Sunday, January 28, 2018

January 2018

January 2018 Blog
Spotted Bear Vineyards & Lavender Farm
Polson, Montanna

            Hope everyone is getting through the crazy weather this winter.  The road to our house on Hwy. 35 is impassable and we have had to move to our guest cabin in the vineyard on Finley Point for a few weeks.  Overlooking all those vines that need pruning is making me hope spring gets here sooner than later.

            I have been keeping very busy but it’s not the same as working outdoors.  We have listed the Spotted Bear cabin with VRBO and Airbnb and already are booked heavily for July.  We also have some adventuristic competitors booked in May for the Spartan races in Big Fork.  I am definitely planning on going to the open house on May 4th from 3-5pm at Averill’s Flathead Lake Lodge to get into the spirit of the races.
We are very fortunate in that Deb Carstensen of Diving Dog Vineyard , is giving the cabin a style overhaul.  Soon it will become that relaxing cabin at the lake where one is able to escape the bustle of the city and enjoy wildlife and nature.
            It’s almost time to start my pepper seeds so that they are ready for summer planting.  I try to have them in by mid-February.  This year, I dropped Padróns from the lineup.  Every 2 out of 10 is purported to be hot and the rest mild.  Well, that didn’t happen last year, they were practically all hot!  This year I am planting Shishitos and Chile de aguas.  Shishito and Padrón peppers are “cousins.” In fact, both Shishito and Padrón peppers are cultivars from the same variety:  Capsicum annuum var. annuum.  Shishito peppers are the East Asian variety of the cultivar and are named because the tips of the peppers resemble the head of a lion, shishi (or jishi) in Japanese (from: ).  Shishito peppers have a great flavor, and 1 out of 10 is hot (better odds), and you can never have too many of them.  If they overproduce just make this great sauce that goes with fish tacos or pork or eggs or almost anything.  This recipe is from Trader Joe’s:
1.     1 bag TJ's Shishito Peppers.
2.     3 Tablespoons Spanish EVOO, divided.
3.     2 Tablespoons Lime Juice.
4.     2 Tablespoons TJ's Plain Greek Yogurt.
5.     2 TJ's Premium Peeled Garlic Cloves.
6.     1/4 teaspoon TJ's Sea Salt, or to taste.
7.     1/4 teaspoon TJ's Ground Black Pepper, or to taste.
(Never hurts to add a dash of fish sauce)

            I purchased my Chile de agua (Capsicum annuum) seeds from Jim Duffy at I was very impressed with the instructions for starting the seeds that he included with the order.  They were very detailed and suggested many natural alternatives to chemical fertilizers. The Shishito pepper seeds were purchased from Baker Creek.,   I also got some Godiva pumpkins seeds to plant in the garden this spring.  I tried these last year and they were a good tasting pumpkin that has hull-less seeds. You can just roast the seeds and eat them, very easy. I added them to lavender granola and it just put it over the top.

20L Alembic Copper Still

            I purchased a beautiful 20L copper alembic still this month from the Essential Oil Company in Portland  It is beautiful to look at and I can’t wait to distill my own lavender this summer.  I currently have lavender soap available, made with my own lavender essential oil that Tootie Welker distilled for me last summer. Tootie sells her own products made with various oils that she distills.  Tootie and I plan on offering lavender distilling workshops at the vineyard and lavender farm this summer.  Please plan on spending a few hours harvesting your lavender and then learn about the distillation process as the freshly cut lavender is placed in the still and the essential oil and hydrosol is coaxed out.  There will be some lavender culinary items available to keep our energy flowing.  If there is interest I would also like to do workshops to make lavender wreaths with grape vine canes and also weave potato baskets from canes.

            When we purchased the property next to the vineyard we picked up a beautiful orchard. We now have cherry, apple, pear and plum trees that haven’t been pruned in years.  So add that to my list of new things to learn.  I never though retirement would be this challenging.

            I spoke to one of our favorite winemakers a few weeks ago, Gary Sloan.   He reported that the L’Acadie Blanc wine that he is making from our grapes is coming along nicely.  He was getting ready to bottle it and enter it in its first American competition.  I am hoping that his talents will take this grape far.

            Let’s continue the count down until spring!

Skiing in the vineyard last week. Surveying the damage to the nets 
from the snow.

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