Friday, December 31, 2010

First Hooch of Summer - Cherry Melomel

Cherry Melomel - Duck Style

20 liters of rain water
12 liters of cherries
5 liters of honey (this equals 7 1/2 kg honey)

Hooch making is like life - there are some basic principles that are helpful, but really, you just make it up as you go along, using what you have at hand. My recipe today is, as usual, an adaptation from the beautiful "Wild Fermentation" bible of all things fermented and good.

The basic recipe is 1 cup of honey for every liter of water. In terms of fruit, try of at least 1 cup of fruit for every liter of water. If you are adding fruit juice (ie apple or pear juice for cyser or perri) I would go for not more than half juice half honey water - but thats just me, and REAL cider is just apple juice, not apple juice and honey water.

There is a lot of fruit in this I might be able to dilute it with more honey water in a week or so once it is time to take the fruit out.

Where did all those cherries come from?

Mr Duck and I have just spent the last few days eating drinking and laughing with the Ukrainians at Orange. We stayed HERE at the Borrodell Winery / Orchard/ Trufflery in a little cottage hidden in the orchard overlooking a dam and within view of Mt Canobolas.

In case you are wondering, we didn't arrive by helicopter, and we didn't stay in those posh cider houses.....we always rent the Chardonnay Cottage because it is so cute and has such a lovely view.

Last time we stayed here it was winter, and the apples, cherries and grapes were bare. It was SNOWING.

All this rain means that the Cherries are all split. Our lovely hosts suggested we help our selves, so we did, and here they are, in a new vat of Cherry Melomel.

Thats the thing about making your own cider / wine / hooch / mead - its all those lovely words.


need I go on.

Anyway I had forgotten how beautiful and fragrant hooch making is. All I need to do now is remember to stir and coo over these two big carboys for the next 5 days or so, waiting for the wild yeasts in the air and on the fruit to really get things going. Then I take the fruit out, put the lid on and pop in an airlock and just leave everything to ferment away for a few weeks. At some stage, once a bit of sedimentation has happened, it might be good to transfer the melomel to a new carboy and leave the lees behind. This produces a clearer wine, and prevents any funny taste that might eventuate because of the sediment. And at some stage, when fermentation has slowed, its time to bottle and get those little babies under the house.

Even after just one night I can see little white bubbles forming on the surface. And the SMELL - it is so lovely.

In other news, yesterday was our first hot day - perhaps 32 degrees? The girls on the front deck were hanging out on their own front porch after a hard day.

Finally it is warm enough to get in there and see how the honey situation is going. I will keep you posted.

That is all.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Tea Cosy #10

Well, here he is folks. Another Owlly. This time, made a bit bigger to fit my new blue tea pot.


Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Lotions and Potions

Last night I made another batch of beautiful moisturizer. You see, I WAS going to nick some of Queen Malina on the Front Deck's honey for Christmas pressies, but the weather hasn't been quite right for gettin' in there and mucking about.

Sooo, I worked up 2.5 liters of the good stuff. I have blogged about this before, but here is it again, just because I always forget how easy it is to make, and how SUPERIOR and SUBLIME the end product is.

The key principle is 1 part oil to 4 parts water plus 5% total volume in vegetable emulsifying wax, which is added to the oil part. Both components are heated separately but concurrently to 75 degrees Celsius, then the water part is poured into the oil part while stirring. Too easy!

Basically this is what I do:

  • 4 parts water or rose water
  • 1 part your favorite base oils (eg olive, macadamia nut, apricot kernel oil or a mixture)
  • 5% vegetable emulsyfying wax from here (ie if you have a combined oil and water total of 100mls, then use 5gms vegetable emulsifying wax)
  • Place wax in saucepan and melt gently. Add rest of oils.
  • Add water in separate saucepan
  • Heat contents of both saucepans to 75 degreees c
  • Add water into oil pan, whisking gently. Continue to whisk untill mixed.
  • Turn off heat. leave to cool, stiring accaisionally.
  • When mix is below 45 degrees add essential oils and preservative if you want to use it.
  • Poor into clean jars

Most recipes say to do this in double boilers, but I don't bother. In terms of preservative, I now use a combination of citric acid and potassium sorbate. From what I have read, potassium sorbate is an excellent non toxic, safe mold and yeast inhibitor, but it needs a lower PH (thus the citric acid) to work best. I really don't use very much (perhaps 2 teaspoons of citric acid in 2.5 liters of moisturizer, plus 1 teaspoon of potassium sorbate. Both are available from brewing supply shops.

If you are not using herbal teas in your moisturizer, you probably don't need to use any preservative. This time, I infused the oil in fresh chopped comfrey leaves for a few days, so I added the preservative just in case.

Well thats it - suddenly I have jars and jars of beautiful luscious moisturizer for Christmas Pressies.

In other news, and speaking of potions, the Cougar came for dinner last night and left us with TWO bottles of Wild Brumby Schnapps - so I am studiously working my way through the Pear William one first. Hopefully there will still be some of this left for Christmas, otherwise we will need to get started on the Butterscotch one. For those of you who do not know, this is the BEST SCHNAPPS in the WHOLE UNIVERSE. Get your self some now. Over the internets.

The Cougar did disappear on Queenie for a while. The race report was - "THOSE GEARS - they shift like butter." And he would be right.

that is all.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Mind over Matter

Yesterday I spent the WHOLE DAY IN BED. Once upon a time I would just push through my tiredness, but now I try and take a more enlightened approach. I don't want to be one of those people that when asked how they are, always replies "Tired".

At work, people wrongly assume I am super miss extrovert. But I am not. Basically I find humans EXHAUSTING, and frankly you have to pay me to spend much time with them being delightful. Its not that I don't enjoy my work, or LOVE the people I work with, its just that they are exhausting, and I need to pace myself.

So, after a few days on the road running lots of meetings and humans and mediocre food, my body says rest. And so I did.

It's taken a long time to stop pushing. I have a strong will and a strong mind, and I can bully my body into doing just about anything. It just comes at a cost.

This photo is me in a solo 24 hour mountain bike race in 2003. Once I could even bully my body into racing for 24 hours straight. I could even trick myself into thinking it is fun. But I don't do that any more. I get tired just thinking about the training and pain and pushing required to compete in endurance racing.*

Which makes riding Queenie in skirts and nice shoes at a sedate and dignified pace to get somewhere, not just riding for its own sake just so much more delightful. Queenie is the oposite of mountain-biking.

And sitting in bed taking phone calls from friends, working on tea cosy #10, drinking tea, reading the papers and generally mooching is fun. I want to be that person that listens to her body - who doesn't bully herself. Who is kind and loving and generous to herself as well as others.

the end.

*You do get to eat a lot of cake though, which is definitely a plus.

Friday, December 17, 2010

coming home

Thank you so much for all your warm fuzzies about Owlly. He really is so cute - I think I am going to make another - just for some more attention......

Just got back from two days in the Central West - Condobolin, West Whyalong and Temora. The Lachlan is in full swing. Everything is wet and lovely. We didn't get to go through Grenfell, because the roads are still flooded at Forbes, which means I didn't get to check on my FAVORITE wild peach tree, but from the looks of things there will be heaps of wild apples, peaches and nectarines this year......which means lots of wine and cyder. BRING IT ON.

On the way back we stopped in Murrumburrah, and in the Which Craft shop, which is a cool funky community owned cafe and craft place and I found THIS:

Happy Christmas to ME. I can't work out how it is made - sort of felted knitted, but somehow the layers are think or rolled, but it is so soft and luxurious, I need to work out how to do it in crochet........Anyway, while I work out how to replicate the effect, I can still use it as my new favorite tote bag.

In other news, these Sturmer apples are lookin' pretty sexy:

And did I mention how much I love Queenie?

Well, thats it for a Friday. Imagine having to WORK on a Friday. Unthinkable.

But I think I will get over it.

Must be time for a cuppa.

The end.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Tea Cosy #9

There are no words.

Except BIG LOVE to the Grand Purl Baa for the recipe for the famous Australian owl tea cosy. Owlly, I have searched for your DNA pattern for many years, and how fitting that Loani brought you to me.

He is made out of OWLpacca wool - get it?

Queenie on the go

Today was our first seriously warm day. I have FINISHED my two big reports, so as a big fat reward, I took Queenie into Civic for a meeting and some shopping. Here is the view from above. If I was good, I would have taken the work car and given it to the little men to clean, wash, vacuum, de-mud with instructions to do something about the enduing food waste / compost smell from my work gear, gum boots and tools.

But I didn't. I took Queenie. Gliiidie Riiiiidie Queenie

And here is Queenie by the lake. Sans basket today. Plus cute pannier/shopping bag.


Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The Bee Dance

There is a lot of bee dancing going on around here. Some of it is this lovely stuff above - where the girls dance on the vertical surface of the comb letting everyone know how to get to the motherload they just found. This is cool........the angle of straight part of her dance through the center of her figure 8 in relation to the vertical, is the angle the girls have to fly relative to the position of the sun. So the dance about the same blossoming tree would change during the day as the position of the sun shifted. What wouldn't change is the number of bum waggles, which indicate distance. Cool huh.

The other kind of bee dancing is the solitary, crazy, freaked out head slapping jig I tend to do when a guard bee happens to get stuck in my long hair and starts hysterically buzzing and moving inevitably towards my skull as she frantically tries to escape.

Its a race to see who can kill who first.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Quick visit to the garden

Moving right along.....

Things are going well in the tomato mahals........

I can't get over how gorgeous the flowers are on what I am now calling the "multi-pea". Yup, when they are young they are snow peas, when they are older they are sugar snaps, and then they are pea peas, and then they are dried peas for soup. The multi-pea, also known as a field pea, $1.20 / kg from the produce store.

And here are a few of my favorite things, all in one gorgeous bike, Queen Aprilia, my white nectarine tree (on the right), a compost pile, and the community garden in the back ground.

Queen Aprilia is on the move. She needs to end up over here:

Thats over 20 meters away. I can only mover her 1 meter at a time, otherwise everyone gets lost. And I can only move her after dark, when everyone is inside. So me and my secret service gal are going back down there soon, to do the second shift....

Sunday, December 12, 2010

this is not for you

Dear Bloggy Friends.
This post is not for you.

Dear Bloggy Hater
While I am actually delighted to be thought of as "irresponsible", I realize this is because you do not know me. I do wish you however, lots of love and kindness and perhaps a more generous spirit, and hope that Santa can bring you a nice little box of "sense of humor", a bag of "perspective", and perhaps, the insight to be able to determine that while this silly, light hearted, personal blog is chocker full of excellent tomatoes, beautiful bikes and luscious home made tea cosys, it may also contain exaggeration (for comic purposes only).


Saturday, December 11, 2010

Mr Duck and the Beast

Second tandem voyage today. Christmas is a great time to get a tandem - all those parties and afternoon teas. While I NEVER drink and drive, I can't say the same for drinking and riding.

I reckon we have clocked up 50km already.

Friday, December 10, 2010

the other eagle has landed

Meet the BEAST. Last night was our maiden voyage on our new tandem. We rode to the City (about 12 km) to meet some friends for dinner. Later that night we rode home through the uni and then around the lake - it was beautiful. Some of you may be aware that the ONC is full of water at the moment. Scrivener Dam was amazing. It may have been the wine and vodka (respectively), but we felt sure that the barricades across the bike path where the Yarrolumla creek flows into the river were not for us.

Pretty soon the flooding water was up over the bike path......I got off and took my shoes off (because I was wearing a skirt and nice shoes that would be ruined if they got wet). Mr Duck kept pushing our bike, which was designed by a Mr Onderwater by the way, and pretty soon I noticed that the water was up over my knees, and up over the expensive 7 speed internal hub of the beast. Did you know that the internal hub generator on the front kept working even though it was underwater as well? So our giggling adventure remained illuminated throughout. My understanding is that these bikes are tough, built to last forever in all weather but riding in over a foot of water may perhaps be pushing their robust design to the we turned around.

I am not sure if we have done any damage to the hubs......I hope not. But she is fun to ride - big, fat, slow and lumbering but fun. She seems to cope with gutter jumping just fine. It is very companionable cruising along together in the dark, chatting, joking, or just being silent, along the lake, through the forest after a nice night and a few drinkies.

And, now this is the REALLY cool bit, she is an AZOR, which I think is the same factory that made my Workcycles Secret Service frame. So they are like sisters really.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

rain from the north

So like, it is raining again. I can not tell you how much I am enjoying this crazy wet spring. The tent is still out on the lawn from Mr Duck's big adventure. It is going to go MOULDY before it drys enough to put away. Just when it is dry enough to turn inside out, it rains again. How QUEENSLANDish. Not ONCian at all.

The season has moved on from cherries to mulberries to mulberries AND raspberries. Breakfast has never been so delightful. I am wondering if I need to turn the salad garden into an expanded raspberry garden because bloody hell they are yummy. Mr Duck and I have a bowlful each morning with yogurt, perhaps some banana (NOT from our backyard) and for little me with the delicate constitution, some nice whey powder to keep me beefed up.

I am enjoying watching the fruit on the trees expanding. Things are looking promising for the peaches and peachcots. There is a deep joy to be had from a maturing garden. Some of the trees and vines are into their 3rd and 4th and even 5th years, and it shows. We almost have the whole year covered for fruit - one tree ripening as another one finishes.

It starts with an early cherry (an amazing old huge and productive tree), then an slightly less early cherry, and then the mulberries, and then the raspberries. I can't remember who comes next, I think it is the apricots (only 2 this year), and then a flat peach......peach, peach-cot, nectarines....and then the wild plums should turn up, then plums from friends, then plums from the front garden. Late roadside peaches from Grenfell are next, then the nashis. Somewhere in there, for the first time, I should get some vista bella apples (very early). Later in the season should come the sturmer apples, and finally, in May, the kiwis. Lemons, mostly in winter with a few throughout the year. Then there is a little lean patch until the early cherry kicks in again.

The pears are the newest additions to the family - I don't expect them to fruit for a couple of years yet.

Thats my fruit forest. You don't need a lot of room. You just need a lot of plants. And most of these can grow on top of one another, in a forest, even with more than one tree in each hole (duo planting).

If you are just starting out, or adapting an existing garden, Jackie French has a similar approach with her "Wilderness" garden.

Tea Cosy #8 finito

Well ladies, thank you for your very inspired suggestions. Feathers of course. However, then I started getting this picture of a big red rafflesia - you know, a CORPSE flower.

Like this:

See, this one:

And from the side:

I am not sure, but I am thinking it may be the first crocheted rafflesia in the blogosphere.........

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Tea Cosy #8

Dear bloggy friends. I need some help. I have been working on tea cosy #8. She is looking pretty nice. But what to put on top?

The body is made from the most beautiful alpaca wool from is just lovely to work with. Its only 5 ply, so I crochet two balls at once........

I can't seem to find my crocheted flower book. So then I was thinking some crocheted fruit. But perhaps she deserves / needs something more fluffy and in line with her current fluffiness............