Spruce Tip Ale

spruce tip ale

Back in May our massive spruce trees were producing new growth, so I decided to harvest some spruce tips and make an ale! (And Jessica made some herbal goodies.) With most of my “herbal” beers I generally start with a one or two gallon batch just to make sure it is worth making in larger quantity.

I brewed this batch on May 26, 2016 and bottled it on June 7, 2016. The recipe (which is loosely based on one in Sacred and Herbal Healing Beers by Stephen Harrod Buhner) said it could be consumed after ten days in the bottle. I’m over the ten day mark, but might try a bottle tomorrow!

Here is my version of a Spruce Tip Ale:

  • 6 oz. young spruce tips
  • 0.5 oz agrimony, dried herb
  • 2 gallons filtered water
  • 2 lb Spraymalt Extract, Plain Light
  • 1 packet yeast, Safale US-05

Bring water to boil and add spruce tips and agrimony (I put these in a fine mesh brewing bag.) Boil for 1 hour. After 1 hour, take off heat, remove bag or spruce tips and agrimony. Add malt extract, stir until dissolved. Cool to 70° F. When cool, pour into fermenter and add yeast. Ferment.

When fermentation is complete, prime bottles, fill and cap.

Ready to drink in… 10 days? I’ll let you know tomorrow it it needs to age more!

 

Dandelion Rhubarb Mead

mead

 

A few weeks ago I set out to make a batch of dandelion wine since our yard was filling up with the flowers. It seems like every recipe I see, and had tried, contains citrus fruit and I didn’t want to use citrus. I wanted to stick with what I had locally and was in season as opposed to driving to the grocery store to get citrus which was trucked in thousands of miles. So what could I find on my land? Dandelion flowers and rhubarb! A friend had given me a huge jar of honey, so I decided this fermented beverage would end up being a mead. (Not that I’ve made mead before.) Is it mead? Or honey wine? Or something else? Whatever it is, I hope it turns out well.

Anyhow, I’m sure mead aficionados would roll their eyes at my recipe, but here it is. (Plus I’m posting it here just incase I lose the scrap of paper I have the recipe written on.)

Ingredients

  • 8 cups fresh dandelion flowers
  • 8 cups rhubarb, cut to about 1″ or 2″ pieces
  • 3 cups honey
  • 1 cup organic cane sugar
  • filtered water to make 2 gallons
  • 1 Tbls Black Tea
  • Red Star Pasteur Blanc Yeast

Add the dandelion flowers and rhubarb to a large pot and added enough water to cover them (about 1 gallon.) Bring to a boil, then turn off heat and let the mixture sit for 24 hours, stirring occasionally.

Remove organic matter, I mean the dandelion flowers and rhubarb.

Add 3 cups of honey and 1 cup organic cane sugar.

I also added 1 tablespoon of a strong black tea (Scottish blend is what I used).  I had read how adding black tea to some fruit wines will add tannins and give it a little more body.

I brought this to a low boil and mixed it well to make sure the honey and sugar dissolved and blended well. Next I cooled the mix to around 100° – 105° F.

While it cools, dissolve the yeast in 1/4 cup of water at 100° – 105° F. Then add to the cooled mixture.

I put the mixture into a 2+ gallon bucket with an airlock in the lid and let it sit until it quit bubbling. Actually, I think I let it sit longer from whenever it stopped bubbling. It turns out that from the time of making it, to bottling it was exactly 20 days.

As you can see in the photo I was able to get six wine bottles from the batch, plus I used two of my 16 oz. swingtop beer bottles so it will be easier to test a smaller amount as it ages.

When I sampled it while I was bottling, I seemed like it could turn out to be a pretty nice beverage once it ages. It seems like it has the potential to be clean and crispy and not overly sweet like other dandelion wines I’ve made. I will keep you posted once it ages and I test some!

Permaculture Reflections

reflections

I should have promoted this on my site, but permaculture teacher, writer, doer Peter Bane is here in Racine, Wisconsin teaching a three day permaculture design studio along with Rhonda Baird. He also gave a talk Thursday evening at S.C. Johnson’s Golden Rondelle, Friday had a book signing at Wilson’s Tea & Coffee, and this morning gave a free 2 hour Intro to Permaculture at D.P. Wigley in downtown Racine.

While the design workshop didn’t bring in any students from Racine, Kenosha, or even Milwaukee, it was inspiring to see the level of interest from the people at today’s Intro talk, as well as the crowd Thursday at the Golden Rondelle. Just as Jessica and I were wondering if there were any like-minded people in this part of Wisconsin, we found out yes, there are!

It has also been helpful for me to see how Peter presents permaculture, it has given me some hope once again. I’ll talk more about that in another post so this doesn’t get off on a tangent.

The inspiration I’m feeling today is making me think this site, Local Sustainability, just might evolve into something more than a blog once again. Nothing quite like what it was when Tracy and I were doing the Rocky Mountain Growers Directory and all of the other Colorado Local Sustainability projects, but maybe adding some links to community food and permaculture resources again.

Handmade Goods

Farm style step stool

For many years, well most of my life actually, I’ve wanted to do woodworking but my photography and art always took the front seat as far as my focus and dollars were concerned. I grew up watching Roy Underhill on The Woodwright’s Shop, and later Norm Abram on The New Yankee Workshop. And like many kids growing up in the late 70’s and early 80’s I took woodshop in school and made a couple pieces of furniture.

Decades later I finally bought a table saw and built up a basic collection of tools to start on some woodworking projects for our house. We needed a step stool to reach the top cupboards in our kitchen, so that was my first project. Next is a prototype of a book case I have in mind. After that I have a hall table, a small laptop computer desk for Jessica, as well as other designs I have in mind.

I do plan to make extras of these and will have them for sale at my art studio, and maybe on Etsy.  As these items become available for purchase, I will post them here on the site

Bountiful Winter

winter harvest

It is around 52 degrees outside here in Caledonia, Wisconsin in the middle of December, and I had a bountiful harvest in our yard. From our low tunnel, I harvested Swiss chard, collards, arugula, thyme, and a little Tatsoi. The carrots are also looking good, but I haven’t harvested any recently.

One large rogue arugula plant is still growing like crazy and has sweetened up with the colder temps we previously had. It is kind of amazing that a month or so ago it was rather bitter and hot, but now it is tasting pretty good!

Other salad greens in the low tunnel are still going a bit slow, I guess I should have started them a little earlier. If we keep getting warm days like this, perhaps they’ll get a growth spurt before it gets too cold again.

IMG_7055

The other amazing bounty that popped up this past week are the oyster mushrooms. They started producing like crazy on dying ash tree near our pond. I had a friend positively ID them for me, and then tried a small slice… sautéed in a little butter. It tasted great, and so far I’m still alive! (A little joke between another friend who is also new to foraging. And yes we are careful to ID them before trying them.)

It is so nice to be able to get fresh greens right from our yard, even in winter. I usually dread the thought of having to buy organic greens from the local chain grocery store which are usually in poor shape, but sometimes have to. The co-op in Milwaukee has much better produce, but it is still great to get it straight from our yard!

The Last Minute Garden

harvest

 

It has been a busy summer getting ready for my art exhibition for the Racine Art Museum, and I’m glad to finally have more time to work in the gardens. Last week I was finally able to seed the veggie garden with cold hardy plants for our winter low tunnel. I also harvested the first Swiss Chard from the plants I seeded back in July, and we began harvesting turnips, garlic, shallots, and potatoes. The tomatoes are also finally coming on strong and I harvested our first ripe tomato!

We initially hadn’t planned to even try to get a garden started this year.  We had just bought the house in March and planned on spending a year observing the sun and shade, and watching what plants came up in all of the existing gardens. But we just couldn’t go a year without growing some of our own food! So, already into June I dug and seeded our first garden at the new house.

We had signed up for a CSA and figured we’d have plenty from the half share we purchased, but figured we’d try growing a few things to supplement the CSA share. Well, it is kind of good that we did get our garden in because the CSA share unfortunately hasn’t been that fulfilling. Had I started our garden a month and a half earlier, and planted a bit more, I know we would have grown far more than our share has given us. Nice farm and folks, but I’d rather buy from the farmers market where I can see the quality that I’m getting. Maybe I have higher standards that some since I had farmed for a small CSA back in the Boulder, Colorado area and I tried to give the CSA members the best quality and value I could.

We will be adding more vegetable gardens and starting a small orchard in 2016 and look forward to growing more of our own food.