Tree-Hugging Dirt Worship

October 23, 2010


Filed under: gardening, Soapbox — paragardener @ 9:19 am

This story takes place in the far distant future, in a complex of skyscrapers inhabited by Cubicle People.

The Cubicle People excel at certain tasks like accounting and proofreading. It is their way to rent out their specialized
labor and pay for everything else to be done for them: they import all of their food, all of their clothing, even their
all-important office machines.

One day one of the Planter People journeyed deep into the Cubicleplex to speak with her lawyer. Their consultation
complete, the planter offered a customary token of thanks, the seeds from one tomato.

“What are these?” asked her lawyer, brow suddenly furrowed in puzzlement.

“These are tomato seeds. Each one has a tiny tomato plant folded up in it. If you bury it shallowly in soil and water it
and give it plenty of light, it’ll sprout into a plant which will grow up and produce oodles of tomatoes.”
The lawyer went and spoke to the people in the science department, and asked them if tomatoes could indeed grow all on
their own from such a tiny seed.

The first scientist rejected it out of hand. “The idea of a product that can manufacture itself is something that some of
the people in R & D have been searching for since way back in the modern era. However, the well-established law of the
Conservation of Inputs proves that this dream is futile, like free energy or predicting the weather,” said Dr. Jerkknee.

The second scientist wasn’t as sure. Even though it meant everyone would laugh at him, Dr. Epticskull took half of the
seeds and began planting them around the building. A couple of seeds went into the plastic mulch that supported the plastic
plants in the lobby. A couple of seeds went into the sand of the executive Zen Garden. A couple more seeds went into a
stony fountain, and a couple into cups of dirt set below the Low Pressure Sodium lamps of the parking garage.

Months later, the lawyer returned to ask the scientists about their progress. Dr. Jerkknee had nothing new to say at all,
of course. But even Dr. Epticskull’s sprouts had all failed. “I did everything I could do to reproduce conditions as the
Planter described them, but none of the seeds developed into a new tomato. I must reluctantly reject the hypothesis of
seeds growing into tomatoes, and admit that it has no more basis than Planter myths.”

Though their methods remain unproven, even unscientific, the Planter People just keep gathering in the bushelfuls…


October 19, 2010

Cider Take II

Filed under: Vinting — paragardener @ 12:28 am

The first gallon of cider turned into something strange and yellowish. Down the drain it went.

So, I went to Yate’s cider mill in Rochester with some friends yesterday. I was trying to score some natural cider, ready to ferment frontier style. The place is frontierish, with woods and waterwheel power and a slightly dilapidated barn. There was a guy showing off his reptile show out of the back of a pimped-out hearse in the parking lot, and pony rides and hot dogs and everything. It was easy to hang around all afternoon. Alas, all of their cider was pasteurized “for my safety.”

Barn and waterwheel

See how the whole barn leans back?

Today, I trekked to “Adventures in Homebrewing” in Taylor to buy some yeast. The look in my eye must have said, “I need some strong drink to get me drunk fast,” ’cause the shopkeeper put a packet of vibrantly live and alcohol-tolerant champagne yeast in my hand (actually, I told her I wanted the cider to taste dry).¬† I’ve never seen a place that carried such a variety of stuff : bottled CO2 gas, a collection of stills, glass carboys (manufactured in Italy since the last North American factory closed), bazillions of strains of yeast and bacteria, even Erlenmeyer flasks!

one hundred four point five degrees Fahrenheit

Post-Neolithic Yeast Culture

Inspired, I applied the full force of Renaissance-era technology to the task of waking up the yeast culture (I used a measuring cup and thermometer, as the packet suggested, and let the yeast warm up and rehydrate for 15 minutes). I took a mugful of cider out of each of two gallons, chugged it, and replaced it with 1/2 of the yeast culture, then sugar until it was almost full again. My dumbass wants to see the new ferment foam up out of the fermentation lock every time, apparently…

Incidentally, the instructions on the yeast said to add it to already-sulfited (sterilized) wine mush. But, I can’t see anything outcompeting¬† cultured yeast in the sealed-off, pasteurized environment of the cider jug, so I don’t see much danger coming from random microorganisms. Sulfites, on the other hand, may deplete thiamin levels, impacting alcohol metabolism.

Cider jugs with airlocks and a bag of sugar.

Here's looking to the short-term future!

October 7, 2010

Time for Cider

Filed under: Vinting — Tags: , , , , , , — paragardener @ 9:45 pm

The Wheel of the Year indicates: time to celebrate apples.

I have got my store-bought caramel and candied apples sitting up on the shelf for now, but making hard cider is by far the more exciting part. I purchased the unfinished “cider” at the Grosse Pointe Farms Kroger, for which I paid $5 even per gallon. There was exactly one type of cider available for purchase, Litehouse, “blended with GALA APPLES” and pasteurized.

Pasteurization sucks as it kills the yeast which naturally live with the apples. I left the jug open out-of-doors for an hour hoping for some yeast to drift on in… the jug is now sitting in my basement under a fermentation lock, which needs to start bubbling soon or the baker’s yeast I have on hand is going in. In that event, I might as well add some brown sugar, too.


Cider fermenting.

Nothing says class like fermenting it on the plastic.


Before the season is out I’ll start a second batch for conversion to applejack. The process is to put your hard cider out on the coldest day of the year, then throw away the ice that forms and take the remaining liquid back inside to bottle or drink. The result is, of course, more concentrated cider, or applejack. It’s nice to have things to live for during the winter…

Remember that every apple is Goddess-stamped with a pentagram, and that apples are so good they are traditional symbols for temptation. Peoples of temperate climes, may you enjoy apples this Fall!

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