Wednesday, October 28, 2009

hood harvest

Despite the lack of posting, activity around the monkey ranch has continued.

Back near the beginnings of September I went out and harvested some elderberries. Not wanting to repeat my recent bout with poison oak I opted to collect the berries along a well traveled paved road in the Oaktown Hills not far from my house. A gallon of them to be exact. They were easy pickings and just loaded with yeast. Mead was on my mind. I had near a gallon of local honey. Visualize mashing, mixing and much dissolving. Now, after a good month and a half of fermenting, it is reaching the teens in alcohol and tasting much like a big rich port. Patience, is a blessing.

My local hop obsession continues. This year's harvest sure looked good. Not quite as prolific as last year, but better quality and way less bugs. (Although, in this picture there is at least a noticeable spider web lower right, a ladybug lava mid level, and multiple small white fly-ish things near the top of the hop cones.) The cascade variety (pictured) made it from the plant to the kettle in less than an hour. Now in a bottle, carbonation is the operative word. Once again, this involves much patience.

I was riding my truck to the market. It had rained a few days earlier and the first true fall leaves had collected here and there. Brown and crisp, they went crunch under the tires. Paying attention to the road, I looked down and saw a bright green leaf. As my brain registered "not a leaf" I swerved. Keeping my eyes on a spot a few inches to the side, I missed the mantid. Circling back, I fished out a food container and put my friend in the safety of my keeping. Beat up ever so slightly by the monkeys until being let loose in the garden, he made it out there at least 10 days before "moving on." I look forward to "harvesting" more mantids in the future. With patience I'm sure.

Two years ago, I gave my neighbor a hop rhizome. Now, healthy and two stories tall, they required a big ladder and teamwork to pick. While harvesting, another neighbor a few doors further down walks buy and says "dude, you harvesting your hops, you gotta come pick mine." Less than half an hour later I had at least a few ounces. Not knowing what variety I was dealing with, I cracked open a homebrew for some inspiration on how to proceed. The unknowns were somewhat garlicky smelling with red vines. I brewed up a small batch of beer, keeping it firmly on the red side of things to stay with the color scheme and used the house yeast for keeping it local. The patience pays off now, as the carbonation is good. More importantly, the garlic smell is gone and the beer is good. It's all good. Apparently my neighbor four doors down was this year's hop angel.

After dealing with various harvestables, it was time for another kind of food collection. I'd been hearing much about a famed fried chicken sandwich here in the hood that causes folks to form a long line every day come lunchtime. Being a local with a flexible schedule, I made sure to be early. Little monkey and I snarfed down some pumpkin bread on the way and opened this bad boy at home. One glance and shit damn, was I happy. Two honking bigtastic deep fried chicken breasts served on a sweet roll with some screaming yummylicious slaw. People weren't kidding when they said it was good.

The harvest is not over. Squash are still coming in. The tomatillos are still giving fruit. More beers with more hops are on the way. It keeps me busy with all the harvesting and fermenting, but I just love it when the picking is easy.

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