What’s Blooming?

Today is Thomas Jefferson’s birthday and what better way to honor his love of the garden than getting out in the dirt! There’s plenty of work at the Tropical Homestead this weekend, like keeping up with the weeds, watering, and planting the blueberries that arrived in the mail this week. But the explosion of blossoms in the garden was a divine distraction. So instead of weeding, I did a photo shoot. I’m sure the 3rd President would understand.

Click on any of the pictures for a closer view. 

Posted in Edible Landscaping | 2 Comments

Oak Leaf Wine: A Tutorial

Water oakBy popular demand, here’s the recipe for oak leaf wine with a few pictures of the process.

That’s right, I said Oak Leaf. Wine from America’s National Tree. When Clay heard we could make wine from leaves, he actually got angry. He’s spent decades playing the chump, buying wine from the store, fancy-schmancy vintners dictating taste. Well, no longer! Read and liberate yourself!
Well, maybe that’s a bit militant, but making wine from something that is so abundant (and free) is empowering.  Bonus: it’s loads of fun and very tasty.

Here’s a recipe I adapted from one I found on the Jack Keller’s quintessential wine making website which was first adapted from C.J.J. Berry’s 130 New Winemaking Recipes. This makes a one gallon recipe. You can scale this recipe up; anywhere from two to five gallons. Just keep the same ratio for the leaves, fruit and water. You can keep the same ratio for the sugar, too, but this makes a very sweet wine. When I made my 5-gallon batch, I left out approximately ½ pound of sugar from the ratio. You only need one packet of yeast for one to five gallons. I prefer Red Star Montrachet yeast. You can find this at your local winemaking store.


  • 7 pt. new oak leaves
  • 3 lb. granulated sugar
  • 2 oranges, juiced
  • 1 lemon, juiced
  • 1 gallon water
  • wine yeast and nutrient

washing oak leaves

Pick enough green oak leaves (can be young or old, as long as they are not brown) to fill 7 pints. It doesn’t have to be exact, but err on the side of excess.  Wash the leaves in clean cold water, picking out any branches or debris and place in a crock or bucket.

Bring 6 pints water to boil and pour over the leaves. Cover and allowthe oak tea to seep for 24 hours. Then smell it. I think this “tea” smells fabulous, a golden sunshine smell that will make you smile. Then strain the liquid into a pot large enough to take it and the sugar with a little room to spare.Add the sugar, the juice of the oranges and lemon, and their grated peel. Again, don’t worry about being exact, I am lazy about the grated peel adding only half to the mix. Stir well to dissolve sugar, bring to a boil, then simmer for 20 minutes. Allow to cool to 70 degrees F. This will take a long time for bigger batches, so don’t start the process at 6 p.m. (like I did). 

Strain through nylon sieve, and add remaining ingredients. Transfer to secondary fermentation vessel and fit fermentation trap. Do not top up with water, as the initial four or five days should produce a vigorous fermentation foam. When this has subsided, top up with water and continue fermentation until wine clears (2-3 months). Rack, then rack again after two months and bottle.21 bottles

Allow six months to one year. We call ours Wood Nymph Wine. I can’t tell you what properly aged oak leaf wine tastes like, as ours have not made it to the ripe old age of 1 year. It’s just too good.

Posted in Edible Landscaping | 9 Comments

Hurricane Honey Harvest

Beehive superThe pending storm threw a wrench in our weekend, but we were fortunate enough to have a few hours of clear sky and calm wind to get into the beehive on Saturday. The smell of honey production was everywhere for the past few weeks, so we were anxious to see how much might be in the two honey supers. Also, the presence of open comb actually encourages honey production so it’s good practice to harvest frequently when the honey flows.

We had pulled nine frames of honey in June, so we were pleasantly surprised with eight full frames for this harvest. The process of harvesting gets easier with every visit to the bee box. Unfortunately, I am not gaining any immunity to bee stings, one managed to get through my shirt, and three more joined in. My elbow is swollen and hot today, but there is little pain. I applied epsom salt on a wet washcloth as soon as I could.

Clay and the Comb

We used a special serated knife to cut off the wax capping in the past but the knife does a lot of damage to the comb, meaning the bees have to work harder to get back to production. Clay used an uncapping tool to pull just the cap off. It takes a little longer, but it leaves the comb fairly intact.

Riley and the cappingsHoney gets everywhere when we start extracting, but the kids don’t complain, here a Riley Bear is digging through the cappings to find honey. I’m sure you can imagine the energy level in the house on honey day!Honey Extractor

Once uncapped, the frames go into the extractor, 4 at a time. A few minutes of spinning and the gold starts flowing. The filter catches any remaining wax and debris.

We’ll leave it in the bucket for a few days for the bubbles and any tiny debris to rise to the surface. Then we jar it up and enjoy!Riley Bear

Posted in Beekeeping | 2 Comments