays are for Busy

It's a typical fall day in Vermont - cold and rainy, wet and miserable.
So Madman and I played indoors instead of outside.
Today was the day for straining off the gooshy fruit from the elderberry wine.
We sacrificed an ugly pillowcase to the cause.
We used it to line another 5gallon bucket, dumped in the elderberry goosh, and tied it up.

Then we hung it high:
It took a little adjusting to get the string length just right. Too long, and the bag dipped into the surface of the wine. Too short, and the corners of the pillowcase stuck out and dripped on the outside of the bucket. (Note to self: next time sew the corners to box up the bottom of the pillowcase. No corners = no problem.)
It was fun for the next few hours, listening to the dripping. At times it was playing a merry little tune that made us both smile.
We dragged out a glass carboy that held a long neglected batch of Apple Ginger Honey Mead that I had made a zillion or so years ago, that we thought had failed. We figured we'd dump it so we could use the carboy for our new efforts.

But it looks good... And it smells good (not so listerine-y as it did when it was younger.) As an experiment, Madman put a fresh airlock on it and actually got a bubble.
Scratch the plan to dump it. We might re-pitch yeast, add a little more honey, and give it another shot. Or, if the jostling around re-activated what yeast was in there, we might just go ahead and bottle it...
We used our only remaining carboy to rack the elderberry when the dripping stopped.

But soon, we'll be needing something to put this in:

It's a combination of blackberries and our own concord grapes. It smells divine. Madman's turning into quite the winemaker.

In between all that alcoholic goodness, I used up some apples to make a nice apple gallette:
And there's currently a loaf of bread baking. I think we have the best-smelling kitchen in Vermont today.

And in knitting news,
There actually is knitting news. (Hey, look! I remembered how!) I finished this hat. Just have to tuck in the ends and block it, then it goes in the For-Christmas-Gifts pile.
And I have a lovely failed swatch. Wicked Good Stepmother wants a scarf made from the gray and black alpaca. I found a stitch pattern I loved in Barbara Walker's The Craft of Multi-Color Knitting and cast on.
Too wide. And too loose. So I'm going to eliminate a repeat, and go down a needle size. I love ripping out failed swatches. Truly I do...

Monday, September 21, 2009

The Big Toast

Last night was the second hard frost in a row. Things that had survived the first night, didn't survive the second one.
The squash is toast. Madman was pulling vines when I got home from work. Here's the heap:Hello, compost...

We'd picked some of the squash earlier. Here are some of the delicatas we grew, and a butternut, just for fun. We loved the delicata we grew last year so much, that we planted lots of them this year, from seed we'd saved. These delicatas grew true-to-type:

But a funny thing had happened to our squash seed. These squash are apparently a cross between delicata and acorn. The shape is acorn, but those are unmistakable delicata markings. (The delicata-coloring gene is apparently a force to be reckoned with.)

And things got weirder yet. This is the big haul - all the squash from the deceased vines.

In the foreground, you can see even more of the acorn/delicatas, with a few delicata mixed in. At center left is a Jarrahdale (the blue-green thing) - the only one we got. Immediately behind the Jarrahdale are some buttercups (dark green) and some butternuts. So far, so good. But the very back couple of rows is apparently a cross between delicata and pumpkin. We didn't grow any pumpkins last year, so that cross means pollen-on-the-wind, or far-ranging bees. They've got the delicata markings, but definitely are pumpkin shaped and sized.
I sure hope they taste good, because we've got a lot of them.
Though with enough butter and brown sugar, even sawdust would taste good...

Sunday, September 20, 2009

In the Land of Purple Fingers...

Madman got a line on some free elderberries. A woman we know, mother of a friend, said she had tons of them, and he was welcome to come pick as much as he wanted. (Her late husband had cultivated them. Word is, he would make wine out of anything. Literally anything. The results were generally excellent, though there was once an unfortunate experiment with tomatoes...)
Madman joyfully went over this morning and picked elderberries. And picked. And picked.
He came home with three grocery bags full. Woohoo!In an effort to avoid those previously mentioned purple fingers, we used forks to strip the berries from the stems.

We filled three 4-qt bowls. Three gallons of elderberries!! What bounty!

There were a few hitchhikers...

Several of those caterpillars turned up. And there was a Japanese beetle.

We mashed the berries. (The Japanese beetle was mashed separately.) Because what would be a better thing to make from elderberries than elderberry wine?

We used about half the berries to start a 4-gallon batch of wine. We won't be able to truly enjoy it until at least a year from now. Long range planning at its best.

I also made a batch of elderberry cough syrup for the coming winter. It smells so good, I can hardly wait to get sick...

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Damn these days off...

Seems like I work my butt off more on days off than on my job.

Seeded and cut up Principe Borghessi tomatoes, then put them in the dehydrator for "sun"-dried tomatoes. (These tomatoes are from plants that AnnaMarie gave us last spring, bless her!)
Processed a pile of roasted red peppers and put them in the freezer. (I tried canning these, years ago, but they came out really mushy, so I've been freezing them ever since. Unfortunately, the freezer is now full, and we've still got corn to go...)
Baked a loaf of bread.
Made wraps for sandwiches for the week. (The recipe makes 8. I lose interest in the project around number 6. The last two are a sore trial to my patience.)
Cut up and started cooking down the last batch of tomatoes for the year.
Made a great big kettle of Leek and Potato Soup for a potluck we attended tonight. A vegan version, no less. If I'd been making it for me, it would have been all about bacon and cream and butter. There are leftovers, so I'll be decking it out for Madman and me. Lactose-intolerance be damned! I need cream...

And I need to sit down...

Sunday, September 13, 2009

I wish I'd thought to take pictures...

We had our first workshop for the Transition Caledonia group today - Madman gave a talk on non-hybrid gardening and seed-saving. It was a small, but interested group, with lots of lively discussion. Madman always shines when he's in instructional mode, especially when the subject matter is near and dear to his heart.
Of course, the high point for me was that AnnaMarie and Wes came down south for it. We got to show off our garden, our hoophouse, and our critters. They brought their little Corgis along, who acted like perfect little ladies for the entire visit.
Now, I had not known that Corgis were sheepherding dogs until AnnaMarie told me. (And seriously? I thought she was joking... Those short little legs? Herding sheep? Yeah, right...) She directed me to some videos of Corgi show trials, and sure enough, they are sheepherders!
Though when we tried introducing them to our sheep, I think we would have had dogherding sheep if we had put the dogs in the pen...

Friday, September 11, 2009


The more I think about this, the more I'm behind it.
She has a Voice. She has an Eye.
And dudes, she's taking her knitting to Antarctica.
How cool is that?
She's a sock knitter. At the South freakin' Pole.
Imagine it.
Let's get the word out. Tell your family. Tell your friends. (Hell, tell your enemies...)

Knitting. At the South Pole.

Anyone know the Harlot?

Thursday, September 10, 2009

We need to send Bullwinkle to Antarctica

Go here for details. And beautiful pictures.
I love her. Besides the fantastic pictures, and great sense of humor, she uses even more parenthetical remarks than I do. (And that's a lot.) (Not that I'm counting.)

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Tomatoes' Last Hurrah

That's pretty much it for the tomatoes. Late Blight has done in the vines to the point that we had to pull the rest of the fruit. We've got a few that are still ripening, but I don't hold out much hope.
I've got a big kettleful of sauce bubbling on the stove at the moment. I'll get it canned tomorrow night. Between the rain, cold weather, cloudy skies, and blight, we got nowhere near the yield we normally get. We'll probably have to (*gasp*) buy tomato sauce this year, for the first time in more years than I can remember.
Next year will be better. (That's our Northern Gardeners' Motto. We have to keep believing it, or we'd give up altogether.)
We had a light frost last night- it singed the squash and the beans a little. Not a Big Killer Frost, but not welcome, either. The cucumber plants are now walking around with "The End is Near" signs.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Ply me to the moon... (sorry, sometimes I just can't help it.)

Okay, this video just changed my life...
Sarah Anderson's Navajo Plying. I don't even remember where I first got the link. I watched it, bookmarked it, and thought "Gotta give that a try next time I'm stuck with Navajo plying."
I've whinged many a time about chain-plying. I always feel like I'm about a hand-and-a-half short of being able to do it.
Tonight was the night. I had singles left over from the 3-ply alpaca I'm spinning. (As I always say, why, oh why, do the bobbins never come out even...) Loaded up the video, watched closely one more time, then gave it a shot.
I mirror-imaged her, since my right hand is my orifice hand. And holy crap! First time ever that I chain-plyed without extensive and vehement cursing! The twist was consistent. The little knobby loops disappeared.
One less thing to whinge about.
Life is good.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

I Just Wanna Ply

(Put your arms around me, baby. Put your arms around me, baby...)

Ready or not, here I come... As soon as I hit that "Publish" button, the wheel will start turning!

In the good news department: I got to meet the Extreme Gardener and her husband tonight.
Turns out they're literally our neighbors - only a couple of miles up the road. Madman and I gave them the grand tour of our little crazy acre. They scritched our sheep and smiled at the chickens, and we talked garden, garden, garden. We compared notes on plant varieties, swapped stories of gardens past, and shared plans of gardens yet to be. Incredibly nice people! Looking forward to seeing them again.