Thursday, 24 February 2011


I read this article, and had to post this. Please send this link to others you know, that they will know the danger we are in.

ORGANIC has excepted GM seeds now. Also, they have reversed the sugar beets, and they can now be planted as GM this year. We are losing ground again in the fight against GM, but we must fight back. Send this to your Senators and Congressman, let them know the danger, and what you think.

Give this to your friends who are farmers. Usually they are hardest to convince because they have a method, they do it that way, and it seems good to them. Change seems to be difficult for a farmer...

Please read the article, I feel it is very important to understand what kind of danger we are in.

English Vintner


I don't know, something about sunrises, the wavelength of the rays of sun making different colors, as we see the sun as far away as we can on the horizon, making glorious the sky. It really is amazing the beauty that God put on this earth, despite one humankind does to destroy our selves and everything good.

I would like to challenge anyone reading this blog, but more to those who like to follow this blog. I would challenge you to, if weather permits, to see sunrise, maybe several, take pictures of each, and pick the best and send it to me. Hey, maybe we can have a sunrise picture contest!? : )

Mainly I just want to see sunrises. If you are addicted to sunrises, you can search on the web, they have lots of really beautiful sunrise pictures against sky scrapers, woods, hills, streams, all beautiful.

Here is a picture of my sunrise this morning. If the sky has some clouds near the horizon where the sun is rising it makes a big difference in what the sky will look like, as the sky lights up, reflecting the light. This morning was a bit bigger than usual. This was taken from my back porch, and with my computer, so I'm afraid the quality is poor.


English Vintner

I hope the video came through, and maybe you got a bit of a laugh out of it. : ) I usually don't keep my normal accent on when speaking, try and go slightly 'british' when on camera. I think you can see the sunrise a bit clearer through the video.

Friday, 18 February 2011

Vanilla Extract

Vanilla a tropical climbing orchid that has fragrant flowers and long podlike fruit. • Genus Vanilla, family Orchidaceae: many species, in particular V. planifolia, the chief commercial source of vanilla beans.

Vanilla beans are still hand pollinated today! That is the reason they are a bit pricey. Did you know, that Madagascar produces more than half of all the vanilla beans?!

To make vanilla extract you need vanilla beans, and vodka. To get vanilla beans the cheapest place is on eBay, I just bought a pound of vanilla beans for a total of $17. These are extract, grade B beans. I got regular (more expensive) vanilla beans from my homebrew shop for $13 for 9 beans, they are larger beans, and grade A, but still. The best prices are on eBay.

To make it I fill up a 750ml bottle with vodka (40%abv) and add 9 big vanilla beans, or 20 small ones. Take the beans and on a cutting board split them down the middle to help extract it more. If it is on the strong side that is alright. Keep topping up the bottle with vodka as you use it. It will take a few weeks before the vanilla is extracted from the beans, be patient. Shake the bottle every day or so to keep it well mixed. Expect a wait from 1-3 months. It will keep forever.

So, buy some beans, grab some vodka and start some vanilla extract! It makes great gifts! Once you can make vanilla extract explore with other things, cocoa powder, coffee, orange zest, the range is limitless.

Here is a photo of mine, I just put the beans and vodka in today.

English Vintner

Wednesday, 16 February 2011

Row Cover

Well, the row cover is a liiiiitle more work than I thought it was made out to be. I guess the most time spent was doing things like cutting the stakes for the pvc pipes to go onto, and then making the clothes pins.

Once I had everything ready bending the pvc poles over the beds on the stakes went fast. Prep work took longer than I thought it would.

I think it is going to be a good addition to my garden. I will say, using 10ft pipes with 118" wide agribon is cutting it close. Also, the agribon is a little more fragile then I thought it was. I was trying to get my homemade clothes pins around the pvc pipes to hold down the agribon and on several it ripped small holes as it snugly went over the agrbon.

I am thinking about either rolling up the agribon, or keeping it on and putting some greenhouse plastic over it. If I do that I can start planting right now. I can't do this with all the beds, but probably with at least 2 I hope to do it on.

I only had enough pvc to do two of my beds. I will go to Lowes this week or next and get more to do a couple more beds.

I am hoping that Saturday I can get my dad to help me put the new plastic on the greenhouse. I need to find a way to secure my hoops a little better or something. Maybe just reapply more pvc glue, most of it has come un bonded.

I am looking forward to a good growing season this year! I can't wait to have insect free brassicas! It will also keep the deer from them!!!!

I would recommend this to anyone who is serious about organic gardening and has insects. Most of the time if your soil is right in all nutrients and minerals insects will not eat them. Insects are scavengers, eating the sick plants, to weed out the strongest. Ever wonder why the big guys have to pour so much insecticide on the plants they grow?

Can't wait to see all the new stuff I've learned put to practice! SEA-CROP, Row Cover, Copper Tools, and much more!

English Vintner

Monday, 14 February 2011

The Restaurant Lye!

Okay, so the title isn't thaaat cool. It sounds kinda cool though. : ) The title is telling you what I will write here: about my internship, and about making lye.

Starting now, on Thursdays I am interning at the Stone TABLE restaurant. Run by someone in our church. It is high quality, without being over the top expensive. He does lunch, dinner, and caters. He doesn't do breakfast, but has a few book clubs and such that meet on a regular basis for breakfast. Right now, I am learning, and not getting paid (at this point I would feel bad if I was getting paid), my pay is learning, which I am fine with. I am not tight on money, I don't have many costs (besides a few hobbies : ) and I have opportunity to earn money on catering jobs they do.

The first day, last Thursday I arrived a few minutes after 10am, took off my coat, put on an apron, and was introduced to the staff. For the lunch crew he has 4-5 people who work, he had to let go his dinner chef last week, and he does dinner now. I washed my hands (did it about 3 dozen times while working), and peeled potatoes for mashed potatoes. After that I sliced up some turkey, and followed Matthew around, watching him and the other 2 chefs.

At 1:30pm, I left with Matthew, he had to run a commercial with a local radio station. That was kind of cool. I got to be in the room when Matthew and the broadcaster had the commercial, saw the broadcaster edit out all the uh's. : ) What you really here on the radio is NOT what is really said, just an edited version, it's all a lie. : )

We went back, finished up lunch, the crew left, after the Japanese chef gave me a Japanese plum to try. It was quite sour/bitter, not quite sure how to describe it. He said I handled it quite well, with only my face turning red. : ) It had a slight plum flavor, but was devoid of sugar! Like nothing I've had.

After they left and lunch was closed we were able to sit down and eat. I had had a small breakfast, and Matthew doesn't eat anything, just runs on coffee until about 2:30 when we had lunch. Mashed potatoes, some ham, grits (quite good, haven't had grits in a long time) and salad.

Then we prepared for dinner. In the restaurant like his, everything is preparation, having everything ready to cook, or serve, vegetables or meat. He had me using my knife skills on cutting up scallions for garnish, that was good. He also had me cut up mushrooms, and then cooking them. We started off with some olive oil (olive oil and kosher salt are stables, the olive oil keeps the flavor of the food on the tongue, the salt seasons, he likes to have the food so that you do not have to season it.), and he showed me how to flip the mushrooms. Take the frying pan (big, has to be lightweight) and shake it away from you so that the food starts to slide up out of the pan, then with a flip of the wrist bring it back in, catching the mushrooms. This coats the mushrooms, cooking them evenly, without having to stir them with something. Next we seasoned with kosher salt. The reason for kosher salt is the coarse texture, that allows you to grab it with your fingers, feel it. Next we put in some Chardonnay to add acid to it. He had me try it. Typically I don't like mushrooms, but under certain circumstances I like them. Usually when I'm cooking, like then, or when I have a lot of relatives around, like for a wedding (I have specific times in my head). I like them this way, quite good!

Next we made clarified butter. The reason for clarifying butter is so that it has a much higher smoking point. We melted 2-3 pounds of unsalted butter. For cooking it is better to have unsalted butter, so that you can adjust the seasoning your self, so that it doesn't offset the recipe. We cooked the butter for quite sometime until it browned some. We took it off the heat, and spooned off the foam (not much) some of the other solids had gone to the bottom and browned. We poured off the 'middle', the part we wanted. The foam he did not keep, but said you can save it for adding into mashed potatoes and such to add good flavor.

Then he had me cut up some other things. If you are in the restaurant business you will learn french. Because most of what is in the kitchen is called by its french name. I'm still learning it. I cut up roasted red peppers.

At around 4:30pm he had me mix up Blueberry Cream Cheese Coffee Cake for breakfast, he had some group of people who come every Friday. I should have known better, but didn't put the clues together. He told me how many cups of blueberries to use for the syrup (double the amount called for), but I never heard him say he was doubling it. So, I doubled the blueberries, but nothing else. I made the whole recipe, and then realized what I had done. I really like Matthew, laid back, and said it was fine. So I got a different pan, put everything in it, the batter, than cream cheese, then blueberry syrup.

I started the second batch, assuming he would want to have two, like he had planned to do one double batch. So, I got the sugar and flour, mixed it, added the butter, cut it in. And then, I asked Matthew about something. He said that one cake would be enough. I thought on that. I then said, ooook, ummm...I had already started on the second one...again, laid back like he is, it was fine. It was 20 till 6pm (when I was going to leave, it had taken up until that time to make the first one), he said since I already had made one, it wouldn't be long to whip up the other one. So, I quickly threw together the next one, leaving everything ready to be put into the pan.

It was a wonderful day, quite fun. I dread a lot of appointments, like flute lesson, and other things I do outside the home, but, I will look forward to each Thursday! I feel quite at home in the kitchen!

And now, onto Lye and gardening.

This is a long post, but hopefully it will make up for the long silence.

I ordered from Johnny's, quite expensive, because I was ordering 250ft of agribon row cover, and 100ft of greenhouse plastic, those together, with shipping were over $120. I also ordered some pumpkin seeds, and red potatoes. I am hoping today maybe to get the agribon over one of my beds to see how it does.

I am buying onion sets and white potatoes from Lowes, and also any seeds that I need. I have most of my seed, leftover from last year, and from what I grew and saved seed from.

Lye. At church friends of ours had been saving wood ashes from their wood stove for me. I got quite a lot, 3 trash bags worth, which is about 2-3 5 gallon buckets worth.

On Saturday I rendered some ham fat, and put together it with bacon fat I had been saving. Totaling an amount of about 3 cups or so, weighing I would guess to be around 2lbs.

Today I took one of my 50gallon barrels, sawed off the top, drilled a hole, plugged it with a cork. Filled the bottom 2" with sand and rocks, added 6 inches of hay to it, then the ashes. Made a depression, packed it down some, and filled it with about 4 gallons of rain water (2 gallons from the gutter collection, and 2 from the creek).

So, we shall see what I get. I've been trying to find out EXACTLY what the pH for potassium hydroxide (wood ash lye) should be. Finally found one place that said pot. hydr. is 11pH while sodium hydroxide (commercial lye) is 13pH. So, I have pH test strips and will be checking the pH to see if I need to boil off, or run through again, to obtain higher or lower pH.

Once I have that, I will be trying to get an EXACT ratio of lye to fat. Most things are quite general: get lye strong enough for egg to float just a quarter. get lye strong enough so that it just starts to dissolve a feather when added. etc. etc. etc. WHY DON'T PEOPLE HAVE HARD FACTS??? Anyway.....I'm tired of writing for so long, and will go.

English Vintner

p.s. Here is a link to the Stone TABLE: