Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Brown County for Our 9th Anniversay

Two weeks ago we were in Brown County Indiana. The weather was fine and the food was good and the bed and breakfast we stayed at, Oak Haven was a delight. I was able to do yoga on the back deck under the stars, breakfast was good and our room was comfortable. With Bloomington only 16 miles a way, we had a good mix of things to do. So what's so special about Brown County? It is just a nice mix of beautiful scenery, art galleries and antiques, good independent restaurants and misc activity. We went to four wineries, including Oliver, and you might recognize that from the grocery store. Their best wines though were from their independent label. Their tasting room was bright, airy, lots of woodwork and wonderfully landscaped. Below are some pictures of their chambourcin grapes, right before picking. We were allowed to stop, take pictures and sample a few.
Beautiful countryside, whether it's Ashville North Carolina or the west coast of Michigan, attracts artists. We saw a lot of great art and visited the permanent gallery of the work of Marie Goth and Veraldo Giuseppe Cariani. Google Maris Goth and learn more about here. I loved both styles of paintings, but loved her story. She went to a local technical school (we are talking 1915-ish and won an art scholarship to a New York. Her parents didn't want her to go, they wanted her to marry a local boy, but she went and there she met Veraldo or "VJ" they became great friends but then he enlisted to serve in World War I. He saw a lot of action and came back to New York with such severe PTSD (shell shock back then) that Marie persuaded him to come back with her to Brown County Indian, where they, her sister and brother and law basically hung out in the quiet wooded hills and painted and painted. They never married, in fact, it sounds like we aren't sure how their relationship was defined, but they remained lifelong friends, living into their nineties. I'm so bad at posting links that work, just google Marie Goth, I think she was a woman before her time. If you go to Brown County I recommend eating at the Hobnob Restaurant in Nashville and Farm in Bloomington. It's just called Farm, not "the farm." And we did a bit of hiking. Brown County State Park is the largest in Indiana, and only has four venomous snake species, so you know, super...
We heard lots of woodpeckers and saw lots of holes, but none of the big pileated ones revealed themselves to us.
I had never seen so many chipmunks in my life, which is handy for the eastern timber rattlesnake that snacks on them. The eastern timber lays it's head and...neck, or first half of its body across the many fallen trees on the forest floor as both chipmunks and squirrels use these logs as express lanes. The rattler blends into the bark and uses the vibration on the log to judge when to strike.
We did see a handful of deer, but the real fine was made by Andrew, who spotted this "five line skink" on a tree.
http://www.fcps.edu/islandcreekes/ecology/five-lined_skink.htm We hiked to this lake, and I thought it was a good idea. I forgot that with the lack of rain that the lake might be, um, less than impressive and it was a long trail to get there...going downhill on the way there of course so it meant uphill on the way back. It was a bit deserted and reminded me, of a lake that lost hikers would come across, you know, before the axe murderer comes out. But I got a picture of these little ducks, they aren't mallards but I haven't had time to identify them.
When we hiked around the far side of the lake, there was this jumble of limbs and brush along the bank and Andrew said he thought it was the work of a beaver and I blew it off, then twenty feet down the trail we found this.
...and I had to eat a little crow. Can you find the little toad in this picture?
We went to the Nature Center and it was pretty cool. They had lots of lovely displays including a transparent honeybee hive (we couldn't find the queen) a live turtle and a live timber rattler (that scared the beejeesus out of me when I turned around from the turtle he was slithering up his case at near eye level to me) and an awesome, awesome bird feeding area outside. We sat on benches in the center surrounded by identification posters and watched the activity. It was mesmerizing. Here are some shots.
All in all it was a great trip! Speaking of trips, the Country Living Fair post will be next so stay tuned.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Misc Industry

Most of the activity below happened before Labor Day and I am just now getting around to posting. We harvested the grapes before Labor Day as everything is early this year. This is the first year that we had enough wine grapes and after de-stemming them and washing them we froze them until Andrew can get everything ready. Let me tell you, I did not like de-stemming. It was tedious and OMG the spiders in these grapes. You can buy a small mechanical de-stemmer and I can tell you we'll be investing in one of those next year. Pictured below are the Vignole grapes that we had the most of all the varieties, about 6 bags.
But the real bumper crop this year was the Concords, the variety Andrew first planted. I love, love, love concord grapes. They are like candy and I don't mind the seeds. Here is the majority of what I picked, and the half gallon milk jug is for scale.
Andrew pressed the juice from all of these grapes while I de-stemmed the wine grapes and then we let the juice settle in cans. This picture is before we put them in the fridge for two days to let the sediment settle, restrain, them can. It really looked like we had canned Barney (you know, the dinosaur.)
My Grandma Perdue loved concord grapes too and I can remember her making juice, and jelly and grape "fry pies." No wonder too as there are too many to eat at once...even for me! Our sugar baby watermelons ripened up and I made some watermelon toner. I definitely like it better for the face than cucumber, but for hot days, the cucumber is better for an all around after bath splash. This recipe is basically watermelon juice, vodka and distilled water. Andrew came in as I was pouring the vodka in and pointed out that I was essentially making a cocktail. I invited him to taste and he admitted it was pretty good. I also mixed some with some white cosmetic clay for a mask and that left my skin feeling wonderful.
I haven't done much baking yet, and I'm thinking more about cookies and quick breads than frozen treats. I did make muffins a couple weeks ago. I took the blueberry muffin recipe from the Williams-Sonoma muffin book but I added cranberries and chocolate chips and made a double batch.
I'm finding that I am using a scale to weigh dry ingredients for baking (at least the flour and especially if I am doubling the recipe) I guess this is a subtle sign that I am turning a little more serious about baking, but with this scale it's so easy as the top is removable and so easy to wash.
The jar on the right is a "Triomphe" jar, a french canister jar. I found three of them that were my Grandma Perdue's and a couple of etsy purchases rounded out a set that I keep all my dry baking ingredients in. Remember that with muffins, you want the batter to rest a few minutes so it can rise a little. Another standard tip is using an ice cream scoop with the little lever to pop out nicely rounded balls of batter. It helps measure and cut down on mess.
Yum! I wouldn't add the chocolate chips again though, it just made it a little too busy. I'm behind on blogging. The next posts will have pictures of our trip to Brown County Indiana and (drumroll please) the Country Living Fair.

Fall Conditioning Time

With the weather cooling off, and deer season not yet started, now is the time of year that is the sweet spot to get the hunting (pheasant) dogs conditioned which just means walking them in the mornings and evenings around the hunting property to get them back into the swing. It's easy for them to overheat even in upper 60 degree weather, so they haven't been out much over the summer. The ticks have died off but the bees and butterflies are still out and about. It's so nice to take the camera, take a dog, and amble about the varied terrain to see what we can see. Two Sundays ago I took out Deke, the larges English/American black Labrador retriever. I think he is particularly handsome, but it is impossible to get a picture of him because every time he stops in a nice, natural pose and I raise the camera up...he thinks it is a gun and starts running toward me. So this picture is the best I can do. Remember the camera adds ten pounds...both for me and Deke. The walking is helping me too.
And yes, his tongue is hanging out as this is an "after walk" picture. Don't worry he gets plenty of access to water on the walk. And no, I'm not paying attention to what I wear when I go out, hence the color circus. We came across this doe and was able to turn around and not spook her completely out of her hang out.
Not five minutes later, we did flush this doe and fawn out of their grazing spot.
But they didn't go far. Notice the doe on the left, how her leg is raised up, it's a classic move to decide fight or flight. Often when deciding what they are going to do, the deer will stamp this leg on the ground...it's a sign you are pretty much made if you are in a tree or blind. The picture may be too far away for you to tell, so you will just have to take my word for it.
Since they didn't move off right away I tried to "call" them in for grins, making a bleating noise does use. And lo and behold, the big doe came right back over to where they were so quick I was astonished. I probably called her over about 30 yards.
I don't know how close they would have come in, because Deke started jumping around and then they were gone for good. When I got home and told Dad about it and then replicated the sound I made, thinking it was a pretty good imitation of a doe, he just laughed and said that they came closer just to see what the heck was making that noise...ah well it was still effective in bringing them closer!