Monday, August 15, 2011


We've been having a very busy summer.  We spent the long weekend at the Clinton War, which is a mediaeval war that is held near here every year.  This was the 32nd war.  Charles is a heavy fighter (sword and shield) and it's one of the highlights of our summer.

When we got home, there was a huge pile of laundry to be done, so I put my laundry service to work.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Morning cooking

Heating, cooking, and drying things all at once

This time of year, our house can get to be too hot by mid-afternoon, and stay too hot for a comfortable sleep early in the night.  By morning, it's always lovely and cool, because our altitude causes a dramatic temperature drop overnight.  We hate to lose our blissfully cool interior,  so we try to keep our cookstove use to an absolute minimum. 

I'm usually the first one up in the morning.  I light a fire to heat hot water for the day.  While the fire is going, I try to do as much as I can.  First, of course, I make coffee.  Then, I cook whatever I can for the day: things that can be eaten cold later, like potatoes for salad, or a roast for sandwiches.  By that time, the oven is hot and I can put a loaf of bread in if necessary and let the fire burn out.  The hot water can be used for dishes and bathing, then refilled so the dying fire can heat more for the rest of the day.

In the evening, we use a barbeque, outdoor cookstove, or propane stove to do any cooking that still needs to be done, like a steak or chop.  In a really hot spell (which doesn't usually last very long here), we use the outdoor stove or propane for water, too, but that's a lot more work.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Lazy Marion's winemaking basics

racking the saskatoon/rhubarb wine
Although my wines turn out well, I really don't know much about winemaking.  I don't think it's necessary to know a lot because I'm not the one making the wine.  The yeast is the winemaker.  All I need to do is give the yeast a good home and let it do its thing, then enjoy the results.

Yeast likes the same kind of juice that people do: sweet, with a bit of a tang.  It likes the same kind of temperatures we do, too, warm but not too hot.  It lives in the juice, swimming around eating sugar and producing carbon dioxide and alcohol.  When the alcohol level in the juice gets too high, or if it runs out of sugar to eat, it dies.  That is, basically, all you need to know.

If your juice doesn't contain enough sugars, the yeast will starve before it produces much alcohol.  If there's really a lot of sugar, the yeast will die of alcohol poisoning before finishing it and you'll have a sweet wine.

If the juice gets too hot, the yeast dies.  If it gets too cool, however, the yeast goes dormant and it will wake up again when things warm up.

If you bottle your wine before the yeast has died, it will continue to work in the bottle.  Since the carbon dioxide it produces can't escape, you'll end up with a fizzy wine.

Wine is usually protected from contact with the air so that bacteria and yeasts that are not tasty are excluded from joining the party.  You do this by putting the juice into a container with an airlock.  The carbon dioxide can bubble out, but air can't get in.  When no bubbles are being produced, it means the yeast is finished and it's time to bottle the wine.

Right now, with all the bubbling going on in my house, it sounds like a mad scientist's lab.

Left to right: rhubarb, rhub/saskatoon, last year's rosehip, dandelion