LOG CABIN CHRISTMAS

It’s been a dream for a long time, to live in the Blue Ridge Mountains in a log cabin … and after 58 years, it finally came true! This morning I sat in the living room and drank coffee while I watched the birds warming themselves in the bright sunshine on my porch railing.

  

The Chrstmas Tree is up …

The tree looks so jolly and happy in the living room!  The birds on the tree look as if they just flew through the front door to warm themselves! Once again, I have added the vintage ornaments inherited from family members! 

 

Table and stockings up the stairs …

The table has never looked more inviting with the stockings behind it going up the stairs.  I’ll have eight people here Christmas and wanting a stocking for each person, the mantle seemed crowded no matter how I arranged them.  It was Eric’s idea to run them up the stairs. 

Yesterday, I made a quick drive up to Serenity Mountain to see the property in Plott Creek where the permanent house will be built.  It was so peaceful and quiet that I didn’t exactly want to leave.  I walked down by the creek and looked up to where the house will be and couldn’t believe it all was coming into fruition. In my imagination, I could almost see the house sitting there in the trees … the noisy creek babbling at my feet.

After I got back home, I had some homemade rustic soup and called it a day.  ❤ 

Nite Nite!

House was rented from Select Homes in Waynesville, NC

Roasting Coffee ….

Few people know that I craft home roasted coffees from Africa, South America and Hawaii. What started as a hobby has now turned into a definite obsession. My small Nesco Roaster will roast about a quarter of a pound of green coffee per batch to my liking. For me, it’s not a set it and forget it kind of thing, I stand there and stare at the beans whirling around in circles as they begin roasting, watch for their color to change from green – to yellow – to walnut, chocolate and finally that deep color that gives me such a thrill! I listen for those pleasing cracks as they go through the two stages of de-gassing and shedding their chaff … and finally when they sweat off that glistening dry oil that when heated up smells so heavenly!

THIS MORNINGS ROAST:

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A Costa Rican Dota Estate Coffee from Dota Terrazu.

This is one of my favorite coffees to roast because of the amazing scent it puts out early in the roast! You can tell by the beans that they are going to be quite chaffy, so I give them a brisk rubbing with a non-terry kitchen towel to loosen as much of it as I can before I begin.

Green coffee beans (unroasted) smell very much like grass when you open a fresh bag.  The first thing I do when I’m prepping for a roast is go through my beans and pick out any small twigs, pieces of string, or pebbles that end up in the bag.  The twigs and string will ignite in your roaster … and the pebbles will just kill it … so be sure to make a quick look at your beans.  If there are peewee’s in the mix (smaller beans), pick those out as well because they will roast earlier and then burn, otherwise ruining the entire batch if there are too many in there.  It’s better to check than wish you had later when you’re dumping a sad little batch of beans in the trash.

The roaster I use is a Nesco Professional Coffee Roaster. It suppresses the smoke and it quiet enough that you can hear the beans as they crack during the expanding and releasing stages. Here, my roaster is cycling through the cool down stage. There beans are still cooking on the inside, but the roaster itself is cooling down. Once it stops, I break ALL the rules and open it up to allow extra air to get to my beans, but I wait a full five minutes before removing them.

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Once you open up the roaster and remove the screen over the chaff cup, you’ll see how much chaff has collected in the cup!  These were incredibly chaffy beans and since so much chaff collected in the cup, I’m expecting this roast to be incredibly smooth. The chaff from the cup is tossed in my garden along with left over coffee grounds.  I’m always happy when I see the chaff cup this full!  I know I’m going to have a good finished product.

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After the beans have cooled the five minutes in the roaster (not what the instructions in the book says – but my method seems to work a little better), I remove the chaff cup and dump the warm beans into a wide-toothed sieve and shake off all the excess chaff.  I got this sieve at an Asian market and it’s actually for dipping stuff out of hot grease, but it works perfectly at removing chaff from freshly roasted coffee!  Shake until no more chaff falls and then set them aside to cool.

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While the beans are cooling I make sure I’ve noted everything in my log book so I know how I roasted my beans.  I keep a thorough record of how long each type of bean roasted so I can pinpoint roast times on light, medium and dark roast … or if you want to be particular, you can throw light city, city, and dark city in there as well.  I also make a note of how many ounces of beans I roasted … believe it or not, that has a HUGE impact of the coffee finish.

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This is also a good time to go over your now roasted beans for a quality check.  In the photo above, you can tell that there are some very dark beans, some uncracked beans, and some beans that are very light in color.  Anything non-uniform in your roast will effect the final outcome of your roast.

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I go through my roasted beans and pick out the too-dark ones, the lighter ones (which probably weren’t quite ripe), and the ones that didn’t either split or crack during the roast.  There were seven in this roast that didn’t make the cut.

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A good batch is uniform in color with very little chaff showing after running through the sieve.  This photo is of early season Kona Coffee Beans and it’s usual for them to be varied in sizes, but they all roast evenly.  The more you roast, the more you learn which beans will roast evenly and which ones won’t.  Costa Rican beans are more temperamental but more fragrant than most when roasting, but Kona is one of the easiest to roast.  Tanzanian is also an easy first roast coffee and makes for an amazing cup of coffee!  Nothing beats Tanzanian Peaberry for the scent during brewing!

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I package and date all the coffees I roast and let them degas for at least 24 hours before opening the bag.  I won’t go far as to say it will ruin the roast, but it does a lot to soften the boldness of a good roast … so I set mine out of sight and out of mind until they are ready to open and enjoy or send to friends.

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People always ask what kind of coffee grinder I have.  Mine is a Cuisinart Burr Coffee Grinder.  It will grind anything from the finest grind on up to the most coarse … the the burr is never a problem.  This photo was right after doing a fine espresso roast for a neighbor.  The lines on the side are where I was testing the looseness of the grind.  I washed it right after, but I’m always fascinated with the fact this grinder will grind coffee as fine as powder.

 

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I store my coffee in plastic containers and never EVER refrigerate or freeze your fresh coffee.  Grind your beans for only as much as you’ll use in two days and keep your freshly ground beans in an air-tight bag or container.  That goes for the ground beans as well.  I generally use one heaping tablespoon for a cup of coffee in a French Press.

Happy Roasting everyone!

 

Five Poetry Books …

There are, in this world, five books that I dearly love. Five poetry books that have shaped me, changed me and helped me become a better, more visually observant writer.  These are the writers I’ve admired for many years … all different in their own right, most from the 50’s, and all with a particular flair with words in some unusual way.

Meet my five favorite poets.

Elizabeth Bishop

Elizabeth Bishops “North & South” :   This one is first because I’ve had it the longest.  Elizabeth Bishop sends her readers on a Mr. Toads Wild Ride of vivid imagery and whimsical tales!  My Aunt Lila introduced me to Elizabeth Bishop when I was a teenager and it was her poem “The Fish” that  hooked me (pardon the pun).  “The Fish” reminded me immediately of a child’s reenactment of “Moby Dick”  and it was impossible not to continue this incredible collection of simple and colorful poems!  And there are so many that I adore: “Roosters”, “The Gentleman of Shalott” and “Man Moth” … and the list would go on and on!  It makes me wish I were related to her!  She seems like one of those people you feel like you’d call Aunt Lisabeth.

Stanley Kunitz

“Selected Poems” by Stanley Kunitz:   So this was my Dads book and he really admired Kunitz.  I had picked it up when my Dad was living and wondered how much Mr. Kunitz was paying my Dad to keep that ridiculous book in the house.  After my Dad passed away, I just happened to flip through it and a particular poem demanded my full attention.  It was his poem “The Portrait” … a poignant memory about a slap his mother gave him as a child.  In his 64th year, he could still feel it in his cheek.  But there were other less sad under-tales and they are goodies!  He writes of romance and simple memories so beautifully, you almost feel as if you’re intruding on his moment.  LOVE this book!

carl sanberg

“Complete Poems” by Carl Sandburg:  If you loved eating more than anything, imagine, if you will sitting down to a table piled so high with food you couldn’t see what was on top or on the bottom!  This is how this book is … six hundred and seventy-six pages of pure beautiful Carl Sandburg poetry that is enough to satisfy your craving for poetry for months!  If you’re a bit like me and you love a history lesson scattered around in your poetry, Sandburg will never disappoint. At times you think he’s writing an inaugural address in verse, and other time you think perhaps he’s just in the mood to tell you a thing or two about Abraham Lincoln you didn’t know, and then he just surprises you with a fog walking in on cat feet!  The man is a genius whether he’s writing for kids or grownups, it’s all absolutely unforgettable!

wallace stephens

“The Collected Poems” by Wallace Stevens:   He’s the wild card in my list, but on my list of favorite poets.  He is the most aristocratic and high-falluting of most of the poets … he’s hard to read … you find yourself having to re-read lines before you can elevate yourself to his high-thinking and finally get the meat of what the devil he’s talking about, but once you get it, you just want to cry.  Yeah, he’s that amazing.  He uses multi-syllable words I’ve scarcely heard of like I toss around pronouns.  In my favorite piece,  “Final Soliloquy of the Interior Paramour” (yeah, don’t try to guess where he’s going with that title), he invites you into a corner of his imagination and have a look at his thoughts on God.  HIGHLY moving, captivating and a spark of romantic verbiage, Wallace Stevens brings my imagination to life, and that’s what I love most about poetry.  If a poet can do that, then they’re accomplished in my eyes.

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“Living Above the Frost Line” by Nancy Simpson:  Saving the best for last.  This is a book by my Mountain Mother and I’ve loved all her books equally, but this book is my favorite.  With gentle echos of Elizabeth Bishop (a poet who’s style she greatly admired), her writing is a timeless as the Blue Ridge mountains and the poems roll out of her pen like a free-flowing fountain.  I’ve sat in front of her and watched her compose … how she would look out her window, then down on paper, tap her pen a few times in the margin, and then start writing so quickly it was as if she were chasing the thought and catching it on paper.  She was a word genius, who had a flair for describing the things she observed so vividly you could envision a pink pantsuit walking out the door, or leaves on the ground turning into a flock or wrens.  I carry this book with me everywhere and no matter how many times I read it, I always find some new little discovery that I missed the first hundred times I read it.

Last but Not Least