Bzzzz February 26th, 2012

I was at a family funeral last week. Yes, a sad day. As my husband and I were getting into our car to join the procession to the cemetery, I grabbed a couple of bottles from the back seat and tucked them into the waiting arms of my little brother—the same little brother who is the sometimes giver and receiver of our birthday and Christmas gag gifts. I can’t decide if my favorite gift to him was the taxidermy frogs in a compromising position or the straight jacket. My favorite from him was the dead horse head in the bed.

Anyway, I digress…

More than a couple of people saw this illicit-looking exchange, but only one man asked me what was in the bottles. Well, what could I say?

It was my homemade Hooch! Nothing to be ashamed of. We were in North Carolina, after all.

My brother is the one who set me on my wine making path. Until now I have mostly stayed with the kits available from places such as Northern Brewer, also the place where I get my wine making equipment. But in January of last year I started a batch of apfelwein. (The recipe and instructions are here.)

It wasn’t difficult at all and only required apple juice, dextrose (corn sugar) and yeast. I mixed it all up and put it into a carboy with an air lock. I stored it in the basement and waited patiently (procrastinated) for a year to bottle. And before bottling I added another two cups of corn sugar so that now it is a wonderful, apple-y, wine-y tasting brew. Surprisingly good!

I’m not sure what’s next. I am emboldened by this apfelwein. That is, I’m emboldened by the success of this apfelwein, although it would also embolden me if I were drinking it right now. It does pack a little punch. I didn’t measure the alcohol content (a process that involves a hydrometer, two measurements of the specific gravity and a mathematical calculation).  But it definitely earns the name Hooch.

Posted In: Food and Recipes

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Bzzzz February 11th, 2012

Most days, following a brief period of coffee and news consumption, I launch into a caffeine-inspired frenzy of laundry, house tidying, email, writing and client-related or other work. Now that we are empty-nesters and weekend soccer and school events are a thing of the past, weekends are often filled with bread and cake baking, errands, major cleaning or repair projects and—in season—gardening.

But some days…

Well, some days I just can’t quite seem to figure out what to do. I don’t feel particularly inspired by any potential plan. Do I want to sew? Nah. Do I want to make jam? Meh. Do I want to re-arrange the bookshelves? Not really.

Today was one of those days. I spent about 45 minutes half-heartedly picking up one project and putting it down, wandering around and looking at all the things that needed doing. Nothing was really capturing my attention. So I was standing upstairs, looking out the window and pondering my lack of enthusiasm. That’s then I saw them.

The cedar waxwings are here!

Cedar Waxwings on Winter King Hawthorns. (Click on photo to embiggen.)

The cedar waxwings only make an appearance here once a year and it’s always within about a two-week period in February. In 2009, they were here on February 11—yes, exactly three years ago today. In 2010 and 2011 they were here February 19. That’s impressively regular for a group of animals without the benefit of a Google calendar.

Cedar Waxwings on Winter King Hawthorns. (Click on photo to embiggen.)

The big attraction for the cedar waxwings are the Winter King Hawthorns that line the driveway closest to our house. They are full of luscious red berries even in February. The cedar waxwings fly in in a huge flock, perching in the trees surrounding the hayfield. You can hear them chattering away and see them swooping down in groups of three and four, helping themselves to the berry banquet.

Within three or four days, the trees will be denuded of ever last berry and the cedar waxwings will move on to the next stop on their annual itinerary.

Naturally, I was inspired to whip out the camera and the honkin’ big lens. It didn’t matter that it was cold and a little drizzly. I finally had found my project. Good thing I was standing around gazing out the windows!

Cedar Waxwing in Winter King Hawthorn (click on photo to embiggen.)

Posted In: Nature and Wildlife

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