It has been a lovely rainy summer, and now it’s gotten hot and humid, and that suits me just fine, too. The garden is doing well, surprisingly, the tomatoes have not gotten the deadly late blight, and today I’ll can my first batch.

We ate one of our hams from this past winter, and it was wonderful. I had been a little worried, as we don’t use nitrates, and I never got these hung up. Instead they’ve been sitting in a box of ashes on the kitchen floor, which seems to have worked well, as the one we ate was great!

The peaches are all coming ripe right now, so I need to figure out what to do with them—wine maybe? There is a limit to how much peach ice cream a person can eat!

Speaking of wine, we have two five-gallon batches of elderberry-blackberry wine going, one with honey and one with sugar. The kitchen smells a little yeasty. There’s also been a pot of dulce de leche boiling merrily away on the stove, adding to the general heat and humidity, but smelling fantastic. I’ll be done with that today. I’ve been making a two-pound hard cheese every day, and am excited to open the first of those. And today I pull the rest of the cabbages from the garden and make sauerkraut, which should really make the house fragrant!

The darn computer is down again, which is why updates have been so few and far between!

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This was actually yesterday in the kitchen—I just never could get this post done last night!

DH went to the D*’s farm night before last and picked almost 30 pounds of their wonderful organic Triple Crown thornless blackberries (I know—it almost seems like cheating!) The next morning I picked through them a bit and then mashed them and covered them with boiling water. Today, now that they’ve cooled I’ll add a packet of champagne yeast, let the whole mess ferment for a few days, and then strain it onto about 7 1/2 pounds of sugar, at which point it’ll go into a glass carboy with a towel clothespinned around it (so it’ll keep its gorgeous color) and a fermentation lock on top. Then some cold day this fall or winter, DH will bottle it—a huge production that I try to avoid at all costs.

Also on the kitchen list: a batch of bread, and a summer supper of pasta with homemade pesto, a salad studded with Sungold and Sprite cherry tomatoes (all from the garden) and a blueberry and white peach cobbler.

I am so tired! I can’t figure out why—just end of summer farmer’s tired, I guess. Or as M* would say, “It’s August!” This is the time to take echinacea—1 to 3 drops of tincture in a glass of water. The herbalist Matthew Wood says that Echinacea is the “tired farmer remedy”—you’re worn out but have to keep going; the work and the needs of the farm are relentless. Looking around my unbelieveabley trashed house makes me have that relentless sort of feeling.

Yesterday we went up to Max Patch and picked berries: blueberries (a gallon or two), blackberries, and tons of elderberries. We also collected blueberry leaves to dry for tea this winter. They’re supposed to regulate blood sugar levels, and besides, they taste good. Some of the blueberries we picked are going in the freezer, and some, combined with the black- and elderberries, are going to go into another batch of wine. This will be a honey mead with lots of fruit (a toast to my Welsh ancestors, what few of them there are)—maybe we’ll call it Max Patch Purpleberry Mead. Now I’ve just got to go in the kitchen and face the piles of fruit that need to be dealt with….

The sad part about yesterday is that I was supposed to go to C*’s last night for a crafty girl’s night out. I was going to take the opportunity to work on my quilt square for pregnant D* (which is due Wednesday), but I was so much too tired I could barely hoist myself off the couch to pick up the telephone and tell C* I wasn’t coming! Jeez! So the quilt square is this morning’s project (along with fruit/wine, and cleaning this astonishingly disgusting dump of a domicile).

My diet is a struggle right now. During the baking of the wedding cake I went pretty much completely off the diet, and ate some cake (double whammy because of my wheat sensitivity) and then reasoned that I’d already blown it anyway, so I might as well go all out. For two days. Ahem. It’s not so much that I feel bad for taking a couple of days off; it’s that now I feel kind of icky, and I’m craving carbs big time. The hardest thing for me to give up has been rice, and that’s what I’m craving right now. Just one bowl of hot jasmine rice with butter and salt. And a fried egg on top (my all-time favorite breakfast). Maybe if I wear my new bathing suit all day it’ll help me not give in!

There’s a stray dog in the neighborhood—and she’s in heat. And Fionn’s in love. He can’t stay away from her (DH is very sympathetic). Unfortunately, this affair is causing Mr. Fionn to neglect his goat duties. Plus he looks like hell. Yesterday we loaded him in the car for the first time since we got him as a puppy and took him to Max Patch with us. You’d’ve thought he was being sent off to exile in Siberia—he trembled and whined and drooled down the backs of the girls’ necks all the way there. He had a ball once we were up there, but when it was time to go he hid behind these sort of elderly tourists, who acted like they thought we needed lessons on how to treat a dog. Finally DH had to just pick him up and place him in the car (all hundred and some pounds of him), where once again he soaked the girls and threatened to throw up. Made for an exciting car ride. Next time maybe we’ll just tie him by the barn.

I feel almost human this morning: slept from 11:00 last night until 5:00 this morning, and then alternated between dozing and reading until 8:30. Probably a bad idea, since the book I’m reading is Patricia Cornwall’s Blow Fly .

YD is fine—what a relief! Now I have to regroup and figure out what I need to get done for Sunday’s party. Can’t mow today—it’s raining. Damn: I’m going to have to clean the house!

Sometime earlier this week I strained the fruit out of the wine-to-be and put it in two 5-gallon carboys, along with seven and a half pounds of sugar in each. I’ll add another two and a half pounds to each when the fermentation slows down a little. They’re both fitted with fermentation locks, sitting on the woodstove in the kitchen, bubbling merrily away. They’re the most astonishing magenta color!

The baby broilers were moved from their small very smelly cage in the front yard to the chicken tractor in the pen. They’re happier and I’m happier. I’m going to butcher them and put them in the freezer before we go to the beach at the end of September. I was hoping to butcher a goat (Tiny Tim) for roasting at the party Sunday, but I don’t know how that’s going to work out schedule-wise. DH is at work now, and coming home at 2:30 so I can be at work at the Inn at 3:00, where I’ll be until 10:30 or 11:00 tonight. Tomorrow ED and I are going to go to Asheville to pick up feed and groceries. Maybe DH can slaughter the goat while we’re gone, and I’ll skin and butcher when I get home(?). We’ll see how that works out!

Mozilla Firefox just will not work on this computer—it’s so unbearably slow I could scream. So yesterday I downloaded Internet Explorer 6 and it’s working so much better—I can even blog! Graham at Blogger tech support said that there are some problems with IE5 and Blogspot (no kidding!); anyway, I’m happier now, though I’d rather have Firefox—I just love some of its nifty features like tabbed browsing. Oh well, someday…

The whole house smells like very yeasty wine; I think it’s a good smell (not sure). Maybe today we’ll strain it into the carboys and add sugar; DH is very antsy to get it in the carboys—I’m not sure why. I feel that the longer (within reason) it works with the fruit in it, the better. I think the next batch of wine may be apple-elderberry. We’ll see.

OK—time to get my lazy butt out of the house and into the garden. There’s a whole lot to be done in the lower garden: weeding, taking old plants out, preparing beds for fall crops, mowing, weedeating…. Maybe I’ll start fall stuff in flats today—broccoli, kale, collards, chard, beets etc.

DH isreplacing the barn floor today–hallelujah!

Yesterday DH picked tons of blackberries, gleaned from P* and M*’s, and tons of elderberries, and then stayed up til 1:00 this morning taking the elderberries off their stems and removing the stink bugs. Then he put eight pounds of each kind of berry in two five gallon stainless steel pots, poured boiling water over them and covered them very tightly with plastic wrap to prevent fruit flies from getting in. They were still warm at 7:30 this morning. Sometime today or this evening I’ll add wine yeast (Montrachet) to the pots, and then we’ll let them sit for a few (3 or 4) days, though I’ll remove the plastic wrap and instead tie a piece of cheesecloth around each one. The plastic wouldn’t stay on once it starts fermenting—it needs to breathe at that point.

We need to rack off our three gallon jar of dandelion wine. It is gorgeous, clear, and delicious this year. Very dark in color, probably because of the brown sugar we used. It’ll be lovely to open a bottle for the solstice this winter!

Susun Weed says some interesting things about elderberries, and I will share them as soon as I find my book, which I seem to have loaned out. It’s Herbal for the Childbearing Year—highly recommended if anybody out there doesn’t already have a copy.

Our wine-making guru is an English fellow named C.J.J. Berry (appropriately enough). He has a little book called First Steps in Winemaking. He has recipes using just about any kind of fruit you can think of, plus flowers and a few vegetables. Lots of us Hot Springs winemakers use his book, so if you want to be cool, you may need to get a copy!