"The creation of a thousand forests is in one acorn." -Ralph Waldo Emerson

Posts tagged ‘weeds’

Dandelion Wine – Elixir for Life

imageThere was a time in my life where I bought into the idea that dandelions have no place in the yard. I think part of it was psychological in that I would watch TV commercials or see magazine ads showing what appeared to be perfect, happy, fulfilled people lounging and playing in perfect and blissfully weed-free yards, suggesting to me that the key to my own happiness was to accept nothing less than a perfectly lush and green weed-free yard.

So, that’s what I did. In pursuit of green perfection and the perfect happy family, I purchased and applied weed killers to eradicate dandelions and other broadleaf weeds from my lawn. I celebrated my success as the chemicals did what they were designed to do and the dandelions disappeared.

Several autumns ago my father-in-law offered me some of the dandelion wine he had made in the spring of that year. I was a bit hesitant to try it but when the liquid hit my tongue I was pleasantly surprised. Not only did it taste good but it just felt good to drink it.

He explained that it took a large volume of dandelion flowers to make just one gallon of wine and that it had been a challenge to find them. My mind flashed with images of how many dandelions had perished under my diligent applications of weed killers. I wished I could rewind time and take it all back. That was when I stopped using weed killers and started welcoming the dandelion to grow in my lawn.

Since that time I’ve learned that the dandelion carries powerful and healthy medicine in all of its parts – from flower to root. It’s high in vitamins and minerals and is said to assist with issues of the liver, kidneys and gallbladder. Perhaps that’s why it felt so good to drink a wine made from the flowers.

Dandelion Wine Recipe from the book Healing Wise by Susun Weed with notes on variations and adjustments I made. One of the most important things in wine making is cleanliness. Make sure your tools and vessels are clean and sterilized. This will help prevent spoilage and nasty “science experiment” types of surprises.

2 gal/8 liter crock
3-5 quarts/ 5 liters blossoms
5 quarts/ 5 liters water
3 pounds/1.5 kg sugar
1 organic orange
1 organic lemon
1 pkg/ 8 grams live yeast
wholewheat bread toast

DIRECTIONS:
1) Find a field of dandelions in bloom on a glorious shining day. Follow the honeybees to the finest flowers. Pick them with a sweeping motion of your parted fingers, like a comb. Leave the green sepals on, but get rid of all stalks.

Basket of dandelion flowers

3.5 quarts of dandelions picked from my front yard in about 20 minutes

Note: The sepals will impart a bitterness to the wine. My preference is the leave the sepals on as the bitters are part of the medicine of dandelion. When the wine is finished it doesn’t really taste bitter at all to me. For a sweeter wine you can choose to remove the sepals and just use the petals but you’ll need to gather more flowers to make 3 to 5 quarts of just petals. In the example photo below two quarts of dandelion flowers with sepals removed became less than one quart of petals only.

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2 quarts of dandelion flowers with sepals removed became less than one quart of petals only

2) Back home, put blossoms immediately into a large ceramic, glass, or plastic vessel. Boil water; pour over flowers. Cover your crock with cheesecloth. Stir daily for three days.

Dandelion flowers covered with boiling water

add 5 quarts of boiling water

Note: I don’t like putting hot liquids in plastic whether they are deemed food-safe or not simply due to the chemicals from the plastic that can leach out and into the wine. I used the ceramic crock from my crock pot however, it only held 4 quarts of water. I added the extra quart in the next step.

3) On the fourth day, strain blossoms from liquid.

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Strained into a large stock pot.

Note: I strained directly into a stainless steel stock pot, added the extra quart of water and the sugar. The blossoms can go directly into the compost pile.

5) Cook liquid with sugar and rind of citrus (omit rind if not organic) for 30-60 minutes.

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After coming to a boil. I simmered for 60 minutes with the lid on to keep the essence of the dandelions in the mix.

Note: I didn’t have organic citrus so I omitted adding the rind and squeezed out the juice of the orange and lemon to add later.

6) Return to crock. Add citrus juice. When liquid has cooled to blood temperature, soften yeast, spread on toast, and float toast in crock.

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Dissolve yeast in a small amount of the liquid and add yeast nutrient.

Note: Since my ceramic crock would not hold the entire batch I removed the pot from the heat, stirred in the citrus juices and set it aside to cool before pouring into a food grade plastic bucket. I scooped a bit out into a measuring cup and added 1/5 packet of wine making yeast (one packet is enough yeast for 5 gallons) and 1 tsp of yeast nutrient. In Susun’s recipe I think the wheat toast acts as the yeast nutrient. The wine yeast and the yeast nutrient can be purchased online or at your brew and wine making store.

7) Cover and let work two days.

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working, working, working …

Note: This is where the most violent fermentation takes place. After a few hours the yeast will begin to transform the sugar into alcohol. You want to cover the bucket but not seal it completely as the gasses created by the fermentation process will need to be able to be released.

8) Strain. Return liquid to crock for one more day to settle. Filter into very clean bottles and cork lightly.

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Secondary fermentation in a gallon jug fitted with an airlock.

Note: I strained the liquid through a fine mesh screen directly into a clean stock pot to remove as much non-liquid as possible and then using a funnel added the liquid into a 1 gallon glass jug fitted with an airlock. If you don’t have an airlock you can fit a balloon over the top of the jug. The purpose of this step is to keep the wine from becoming contaminated and to allow the gasses created by fermentation to escape. If the bottle were sealed at this point, it would explode.

Here’s a short video I made showing what happens during secondary fermentation. Over time the bubbling will slow down and the wine will begin to clear and become ready for bottling.


9) Don’t drink until winter solstice.

Note: This wine needs a good six months to age and is even better if you can stop yourself from drinking it and waiting two years or more.

Resources: http://www.ashtreepublishing.com/Book_Healing_Wise_Recipe_Dandywine.htm

Happiness: Where does it come from?

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about feeling good. It seems sometimes that much of my actual time is spent feeling bad about something when I  know what I really love is doing, saying, thinking and reflecting on things that make me feel good. As I give more conscious attention to watering those “feel good” seeds I have discovered a few “weeds” representing me giving myself permission, or allowing myself, to be happy or feel good.

Last night I watched The Power of Intention by Wayne Dyer on DVD. One thing at the beginning that really resonated with me was his sharing of his voice mail message. It was something like “I’m not available to take your call right now. Before you leave a message please be aware that I want to feel good. If your message is designed to make me feel anything but good, please hang up and call Dr. Phil.”

Hearing him say this illuminated the unhappy, faceless voices in my head that are sarcastically saying, “What are YOU smiling about?” or “Why are YOU so happy?” In response to wanting to be happy, they deliver messages that it’s wrong to be happy. They are there to plant the seeds of doubt and guilt in my happiness garden. They say that there’s too much in the world and perhaps in my own life or with the people I love to be unhappy about. That things in my life are not perfect … that I am not perfect … so how can I even consider being happy?” And these seeds want me to water and nurture them.

Seeds of HappinessIn sitting with these voices I could see just how easy it is to allow these seeds of guilt to be planted in my happiness garden. Misery certainly does love company and there’s no shortage of misery out there. I could see how I have spent a great deal of time and energy giving these seeds of dissent water and assisting them to grow. That I have based my own happiness on external things like, I will be happy when I ‘have this thing’ or ‘do that thing’ or ‘achieve that goal.’

Going through life this way means that happiness will always be just out of reach and is always based on some thing or event outside of me. It also means that happiness is fleeting. For example, I can say that I will be happy when I get a particular car, but I know that after a few months driving the new car the feeling of happiness will wear off and I will once again be searching for a new source of future happiness

I began to ask what it would it take for me to know happiness right here and right now, in this moment, no matter what is going on outside of me. I began to wonder if and how I could be happy regardless of have’s or have not’s. I began to reflect and understand happiness through my own life experiences and have observed that the happiest moments in my life have been at times when it would appear on the outside that I had the least to be happy about.

In the book A Return to Love, Marianne Williamson wrote “The key to happiness is the decision to be happy.” This would mean that happiness is not about having the perfect things or the perfect care-free life, but that by deciding to be happy I would be fostering within myself a sense of peacefulness no matter what is going on on the outside.

I picture my happiness as a garden filled with various stages of seed growth with everything inside my garden fence having been selected and/or nurtured by me. I can choose to pull the weeds of sadness or guilt right out as soon as they appear. Pulling them doesn’t mean sadness and guilt do not exist at all in the world, as I can see that they are still growing in wild abundance just outside my garden fence.

Pulling them means that I acknowledge that they do not contribute to my happiness. Clearing the weeds on the inside means that no matter how wild, insistent and overgrown the weeds become on the outside, inside the borders of my fence, my happiness garden remains a peaceful sanctuary where I can go any time I want, to relax and luxuriate in what makes me feel good … right now.

Sometimes I let new weeds that I am unfamiliar with grow for a little while so that I can know what they are before choosing to either let them grow or yank them out. In doing this I have found that some things that I thought at first were weeds, later revealed themselves later as elements of happiness that I had not been aware of.

What do you feel is the key to happiness? Are you planting seeds in your own happiness garden? Do you find it easier to let weeds grow or do you pull them out as soon as they appear?

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