Tuesday, September 28, 2010

The Horse and Colt show ends in a slow fizzle when I see a flatbed truck hauling porta-potties down the highway. Most of Sunday afternoon diesel semi's pulling horse trailers with AC, special windows and fancy detailing are followed by owners driving hundred thousand dollar portable living rooms which were parked early-on in Banker Park down by the river. A customer in the bank in Readstown tells the cashier behind the newly installed security window that the river is expected to crest over the weekend. Heavy rain upstream will have the RV's hub deep in water, judging by the pasture across the highway from us which is a small lake.

Johann drives off in his Isuzu which he restored to functioning after hitting a deer. After dropping off 13 pounds of concord grapes for juice and wine, he goes in search of four nearby loud shot gun blasts that send a flock of honking geese overhead. My cell phone rings. "Two crackers in waders crouching in the pasture," he reports. Beautiful fall weather has the leaves in full fall bloom. Mornings are shrouded in fog when cold air crashes into warm.

My late fall crop of radishes and greens in the old onion garden is doing nicely except for the spinach. The peppers work overtime. Dawn cans 21 pints of pepper onion relish from the Joy of Pickling book. The author remarks that this is a relish for cooking as opposed to traditional "on the table" sweet relishes. I get to sample the batch immediately because one jar doesn't seal. In my estimation there's too much vinegar. I consider cooking it down to reduce the volume of liquid which according to the recipe is four cups of cider vinegar for a double batch.

Thanks to my library angel I have eight tubs of raspberry freezer jam in the upright freezer. To show my appreciation I give her a sample of Amish butter. Her assistant likes it so much that she asks me to pick her up a tub of butter and a quart of milk. The price of sugar has been fluctuating like a bear/bull market. Despite the departure of the hummingbirds, we go through ten pounds of sugar at a phenomenal rate. I monitor the price between Wal-Mart and the Amish bulk store. The same is true for canning lids and spices. Usually the bulk store is less expensive than Wal-Mart. A typical freezer jam recipe calls for 5 1/2 cups of sugar for 3 pounds of crushed fruit. I spread it thinly on toast and bagels. The flavor is so intense it doesn't take much.

Now that Apple Fest is over and everyone has returned to Chicago, the Amish dicker for a crate of apples from a local orchard. Purchased in large quantities, the cost per bushel of Cortland apples is under $10. The Patriarch mentions getting a fifty gallon barrel of apple cider. They use it for making vinegar. I'm looking at hard cider and canned juice for the winter. I bring them a bottle of my strawberry wine which won't store for a long time because the wine maker put the cork in upside down. It leaks wine and more importantly will allow air into the bottle. They take it with a cautionary note saying, " We only use it for medical emergencies."

My girl spends her afternoons sleeping on the red easy chair in the garage. Busy with yard work and the usual home maintenance projects, I try to take out a few moments every now and then to toss the Tidy Cat lid which is our version of a Frisbee. All the potatoes have been moved to their winter quarters in the summer kitchen. The space in the basement is filled with kindling and fire starting materials. At this time of year the wood stove is used sporadically which means starting a new fire whenever I want to chase the morning chill out of the kitchen. The Pooch has several blankets on the folding table next to the drier. I move one out to a work table. The kids like to snooze in the shelter of the garage while keeping an eye on the grounds.

I'm on my last Charles Martin novel, Where The River Ends. His sometimes sad and often inspiring tales will be missed. Dawn reads Chasing Fireflies . I frequently think of the aphorisms of Unc, one of the main characters in that novel. Putting your boots in the oven doesn't make them biscuits is one of my favorites. Frequently the Amish Patriarch remarks about city people and their naive assumptions of country folk and life out here. I get caught up in enthusiastic and idealistic notions that I've learned to take time and reassess. When I found a wine making supplies business on line, it became obvious that it'd be easy to go overboard. Keeping in mind the original purpose of my wine making which was to take an inexpensive and readily available source of fruit and turn it into an enhancement of our do it yourself lifestyle, I avoid the $100 wine kit pitfalls.

Going from using instant bread yeast and hit and miss sanitizing solutions, I put in an order today which refines the process just enough to take the guess work out of making a quality beverage. The inexpensive corker replaces my whacking corks into the bottle with a rubber mallet. I have three specialized wine yeasts which will improve the flavor. Instead of bleach which can leave a residue which is difficult to rinse from a bulky glass carboy, the new no rinse sanitizers make the process more efficient as does a hygrometer for measuring specific gravity. Watching the fancy trucks, customized cars, antique and collectible cars and semis loaded with pointy nosed jet fuel tractors, I can see how easy it could be to let an idea take over your life to the exclusion of everything else.

Now, let's think about raising chickens, ducks, pigs and goats...

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