Monday, August 19, 2013

Foraging Trip

Thank you, Melissa, for sharing you special blackberry foraging spot!

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Plum Wine And Other Natural Goodies

The Universe has a funny way of setting our priorities for us.  In spite of the fact that we plan and scheme, sometimes it just doesn't work out the way we expect.  I guess that is just another lesson for me on this MooseBoots trail.

Last weekend, for instance, I had planned to skin a groundhog.  Now, I had found this gal dead on the side of the road.  She was fresh, but I did not have time to skin her when I found her.  So, I left her over overnight.  In the morning on Saturday, I got out of bed anxious to get to work.  I took the time to get some photos of her feet, her teeth, and such.  I had planned to scrape her hide and begin tanning it, too.  Oh yeah, I wanted to keep her skull, which was intact after her run in with the car.

The sad reality is that she was badly damaged from the encounter.  I cut into her belly to start removing the hide only to find that she was a mess.  In spite of all of the care I could muster, I found myself poking through into her pulverized internal organs.  It was a lost cause ....

But not a completely lost cause ... I removed her head, skinned it, and cut as much meat and fat off of it to allow the insects, and nature, take its course.  Thinking I was clever, I put her skull into a mesh sided box that our bees had come in.  I thought that this would allow insect in to do their work and yet keep the skull safe from anything that might like to sample it.  I placed the box in the gully behind our house, away from any houses to keep anyone from getting offended by any malodorous wafts.  And, I was done way ahead of my planned schedule.

I moved on with my other plans for the weekend.  I decided that I needed to make plum wine.  A friend had brought me a number of plums from his tree, which was bursting with fertility.  This is my first attempt at plum wine, but I made some strawberry wine last year the same way.  That wine met with some rave reviews at our son's wedding this summer.

I was asked how I made it and so, without further ado, here is my recipe.

Plum Wine (8-3-13)
  1. Place 3 quarts of well-ripened plums in a grain bag.
  2. Boil plums with 2 gallons of water, for 10 minutes.
  3. Turn the heat off and let it cool.
  4. Squeeze the plums to get as much juice from them as possible.
  5. Add cold water to make 3 gallons.
  6. Add sugar to get potential alcohol level to desired value (12 cups of sugar brought the level from 1% to 11%).
  7. Stir dry yeast (Red Star – Premier Cuvee) into a bowl with warm water and a teaspoon of sugar.
  8. Allow the yeast to proof.
  9. Pour yeast into a clean 3-gallon carboy.
  10. Add plum liquid.
  11. Seal with an airlock.
The wine is now bubbling happily, even a week later.  I will rack it off in a month and decide if I  will leave it for another to clear.  After that, it will go into bottles and sit for a few months.  We are not really good about that part ... typically we last about 2-3 months instead of the recommended minimum 6 months.

We also managed to get in a walk.  We found some staghorn sumac flower, for sumac lemonade, and some blackberries, which were just now coming ripe.  The blackberries will be starting to ripen with great abandon within the next week or so.

Oh yeah!  I went to check on the skull yesterday.  I was gone.  Apparently, I was not clever enough.  It is gone and the raccoon skull that I had placed in the box with it was damaged ... the lower jaw was broken in half.  Alas, Mother Nature did not mean to bless my MooseBoots travels with a woodchuck skull at this time.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Jewelweed Salve

A few years ago, my neighbors were relating to us a story.  They were telling us that our daughters had been over visiting.  They, the neighbors, had been complaining about the insect bites they had received.  Our girls, without hesitation, exclaimed that they should use jewelweed on the bites.  The neighbors, a couple in their early 60s, admitted they they did not know what it looked like.  Which, of course, send the girls scurrying away to hunt the not-so-elusive, in-fact-quite-prolific, gem.  The neighbors were, and still are, so impressed with the girls.

The fact is that jewelweed grows with great abandon in the little brook laden gully behind our lot.  It was one of the first medicinal herbs that we learned to find and identify in the wild.  We has tried to use it for everything.  Of course, we found that it is most effective for skin irritations - rashes, burns, etc.  You know surface stuff.  It is a fairly common sight for us to be picking, crushing, and rubbing it into our skin.  I should say that it was ....

Last year, I grabbed a bunch of jewelweed and turned it into a salve.  As usual, I did a bit of research, reading things about salves, ointments, balms, and liniment.  As can be expected, I was terribly confused by the terms and the differences between them, until I remembered the reason for the research.  Contrary to the philosophy of many people, I don't really care about labels or terms.  I care about understanding how something works or how it is made ... how does it function or how can I make it.

So, true to form, I decided how I would make it ... internet instructions be damned!  So, for all of those who would brave the treacherous straits of making and using herbal medicines, here is my recipe.

Jewelweed Salve

  1. Respectfully and gratefully, gather fresh jewelweed stems, crushing them and placing them in a one quart jar.
  2. When the jar is full with crushed stems, fill the remaining volume with olive oil, making sure to cover all of the plant material.
  3. Leave the jar one the counter, at room temperature, for several days.  The oil should absorb the medicines and some of the color from the plant.
  4. When ready to make the salve, strain the oil into a pan.  You might think about using a pan you don't care about, unless you would like to clean waxy, oily residue from its inner surface.
  5. Heat the oil in the pan, using a double boiler.  Don't ask me what it is, Wendy called it that ... to me it looked like a pan inside another pan filled with boiling water.
  6. When the oil is warm, mix in beeswax, allowing it to melt completely.  My wax came from my hive.  Yours can come from somewhere else, although I might be willing to share.
  7. Periodically, take a teaspoon of the warm liquid out and place it into the refrigerator for a few minutes to cool.
  8. If you like the consistency, you are done ... pour it into small containers.
  9. If not, add more beeswax, or oil, to make it to your liking.
Oh yeah, this probably should have come before ... this makes a lot of salve, especially if your containers are small.  I used small Scentsy containers that my daughter had given me.  Feel free to use what works for you. These look like they would be nice.

This is my last bit of ointment.  It looks like I'll need to make more.  Enjoy making your own.  Let me know how it turns out.  Of course, I could be convinced to share some of mine.  After all, that is also another part of my MooseBoots travels.