Friday, August 22, 2008

"wild" grape jelly

This is my 49th post. Should I do something special for the 50th, or is that right reserved for the 100th?

Anyway. The grapes that shadow our back porch bloomed and then produced like crazy this year. Turns out we have green seedless grapes, not at all table grapes but deliciously flavourful and very productive.

I thought I'd toss out some photos of the grapes and the jelly that fishy and I (though mostly fishy) made. We used a recipe from the Internets: Wild Grape Jelly. fishy did some modifications for the second batch, with more juice and less sugar, and it turned out better. We have no idea how many pounds of grapes we used. More than three for sure. We made two batches of jelly and still had juice left over. It was quite simple, but very time consuming, for the de-stemming of the grapes, the washing, and the crushing. Which we did with our bare hands. After the crushing, we got something that looked like this:

It was delicious, but a little painfully sour. We strained (not overnight) and ended up with this crazy, cloudy, grey-green juice. Something like I imagine the Limpopo River looking like. It tasted fine though. We added food colouring (doing it again, I don't think I would -- I'd like to see if the jelly clarifies a little and looks a little more appealing) and pectin, and away we went. Well, fishy. I was making cornbread and marinating tofu. So, fishy did all the actual canning bits. This is what we ended up with:

It's lovely. The first batch is a little sweet, but the second is just about perfect. Looking forward to testing it with cheese. The first batch will have to be for toast and dessert, I think.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

postmodern Belfry

In the "cool creatures in my life" vein, I have another story.

I had an exam today. Thus last night, I was all about the getting to bed early and sleeping well. We did pretty okay. I was starting to drift off by about 11:30 when fishy says "Did you hear that?"

Yes, I'd heard it. But I wasn't about to get out of bed to investigate. I'm lazy that way. fishy, on the other hand, is not so lazy, and is quite proactive about investigating strange noises in the house. He got up and headed into the hallway... and he was gone for quite a long time. By this time I was wide awake and thought I'd maybe better get out of bed. Especially since there was definitely something in the hall.

It was out of the hall, closed in the sunroom with fishy, by the time I was out of the bedroom. And when fishy poked his head out to warn me to stay low, I could see it.

It looked something like this. Only much faster. And bigger. They look a lot bigger when they're flying in your house.

I've seen lots of little brown bats before, and this one was clearly larger, even when one controls for apparent bat-in-house size. When it landed on the windowsill, I'd say the body was the length of my palm, which is pretty big for a bat. Big brown bat it was.

fishy wanted a hat, and though I would normally scoff at such a request (what the hell does a bat want with your hair?) it was pretty clear that our guest was dive-bombing. Out of respect for the fact that I was pretty sure both he and the bat would have simultaneous heart attacks if it did manage to hit the head, I got him a hat. Then fishy managed to keep the sunroom door closed, light off, and open all the windows and remove the screens. The door to the rest of the house was closed, and we left our guest alone.

We decided to name the bat Belfry, since we don't have a belfry for the bat to be in. However, now the bat is the belfry and thus we have both. Problem solved.

Also, the bat is no longer in the house. At some time in the night he found the open windows, and when we checked this morning he was gone.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

backyard bugs

Today it is quite warm out there. I am technically working on an essay today, but I did manage to get out and weed one of the veggie beds... while out there, witnessed a black swallowtail laying her eggs on my carrots. Super exciting! I am torn between leaving the single egg I could find out there to fend for itself naturally, or bringing it inside to be coddled into adulthood by me. I think I might leave it out there, since that's really the way things should be. But the caterpillar is welcome to my carrots. It can have my share. That was my secret second reason for planting carrots: butterflies.

Also saw an adult cicada resting on the (remaining) garlic, and a white-faced meadowhawk on the spiderwort by the birdbath. There are cabbage white butterflies everywhere. fishy and I found a cardinal's nest in the white lilac not all that long ago, too, which is pretty neat. There are nuthatches and chickadees around, and goldfinches constantly singing.

As for the rest of the garden, well... it's still there. Which is a good thing. Must get the rest of the garlic out and put the brussels sprouts seedlings in.