How to Make Dandelion Wine (and any other you can think of!)

“Honey, you want to harvest these dandelions before I mow?” my husband called out.  Why, I didn’t even know the dandelions were here yet, and there they were in lovely carpets of gold; their lion manes of spring feeding the bees and dotting the yard with color.  I love dandelions.

Using my thumbnail, I simply pop off the tops of the flowers.  Like a little bee myself, I flit from flower to flower.  I filled a quart jar and a half and still left some in the garden beds for the honey gatherers.  The next thing you want to do is to pour the golden flowers into a paper bag and leave it on the porch on its side.  This allows the stragglers to escape.  No one wants ant wine.

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Wine is, in its essence, fermented sweet tea or juice with yeast that feeds off the sugars turning it into a delightful and medicinal drink.

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Bring flowers, one peeled orange, and 16 cups (1 gallon) of water to boil.  Turn off heat and cover with lid and let sit for 15 minutes.

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Strain into a gallon container used for wine making.  Leave a few inches headspace. You will have some tea left over.  Add 4 cups of sugar (I prefer organic, unbleached, raw sugar) and 2 cups of brown sugar (molasses is what makes it brown).  Stir to dissolve.

Dandelions taste particularly good with orange and caramel notes.  I like to add orange extract and butterscotch extracts when making dandelion jelly.  In this case, we are using fresh orange and brown sugar to create those notes.

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Let cool to 90 degrees then add 1/4 teaspoon of white wine yeast.  Stir.  Replace lid and carboy.  Pour a smidge of vodka into carboy to specified lines.  Let sit in a cool corner and bubble away.  It will bubble (the yeast is eating the sugar) for 10 days to 3 weeks depending on what kind of wine you are making.

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When the bubbling stops then it is time to siphon the wine (all but the bottom 1/2 inch of sediment) into super clean bottles.  Place in root cellar for 6 months to a year or more.

You can use any fruit or herb to make wine.  If there is enough juice and sugars in the fruit (like in grapes) then you just add yeast to the juice.  Most things will be made into a strong tea like the above recipe as well as my chokecherry wine and rosehip/lavender mead.  Have fun and experiment.  Use 4-8 cups of sugar.  Use 1/4 or 1/5 of a teaspoon of wine yeast, red or white.

My chokecherry wine was pretty dang strong after a year, but after two years, lord it was smooth, and I highly wished that I hadn’t given away all of the bottles!

Sunday Morning on the Farm

We need to bring in more wood.  I shall find some more kindling.  Empty the ash into the compost.   A wood fire is far more warming than the furnace.  And delightful as well.

The grandfather clock chimes and the morning is still.  Blue jays call in the distance.  Steam rises from my coffee cup as my husband sips his beside me.  A quiet Sunday morning save for sounds of the homestead.

Blur….upp, the sound the honey wine makes while fermenting.

The busy whir of the sewing machine as I work on Yuletide gifts.

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Gentle snoring from the farm dog who reclines comfortably on the sofa after a cool night outdoors keeping watch over the urban farm.  He loves his work and does it well, coming in to rest then opting to go outside again late morning.

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This life, this home, it balms, sweetens, and simplifies.  This homestead life.

Root vegetables- sunchokes, parsnips, and potatoes- harvested from the garden beds will be roasted for brunch alongside fresh eggs from the coop.

The chickens dig around in the leaves and the golden light of autumn cascades over the sleeping beds.  I jot down ideas for a preservation garden.  I will need more fencing.

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Dreams, and the gentle lilt of every day life pervades me and I smile, and take another sip.

Welcome to Our New Shop (a video tour)

My friends, I would like to show you around my new shop that opened Saturday!  My daughter and I (and a beautiful array of angelic friends) have been scrubbing, painting, creating, preparing, and decorating this glorious 1800’s store front.  Welcome to Pumpkin Hollow Farm Homesteading Supplies and Classes.  If you are ever in Pueblo, Colorado, do come by!  687 S. Union Ave.  Facebook.com/pumpkinhollowfarm

Pumpkin Hollow Farm Homesteading Supplies and Classes (a shop is born)

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Wednesday: The idea came swift and clear as a starry night.  Or perhaps it resurfaced.  Or perhaps it was whispered in my ear by the homesteading spirits before me.  Either way, it has been seven days since then and we are already planning our grand opening.

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Thursday: I ran the idea by my youngest daughter to see if she wanted to be a part of it.  She was in.  We went for a long hike and discussed why we wanted to start a farmgirl store.  I did not want to start something rashly with just money in mind.  It needed to be meaningful and enjoyable.  We came up with a list of why the homesteading lifestyle is important to us.

  • Helps environment
  • Healthier
  • Creates better mental health
  • Satisfying
  • Affordable
  • Homesteading creates more family time
  • Great for children
  • Creates community

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It was five and a half years ago that we stood in Nancy’s kitchen making goat’s milk soap, creating label ideas, going through seed catalogs and beginning “The Five Farmgirls.”  Emily held a few-month old Maryjane on her hip as she and Nancy’s daughter, Faleena came up with product names.  We laughed as we sarcastically came up with our own catch phrase, “It’s Farmgirl Good!” as we shook the cold milk trying to turn it into butter for two hours.  Our friend, Lisa came over to help make soap and we sat outside on an early spring day and had a picnic lunch.  A year later Nancy would suddenly and quietly cross over the veil.

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Saturday: Doug and I had lunch with Lisa and Lance Saturday and I told her my idea.  They raise humane meat on their ranch and we could have a pick up point at our shop.  We could do the same for milk.  We laughed and talked for three hours and discussed ideas.  Still, with not a lot of dollars and no idea where to get an affordable retail space, it still felt far off.

So certain that this was going to take off, Emily and I started picking up usable antiques (that are sturdier and still work better than modern versions!) and items for our store.  I bought material to make aprons and farmgirl style pillows.  We came up with a name, Pumpkin Hollow Farm (of course); Homesteading Supplies and Classes.

Sunday: Doug and I drove around and gathered phone numbers for retail spaces.  None of them were quite right.  They also were way out of our price range.  I wanted an old space that looked like a general store.  And it had to be ridiculously affordable.  (They are cleaning it up…I’m keeping the piano for the shop!)

Monday: I call on a shop that people had said would be hard to get.  Many people had inquired on this space and had either been turned down or never called back.  The manager picks up, says she will call the owner and call me back.  Five minutes later she calls me back, the owner loves my idea.  She will rent to me.  For a ridiculously affordable price.  Ten minutes later I am at the shop to see it.  The building is over a hundred years old and it sure looks like a general store.  It is in a great location.

Tuesday: Dad brings a box to my apothecary that says my name on it.  “Mom wanted you to have these,” he says wistfully as he hands me a large bag along with the box.  My friends Kat and Rod are like parents to me and Kat died almost exactly two years ago.  I have a collection of her grandmother’s things.  Hilda is alive and well in my home.  A box and bag of homesteading items and china were the new gifts to me to carry on.  A whisper from above that there are many friends helping this come together.

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Wednesday: Yesterday morning we signed a lease and shook hands.  A private loan came through.  I registered my name.  We have held on to our beloved name since our early farm.  Our farm and homesteading school took a devastating turn a little over three years ago when we had to suddenly leave our rented farm and all of my beautiful homesteading items and our lifestyle was lost.  In a twist of irony, as I searched for my name in the Secretary of State, the name expired three years ago to the day that I re-registered it.

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Mission Statement: To increase happiness, health, and well being for people and Mother Earth by offering quality, second hand, homemade or sustainable objects that bring back the charm of an old fashioned, simple life.

Pumpkin Hollow Farm Homesteading Supplies and Classes coming in early September!

“It’s Farmgirl Good!”

 

 

Results of Making Chokecherry Wine

Drum roll please…..

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Well, it’s been about a year since I brewed the chokecherry wine. It needed to sit for a year and I have patiently waited for the final product.  I was nervous because choke cherries are named that for a reason, they are puckeringly sour and a smidge bitter without two tons of sugar.

Friends, those old timers that wrote that recipe knew a thing or two about turning ordinary wild berries into wine to keep the spirits warm for winter.

The initial scent was of yeast and fruit, sweet berries, and summer.  A taste proved similar to meade with a hint of bitter on the end.  Not too shabby, Folks.  Not too shabby.

For the recipe, see my initial blog post here for making Chokecherry Wine.

A Walk in the Vineyards (visiting Napa)

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Is wine just another drink?  A snobby, pretentious one?  An expensive bottle of grape juice?  It is more than that, of course, as I have written in Wine 101 and Wine 200.  The puzzle of finding out where the grapes were grown, in what kind of soil, surrounded by what, in what climate, on old or new vines.  These can all be answered in a glance, smell, sip.  I love that one can find so many complexities and aromas in a simple glass of…well….grape juice.

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And behind all that, the fancy restaurants, the food pairings, the bottles snug in the cellar, is the farmer.  A farmer, workers, wine makers, all making this journey through dinner sensational.

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Homesteaders have been making their own wine for many, many centuries.  Fermenting grapes was a way to preserve the bounty and provided safer refreshment than water at many times.  It is a preservation method, a return on the farmer’s time and energies growing this humble fruit.

Following the vineyard tour of Pine Crest in Napa, I took to memory everything the guide said about the growing of the grapes.  Hillside, sun, distance from the ground, sugar content, days on the vine.  I kept asking questions.  I must grow grapes.  A sad shake of the head met me.  140 days on the vine.

“Oh, I can do that.  I have a four and a half months to grow.”  That is a hundred and forty days after the fruit is visible, after flowering, after Spring, 140 days.

“Oh wait, that is my entire growing season!”  Oh, Kiowa, you high desert land, you’re killing me as a farmer over here!

But you know me, if someone tells me in Napa Valley, where they know grapes and wine, that I can’t grow grapes, I’ll be shopping for Sangiovese and Petite Sirah grapes the second my plane lands back in Colorado.  There has got to be a way for me to grow good grapes.  I will research areas similar to my climate and see what they grow.  Surely along the equatorial line Colorado matches up with somewhere like France across the globe.

Six dollar wines with cute animals on them or fancy Italian words used to be my wine of choice.  Now, you can find a darn good wine at twelve bucks, but I used to think the Costco style wines, in all their bulk glory and appealing labels, were the best wines.  Then I started enjoying red blends, their smooth, creamy textures, albeit void of intense complexity, seemed fitting for any occasion (and still can be).  Though I love a good puzzle.  And the puzzle can only be found in single vineyard wines.

Single vineyard is how you know the grapes came from the same place.  That wine will give you more uniqueness, as it will whisper to you notes about its soil constitution, how far its roots traveled, how much sun it received, how old the vines are.  Its own place on the planet written out in a bottle.

Estate grown means that it is grown on the vineyard owner’s properties, but their vineyards could be miles apart.

Reserve means that it was grown in a particular patch of vineyard, a more expensive wine generally, but a more concentrated memory of where it was grown.  The best area of the vineyard.

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We walked through the vast vineyards.  Watched as row upon row clung to the hillside taking in the glorious sun.  Smelled the sacrificial roses.  They are there to attract insects.  The destructive bugs will hopefully go to the roses instead of eating the precious fruit.

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We walked through the warehouse-looking area where thirty feet high there were stacked newly harvested and resting wine hovering in French oak barrels.  Enormous steel tanks held bubbling early fermentations of wine.  We walked into the cave.  Several miles of caves exist under the buildings.  Rows and rows of oak line the walls filled with their proud vintage.  We tasted a sample right out of the barrel.  It was delicious.  Creamy, interesting, smooth, filled with berries, molasses, spice, and vanilla.  We walked further down the cool caves (incidentally only three degrees cooler than my basement…I can do this!) and came upon a beautiful round table with three dozen shimmering glasses and small plates of cheese.  We went through three tastes of wines, each delightful with its chosen cheese, and savored the romantic cave atmosphere.

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Next Google search; zone 4 grape vines and an oak barrel.