Sunday, June 15, 2014

Steeping or stewing?

Elderflower champagne...
Summer is gradually upon us, and this last couple of weeks we've been attending to our various home brewing projects. The other day we bottled some sloe gin that had been steeping over the winter (sadly not all of it fitted in the bottle so we had to drink some there and then), and it should improve even further the longer we leave it. 

Not wanting to put the sloes to waste, we found a recipe for sloe port which basically involved putting the sloes and sugar into some red wine and leaving it to steep, shaking regularly, so that's now underway and should be ready to decant in a couple of months.

Just in the last few days we've started off a batch of rhubarb wine which is now happily fermenting in our kitchen, and yesterday lunchtime I started off a batch of elderflower champagne which is keeping the rhubarb wine company in a bucket. On our to-do list over the next couple of weeks is to get some more beer going, then maybe some nettle wine as a friend sent me a recipe for this today and it sounds fun.

All of these activities have got me thinking about what we let ferment in our own lives, and whether we're actively and positively 'steeping', or whether we're negatively or apathetically 'stewing' instead.
"these activities have got me thinking about what we let ferment in our own lives"
What do I mean by this? Drawing comparisons with our home brewing efforts, we take some natural ingredients, add some select catalysts, then create the right environment for the desired transformation to take place. 

Our giant pumpkins!
One of the things I like about our various concoctions are the stories behind the ingredients. The pumpkin beer I brewed last autumn used some of the giant pumpkins we'd grown on our allotment from seeds my sister sent me. 

The sloes for the sloe gin I collected on a two hour foraging trip around the adjacent fields with my daughter one September afternoon. 

The rhubarb wine uses rhubarb grown from our garden (roots provided by a colleague), and allotment (roots provided by a fellow plot holder). 

The elderflower champagne (and elderberry cordial I made last winter) used flowers (and berries) picked from elder trees near our house (fact of the day, if you pick elderflowers in the morning they smell like bananas, if in the afternoon or evening they smell of cat wee.. A fact we can attest to as I picked some yesterday afternoon!).

In the same way, we have natural talents and strengths we have been given to develop. If you don't think you have any, then I'd recommend the book 'Now Discover Your Strengths' to help you, you may be surprised! For me, I found the book so helpful - some of my identified strengths were obvious, but others were less so, or were things that I'd never found a way to articulate. Sometimes what we think of as weaknesses can actually be a talent when framed in a different way. 
"we have natural talents and strengths we have been given to develop"
However, it's all very well having a natural talent or aptitude for something, but if we truly want to make the most of what we've got, to be the best expression of who we've been made to be then we need to fortify these natural 'ingredients' with some select catalysts and place ourselves or our gifts in appropriate environments to create the required result. If you want some tips of how best to develop your talents, then check out 'The Talent Code', another excellent and encouraging book.

If you're like me, however, you may have picked up some bad habits or negative associations over the course of your life, which are in danger of spoiling things in some way. We're fostering a Guide Dog puppy for the next year or so, and we currently have an energetic ten week old puppy. One really interesting aspect of this initial training process is the need to create numerous positive associations and behaviours in the puppy that he'll need to be an effective Guide Dog in future. This includes a clear set of commands for certain behaviours, consistent across all Guide Dogs, and among others, associations to do with toilet training and food. In the same way, whether intended or not, we often pick up positive or negative associations, mindsets and behaviours over the course of our lives which if we're not careful can leave an unwanted sour taste.
"...usually it's better to do something about it sooner rather than later"
What can we do about this? Well usually it's better to do something about it sooner rather than later. Last year I attempted to make potato wine, which is supposed to be like a nice dry white wine, even a sherry. I used homegrown potatoes and all was going well (I thought) until it was time to switch containers after some months.. To say the mixture smelt disgusting is an understatement! In hindsight, I should have peeled the potatoes, as the washing clearly was not effective enough to get rid of all the soil, leading to contamination early on.. Which just got worse. Really I should have thrown the lot out much earlier and started again.

Sloe gin... worth the wait!
Continuing with the wine making analogy (and yes, I know I'm in danger of stretching the metahpor), sometimes all that needs doing is to switch the mixture into a new container, leaving the sediment behind. Maybe some of our 'stuff' is just sediment that has accumulated, and we just need to change our thinking, our habits into something fresher. Perhaps a new routine, or expressing things in a different way.
"Am I adding the right ingredients for the desired result?"
A question I'm asking myself at the moment is: what am I letting stew in my life? Am I adding the right ingredients for the desired result? For those of us who are Christ-followers, are we absorbing enough of God's word and presence? For those of us seeking to develop our natural talents, are we creating the right environments to do this, and giving ourselves enough time to mature?

Sometimes I think we can get all 'stewed up' over things we've done in the past, or things that have happened, or with worry about things that might happen. I don't want to downplay this issue, as I recognise that many people have experienced traumatic and tragic situations which require time to grieve, or professional assistance. 

However, without meaning to trivialise this in any way, I do think there are times when we actively need to stop things stewing any further and take out the 'teabag' in some way shape or form. This could be in the area of forgiveness - sometimes we need to start saying 'I forgive you' or 'I forgive myself', even if we don't feel it... Sometimes our feelings take time to catch up with our actions.

So as you head into this week, are you steeping or stewing? Either way, perhaps you need to take action, maybe add or remove some 'ingredients'! Have a great week, and as always I look forward to your comments, thoughts and observations.


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My Random Musings

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Random Musings said...

I love the comparison between fermenting wine and us as people fermenting our problems. You're right, sometimes all we need is a pinch of a new ingredient, or a little stir up :) Thanks for linking up with #AnythingGoes

Jenny @ Jenny on a Plate said...

Great post, and good skills to experiment with different kinds of brews! I'm not very skilled in that area, although I have made sloe gin before for Christmas time, something I'd like to do again but it can be tricky finding enough sloes around my area!

I like your analogy of steeping or stewing in our lives, it's definitely something to think about. I know I've definitely been stewing over a certain situation for far too long, it's just figuring out how to metaphorically take the tea bag out! I'm happy to have found your blog via #AnythingGoes :)

Mama, My Kid Doesn't Poop Rainbows said...

I'm intrigued by you're drink making. Never tried anything like that. Will have to give it a whirl.

As to steeping and stewing, yes I am guilty of it occasionally. A good reminder to shake things off and move on, thanks!


NKB said...

I like the sound of those drinks! The rhubarb and elderflower sound lovely and the sloe gin and port. My dad used to do that kind of thing years ago but I've not had a go at it yet. The analogy is great, works really well. I spend far too much time steeping and stewing, but when you're in it it's really hard to dig yourself out or take the teabag out. You know that if you don't stop things will continue or get worse and you aren't getting anything done but then you worry about that and get stuck in the mire again. It's a vicious cycle that has many people in it's grip #BigFatLinky

Martyn Kitney said...

Love the comparison here. I ferment far too much. Also appreciated the wine parts as we have ours made up now. Thanks for linking up with us on the #bigfatlinky hope to see you there this week.