Cidering Time

This past weekend, my parents, my brother and sister, along with their significant others, my Uncle Tom and Aunt Jan, myself and girlfriend and our dog gathered at home for what has a yearly tradition: cidering. It's become a time when we all gather (if able - this was the first time that I've been able to make it in a couple of years) and spend the day working to press a large amount of homemade apple cider for the next year.

When my family moved to Moretown in the early 1990s, we build a house on the remains of an old farmstead; the ancient foundation has largely crumbled away to a hole in the ground, but other parts remain: the barbed wire embedded in the trees in the woods, the remains of the fields that makes up our front yard, and a half dozen apple trees that line the road.

For the first decade of our living there, we didn't really pay attention to the trees: they were a curiosity, things that attracted the deer, and provided ammunition for my brother and I. (Armed with a long stick, you can hurl a fist sized apple several hundred feet in any direction) As my parents became satisfied with home improvements, and found that they had more time on their hands for new projects, my father stumbled on the idea of harvesting the apples for cider. Armed with some directions, we gathered that year's crops and armed with a couple of knives and a tiny food processer, we spent a ridiculous amount of time grinding the apples, eventually destroying the mixer. My dad, ever the inventor, put together a frame, a slab of polished granite and a car jack, and created a rudimentary press.

Several years on, the process has become a bit more refined, and takes just an afternoon. This past weekend, people began to arrive early in the morning, where we harvested several bushels of apples in crates and buckets. By the time Megan and I arrived, the next step was largely underway. My sister in law, sister's boyfriend and mother had set around a table with sharp knives and cut the apples into small pieces, loading them into buckets for the processing team.

Without trying to over think the entire weekend, I've come to appreciate the times that we come together for this, even if it's just the immediate family and a couple of others. In the past, family units in the United States were busy groups of people, working on a number of projects collaboratively in order to gain a collective result. Reading over old accounts and stories, it seems that this was a given fact of life, but that seems to be a value that's been lost in modern day society. To get a gallon of cider, all that we have to do here is drive to the grocery store and buy one. I'm not wholly convinced that the effort, time and money put into a gallon on demand is really worth the entire experience of seeing the family coming together and working for something that we'll reap the benefits of over the entire year.

Since destroying a mixer, Dad has sought out ways to better mash up apples, and build a top for the cart: a board with a garbage disposal in it. My uncle took on the apples, dumping them onto the flat surface, and pushing them towards my dad, who forced a steady stream of apples and water through the hole and disposal unit. A bucket, lined with a cloth sack, captured the mash the came out the other end. When the bag was full, we stopped the processor and removed the surface.

My task became the compressor: this method hasn't changed. The sack was then tied off, placed in a plastic bin to capture the juice, and covered with a polished granite slab, which was then pressed down by a car jack underneath a two by four. The pressure forced out the juice, and the tilt of the cart let it flow to the other end. After three rounds of compression, the jack and granite slab was removed, and we collected the newly-pressed apple cider into a large jug, where it's then allowed to settle, and individual containers were filled by my brother and my aunt.

The entire process runs until we're out of apples, and at the end of this weekend, we walked away with something like fifty or so gallons of the stuff, which has since been sealed and frozen. Afterwards, we collect back in the house, where we’ll talk over food and drinks, and generally relax after the day’s efforts.

Over the next year, we'll endure my father asking if we want another couple of gallons, because he'll want to turn off the freezer to conserve electricity over the winter. We'll roll our eyes and take a couple of gallons home at a time, where we'll share it with friends and enjoy it over the next year, until next autumn. In the time between that, we'll pick away at the trees, pruning away branches periodically, while the red frame rests until it's called back into service next year, when the family will gather once again and repeat the whole process. I for one, can’t wait for next year.

For Dan and Kate

 

I think most people will agree with me that this is a celebration that is well overdue and long anticipated by our respective families.
Dan, Kate, you pocess something that has long been sought, but rarely known or experienced amonst those who strive for true love.
In the eight years that I have wittnessed the two of you together, I've watched your love grow and mature with age. Love is not a singular collision of emotion and chemistry; it is a journey, one that must be taken with care and exploration together.
Your marriage tonight is not the top of the mountain, but yet another starting point, a great milestone in your lives.
Dan, Kate, you are facing a future of uncertain surroundings. With the love that you have for one another, you are the steady footing on which you march forward. It will help you through the best of times, and those that are most trying; it is the bright point that has brought you, and your families here together tonight, and may it shine brightly far, far into the future.

Hiking

Yesterday, I went hiking with my dad, brother, sister and dog in Fayston, on Burnt Rock mountain. It was the first time in over a decade that we've hiked as a family - I have many fond memories of us hiking in New York during the summer. When I saw dad earlier this week and said that he and Dan were planning on hiking the mountain, I decided it would be a good time to go. Hiking is something that I've absolutely loved doing, and one of a couple things that I never seem to find the time to do (others being skiing and reading more).

I've hiked this peak before, as a scout over fifteen years ago now. Hiking it again brought back some memories, as I recognized some of the stops along the trail, and the top of the mountain. It was a relatively short hike - 4 miles all told, but it illustrated just how out of shape that I've become in the past year. When I was walking to school all the time (not to mention up and down the Norwich University campus, which is all hills), it kept me in fantastic shape. Since I've been driving to and from work and not really moving around as much as I usually do, I was out of breath a lot quicker than I should have been. Despite that, hiking again was fun, and getting to the top was breathtaking - it was pretty clear yesterday, and we had a fantastic view of the Mad River Valley.

It was the first time that I've gone hiking with Fionna - she really had fun, running ahead of us, taking in the new sights and smells. We only had to help her at two points, both rock ledges that she just couldn't figure out a way around.

I need to get into better shape - I'm paying for the hike today, as my legs are really sore from the walk. I suspect that even walking around town every day would be helpful. I should do that...

A Quarter Century

Happy 25th Anniversary to my mom and dad (Yesterday). We had about 60 people over at our house for the afternoon, which was fun, because it was a lot of people that I hadn't seen for a while. Of course, it meant that there was a lot of explaining about what I was up to, which was good and bad.
Mom and Dad were thrilled, because they didn't plan it, and they've been very happy for the past 25 years. Here's to another quarter century.

Obligatory Post-Christmas Post

So, christmas is over, the shoppers are returning things and everything is back to normal right? Wrong. The mall is still playing christmas music. Did I miss something and is christmas still a couple days away, or is our mall manager just extremely forgetful? Whatever it is, it's irritating and annoying.

Christmas was fun - spent a couple days at home with the family, which was nice. We haven't all been together for a while now, given that I've moved out and my brother is away at college. It was good to get together with people.

Things I aquired:

  • A Crack in the Edge of the World, Simon Winchester. I was thrilled to get this - I loved Winchester's Map that Changed the World, about the first geologic map, which was a fantastic read into the history of geology. This one looks to be just as good.
  • Love, by the Beatles. This album is amazing. 'nuf said.
  • Very spiffy framed art piece with books and a cool quote. That went up on my wall the minute I got back.
  • iPod Charger. Which is fantastic, because my other one was stolen walked off during the summer.
  • Random articles of clothing, which were needed
  • Money, a couple of gift cards - Have several plans to use those tomorrow. Planning on getting Iron Sunrise by Charles Stross and Broken Angels by Richard Morgan, and adding them to my reading list.
  • Things for my car, which will be handy

All in all, it was a pretty lowkey day, which was nice. Got through to Altered Carbon, caught up on some sleep, all of which was nice. And now I'm working every day of the week through to next Thursday. Ugh.

Merry Christmas!

Hope that everyone's having a good Christmas eve or any other holiday that you happen to celebrate at this time. I'm off for the next couple of days from work, which is nice, because I'm working straight through for the rest of the next week and a half. I'm off to my grandmother's and parent's house for the evening and next couple days, respectively.

Merry Christmas!

Liptak Christmas Trees

This morning, I got up early again and did my last English exam, which came out pretty well, and turned in on time. One more exam to go - Can't wait for that to be completely over with. I've had enough Economics to last me a while.
After that, I went home, and arrived just in time to catch my dad and sister before they went out to select a Christmas tree for the holiday. We don't buy our trees - we live on 27 acres of mostly forested land, so there's a lot to choose from, and we usually get some good ones. The only problem - the good trees are usually around 40-50 feet tall. Too tall for our house, so we usually take the top six feet out of the whole tree. Sounds wasteful, but it opens the forest up a little, and there's more trees that'll fall down on their own anyway. So our usual tradition is going out to find a tree, cutting it down and dragging it out.
We had fun today - took us about half an hour of walking around in the woods before we found what looked like a good one, a 40 fir tree with a good top. We went back, got a chainsaw and cut it down, only to have it land in a second tree, in a fork, where it got stuck. We tried pulling it out from the base, after cutting some of it away, but trees are heavy. And this one was spectacularly stuck in a maple tree. So we cut the maple tree and managed to get it down without damaging the top. It's a bit of a goofy looking christmas tree. It's extremely tall and thin, but it's pretty dense. For the first time in like ten years, we've stuck the tree in the main living room, with a very high ceiling, so the tree is about 14 feet tall, but it looks good with decorations on it.

In other news, ABC pulled their show Day Break from the schedule. I've been reporting on it in my TV Recaps, which I skipped last week because of time, and I'm incredibly annoyed by this. 1 - It was one of the best plotted and acted shows on TV, even though it didn't get a whole lot of attention from the media. 2 - Black main character, which doesn't happen too often. 3 -Serial storyline, tight plot, with only a 13 episode order. It was to be a closed off series with a possibility of a sequel, but the main story would be just that 13 episodes. That should be done more often. The good news is that is seems all the episodes have been filmed already, so they'll be airing all of them on ABC.com. At least we get the complete run, unlike with Smith. Arg

Happy Thanksgiving!

Hope that everyone had a good thanksgiving (yesterday now). I had dinner with the family in the afternoon, where we were expecting to have something like 13 people, but that went down to 8, which meant that some of us weren't banished to the garage. It was a good dinner. Me, my parents, brother and sister, Uncle and his girlfriend and my grandmother were all there. It was fun, and the food was fantastic, as my mother is a great cook. I contributed bread, which people seemed to like. Lots of talking and fun, which was good.
After that, me and my sister went to go visit my friend Sam and Miranda up in Burlington, which was fun, I haven't seen them since this summer. Keelia and Miranda watched Veronica Mars while Sam and I visited my friend Blackwell in his new house. He was surprised to see us, and we hung out for a little while, played with the dog that they were dogsitting and generally caught up.
It was a good night.

Hope that everyone else had an equally as good Thanksgiving.

My Parents

My parents rock. I don't think that I ever say that, or any form of a dignified thank you to them, but I need to more often. And because I know you read this:

Thank you.

Thank you for everything that you've done over the years, putting up with me, my moods, geekiness, problems, being annoying, and everything, and thank you for all those times that you've helped me, pushing me when I needed it, encouraging me to try new things and thank you for being simply wonderful. I should say it more often.

Life through a telescopic lense

I still have my cast on. No, it wasn't taken off, like I'd hoped that it would be, but no, I have another week to go with it on. It's infuriating and I'm about ready to take the damn thing off myself, if I hadn't already been warned by someone that that's probably a bad idea.

Arg.

On top of that, nobody showed up for my geology tutoring session. Now, this is somewhat usual, I sit in the Geology lab for two or so hours, waiting for someone to show up with a question. Hell, any question would do, but nope. Two hours of my time wasted, where I didn't have to leave a meeting early or hell, even miss the latest episode of Heroes. At least I got a bit of my reading for English done, although I need to finish Dracula for Gothic Lit tomorrow. I also got another couple of chapters done in Matriarch (I'm going Sarah...). Brilliant book from Karen Traviss, the forth book after City of Pearl, Crossing the Line and The World Before.

I've been spending some down time working on the blog. New appearance, but Blogger also added a tagging option, so one can create a theme for each post, and if so inclined, someone could search for related entries. Great, but I have another 250 posts to go to finish up... some other time. Any thoughts on the new layout?

Studio 60 rocked. Go watch, if you haven't yet.

There's not a whole lot that I can talk about really. I took my sister out to dinner the other night. It was fun to hang out with her and catch up a little, because I don't see my family members as often as I did. Freaked my mom out, as we got home to find 4-5 increasingly frantic messages from her. We had a good laugh about it later, along with talk of what my asperations are for the future, time management and other random school things.

Overall, aside from the cast still being on my arm, things are going well.

Merry Frelling Christmas

Merry Christmas everyone, or any other holiday that you happen to celebrate this time of year- hope that you had a good one. While I'm not religous, I've always enjoyed the giving and recieving of gifts, especially the escuse to do so. I got my family members things that they all liked - and it was really easy this year too.
Got some cool things - A suitcase for when I go overseas. I swear, you can fit a couple of lost civilizations in it. No way that I'm going to fill it. Got a book on London from my sister, a Borders card from my brother and a new jacket, among other things.
Spent most of yesterday with relatives. We traditionally meet with my grandmother on Christmas eve, sometimes at our house, sometimes at hers, this times at hers. We then visited my other grandmother aunt, uncle and little cousin (She's getting huge- walking AND talking. It's amazing). From there, we went and visited my maternal grandfather in the assisted living center where he's currently staying, it was good to see him again. I think that he's starting to get a little better from the problems that have been happening since this summer.

Happy Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving everyone, hopefully everyone will have a relaxed day with some good food sometime. It's interesting this year, because we're not actually having our dinner until tomorrow - mainly because of the foot or so of snow that we've gotten over the past two days, which is delaying my grandmother's trip from Burlington to come and eat with us, something that we do every year. It's also interesting, because my entire family is here - my brother came up the other day from school, and I've seen him for the first time in a couple of months, which is odd again.
My friend Kyle is also spending the week with us, because he lives in Washington, which is a little too far to go for a week. We've been hanging out, watching South Park, Family Guy or Farscape, inbetween minor work projects that have been handed to us from the parents. Like the tree that we had to clean up. But it's good to have everyone together. My grandmother is coming for dinner, and I think my brother's girlfriend as well, so it'll be crowded.
On Saturday, I've been ordered to go to one of my friend's apartments, because the Abnaki staff is getting together while we're all here for a celebration of our own. I imagine that it'll be fun - and it'll be good to see people again. I'll probably visit Rachel while I'm up - she's been having some random troubles, and I haven't seen her in a while. Hopefully I'll get to visit a couple more times before I go off to London.
My vacation thus far: fairly boring with lots of TV and headaches. On the plus side, my toes are no longer hurting and are healing, which is a huge plus. Now, if only I can get more Homework done.

On the Water

Over the summer, my father and brother bought a pair of Kayaks. Having finished his Master's program, I think that dad wanted to get a new hobby, something that he had picked up a couple summers ago. They've been out on them a couple of times, as have I, over the past couple summers, taking kids out on Kayaking trips as cabin groups or classes. It's a fun sport.
Dad and I went out in ours today, on the Winooski river. We put in near one of the main roads, and paddled down to Lake Champlain and back, about four miles in all. It was a good little trip. Dad commented that it was interesting to go down a river, and it makes one realize how much of Vermont is not built over. When you're driving on the roads, you see a number of signs that people are there. Here, however, there were entire streatches of forest that was untouched, even right in the city of Burlington. It was very relaxing. We saw a couple birds, Herons and Kingfishers, ones that we hadn't seen in a while, and a couple of turtles basking on floating logs.
At the mouth of the river, there's a bike bridge that links the Colchester and Burlington bike paths. A couple of kids were jumping off of it. Looked like a lot of fun. I'll have to do that sometime...
I think that the main thing that struck me is how at peace everything was. The water was calm, and the only thing that could be heard was the bubbling of my paddle in the water. I wasn't even really thinking of the world outside, politics or anything. Just of my friend Hillary, various songs that related to water, and the thrill of being outside, with almost nothing to worry about. The conclusion to my thoughts: I think that it hit me then- We are so lucky to live the way we do, to do the things that we do, without worry of getting shot, killed, attacked, blown to pieces or something like that. Out on the water, everything is calm.

My friends Jen and Sean were married tonight. They had intended to have a regular wedding here in Vermont, on the Norwich Campus, but because their families kept trying to interfere, they decided to go out to Las Vegas to get married. So, over webcam, me, my mother, father and sister watched as they got married at 9:00 pm EST. Congradulations!

And, it was my cousin Carlie's first birthday earlier this week. We had a bit of a get together with the family, which was good. She's now walking, and doing many weird things, like walking up to someone, stating BAH and walking away. She's getting weird, and that's good.

Deportation & Comics


My brother Dan went off to college today, the second kid in our family to do so. Dan was accepted to The University of Hartford down in Conn. where he's going to be double majoring in Music Education and I think Music Theory. It's going to be weird without him in the house, although I think that it's going to make things easier all around, at least for me, for a while. I'll have freer use of the car, and I found that when I went to Norwich, even though I was living in the house, I got along better with my sibblings. Probably the same thing will happen here. I gave him my contact information, AIM, E-mail and web addresses, so we'll talk during the year, that's for sure. I think that he'll enjoy college.

Over the summer, I've become more of a comic fan. I've begun to read more than just Star Wars Republic/Empire, broadening my horizons a little. The Amazing Spiderman was the first comic that I picked up, I love the author, J. Michael Straczynski, who also wrote the entire Babylon 5 series. Love Spiderman, then picked up the Fantastic Four, also by JMS, which has proven to be an interesting read as well. I've also picked up some random back issues of Iron Man, who's been a long time favorite, as well as Hellboy(Love the artwork) and Joss Whedon's Astonishing X-Men. I've also accumulated random issues of other Spidermans, Sin City and Freaks of the Heartland, among others.
I was never really into comics as a kid. I know that I owned some, although I have no idea where they ended up, but the one or two X-Men comics that I did own confused me a great deal. I didn't really know what was going on at all during the stories, and really didn't know anything about comic art and storytelling to pay much attention anyway. I was more into the Marvel Trading cards. Third through Fifth grades in primary school, man, I loved those cards, and still have them, in a box. Those were more interesting to collect and just look at, at least at my age. Me and my friends would talk about them all the time, and during Recess, we'd play X-Men on the playground.
Star Wars Republic and Empire really got me more into comics. Working with the Unofficial Clone Wars Site (www.clonewarz.com), I worked at reviewing the Clone Wars comics as they came out. Looking back over the older reviews that I wrote, I can see that I had almost no idea what I was talking about, and as I wrote more reviews, I learned more about comic art and writing. Along the way, I've since talked to quite a few comic authors, artists and editors, all really cool people.

So, anyone have any recommendations for new books and series?

World Domination to Hippy Music

Just passing the time right now. My brother's off to a lesson, so I can't really go anywhere at the moment. Yesterday, I went into school to try and fix up some of my class schedule, got a couple of new classes that I can sign up for, bringing me back up to full time student status. I'll now have insurance. I guess that means I can get injured again. I also sought out one of my professors and asked him about the study abroad program, and he was very encouraging. I'm really hoping that this will happen.
I also ran into a couple of friends and people that I know. Good to see that I know some people already. The freshmen arrived on campus yesterday, and the Corps of Cadets freshmen (Rooks) arrived last Saturday, the 20th.
World Domination: I learned how to play Risk this summer, finally. I'd been meaning to learn how to play for a couple years now, and when my friends Sam and Dave bought a set, I finally figured it out. It's a very fun game, and I taught my sister how to play this afternoon. She's a good player, expecially for her first time, even though I took out a couple of her continents in a couple of turns. Now I'll need to get my brother to play, before he leaves for college.
The time that Keelia and I were playing, Phish, Rane, Carbon Leaf and Led Zeppelin came on my playlist while playing. Ironic.

Keelia also got her Driver's permit yesterday, acing the drivers test. She's the last one in our family to start driving, and she's pretty excited about it. Vermont's laws are kinda weird when it comes to driving. At 15, you can get a permit, and you have to drive with someone 20 or over with a valid driver's license. At 16 or 17 you can get your license, but you can't drive with anyone but family members, and only adults to begin with. 3 months later you can drive with sibblings, and after a year, you can get your regular operator's license. It's weird.

Now, back to scanning my computer for viruses and other annoyances.