Let’s Talk Cider

It’s fall!  Tis the season for apple cider, Halloween, the end to cutting the grass, and did I mention apple cider?

Nothing better than a mug of fresh cider with a cinnamon stick and a shot of Kraken rum in it.  Kraken is my main go-to for a dark rum, because it’s got good flavor and won’t break the bank.   But if I want a post work ‘beer’- and I usually do- my go to is almost always hard cider.  I prefer it to most beers, and there’s dozens of ciders being produced now.  Thank you, 21st amendment, for fixing a big mistake.  Thank you also One Tree, Spire Mountain, Blackthorn, Finn River, Two Towns, Incline, and the list goes on…. for making my life a bit tastier.

Lemon Basil Hard Cider
My Favorite

Hard apple cider dates back roughly 1300 years or so.  If humans can grow it, and find a way to ferment it, we will.  Back in the day, fermented drinks were sometimes safer to drink than your local water source, something I take to heart whenever I have problems with the well on my property.   1300 years ago, apples weren’t nearly as tasty as all the varieties we have today.  So instead of eating them, people back then turned them into booze.

I live in the biggest apple producing state in the U.S., so finding fresh cider’s pretty easy in my area.  The Pacific northwest in general is a huge cider and beer brewing area, and cider is taking off again in popularity.  My local dive bar has one of its eight taps dedicated to ciders, which was a very nice surprise.  It doesn’t have to be just apples either.  Just like with meads, you can add fruits, herbs, and spices to hard cider for unique combinations.  Two favorite ciders of mine use lemon, blackberries, basil, and hops as ingredients.

And just like mead, it’s possible to make your own hard cider.  I haven’t tried it myself yet due to a lack of space.  Someday.  I’ve had some very tasty homebrew ciders though, and that’s more than enough to convince me to put it on my project list for the future.  Preferably while I’m living in Washington, because foraging is easy here and plenty of folks are happy to let you pick apples in trade for some of the finished product.

Happy fall to everyone!  If you have a favorite brand of hard cider, toss it in the comments.

Links and articles:

The Ancient Origins of Apple Cider– Smithsonian
The 21st Amendment
One Tree Cider
Spire Mountain Cider
Finn River Farm and Cider
The Cider Journal–  articles about cider and reviews of different ciders.

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Remember last year….

When I said no more plants?  Well, since I decided to build a DIY raised bed out of a pile of scrap lumber I found under a tree, I’m going to ignore that this year.  It’s 6 x 2 feet, and has room for plants.

I still have all of my old containers too and they will also be full of plants.  Plants everywhere!  Peppers, tomatoes, squash, snap peas, garlic, potatoes, and whatever else looks cool.  The garlic is already growing and doing well.  A friend from garden club gave us all cloves to try out, and I put it in when I planted my bulbs last fall.  That is future Cincinnati chili garlic, amigos.

It was a long winter, and we had a couple decent days of snow.  We got our usual amount of rain and grey days in true western Washington style.  All of the snow melted at my elevation in a day or two, of course, and then it went back to rain.  But the mountains, which can get 70+ inches of snow from just a single storm, all have decent snowpacks this year.  It’s May 3rd, and snowpacks are around 9-10 feet at 5200′ elevation.

So now that it’s spring, the gardening bug is back again.

My goal is to grow enough veggies for myself and enough extra to donate to the food bank in town this summer.  Now that I have an idea of what it’s like to garden in this area of the country, I should have more luck with plants this year than last.  The other thing that’s helped is joining a few regional homesteading and canning groups on Facebook.

We’re running about two weeks behind on planting, despite one 80 degree day that broke a temperature record set about 80 years ago.  Next Wednesday is G-Day!

And next Thursday is mead day.  Bottling a few, racking the 101 Mead and blackberry wine, and throwing together some berries for a gallon or two of mixed berry wine. That’s an experiment, but I’m very sure that unless it comes out tasting like vinegar, I will find people to help me drink it.

Hoh River in the sunshine
Happy Spring!

 

A quick thought on travel

I ordered the second season of Anthony Bourdain’s Layover from amazon the other day.  And what follows are his words:

“Please make the most of it by doing as little as possible.  Walk around, eat, drink wine, nap…”

That sums up how to do travel right.  It’s literally impossible to experience everything about a place in one visit.

If you like scheduling things to within the half hour, give yourself a day to just wander around.  Go into stores, explore, shop, drink.  Talk to people if you’re so inclined.

But don’t try to do everything at once.  Stress ruins trips.  Appreciate the place you’re in and understand that even if you were to live there for 40 years, you would still have new things to discover.

We’d all be better off if we spent more time exploring and less time checking things off a to-do list.

Greetings from the PNW

Yes, I called it that.  Sue me.  Ha!

A few months ago, I packed up the dogs, the mead, and various fish and houseplants for a work move to western Washington.   Instead of snow six months a year… well, who am I kidding?  There’s some places out here that have snow year-round.  But we moved from 8,000 feet to near sea level, so I drive to see snow now instead of living in it.

This area has some choice hiking.

I found a stick!

Some seriously choice hiking.  I can get to mountains, beaches, forests with a couple hours of driving.  The Pacific Northwest is a friggin fantastic area of the country to live in.  Both the dogs think so too.

This is also one of the best areas for berries.  I’ve got plans to shift over to some berry meads:  blackberries (my house is full of them), huckleberries, salmonberries, raspberries.  Apples are everywhere too, and it’s proving easy to barter for them.  Some of the brewers and brew shops will rent cider presses, so it might be time to branch out a little.

And now, it’s time to get some mead started.  I have an empty 5 gallon from the hibiscus mead, and four more batches that are ready to bottle.  It turns out moving, with all the associated shenanigans that go with it, is good for your home  brewing.   My batch of coffee mead benefited from being left to sit for three months, and so did the blueberry and killer bee honey batches.

Time does solve problems!  With mead.

Such neglect!

For just about everything except the mead.

There’s a new batch of peach mead in secondary, thanks to a neighbor and her amazing find of orchard peaches.  I mean, what else was I going to do with 15 lbs of peaches?

I’m testing it tomorrow before Thanksgiving dinner and hopefully, it will be ready to bottle in the spring.

Longer mead post soon, promise.

Pet store shenanigans Part 1

I was talking to a friend on Skype and got reminded of this job I used to have, working at a pet store.

It was one of those family run pet shops that sold all sorts of animals, most of which were very poor choices for people to actually take home as a pet.  Being that I was in college and needed the cash, and had poor ethics about supporting certain aspects of the pet trade, I filled out an application.

The store sold fish, parrots, puppies (those stories about puppy mill dogs?  True.  100% true.  Don’t buy a dog from a pet store, people), small animals, lizards, snakes, and kittens.  We had a few animals that were store pets, either because they couldn’t be sold, they belonged to the owner, or they were too big or nasty for a rational person to want to take home.  Like Tokay geckos.  I worked in reptiles because I like them, and wound up with the friggin’ Tokay hanging off my hand on more than one occasion.

We had one pet store.  A bunch of college aged employees.  A manager who was sometimes drunk (that’s another story).  The general public. And this fish:

Four feet of DOOM
Four feet of DOOM

This, for anyone who’s not familiar with fish, is a Redtail Catfish.  They usually show up in the aquarium trade as adorable little six inch long baby fish.  If your local pet or fish store is clueless, you’ll be told they don’t get that big and you’ll be fine keeping them in a 20 gallon or whatever you’ve got at home.  Just hand over your Visa and we’ll send you on your way.

Well.  It just so happens that they do get big.

People fish for those things, and have caught ones that are over 70″ and 150lbs.  The one we had at the store wasn’t 150lbs yet, but still clocked in at about four feet.  He lived in a display tank and we fed him mice, fish pellets, and the occasional pepperoni slice.

We also had a sign that said ‘Do Not Stick Your Hands Into the Tank.”  The fish ate mice by sucking them into his mouth and drowning them.  It seems obvious that you’d not want to put your hands into the same tank as a giant catfish.  But hey, people did, so we had the signs.

hands off

Anyway, we’re at work one evening and we hear someone yelling.  ‘IT’S ON MY HAND GET IT OFF HELLLLLLLP.”

Everyone likes a good animal bite story, so off we went.  We all suspected what happened, because it wasn’t the first time.  Usually we’d just hear a scream and a lot of splashing as whoever it was dodged the catfish, but not this time.  We get to the fish section, and sure enough, there’s a guy with his hand in the catfish’s tank and the fish is hanging on for dear life.

We stood around and watched until the manager showed up to deal with things.  None of us wanted to stick our hands in the tank at that point.  Good boy, catfish.  The customer wasn’t hurt, but I bet he never did it again.

Still, a word of advice:  don’t buy a Redtail Catfish unless you have the Taj Mahal of aquariums and don’t mind a fish that thinks your hand might be dinner.

Jaws the Gecko
Assholius Geckoius

And remember, Tokay Geckos are usually assholes.

Almost solstice!

That time of the year when, where I live, we have less than 9 hours of daylight.  I actually don’t mind, although it’s harder to fit in snowshoeing with the puppy when I’m at work for most of it.

There’s something pretty darn nice about having more night than day.  It makes curling up with the dogs and a good book (or a movie) even better.  More time for walking at night, checking out stars… and the bears are all snoozing too.

I’ve got plans to get together with people, eat food, drink mulled wine, and have a good time.  A combination solstice, Christmas, holiday, festivus thing.  I wish some of the mead would have been ready, but the one batch of cyser I’d been counting on flopped big time.  I have a bottle of not-my-mead that I’ll probably bring instead.  Perhaps I’ll crack a bottle of the terrible buckwheat and see how that tastes mulled.

And I’ll make darn sure to put aside some of what’s brewing for next year’s solstice.

Back to the Future

Bonus post because today’s the day they traveled to in Back to the Future.

Holy shit 2015
Holy shit it’s really October 21, 2015 right now, you guys.

It’s very fucking strange to look at 2015 now, vs. when I first saw the movie.

Same deal with these two. It’s an experience watching a movie when you’re a kid and then living long enough to hit the year that it was supposed to take place.  I was a kid when Back to the Future and Escape from New York were released.  Now I realize we still don’t have flying cars and NYC/LA (thankfully) haven’t been walled off into prisons.

Call me Snake
Call me Snake
Keep calling me Snake.
Keep calling me Snake.

I still want a flying car, damnit.  And I still like Kurt Russel.

Don’t judge.