Sunday, September 30, 2012

Cherry Wine

A couple of months ago, we brought home 15 pounds of cherries from our Saturday produce pickup. We read this guide and purchased the requisite brewing supplies:

5 gallon food grade bucket with lid
air lock and stopper
rubber grommets for the stopper
red wine yeast (Pasteur)
size 4X pantyhose to use as a sieve
sugar (12 lbs!)

I spent several hours pitting the cherries by hand before borrowing a cherry pitter from the neighbor. What a difference! Both the kitchen and I looked like a murder scene by the time I finished. 

All of the cherries went into the sterilized bucket. I then poured several gallons of boiling sugar water onto the cherries.
I slowly heated the entire packet of yeast until it activated and then stirred it into the cherry must.
We cut a hole into the lid and fitted it with a rubber grommet and attached the stopper and air lock.
We stirred the must everyday for a couple of weeks. Here you can see that it's already fermenting.
After more than a month of fermentation, Vadim drained the resulting liquid through pantyhose and added more water.
The leftover cherries were greatly reduced in mass.  We'll let the wine continue fermenting for up to three months, tasting periodically. 
Interestingly, the acidity of the cherries made my hands more sensitive than I realized, and I stupidly decided to roast and peel poblanos the same day as the pitting. I spent the night immobilized with my hands soaking in a mixture of milk and, oddly, bleach. I'll probably wear gloves next time I attempt something like this.


Sunday, August 19, 2012

Worms and Grubs Video.

I found creatures thriving in our soil. It's pretty self-explanatory. Take a look:

YouTube link to our video.

Mas Libros.

I just wanted to show you folks what we hauled in last Saturday after a free food drive. Words cannot begin to describe how much hatred I had for prep work but once it was done, I was eager to begin cooking. I steamed the Brussels sprouts in bamboo trays and tossed them with EVOO, sea salt (available at your dollar store!), and Malabar peppercorns. Included in the haul are many pounds of apricots and cherries with which Jordan and I are going to undertake fermenting into wine. She picked up some food grade plastic buckets and grommets to fit airlocks into the lid. We'll document that process shortly.

Swiss chard, pineapple, cauliflower florets, red and green romaines, avocados, eggplants, Brussels sprouts, green onions, limes, okra, radishes, collards, poblano chillis, red bells, 1.5 gallons of whole milk, mangoes, raspberries, and boxes of cherries and apricots. Whew!

Stay tuned!

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Another Garden Update

Tomatillos. Surprisingly, we've had the best harvest from a volunteer plant that showed up in our radish/arugula bed. Our big patch of tomatillos suffered from an infestation of black grubs that were resistant to soap sprays.

An Armenian cucumber and an inexplicably sweaty me.

Some kind of pickling cucumber.

Two massive buffalo gourds took over our lettuce bed. We didn't know what they were for a while. Apparently it's an indigenous species that produces a hard squash.

The gourd started growing through the windows and into the house. Despite producing a fruit that's edible while young, we opted to pull it out so we could plant more manageable veggies in its stead.
 The soil beneath the gourd was rich and full of life.

Vadim dug furrows and built up berms where the buffalo gourd had been. We replanted the space and so far the ditches are proving especially efficient at holding water.
Indoor plant collection. All sorts of rescued orchids. Orchids are perennials so there's no need to toss them out once they quit blooming. Just cut back the stocks and water as needed. They'll bloom again next year. In the foreground are lentil sprouts, pepper seedlings, succulent cuttings, and willow stem rooting hormone.

Zinnias are maybe my favorite flower. The colors are especially vibrant, they continue to rebloom, and they're easy to grow from seed. I reseeded the flower bed with three more zinnia varieties yesterday for the fall.
The first hollyhock I've successfully grown from seed. Hummingbirds love it. There's another getting ready to bloom next to it and I'm excited to see what color it is.

Lots of new growth on our pineapple plant.

The biggest of our mammoth sunflowers. It's taller than the house and still hasn't started blooming. We planted tons of sunflowers to shade the cucumber and nightshade beds.

Chia. Nearly as tall as I am, but still no signs of going to seed. This was a volunteer plant. We dumped a bottle full of fermented chia seeds and water onto the bed and it's gone crazy. The chia's protecting strawberries, herbs, and Chinese greens from the sun. We'll harvest the seeds to eat and mix into drinks once it flowers.

We have wild purslane growing allover the yard. The leaves are fatter and more succulent than most I've seen. They're delicious either raw or sauteed and boast a host of healthy attributes, including the highest concentration of omega-3 fatty acids of any leafy vegetable.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Profiting from Festivals

Next time you attend a festival with a campsite, stick around after everyone's left and wonder at the excess heedlessly left behind. We attended Coachella in April and did just that.

Wealthy festival goers with vehicles chock full of potential money for us!
The bulk of the attendees aren't serious campers and picked up equipment solely for the purpose of attending the festival. When Monday morning rolled around, many were too hungover, tired, or lazy to clean up their camps and opted to drive right out, leaving behind an irresistible haul for scroungers like us. We picked up chairs, coolers, a tent, sleeping bags, sleeping pads, a gazebo, food, and more cases of abysmal Natty Ice than we're willing to admit. We could've kept going all day, but with three of us and a carload of our own camping accoutrements, we simply lacked the space.

We kept the perishables for ourselves, but listed the bulk of our findings on eBay, netting enough to cover our utilities and internet--linked to our Paypal account--until the end of our lease. We had enough money left over that we upgraded some of our own camping equipment.

The Refused's Dennis Lyxzén: how Vadim justified the cost of attending.
Attending festivals in order to glean from the campsites isn't exactly cost effective. The higher the initial ticket cost, the more likely attendees will be people with disposable incomes and, subsequently, disposable belongings. We justified the expense of attending because my ticket was free (thanks Sara!) and Vadim couldn't pass up the opportunity to see bands he'd been mooning over since adolescence. We've yet to have another opportunity to exploit this level of wastefulness again but will certainly consider volunteering for  campsite cleanup in the future. 

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Food and Flowers.

There's a facility in the University area called The Peace and Justice Center that hosts many community events, concerts, and speeches. The most important to us is their Saturday morning food distributions. They give out generous amounts of food from grocery stores that'd otherwise discard the blemished, expiring, or overstocked produce and food. Among these items are loaves of bread, gallons of milk, containers of random fruits and vegetables, and the produce itself. All of this is free, by the way.
One of our first harvests, about 3 months ago.

Free zucchini steaming in bamboo.

Brassicas ready to be dealt with!
So at 8:30, we usually arrive to a long line of people waiting to get their share of the cast-off food. There is nothing inherently wrong with the food unless it is beginning to decompose, in which case we are pushed to prepare it quickly after bringing it home. Many hours of prep work can lie ahead if we feel the desire to eat diversely. There is always, however, fodder for the compost pile!
Limes, avocados, peaches, and succulent plums.

Today, we picked up many pounds of cherries, plums, peaches, cucumbers, green/red leaf lettuces, radishes, turnips, broccoli, cauliflower, and other salad greens. Every week differs in quantity and quality of goods. Sometimes we have eggplants and other days we have avocados (23 after one haul!). As I've mentioned, it differs, and so does our diet from week to week. As it goes, many people do not pick up kale, collard, or mustard greens. We usually get first pick of those and gather enough to last us several meals. Likewise, root vegetables seem to be unpopular. They taste great made into a mash with our homemade bone stocks.

Greens and cherries in the fridge.
With the summer weather augmented by the chubasco patterns out here, our garden has been flourishing. Deep, slow watering from the rainfall has lead to fewer sessions out with the hose. With Jordan and my work schedule intensified recently, the break helps reduce watering responsibility from us both. Flowers are blooming quite cheerfully. We even have signs of our first vegetables growing! Little cucumbers and weeny tomatoes are already starting to extend behind their respective blossoms. Soon, I expect to have many fresh salad greens aside bountiful tomato harvests. We plan on lactate pickling more; green tomatoes and Armenian cucumbers remind me of my childhood.
Green leaf lettuce happily growing.

Some variety of Marigold.

Another variety, with 4 inch blossoms.

MASSIVE mammoth sunflowers in the backyard.
Summer in Albuquerque is gorgeous. Humidity makes things muggier than I'm used to in Tempe but pales in comparison to Chicago's soggy atmosphere. Many fruit trees out here are ready to harvest or approaching that point. We've been plucking apricots, plums, peaches, apples, and pears from neighbor's yards and "sampling." It's not quite apple or pear season yet but like the Phoenix area, many fruit trees are just left to drop their harvest. Noting which ones are neglected and ignored keeps us busy and mindful of more free nutrition. A neighbor asked us to help clean off an apricot tree several weeks ago. We came home with nearly 8lbs of pygmy apricots, an excellent companion to the yogurt we produce.
More marigolds!

One of many emerging cukes.

Green heirlooms.

We love our marigolds!

We can't wait to see what happens in our garden and the community over the coming months! I hope your summer is as fruitful--pun acknowledged--as ours!

Saturday, June 23, 2012

The ever prolific green.

It's been a while since we've written but a lot has happened since we last posted.

The heat has been increasingly drying. We deep water nearly every day now. A boisterous rainstorm the other day flooded the yard with much needed moisture but smaller seedlings have dried up in just a few days absence of our watering routine. Only the thick-rooted, absorbent plants survive here.

Weeding is more work than usual; they seem to be sprouting constantly. It keeps us busy maintaining the yard but we don't hesitate to visit the garden.

Our first salad harvest! Greens like mad, green onion and oregano.

The greens are quite prolific, despite the 3 hours or so of direct sunlight they receive.

Our productive cucumber plants.

Cucumber flowers.

Salvia gregii, French dwarf marigolds, and possibly tomatillos.

Our cat prowling the roadrunner.

S/He knows.

Our flower garden sunflowers.

We can't quite tell what these are but they're the first flowers to have opened this season.

Jordan slowly soaking our squash and watermelon rows.

Lazarus, the grape cutting we thought had died.

Another soon-to-bloom sunflower.

The nightshades bed panorama.