Ah–ahcronyms! That stands for Korean Natural Farming: Fermented Plant Juice and Oriental Herbal Nutrient. After weeks of prep, FPJ and OHN were ready to “decant” and use and store.

  • FPJ

DSCF7565On 5/2 (about a month ago), I went about my garden collecting the meristems of all the most vigorously growing plants that I could find. The meristems are the undifferentiated growing tips of plants, full of energy. These are the ones you want in your Fermented Plant Juice. I added comfrey (smallest, newest leaves), common and spear mint, and all kinds of mostly unidentified weeds reaching for the sun. This document from the University of Hawaii has a list of which plants to look for, to which Aaron Englander, who taught me this recipe, added the more readily available purslane, nettles, and mugwort.

I packed these leaves and shoots into a jar, layered with a 1:1 ratio of raw brown sugar (by volume), leaving 2/3 of head space. I covered with a cloth and let it sit at room temperature. After a week I found it didn’t make much juice, so I added a small amount of (non-chlorinated) water (a tablespoon) and that got it going really well. Today I poured off the liquid – amazing how much poured out after all. It is stored in the jar with a cloth, in a cool, dark place.

FPJ, which is packed with growth energy, is used weekly at the growing stage of plants as foliar feed (at 1000:1 dilution) or a soil drench (at 500:1).

  • OHN

DSCF7567Also on 5/2 chopped up and crushed the five ingredients for the OHN and put them each in their own jar:

  1.  2 parts (by volume) the bark of Angelica acutiloba (which I had ordered from Mountain Rose Herb – I also ordered the seeds so I can start growing it myself). Because the quantity of angelica is double that of the rest, I filled 1/3 of a jar that is twice the size of the other jars. You can also just two jars the same size. Same difference.
  2. 1 part licorice root (Glycurrhiza uralensis), which I have growing in the garden, but the plant isn’t ready yet for harvesting, so I got this from Mountain  Rose Herbs as well (1/3 jar).
  3. 1 part cinnamon bark (Cinnamomum sp.), from Mountain  Rose Herbs (1/3 jar).

I added beer (the one I happened to have in my fridge, a hoppy honey beer; you can also use rice wine) to hydrate these and covered them with cloth.

After 2 days, I chopped and crushed the two wet ingredients:

  • 1 part fresh ginger root (Zingiber officinale), skins and all, organic from the store.
  • 1 part garlic cloves (Allium sativum), stem, skins and all, homegrown.

Then I added 1:1 raw brown sugar to all five so all the jars were 2/3 full and covered them with cloth. I let them ferment for 5 days, then I topped all of them off with vodka and closed the jars with lids. I shook them every day for two weeks. Then I strained the juices (but see *!) into two big jars and covered them with cloth (not sure if that’s necessary, but I guess some more fermentation may happen if not all the sugar has been converted yet, and if the jar is closed off, it might explode).  Here’s a good fact sheet on OHN, it also uses turmeric.

OHN is used weekly at all stages of plant growth as a health elixir and immune booster, as a foliar spray, soil drench, seed soak, or compost booster. It has to be diluted 1000:1.  It is also one of the ingredients in IMO 4.

  • OHN marc compost tea

DSCF7563DSCF7568(*!) Now it turns out I should have poured off 2/3 of the liquid and kept the leftover liquid and marc for another round of extraction – you can use the separate jars up to five times. It was too late when I read that, I had already mushed the marc all together for one final press. Then I read you can use that marc for a compost tea, and so that’s where it went, along with the marc of the FPJ.

I have a small, rotating collection of buckets with filtered tap water that I leave open in the sun for 24 hours before putting on the lids to keep dust and animals out. I do this to let whatever the water filter didn’t get, evaporate out – a matter specifically to get rid of the biocide chlorine. I used one of the 5 gallon ones for the tea: wrapped the marc in an old cotton shirt, hung it to steep in the water. I’ll play this one by ear as it will depend on the temperature during brewing.

While I was at it, I also started a new kombucha (following this recipe) and a gallon of ginger soda (using this recipe).

Bubble bubble!

{UPDATE 6/13. This is what it looks like now, without oxygenation. Smells good too. Smells sweet.

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DSCF7490Yesterday we racked DH’s two wines (3 gallons each of Cabernet and Malbec) and my four meads (one of which turned into vinegar).

 

I got a comment from Ashley about her mead. My apologies, Ashley, for responding so late, but in any case I can’t help much. I’m just a dabbler in mead myself, and do most mead making by the seat of my pants, eyeballing it and experimenting. I’ve not yet had to throw away any mead, but some (usually a melomel) has tasted better than others! If you would still like some ideas, I’d say your yeast didn’t have enough sugar, or lacked something else, and so consumed all it could then died too quickly. I’d rack the mead to get rid of the graveyard at the bottom and to oxygenate anew, then add new yeast and sugar.

As for my mead, DH will need the two big carboys soon for his wine, and so I had to empty the one with an old mead that was still sitting in the basement (started in August 2014). It was flat and tasteless, but it hadn’t turned to vinegar, so instead of chucking it, I decided to experiment. I racked it into two smaller bottles. In one I put dried apples and peach leather. In the other, one fresh green apple and a large spoonful of a friend’s raspberry jam. I put the bottles in the porch to warm up a bit and will add fresh champagne yeast and some more honey and let it ferment away again. Like I said, it’s all an experiment.

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amie_cello_forFMMusic is such a large part of our lives. Amie is playing classical pieces that truly ask the best of her. It is a marvel to see her small fingers dance on the fretless fingerboard, touching each note. Her playing folk with some of the kind folks of the 12 Georgia is a lot of fun. So far, the guitar sings Twinkle Twinkle and House of the Rising Sun. I love it when she practices. When I bring her with me to visit our friend Rebecca, we bring her cello and she plays. Rebecca, who can no longer speak, studies her intently, like she is trying to engrave her, or her song, in her memory – I like to think so she will remember them on the other side of life.

As for myself, I never had any musical education and can’t even read music, but I do have a good singing voice. Never very confident, I’ve always kept silent, but now I am changing my mind about that. I may never play the cello, but I can honor the world with my song and tell story and make beauty that way. So I picked up my courage and sang, full-breasted,  “The Wind That Shakes The Barley” for Rebecca. Apart from my closest family, she was my first audience and she liked it very much, I could tell.

Because it is for the world I want to sing, I want to sing songs from all over the world, songs that go way back or way deep too. Right now I’m learning Gaelic “Song of Amergin,” which according to some sources means “Birth of Song”. It is an ancient wizard riddle that may go back to the 4th or 5th century. The language is wicked hard to pronounce and then to memorize, and so are the subtle pitch changes, the unexpected melodies, and the tremelos. I take it line by line and it becomes an invocation. My guide on this song too is Lisa Gerrard of Dead Can Dance (she sings it here, but I wish it didn’t have the ever louder background music).

With song comes wine. We measured the specific gravity of the crushed grape juice (1.04 for the Malbec, 1.08 for the Cabernet), then put the yeast to it. We need to feed it in a months time.

The mead I made in September has cleared a lot. This is the bottle (front) in September:

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It’s much lighter now. Here’s the bottle next to the year-old, wholly clarified mead:

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The bottom is a moonscape of dead yeast people and quaintly coalesced beeswax. But something else in the yeasts must make them consume and break down the color. I need to learn more about this because a bottle of homemade mead is always an occasion for storytelling.

Not wanting to disturb the sediments, I used the thief to extract some and tasted it: just right, still enough sweetness left. I filled a couple of glasses and here’s to all of you: Happy Thanksgiving!
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This mead is done! It was made with raw honey and champagne yeast. After more than a year in the carboy, I bottled it. It is quite dry, with that typical, somewhat surprising mead flavor reminiscent of honey. it can age some more in the bottle. Look how clear it is, compared to the next batch!

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I also racked the two 3 gallon carboys that I put together with the winterkill (hence pasteurized) honey at the beginning of August. One went into a fresh 3 gallon carboy (not pictured) – I had to top it off with brandy, since after leaving the lees (thick layer of dead yeast at the bottom) I no longer had 3 gallons. The other one went into two 1 gallon carboys and the leftover 3/4 gallon went into a bottle for immediate consumption. These are obviously very young and the taste isn’t as developed yet, but I hope after this thoroughly oxygenating operation, they’ll start up again. If they do, I’ll select one or two to add fruit. If they don’t, I’ll make one into a metheglin by adding spices. They’re sitting on my bedroom dresser, so I’ll know if they start bubbling again soon.

This is one of my favorite times of the year: the first harvests are coming in. For greens, we are eating kale, lettuce, chard and good king Henry, New Zealand spinach, mache, minutina, and celery. All the herbs – parsley, rosemary, sage, etc. are ready. The malabar spinach is almost ready and it’s a lovely climber that is colonizing the trelises that the unfortunate peas never climbed (we had only a pound or so, the bunnies ate the rest). The potatoes – from organic potatoes I bought at the supermarket – are growing like weeds. So are the tomato vines. No ripe tomatoes yet, though.

I’ve also started putting up. Yesterday I made a pile of basil from my garden, our CSA and the Farmers Market and made 8 jars of pesto (to freeze). I assembled rhubarb from the garden with some from the Farmers Market and red currants from a friend’s garden and canned 8 jars of rhubarb-red currant preserves. I’m tasting the white currants in my garden every day to get them when they’re just ripe. There are also grapes growing, lots of them, but those will take longer. If all the little nubbin figs on our one remaining tree make it, we’ll have twenty or so figs.

The chickens are laying four eggs a day. And there are four of them. Toothless, who got injured and started limping, then getting pecked on even more ruthlessly, went for a spa at my friend Katharina’s place while we were away. I didn’t want my intrepid chicken sitters to have to deal with a bloody, or worse, chicken. Toothless has her own little coop there to relax and recover.

Tomorrow I plan to go into my hives and take a full super off the strongest one (which swarmed during the week we were away!). I almost fell over when I lifted it off: full of honey! I’ll add a new super to that one and also one to the less strong hive. Both hives are making new queens.

Speaking of honey. I am enjoying the raspberry melomel I made a little over a year ago. It is mellow and tasty and not too alcoholic.

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But where were we all last week? Hanging out with this crazy bunch…

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… in the rain forest of Panama!

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More about that in some other post. I need to go water the garden, because it’s dry here.

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This has been/still is a hard winter. It’s been one snow storm after another, with long stretches of below freezing temperatures.  Three weeks ago I caught a bug which developed into pneumonia – hence the silence here – and now that I’ finally up and about, Amie caught something as well. That’s how it goes. The winter was hard on the bees as well: all three colonies are dead of starvation in boxes still half full of capped honey.  They just didn’t have the chance to break cluster and move toward the honey.

But things are stirring. Before yesterday’s snow flurries we actually saw dirt. Then it got covered up again, but all that should be washed away by tonight’s rain and tomorrow we may see some outdoor activities. I plan to wash all the seedling trays and pots so I can start the basement garden. If I’m up for it, I’ll also clean out the chicken coop: there’s some good compost in there after months of deep litter.

A couple of days ago I (hot-water-bath) canned the sauerkraut that had been fermenting in big jars on my counter for seven weeks. I usually don’t can kraut as it pasteurizes it (duh!) and kills off all the good bugs. Still, I had too much of it to keep in the fridge, and as I’m the only one who eats it round here, I decided to reserve one jar for the fridge and can the rest.  I hope the canning doesn’t make it too soggy. I like it crunchy.

 

We bottled the wine (which was pressed, see here, and racked, see here earlier). We ended up with 29 bottles,  8 of Cabernet Franc, 10 of Merlot and 11 of a 70-30 mix. My MIL, FIL and SIL were here, as well as our three NYC friends, and we put everyone to work.

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Drawing the labels: each label is unique.

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Using the thief to taste and create the right mixture.

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The wine tasting is an event worthy of paparazzi.

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 The wine is siphoned into the bottles.

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Corking.

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Corking.

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The first bottle to be given away.

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I’ll publish the labels tomorrow. Some of them are hilarious!