Struggling to Stay Interesting

By , August 6, 2018

One of the promises I made to myself, and sometimes struggle to keep, is that this blog should stay interesting.

Lately, staying interesting has become a struggle. I’m sick!

homemade soap

The new batch of Russian tea soap, cut and curing (Photo: Mark A. Zeiger).

It seems to be a mere summer cold, but it’s a bad one, the kind with body aches, sore throat, way too much phlegm, the kind of cough that can knock one off one’s feet, and endless nose running and sneezes. But, I didn’t want to keep all this fun for myself, so I managed to infect Michelle with it!

So, even while the work of the homestead continues (at a slower pace, to be sure) nothing seem noteworthy or interesting. And, it’s certainly not photogenic! That’s a problem, as I’ve recently resolved to include a minimum of two photos per post. I think it’s recommended by “experts,” and is perhaps required by some advertising companies I may want to sign on with soon.

We feel like we’re laying low, almost as a punishment. We even decided to stay home from a neighborhood potluck to avoid spreading this crud.

Still, Aly and I managed to make a new batch of soap. Since we generally save that activity for rainy days when we’re both home, we’ve barely managed to make any this summer. Luckily, we’re getting some rain now, although we had a rogue day of sunshine which, oddly, gave us a high of 70°, higher than any temperatures we reached during the recent hot, sunny weather! We think that’s because the wind picked up, blowing from the south and feeling surprisingly warm.

Also, I racked a bunch of wine recently. I rather like that the wetter weather has returned, to keep us from driving so hard to get outdoor work done.

Oddly, the shower drain clogged hard, for the first time in 12 years, barring ice. That’s captured most of our attention and effort, but again, it’s not very interesting, and certainly not the type of thing one posts photos of!

Please bear with. We’ll plug on through this period, and hopefully become more interesting in the coming days.

drawing in dust

Just for kicks and giggles, here’s a photo of some impromptu, guerrilla art Michelle found at the fair (Photo: Michelle L. Zeiger).


10 Responses to “Struggling to Stay Interesting”

  1. Betty Zeiger says:

    Always fun and interesting to hear from you so hope you are well soon HUGS to all

  2. Eva Hensley says:

    Always enjoy your blog Mark. It’s good to know sometimes things get quiet at the homestead too. We are having another round of hot weather but a promise of showers and cooler temps tomorrow. Hope you all feel better soon. My mom always said sometimes a summer cold is God’s way to slow us down from working too hard..not sure about that but I know I have less tolerance for summer colds and allergies. The soap looks nice!

  3. Unwise Bard says:

    Always hated having a summer bug. Too little summer to give some up to being sick. Any interesting wine varieties this time around? Always fascinated with other’s fermenting arts, especially the more esoteric varieties. Your blog inspired me to plant an elderberry bush in the front yard. But I have been into making my own beer lately, Chocolate Cherry Imperial Stout happily bubbling away right now. Looking forward to the elderberry starting to produce.

  4. Mark Zeiger says:

    Thank you, Aunt Betty!

  5. Mark Zeiger says:

    Thanks, Eva. I think your mom is right. I have no real doubt that these colds are brought on by overdoing it–plus more contact with other germ pools. It’s a bad combination!

  6. Mark Zeiger says:

    Hail, Unwise Bard! I always used to fume about summer colds for precisely that reason, especially when it cut into summer vacation time. Now, I try to roll with it.

    What kind of elder bush did you plant, blue berries or red berries? Our indigenous are red, as I’ve noted on the blog. I’m curious about the blue ones, supposedly the “correct” wine berry. I commend you for your beer making–I’d like to try it, but I’ve heard that it requires very steady temperatures, something I simply cannot offer a fermentation vat in my situation.

    No exotic varieties here, though. Just the basics: birch and rhubarb. I need to start a few grape batches to up our standards inventory. We’ll be heating with wood again very soon, so I ought to take advantage of those temperatures.

    Please let me know how your chocolate cherry imperial stout turns out–that’s very intriguing!

  7. Unwise Bard says:

    To be “professional” grade and super repeatable results, yes, you need steady temperatures (controller + freezer or refrigerator), but only for 1-2 weeks. Also, beer turns around much quicker than wine. And most of the history of beer hasn’t been with temperature control, or anything remotely resembling modern sanitation.

    But I have steady-ish temps in Michigan, and go without electric temperature control. Generally 70 +/- 5 in the house. Mostly you want to keep it somewhere between 55 and 72ish, which I imagine Alaska makes that more achievable. And I haven’t made something yet that I wouldn’t of been willing to buy at the store. I also started with a good mentor and didn’t try to put barely enough money in to get started, and bought good equipment to start with. Look into BIAB (brew-in-a-bag) to keep your equipment prices lower. One exotic you might want to look into is spruce-tip Scandinavian-style beer. The light-green tips that appear early summer are used to bitter beer instead of hops.

    Birch & rhubarb are both “exotics” to me. Haven’t seen much outside of grape, apple, blue/straw/raspberry, cherry, and peach. And melomel/mead varieties with those flavors as well.

    I believe the blue elderberry, as that is generally what is available wild here. Bought it from a very small nursery, and it was just labeled elderberry. Also have some red currants going, that I hope to use in a beer some day.

  8. Mark Zeiger says:

    Bard, your assessment is very encouraging, and follows my thinking. We’ve managed to codify so much of what humans have been doing without much thought for centuries, it does seem possible to brew beer without the worry. I may give it a try soon.

    Spruce tips make awesome beer! Russian ship captains used it to keep their crews from getting scurvy while exploring Alaska; our local brewery uses them in several of their best recipes. We use them a lot (we make wine, cider, and “honey”) so they’re a natural for any beer I might try making.

    There’s also a common local “weed” that is traditionally used in place of hops. Forget what it is (yarrow or pineapple weed, possibly?) but easily remembered, and definitely underfoot when the time comes to experiment.

    I’ve made wine from red currants, and it’s delicious! Good luck!

  9. Unwise Bard says:

    If you track down what your local hop alternative is, let me know! I have heard of both yarrow and pineapple weed, as well as wormwood, bitter orange peel and spruce tips as alternate bittering ingredients. I may have to do one of these as my next beer. My home-grown hops (rare and/or local strains) are due in a couple weeks, but need to brew a batch in between.

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