Monday, June 21, 2010

Happy solstice, the mead is done!

First off a happy summer solstice to all of you. As always, it feels like we're at least a month into summer here by the time the solstice rolls around. I've instituted a new family tradition that we'll celebrate the solstices (and maybe the equinoxes too) with some homemade hooch. Today I think it will be more of our hefeweizen as it's already at its peak and delicious. The hefeweizen was actually our second attempt at liquor making, the first one was the honey mead we started several months ago but just bottled this weekend. The mead was a bit of a learning curve for us as we learned some important lessons in sanitation, and how as it turns out, you should check all of your seals BEFORE you put the mead in the primary fermenter, otherwise you may have to put your hand in the brew to tighten things up. Despite the odds the mead turned out drinkable and not poisonous. We opted for a dry mead rather than a sweet one and this one is definitely dry. I think we left it in the fermenter a little long as it tastes more like a chardonnay that was left on the counter overnight... a hint of vinegar. Hey, I said it was drinkable, not wonderful. We're hoping that some aging will help it get a little better.
22 bottles of La Mano Venenosa Mead

The rest of the tiny farm is being productive as well. The 11 chickens are pitching in laying plenty of eggs in the 105 degree heat. Here's a week's worth:

Not bad considering that a few of these birds are pushing four years old and I'm still getting about 9 eggs a day!

Sunday, June 6, 2010

The first blackberry!

This morning I got to pick the first blackberry I had ever grown. I didn't even know you could grow blackberries in Phoenix until I was about 20. Ever since then I had wanted to and when I bought my house I tried (and killed) several blackberry plants and pretty much gave up on it.

Fast forward to about a year ago. My husband and I were riding bikes around the neighborhood on our way to visit the house that had heritage breed turkeys for awhile. No, not legally, but no one complained. You could see the pen from the street and I think a lot of people like made a point to go by that house just to watch the turkeys. Anyway, we stopped at a yard sale a couple doors down. I bought a little birdcage to use as a hospital cage for small birds for $5 and I noticed he had a huge hedge of blackberries. Long story short: we rode our bikes home with a birdcage and a gallon bag of blackberries. He invited us to come back later with a shovel and dig up a few. We did. I planted them. Two out of five survived and I now have blackberries. I recently found out that they grow 'wild' in the irrigation ditch a street over and an awesome neighbor whom I've recently befriended happens to live next to that ditch and brought us 8 or 9 plants of which a few are starting to leaf out. These are not the thornless 25 gallons of berries per plant you see advertised in the catalogs and magazines, they are good old-fashioned very thorny blackberries. It makes them a little rough on the hands, but it also means they're a little rough on predators. I've planted them against the fence to the chicken pen and against where I plan to build a big quail aviary in the fall, so now they can serve two purposes.

A big day indeed.