Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Dandelion Wine

We decided that when life gives you dandelions, you should make wine! Our friends Thomas and Missy in Slippery Rock, PA gifted us a bottle of their dandelion wine from last year that was delicious and floral tasting, and we resolved that we should try making it sometime. First we needed a recipe, and through our moving process we uncovered and dusted off a book we bought on our honeymoon to England called Medicinal Country Wines (incidentally, we bought it at a monk's abbey gift shoppe along with tons of honey and beeswax!) It gives recipes for tons of wines that have supposed medicinal qualities, like carrot wine, date wine, beetroot wine, and (interestingly) barley wine - isn't that beer? The liner notes for the barley wine mention that it is "a proven tonic for people convalescing after liver and kidney complaints or jaundice". Well, being that we neither had jaundice or barley, we flipped to the dandelion wine recipe and decided that Monday was the day. We purposely ended our farm day early, as all of the dandelion heads were bright yellow and beckoning us. We gathered a five gallon pail of just blossoms with pollen stained hands, and then just followed the recipe. We're currently in the first fermentation phase, which should last for 7 days, and looking forward to the bottling stage, and then the 6 month wait - which isn't too bad after trying to make mead, which takes a year after bottling to get tasty! So, this November when we're pining for Spring, we'll bust open a bottle of dandelion wine! By the way, the liner notes for dandelion wine read "An ancient wine medicine that is so highly regarded as a country beverage that the beneficial medicinal properties have been largely forgotten. It is a source of Vitamins A, B, C, E & K. It is a cholagogue, aperient, stomachic, and diuretic. By the promotion of bile, it aids in the stimulation of appetite. It helps the body to secrete toxins and body fluids. It is said to be beneficial as a mild laxative, for treatment of dyspepsia, insomnia, jaundice and other liver problems." SO! It looks like we've got our bases covered! If anyone wants to find out what cholagogue is, that would be some interesting conversation for the impending cocktail conversation that is sure to ensue. We'll keep you posted on the process! Salud! Some pics of the process:
Spencer starting to pick
Getting closer and Smeems getting lost in the tall grass
The final moment before first fermentation - pouring in the sugar/yeast/water mixture.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

First Farmer's Market

We're busy with the farm on top of everything else (so are Mr. Smeems and his friend Angus!), and now that it's consistently nice out, and flood fears have come and gone, we are officially in the full swing of the season. We had our first farmer's market at City Hall Park this Saturday, which was a blast! There is a new configuration of the market, and it worked out wonderfully. There were huge crowds of folks, and nothing but positive feedback - it certainly felt good to be back at it and making market money! Speaking of money, it was a record first market for us - $200 over last season. Can't complain about that! It was pretty cool because all we really had was spinach, microgreens and tomato plants! It will only get better every week! We've been busy delivering potted plants to Gardener's Supply Company in time for their huge plant sale weekend this weekend. We've pretty much fulfilled our committment to them, which frees up all sorts of time to do actual farmwork! This week I disked in our stand of rye, completing our first successful significant cover crop ever! While doing that, I also ran over our irrigation twice, resulting in a freezing shower of water on me, my newly disked field, and the tractor. This new wrinkle allowed us to re-evaluate our irrigation system as we repaired it, and finally we set up a nice line of irrigation sprinklers that nicely watered in our newly transplanted onions and seeded rows of all things vegetable. We felt like great farmers this week, and having it end with a fantastic market was great. Here's some pics of the market for your enjoyment.

Spencer giving the low-down on what we have to sell

Our spinach, which we planted last October just for this reason! It's so nice to have new spinach at the first market; people are ready for local spring greens - wait 'til next week when we have big beautiful heads of boston lettuce!

We brought a few potted up tomatoes for sale - next week we're going to bring as many plants as we can schlep to market - they really sold well!!

We also had our beautiful microgreens and wow-ed the crowds with this nice splash of color - Garnet Amaranth. It's a beautiful microgreen that we decided to sell separate from the microgreens, since our stand was feeling pretty green with the spinach and plants. They were sure a hit!

That's it for now - we'll put up new pictures as we plant more, harvest more, and start the week with our new employee, Liz Grant! Should be a fantastic week. I leave you with a nice early Spring picture of our field before we've planted much, and before I disked in the rye. To me, this picture represents the potential of the season! Grow on!

Progress Is Made!

Man, have we been working hard! We had some late nights as we rushed to finish the house before move-in day, which was April 29th. We finished ripping up the carpet and removing the 1/4 round from the baseboards, and were finally ready to sand! We decided to make our approach to Home Depot at 6am (the least crazy time of day), where we rented a great sander that is exactly like an orbital sander with 4 sandpaper pads and a vacuum bag that grabs most of the dust (manufacturer says 95%, we say 80%). It went swimmingly, and after 12 solid hours of sanding, we returned to Home Depot at 10pm as they were closing to return the equipment. The next day we returned to apply the 2 coats of varnish, which I am still surprised is applied over the whole floor with brushes. We were at this project until 2:30am, but it was completely worth it!! This whole project only cost us about $300 total in supplies, equipment and varnish to do our own floors! I think we saved a bundle, and we got great experience in a new skill as well as a deeper connection to our house! We love the outcome, and here's some pictures to show it off!

Spencer ripping up the final carpet pad in the living room.

Mara pulling out all the staples they used to attach the carpet pad to the floor.

Mara wheeling in the sander to the office/guest bedroom for the first crack at sanding.

Here you can see the floor with all the scratches, the reason why we decided to refinish. They hadn't been done in over 30 years!

Here we go! The old polyurethane came up easily and revealed a BEAUTIFUL white oak floor.

The newly painted and sanded office!

Finished the office, the bedroom and off into the hallway!

The final section of the living room at 9pm! A long day!!

Spencer happily varnishing the office floor! We used an oil/wax varnish on our floors - all made with plant-based oils and waxes. This was recommended for our floors to harden and protect them. It soaks in and leaves a matte finish, which we love. They will harden over the next 3 weeks, and then we will buff them with a gel wax. We can't believe what a huge difference this has made to how the house looks!

Here's the office now being lived in - we're slowly unpacking.

The finished bedroom! We're having fun shopping for rugs and furniture. Mr. Smeems certainly feels at home!

We applied for a permit to start building our deck, and install a patio door - should begin in mid-late June. If you're in the area in July, come on over for a BBQ! More pics as we get the other rooms finished. Happy warm weather, everyone!