Yesterday we went out to my husband’s old landlords’ house to help with their cider pressing. I was getting over a cold and got tired fast going up and down the hill with buckets. My husband got stung twice and then we finally cut up the apples and helped press them. We brought home a gallon of apple cider. I still have apples from them, apples from a neighbor tree and a few other ones so I am hoping to make a pie or something soon. I also asked for an apple peeler-corer for my birthday. My Mom got one from me for Christmas and I helped her set it up and get used to it the other day. I didn’t want to stop using it because it was so fun!

This is a yummy looking recipe for apple upside down cake here.


Hawthorn Berries

While picking more blackberries to make wine yesterday I picked some Hawthorne berries for seasonal decor. I also found where the teens smoke pot. That’s actually not confirmed at all but it was funny that I was the old lady picking berries and scared them off.

Anyways, I didn’ t know you could eat the berries or do anything with them but you can including make wine. I don’t think I will try that as there aren’t enough berries to pick and do that with from where I harvested.

There’s a great post about what you can do with the berries here.

I am all about the free fruit and veggies anytime so I was interested to learn more about this. 🙂

Mead step 2 and pears

I strained the blackberries and added a little more honey to the mead yesterday. I tasted it and it wasn’t quite sweet enough. I added another 1/2 cup or so of honey dissolved in some water in the microwave. I then strained the mead and then siphoned into two 1-gallon glass carboys with airlocks. They will stay in there for a couple of weeks now. Next up is making blackberry wine and then trying either apple cider or mandrake ale!

We harvested, well David harvested the rest of the Asian pears for a total of 37 pounds off one semi-dwarf tree. The other tree, which is a semi-dwarf Bartlett pear, we harvested 12 pounds from so far.

When canning the Asian pears you have to add acid because they are not a high acid food. You can add lemon juice or citric acid to them before canning to make them safe. I have citric acid from cheese making so I use that generally in canning. I have to so something with several pounds of the pears this week that will maybe not make it before we can eat them all.


Blackberry Mead

We have a lot of free blackberries growing in the field behind our house. The field was cleared 3 years ago to develop houses on and then the company went bankrupt. Anyways, I know that the berries have not been sprayed and we have picked them several times now to use in a cobbler and Melody made a blackberry soda with her berries using a blackberry syrup. I got the other supplies at the beer and wine supply store we have near us. You can also order these things online (like the yeasts, bottles, etc. but I don’t know about shipping all the heavier things). In 2000 I made wine after I got a whole setup for Christmas from my Dad. I have the basic items already so I only had to buy the honey and the yeast for this as well as a couple of smaller carboys with airlocks.

This is the recipe I used.

Blackberry Mead

3 pounds of raw honey
3 pounds of blackberries (give or take)
1 gallon water boiled if from tap
3/4 package of champagne yeast

All your equipment must be sanitized or sterilized before use. Ordinary unscented household bleach does the job fine. Put all the equipment (including the lid and stirring spoons) into the fermentation bucket, fill with water, and add 2 teaspoons of unscented bleach. Let it sit for 30 minutes. Drain the water through the spigot, rinse everything in hot water, and allow to air-dry.

Bring the 4 1/2 gallons of water to a boil. Well water, by the way, should be avoided because of potentially high levels of strong tasting minerals like iron. Boiling should remove chlorine from municipal tap water. If you don’t own a pot large enough to hold five gallons of water, boil as much as possible. You will add the remaining water to the fermenter later.

Once the water reaches a boil, remove it from the heat.

Wait until the water is cooled and then disolve the honey in the water. Do not boil the honey, as it reduces the aromatic quality of the finished mead.

Take a cup of lukewarm water out of the pot and sprinkle the yeast in it.

When the pot is cool to the touch (not over 80°F), pour the honey-water into the fermentation bucket and stir in the yeast mixture. Then add the blackberries in.

Seal the bucket and allow the mixture to ferment for two weeks. The progress of fermentation can judged by monitoring the carbon-dioxide bubbles escaping from the air lock: When they drop to one bubble every sixty seconds, fermentation has nearly concluded. Note that is only an issue during this primary fermentation; secondary fermentation has more to do with aging and mellowing and hence is more flexible. When primary fermentation has subsided, siphon the mead over to your secondary fermentation bucket or carboys and seal it with an airlock. Allow one to four months aging time. Do not open the fermenter, as this risks contaminating the mead.

When you decide it has matured enough (and the mead has cleared), you will want to siphon it into sterilized bottles and cap them.

Mead typically improves with age, so the longer you can wait to open the bottles, the better.

*  Mead is more expensive to make than fruit wine unless you have a free source of honey. I plan to make blackberry wine once the blackberry mead is out of the bucket.

* You can try to contact local wineries in your area to see if they have leftover or B grade grapes. They sometimes do as they only use the best ones for their wines. You are crushing them and adding sugar anyways so it’s completely fine. Our local wine and beer supply is getting grapes from the Yakima Valley soon and I still can’t decide if I should buy some or not.

sheep wagon

I would love to live in a Sheep Wagon for half the year. It has a sleeping area, kitchen setup, a woodburning stove and storage space. You can haul it on a trailer too.

I want to buy two acres of land nearby and start growing things on it and live in this. Then in the fall we return full time to our house for now. The land has to materialize itself and the money for both but it doesn’t hurt to come up with a dream! The other night we had Chinese food and the fortune said that it is time for my investment on four wheels. My husband took that to mean our new car but this was the first thing to come to mind. 🙂

And I am not planning on having any sheep in this dream just goats and chickens and turkeys for now. 🙂

Little update

Although I didn’t grow that much myself this year I am preserving a lot including our free fruit around town. I am starting to run out of space in the freezer because I have to many berries and veggies in there already. If my preserving for Winter is any indication of the weather being bad we are in trouble! They say to watch the squirrels in the fall to tell how they are acting and watch how busy they are with collecting nuts to tell if it’s going to be a bad Winter or not. In the Pacific Northwest we don’t have bad Winters compared to most people and get little snowfall most years.

The last things to can are salsa, tomato sauce and then pears from our trees hopefully.

Another thing that I have been doing during the past year is making tinctures. I use 100 proof vodka and crush the fresh herbs with a mortar and pestle before putting them in a canning jar for two weeks. I will post more about that later.

Two of my favorite canning sites are …

Food in Jars

Preserving Beauty

Madden bike

There are all kinds of bike set-ups for hauling groceries, kids, pets, and more. I am usually not that excited or interested in these because they are so expensive and not practical for us.

This bike looks super cool though and you can do a lot of things with it. Haul groceries, produce, kids, your pet, your books, whatever. There are seatbelts in the bucket too. It’s called a Madden bike. Thought I would share!

You can see more about them here.