28 April 2010

Nerds just have more fun

This Sunday, the batch of dandelion wine that Emily and I started 2 weeks ago had finally finished fermenting. So to finish it up, we had to strain all the chunky fermenting bits out (raisins, lemon and orange slices) and then let it settle a bit and then strain it even further to separate as much of the cloudy yeast-silt from the golden liquid as possible. Finally, we bottled and sealed our herbal moonshine--but not without having a celebratory test sip of our golden wine. I was pleasantly surprised to find that I did not hate it. It is very, very sweet and definitely potent--more of a dessert wine, I guess. And just a few sips will do ya'.

P.S. I've decided to name my beloved typewriter
Hildegard, after the sassy Medieval saint of Bingen, Germany who was part composer, part herbalist, part early-feminist, and known to have said: "Woman may be made from man, but no man can be made without a woman." That was one cool lady.

21 April 2010

Snug as a bug in a rug

This weekend's crafty project was to make a cozy cover for my beloved typewriter. You might be surprised to discover that fashionable typewriter covers aren't easy to find for sale and the ones I have found are mostly opaque white plastic. Yuck. Anyway, it's more fun to make things yourself sometimes.

My friend Emma, web-searcher extraordinaire, found an example online of what I was aiming to make. This gave me a bit more confidence, especially seeing as how I didn't have a pattern to use and I had never attempted any three-dimensional sewing project before. So after shopping for fun fabrics--a medium blue denim and a pretty illustrated patterned cotton--I set straight to work: measuring up my typewriter and cutting corresponding sections of fabric. I'm quite happy with the end product. But now I think my typewriter is deserving of a name. Any ideas?

14 April 2010

Weeding by moonshine

It certainly is dandelion season. And I recently stumbled across a fun-looking recipe for dandelion wine that I thought I could actually manage. I love these sorts of experiments! Making fantastic new things from something we already have and have prematurely designated as useless. The inspiration for the dandelion recipe search actually came from a poem fragment I had been developing on my typewriter. It involved a character who had gathered a lot of dandelion blossoms, but then I couldn't figure out what the hell she was going to do with them:

Rabbit (version 2)

She fetches a few shaggy dandelions

then off with their heads--
a collection of sallow plumes,
skeletal stems tossed back to the yard.

Blooms gather in her apron like
buttons, blunt and beggarly.

Common and curious as coins.

So, when Emily came over for tea on Sunday, we collected a quart of dandelions from the yard on Goose Hill--blossoms only, there is no need of bitter greenery and roots in this wine recipe. I've always been an exemplary harvester (just not so good at the growing bit), but that works out well for this project, seeing as dandelions need absolutely no encouragement to make a bright nuisance of themselves.

Once we had washed the ants out of the petals and snipped off any stems still hanging on, we put the dandelion heads into the biggest vat of a cooking pot I own with a gallon of water and waited for it to boil. You may not be surprised to learn that it takes quite a while for a gallon of water to come to a boil. Then, we had to let the flowers steep themselves for half an hour. The end result of this was a dark brown-green liquid. It actually looked a bit like river water and the boiled yellow blooms like anemones. After straining the flowers from our boiled nectar, we had to wait once again, for the concoction to cool. In the meantime, we mixed the rest of the fermentable additives together: 3 lbs. of sugar(!), 1 lb. of seedless raisins, 1 orange (cut up), 1 lemon (cut up), and 1 yeast cake (an antiquated measurement that I found equates to 2-1/4 tsp. of active dry yeast) in 1/2 c. tepid water.

Once all ingredients had been combined, here was the result:

The raisins all sunk to the bottom. But the rest of it looks a bit like some exotic cider. So now for more waiting...

It'll take two full weeks of fermentation (with the mixture being stirred each day) before the wine is ready for bottling and/or tasting. It looks and smells pretty good each time I remove the lid to give it a good stir. I really hope it's not disgusting.

07 April 2010

National Poetry Month

Last April, I was surprised to find myself at a loss as to who my favorite poet was (is?). Over the past year, I believe, I've finally come to a conclusion. Although there are many poets who I adore fiercely (Anne Sexton, J. Allyn Rosser, Louise Erdrich, Sarah Lindsay, Sarah Hannah, Louise Gl├╝ck, etcetera etcetera), the one I love above all is Elizabeth Bishop. I can't say exactly why. There are so many things about her life and her work and her person that I admire. But as a poet, she is vivid in her description and images, yet always a bit subdued in tone; simple, but a bit complicated beneath the skin; precise and not always beautiful. This last might be her finest poetic attribute, in my opinion, that she focuses on things that aren't necessarily pretty and she doesn't romanticize them until they become so (in the traditional sense of beauty, that is). A celebration of plainness. My two favorite poems of hers are actually very similar to each other: "The Fish" and "At the Fishhouses." For anyone interested in Elizabeth Bishop's life and person, I would ecstatically recommend the new book Words in Air: The Complete Correspondence Between Elizabeth Bishop and Robert Lowell. Read it on her lips, as it were.