Monday, April 25, 2016

Plum Hard Cider

Plum Hard Cider

A few (several?) months ago I attempted to make hard cider out of plums.  Yesterday while I listened to the Pirate game (Pirates eventually won, beating Arizona 12-10 in 13 innings) on the radio I sampled the effort.  It was very good, better than I'd hoped, given that it was a first attempt, using a fruit I'd never used before.  Sometimes when you make a hard cider out of anything other than apples, the result can be cloying, as when I made berry/cherry hard cider.
Here is the recipe I devised for the plum hard cider:
4 lbs plums run through the food processor
1/2 gallon of organic apple juice
3C granulated sugar
1/2t of dry white wine yeast

Heat enough fruit juice to dissolve all of the sugar.  Let cool to room temperature, transfer to a 1 gallon glass fermenting tank (I use a glass jug), sprinkle the yeast over the top of the juice, affix bung and airlock.  The brew should start bubbling within 24 hrs.  Allow to ferment in the glass jug for 2-3 weeks, then siphon into a clean glass jug, reaffix bung and airlock, and allow to rest for 2 weeks.  This clarifies the cider.  After the two weeks have passed you're ready to bottle the cider.  Because cider can be volatile, I use bottles with a pressure seal cap, this locks in the carbonation perfectly. 

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Wild Plum

Prunus americana, wild plum, Pittsburgh, 2016

A couple of years ago I planted a native wild plum tree on the west side of the driveway.  I mention this because we're about to get the driveway repaved and the retaining walls on both sides of the drive rebuilt - I fear for the little plum tree.  I'm debating whether or not to move it.  It's not too tall, only about five feet high, and I've read that its roots are shallow, tending to branch out laterally as opposed to sending down a deep taproot.  It would've been best to move it before its sap started running and it blossomed and leafed out, while it was still dormant, but those days are gone.  I just don't want to kill it, not now, not when it might actually start producing fruit finally.  Oh, poor tree, I fret for your future.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Vintage Crown Royal


I think that I've mentioned that my mother is preparing to put her house on the market and move to a smaller space.  Currently she's living in my great-grandparents' farmhouse (1882), and that place is fairly full of multi-generational stuff.  Not a day goes by without mom calling me and asking if I want this thing or that thing.  Today she asked if I wanted this old bottle of Crown Royal that had belonged to my grandfather.  I just figured that it was an empty bottle, some commemorative or collectible bottle that he kept after the fact of the contents.   But no, a bottle of whiskey older than me, unopened.  Who does that?  Keep booze around for decades?  I'm sure that it's wonderfully smooth after 56 yrs at rest in the cellar, but after a little research I also learned that it's worth between $250-$300 US!  I can't drink this.  I have to either sell it or pass it along to someone else in the family, who would probably drink it.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Sweet Crab Apple

Malus coronaria, Sweet Crab Apple, Pittsburgh, 2016

There are only four species of apple that are native to North America, and M. coronaria is one of them.  While on a hike at Beechwood Farms this past weekend, we came upon dozens of crab apple trees in full, glorious bloom.  The nature reserve at Beechwood is rife with deer, which probably contributes to the distribution and proliferation of the trees.  A local boy scout troop keeps a bee hive at the reserve, and the bees were buzzing around the sweet blossoms.
Still, the day wasn't all sunshine and petals as I discovered a tick on my wife when we got home, which I quickly and thoroughly removed.  Unfortunately we both somehow missed the tick on me, not removing it until the next day, and then only partially as it broke apart.  Since only 1% of ticks are infected with Lyme Disease, I'm not too concerned, and we did treat the wound as suggested by the CDC, but we'll still keep an eye on the area for the next couple of weeks.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Princess Frida

What would a Frida Kahlo imagined animated Disney movie look like?  I think that it would be gruesome and awesome and filled monkeys.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Would-be Horror Props

Back in the early to mid-1960s, if you saved enough Chex cereal box tops, you could get a scarecrow doll.  I grew up with this doll in my parents' house, and now that my mother continues to slowly down size, I have it.  A disturbing bit of marketing memorabilia, a vintage nightmare inducer from my youth.  My mother has a lot of things - A LOT, but she's not a hoarder, per se, just someone who has a difficult time getting rid of things, letting go of those anchors to the past.  Thank God she's a neat freak or she would be a hoarder.

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Death And Maidens

Bargello Museum, Firenza, IT, 2006

There's an article up on the website  io9 discussing the evolution and influence of fan fiction within the female/female pairing genre that somehow digresses into the current hot topic of the killing off of lesbian characters in American television shows.  There are a spate of lesbian deaths occurring right now, only one on a show that I watch (adieu, Denise, I knew your fate in "The Walking Dead" comic, but foolishly held out hope regardless), so my outrage is tempered by my ignorance, which is as it should be.  I don't watch 'The 100' or 'Empire' or 'The Vampire Diaries', and can't comment on anything about them.  Do I want to see more lesbian characters on shows who don't end up dead?  Of course, and preferably on shows I watch.  But basically I was disappointed that the io9 piece so quickly went from the magic that was femslash back in its hey day of the late 90s, early 00s, into a full de-evolution into yet another article bemoaning this horrible trend currently cutting a bloody swath across queer representation in television.  I agree.  Stop killing the lesbians!  But can't we also talk about other things relevant to us?  Can't we go ahead and bask in that warm glow of a Janeway/7 of 9 pairing that made so much more sense than the canon of the show, particularly when they stuck poor Seven in the end with Chakotay?  Or all of those Uber adventures that Xena and Gabrielle shared, although they weren't technically Xena and Gabby, but two women in a completely different setting and time who happened to look exactly like our heroines and shared their personality traits as well.  I don't know a lesbian of my generation who didn't read - or write - f/f fanfiction.  It filled a void left gaping by tv and movies of the time.  We'd discuss these alternative universes together incessantly in chatrooms, in email groups, wherever we could find each other.  It was an extremely important community to me at a time when my first marriage was ending and I was coming out as a lesbian.  It was a lifeline, a beacon, and something that couldn't be taken away from me by the whims of a showrunner who for ratings sake have two women kiss, and then kill one of them.  In the fanfiction world, no matter what happened on the show, it couldn't penetrate the bubble that encompassed and protected this realm.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Mushroom ID

Alcohol Inky, Coprinus atramentarius, Pittsburgh, 2016

A couple of days ago the weather was mild, sunny, spring-like.  Of course that's all gone to hell and the winter we never had is being visited upon us.  Still, while out walking the dog when it was nice, I discovered these mushrooms growing on an old oak tree stump.  I picked a couple so that I could identify them when I got home.  It's uncommon for any mushroom that isn't in the Coprinus family to have a purely black spore print, so that was my first clue in identifying it.  Even the darkest mushroom spore prints are either brown or a deep purplish-brown, not black.  This one is truly black.  The alcohol inky mushroom is so-called because while it is deemed 'edible', if you consume it and booze, it generally leads to severe gastro distress.  How much you drink dictates how ill you will become.  Typically I only eat wild mushrooms that my friend Al picks.  That man knows his mushrooms!  And since I always, always, have wine with dinner, I would never, ever tempt fate with anything in the Coprinus line.

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Moore Is Less

Henry Moore Reclining Figure, Columbus Museum of Art, Ohio, 2014

Over on Hyperallergic they've got a piece up about students at Columbia University in NYC objecting to the proposed installation of one of Moore's many, and only slightly varied, 'Reclining Figure' statues.  I would like to chime in on the argument and add my opinion:  The hideous female form aesthetic has become the single most tired and trite movement in all of the art world.  It should be laid to rest, at least for awhile, until something approaching objectivity can enter the conversation.  It's just so colossally common that it lacks the ability to draw in the eye.  Infact, when I was at the Columbus Museum of Art two years ago, had I not had to wait outside to meet a friend, I would've walked right passed the Moore statue without so much as a glance.  Is that what we want from these huge public pieces?  For them to be ignored?  I say warehouse the whole lot and revisit them in a hundred years.