Vaccines and Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS)

I am not anti-vaccine. I realize they save far more lives than they take. The medical community must consider their patients as statistics for the greater good. I get that. But also, we individuals have a different perspective, and so I’m going to relate a personal tragedy to you. My dear and beloved granddaughter Fiona was not an acceptable loss to me.

She was born about 3 weeks premature.

By her two month checkup she’d gained weight nicely and had grown two inches, with not a single health problem. Her cries when annoyed were lusty and loud. Eye contact and other developmental signs were on track.

Within 14 hours of getting the standard series of vaccines at her two month checkup, she died in her sleep. This vibrant little being, simply stopped breathing.

It seems SIDS occurs across the globe, in children up to two years old, paralleling the vaccine schedule for the location.

It’s known to occur more frequently in premature babies, even if they are otherwise doing well.

Since children in the U.S. can’t typically go to daycare or school without the required vaccines, and since vaccines do save lives, I’m not going to advise anyone on how to handle this potentially tragic situation. I do suggest you educate yourself.  The link below is a good start.

Could this be Driving the Epidemic of Sudden Infant Death (SIDS)?

Maybe the vaccines should be delayed for premature babies.

Perhaps the two-month group of vaccines could be spread out rather than given all at once.

I don’t know–something to research and discuss with your doctor. There’s a wealth of additional information on the internet, and I’m too heartsick and disgusted to do any more research on it.

It turns out there are also monitors that might have saved Fiona’s life, had we recognized the risk. Here’s an example of one at Amazon.

The Punisher and Other Netflix Original Marvel Series

Netflix has created several series show-casing anti-heroes with generally lesser powers than The Avengers. Although with Tony Stark having no powers and Luke Cage being pretty formidable, that could be debated. For whatever reason, these Netflix Marvel characters are the 2nd string, T.V. rather than movie-worthy. But because T.V. allows more time, we can be more fully involved in the superhero’s suffering, what motivates them and their personal lives. Netflix has also permitted more flexibility in brutality limits in each series so they best reflect the hero. If you’ve wondered about these shows, and how they fit together, this is a brief post on the ones I liked, didn’t, and their chronology in the Netflix Marvel universe.

The Punisher is Netflix’s most recent release. Though gory and grim, the unfolding of the story with numerous flashbacks, and well-crafted secondary characters and villains makes The Punisher one of their best. The making of Frank Castle’s mind is complex, like the crafting of fine steel, but in the end, he’s a razor sharp knife without ambiguity. So refreshing. Of all the Marvel superheroes (except Wolverine) none of them has the corner on bloody wrath like Frank Castle, played by Jon Bernthal from the first two seasons of The Walking Dead. The show spends quite a bit of time parsing out right and wrong through interactions with other characters. I never felt it was heavy-handed: Frank Castle is on the very edge of how violent and savage even an anti-hero can be. His bedraggled side-kick is quirky, likable and reasonable, and is written so he confronts Frank without the self-righteous whininess that is, alas, more common.

Unfortunately, to fully appreciate this series, one first has to watch Daredevil, and Daredevil is not as good.  Kind of whiny (especially the side-kick). I felt lukewarm about it.

This article describes the chronological order of the Netflix Marvel series to date. To summarize:

Daredevil, season one.  Meh. However, the Daredevil code of no killing no matter what may appeal to some.

Jessica Jones.  Thoroughly enjoyed this series. The vibe is film noir. There are some references to Daredevil, season one, but they aren’t critical. Introduces Luke Cage.

Daredevil, season two. The Punisher introduction is the best part of this series, and it’s worth watching for that reason alone. If you want to skip it, but plan to watch The Punisher, this article summarizes the Frank Castle elements in the Daredevil series.

Luke Cage.  I liked this series as much as Jessica Jones, but the setting and supporting characters were even better. A whole imagined Harlem reality dark and sultry. The music’s great: here are seven samples of it. Not music I usually listen to but it brought great depth to the story and the setting. A significant character in this series is from Daredevil, season one, but, again, I don’t think it’s necessary to watch Daredevil.

Iron Fist. I tried one episode… maybe I’ll try it again.

The Defenders.  Missed this somehow, and this review is not encouraging. But Sigourney Weaver is the villain, so I’ll give it a try just as soon as I finish The Handmaid’s Tale.

The Punisher.  If brutality doesn’t bother you, watch it!

If I had to rate the ones I watched from best downward, it would be The Punisher, Luke Cage, Jessica Jones, DD season 2 and DD season 1.

Justice League — Nice Moves No Soul

6 out of 10; maybe a 5 out of 10 due to a waste of potential, and my dashed hopes and expectations. As I watched the movie, I wondered what was wrong, because a lot of it was right and yet there was no pulse. The thrill of caring was missing from a lot of the movie. Sometimes the actors and characters rose above the unremittingly gloomy fabric of the movie, but these were heroic acting anomalies and not the norm. In general, the movie was too dark, and the characters too psychologically flat or inconsistent. Even the music took itself too seriously. Josh Whedon, who directed the last twenty-percent of the movie, let me down.

It seems obvious where Josh Whedon (Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Firefly, Avengers, Age of Ultron) added in material to try to save the movie, since a hallmark of his work is witty repartee. Usually I love this! But in Justice League such efforts were like taking a formal Victorian funeral dress, black and draped, and sprinkling a dozen small pink flowers onto it. They don’t help that dress; they just seem odd. Mired in darkness, the comic wit came and went too fast to be humorous, often handled badly by an actor who can’t do comedy or couldn’t wrap their head around doing it in their super serious superhero role. Ben Affleck actually did the best job trying to bridge the gap, but it seemed to hurt him. I imagined Batman gripping each side of a bottomless chasm and grunting with the effort of trying to pull the two sides together.

Alfred the Great

And now we get to why Alfred is the picture I chose for this movie because he exemplifies the fundamental flaw with this latest Batman version. In past Batman series, Alfred was the highlight of every show: Batman’s foil. Humor against grim seriousness, love against cold, relentless duty. And Alfred humanized Batman by forcing him, from time to time, into Alfred’s more kindly view of reality. This new Alfred is just as grim as Batman. He would not shed a tear at Batman’s grave. He’d probably be disgusted and make a slightly clever, sneering comment. Without Alfred’s kindness, the homogeneous grimness was, frankly boring and the few tiny pink flowers of wit could not save it.  Alfred is but one example of why this movie couldn’t be fixed in the last twenty percent of its creation. It turns out, while Josh does great work, he’s not a film-making superhero. Sigh.

The fight scenes are well done. Wonderwoman and the Amazons were enjoyable, as always. The CGI villain was flat and without complexity, which seems to be the norm in most superhero movies these days–might as well put angry faces on meteors coming to flatten earth.


  • The Superman scenes with Lois and his mother were great. Amy Adams brings the human touch to every scene she’s in. Henry Cavill did a good job, too. For me, their scenes were the best in the movie.
  • Cyclops couldn’t control his body in one convenient part to add a fight scene but otherwise had no problems with control. Whatever is going on with his merger of body and machine should have been handled more consistently and with enough detail for this conflict to be understandable. It also could have been used to bring drama to other scenes.
  • The Cyclops arc from being angry at being alive to wanting to live was handled well, and with very little screen time.
  • The Flash was supposed to be the comic relief, and he was, but it was too much to put on his little whippet shoulders with Batman as his straight man.  It didn’t help that I’d just seen Civil War the night before, where Spidey blew a similar role out of the park.
  • As Aquaman, Jason Momoa has brooding violence and sexuality down pat and can handle dark humor. Sensitivity did not work for him in the one scene he had to try it. Very awkward. The scene in Atlantis contained too little of his backstory and was too rushed, so we didn’t care anyway. A Nicole Kidman cameo (a rumor at one point) as Atlanna, Aquaman’s mother, showing the conflict between them, would have done wonders for the Aquaman character and story-line.
  • The scenes with the normal family in the midst of tribulation were too rushed for me to care about them. I think it should have been cut to make room to provide more depth to Cyclops and Aquaman.
  • There were hints (maybe) of lust and affection between Batman and Wonderwoman, but they were too subtle and unfortunately all verbal. Wonderwoman was her least interesting in this movie and will continue that trend if she remains in icy widowhood. Next movie had better show some fire!

Salsify Experiment

To start at the end, Salsify tastes a lot like artichoke heart, or Jerusalem artichokes. That was a great relief, as it was called “oyster plant” in Victorian times.

I’d never heard of salsify and so was intrigued when I saw it on the Johnney’s Selected Seeds website. I bought some seeds and planted a short row–only two feet because this kind of thing usually ends in sad plants that hardly produce. The salsify plants came right up and thrived with no sign of disease or insect damage and when I dug them up six months later, there were roots! One caution, I tried a second planting mid-summer and these did not thrive and did not produce at all.

These plants are Mammoth Sandwich Island salsify. Mine didn’t grow as big or uniform as advertised, but that’s to be expected. I planted the seeds on May 15th and dug up roots on November 14th–after a few nights in the low 20s. I’d read that leaving the roots in the ground through a few hard frosts mitigates the horrible oyster flavor. Even so, it was with some trepidation that I processed the roots.

There are several salsify recipes on the internet, but I tried a simple one first so I could tell what the root actually tasted like. A consistent bit of advice is to immediately put cut roots in water with “a little” lemon juice to keep them from turning dark, which they will do far more quickly than potatoes. I did this, but as they were immediately put in water to boil it probably wasn’t necessary.

I cut off the small roots and greens, put the whole roots in a pot of water and boiled until just soft. Then I cooled them under running water and easily peeled off the outer coating with my fingers. Sliced up they look like white carrots. I sprinkled seasoned salt on them and fried them in butter on medium. Unlike potatoes, they sucked up all the butter, so I was glad I hadn’t used very much. When they were browned on the one side, I flipped them for a few minutes and then served.

There was no oyster flavor at all. My husband and I both liked them, and I do appreciate a plant that’s no work–next year I’ll plant a lot more of them. To try to get longer roots, I may dig in some sand.

According to Johnney’s Selected Seeds, what I planted is the ‘classic’ salsify. If you google images of ‘salsify’, you’ll see some of them show black cylinders, long and thin.  Evidently, these black roots are an entirely different plant, also called salsify or more accurately, scorzonera. If you’re interested in these roots, here is a short article on the differences and how to grow them.


House Dogs, Yard Dogs and Wolves (flash fiction)

It was a large house with many rooms, big enough for us to run and play. The carpets were thick, the water was pure, and the air smelled clean except for the comforting odor of cooking steak and an occasional wisp of wood smoke. Logs burned in several fireplaces, and in front of them were soft mats for sleeping and staring contentedly into the flames.

Our fur was thick and glossy, our bodies moved quick and sure, and we knew nothing of pain or death or fear. We were never lonely, for we had each other, and our master came to pet and feed us each day. His hands would run through our fur, caress our heads and rub our chests, showing us his love, and making sure our bodies were strong and healthy. We adored him and would gaze at him with steady brown eyes whenever he was near, and as he moved from place to place in the house, caring for us. His face was kind, and his hands were gentle and warm.

Each day he would leave us, and go out the front door—a door he never shut. He would turn and say, “Stay,” and then move out of our sight until the next day when he would come to care for us and love us again. We didn’t pay much attention to that word: “Stay.” We didn’t want to leave, and so the word did not hold our attention.

We lived in the house for a very long time and were happy. Then, one of us noticed musky smells on the breeze that sometimes puffed into the door. Some of us started sitting near the door, watching the clouds and the trees move in the wind. The air smelled interesting near the door. Shadows moved through the trees, and we wanted to see them, to smell them, but the word, “Stay,” held us. That word started to irritate us, but we’d forget that, and the smells and the flicking shadows, whenever our master was near. When he was near, stroking our backs, our love for him still consumed us.

We wondered why he left us. Where did he go? We watched by the door but never did see him after his back rounded the curve towards the barn. Sometimes, while we watched and sniffed the breeze, the shadows would come out of the woods, and we’d see creatures we’d never seen before. Some of them smelling of raw meat, the meat before our master cooked it for us. They’d show themselves for only a moment, and then flit or run or slither away. They didn’t have to “Stay.”

One day three large creatures burst out of the woods and ran right towards the door. Their meaty smell shot desire through our bones. They snorted when they saw us and turned and ran away, leaving the scent of fear on the air behind them. One of us howled and took off, and all of us followed. Our legs were long and fast, our hearts and lungs strong, and we ran and ran with the wind in our fur and the sight of thrashing legs ever in front. We leaped fallen trees and streams and ran through shadows and sunlight, and grass and trees. Then one of us caught a piece of a fleeing animal, and we all bit into it, tearing and ripping it until it stopped moving. Blood filled our mouths and joy filled our hearts.

We ate and tussled in the sunlight and the breeze, and the smaller dogs got less to eat, but we all had enough. It was good out here. The meat we caught ourselves was warm, juicy and indescribably sweet. The intoxicating smell of blood was all over us and in the dirt where we rolled, covering our fur in a mantle of victory.

Then we heard him, walking through the woods calling our names. We ran away and hid, and didn’t go to him. Eventually, he left. A few of us followed, whining, wanting both freedom and his love. They told us he shut the gate to the yard and the door to the house. He told them he’d let them in the yard from time to time, but most of us didn’t care. We had animals to run down and eat, streams and ponds for water, and we liked it outside. No one told us to “Stay.” We became wolves, strong and free.

But those dogs that sometimes went in the yard tried to tell us what to do. They told us to live near the yard, to do this and to do that. Some of us did, but most of the time most of us ignored them. We didn’t like those dogs that lived near the yard. They weren’t wolves, free and strong, and they weren’t house dogs, healthy and clean. Many of them were pathetic weaklings, whining by the gate one moment, running with the wolves the next.

Then one day a yard dog came through the woods telling us the gate was open. He didn’t want to run with us. Sometimes he would follow, but only to woo some of us away. He weakened our pack. We killed him, but others came crying out, “The gate is open. The master will care for you in the yard.” We killed most of them, too, but they kept coming. The weaker wolves followed them back to the yard. Even though they never saw the master, except in their dreams, they begged us to join them in the yard. They told us life after death would be glorious for yard dogs, but they still whimpered with fear when death was close, so we don’t believe them.

A few of the wolves that entered that gate are different. They howl to us but never leave the yard. They just stay, looking happy and contented, like so many idiots. They don’t even have the sense to fear death or grieve for the dead. Their howls travel like a siren call on the wind, quiet but always there, unceasing. At night, when there are is no blood or struggle to distract us, some of us have to cover our heads with paws to block the sound and control our foolish yearning.

From time to time, we smell cooked meat and wood smoke in the woods and know it is the master, luring us. We ignore him; he’s still trying to tell us what to do. We see no reason to listen to him. He could care for us in the woods, but he won’t. Sometimes we’re diseased, and sometimes we starve. We die cold, alone and in pain. If he really loved us, he wouldn’t let us know fear and pain, he wouldn’t let us die, he wouldn’t make us ache for the touch of his hand.

Pyment (grape-honey fermentation) Experiment

Melomel is mead that contains fruit. If the fruit is grapes, the more specific term is pyment.

This pyment effort consisted of:

  • 1 gallon honey
  • 3.25 gallons water
  • 1 gallon + 3 cups crushed grapes, simply because this is how many grapes I collected
  • 1 packet Champaign yeast
Strained Pyment Fermenting

Usually, I make mead 1 part honey to 4 parts water, but I was trying to fit everything into a 5 gallon carboy. As it was, the crushed grapes floated in a mat, the yeast formed bubbles under it, and I narrowly escaped an over-flow situation and purple stained carpet! Just in the nick of time, I removed 1/2 gallon. Being greedy (ah, thrifty) I added it to a carboy of almost finished mead (the one in back in the picture), so technically I have two batches of pyment. However, most of the color dropped out of the mead with 1/2 gallon of pyment added. It’s actually more like mead contaminated with trace amounts of grape.

As usual, the honey was boiled with one gallon of the water and treated with Irish moss: 1 teaspoon is added once the mix is boiling and the resulting foam is removed. This removes protein from the honey, so when mead makers brag they use Irish moss, it’s kind of silly since premium honey would not require it. I use reject honey to make mead, so repeatedly added 1 teaspoon of Irish moss to the boiling mix until no foam formed.

Harvested late, the grapes were quite sweet.  They can be crushed by hand, but I went old-school and used my (very clean) feet.  First, the grapes were sorted and picked off of the stems. Bugs were removed. In the winemaking process, they use grape clusters. There is no way they can remove the occasional rotted grape or any bugs. Mostly spiders. Let’s try not to think about it. I watched T.V. and stepped on the carefully sorted grapes for 10 minutes.

I found a graph online that showed the color extracts from the grape skins first, then bitterness from them, then bitterness from the seeds. I wanted as much color as possible and wasn’t keen on the supposed complexity from the bitterness.  Evidently, in winemaking, if you leave the wine to ferment and then age on the grape skins and seeds for six months, the wine ages nicely over 20-30 years, but is undrinkable for quite some time. I’d like to live long enough to drink this stuff. Having to wait two years for mead to be drinkable is quite enough! So I took the liquid off of the skins after five days when color extraction is at a maximum, and bitterness is still at pretty low levels.


To do this, I put a nylon mesh over the end of a siphon to transfer the liquid into a clean carboy. It was very tedious, as grape sediment kept clogging the nylon mesh. Next time I’ll pour it through a coarse strainer, aiming to remove most of the skin and all of the seed.

2/10/18 update: The pyment did not clear. First I mixed in 2 level tablespoons of Pascalite clay and exposed it to single digit weather outside, but this results in very slight, if any, clearing. Next I mixed in one egg white and again put it outside in single digit weather. Cleared it completely. Filled 17 bottles, which all tasted odd. As I’ve said before, and will say again, mead required at least two years of aging to get rid of the odd and unpleasant fresh mead funk.

Also, I had added 18 grams of French Oak Chips (medium toast) (LD Carlson) for a week prior to bottling. I don’t know if it did one thing, but I was too nervous to leave the oak chips in any longer.


The Virtues of Planting Late?

It’s September 23rd, and the world has not ended (yet), and neither has my West Virginia garden. Today, I collected corn and summer squash. Commercial farmers can’t gamble with cold weather, but maybe it’s worth it for the home gardener to set aside some ground to gamble on extending the fresh-from-the-garden season.

This corn was planted on July 5th. Last year, corn planted at about the same time matured much earlier, but this year we had two cold weeks that slowed down its maturation, and there was dry weather when I should have watered it, but didn’t. We’ve never had garden corn this late before; perhaps it is something to try on purpose next year to extend the availability of luscious fresh corn.

This hybrid summer squash (2016, Johnny’s Selected Seeds but they no longer carry it) was planted June 20th in the midst of the first corn patch planted to conserve garden space.  It limped along in shade, fighting weeds, until I harvested the corn sometime in late July or early August. The sad things were weeded and watered and have been producing squash for a few weeks. There are half a dozen young squash on them and the weather outlook is great (I am the only one in the family who eats squash, so this is more than enough.)

Last year there was so much fennel I had to freeze most of it.  Fennel does not freeze well. It lost flavor and was tough, so this year I planted less, twice. The fennel pictured was planted on June 2oth. Next year I’ll try three plantings.

The last tomato was not planted early, but next year I plan to plant one slicing tomato plant one full month after the others. The best thing about this plan is that I’ll be able to sow the seeds directly into the garden, so much less effort.


There is also watermelon maturing, and some Chinese cabbage that was looking good but now looks bug-eaten. I will let you know if either of these works out.

Keeping a Siamese Fighting Fish (Beta)

Siamese fighting fish are ridiculously beautiful and easy to take care of. If their tank is kept at room temperature, they require no heat. Since they can get air from the surface of their tank, they don’t need aeration. They do have to be kept alone, but they are so beautiful, one lovely male is all that you need.


This fish’s tank is a two-gallon mason jar, with large, plastic jewel see-through “gravel”(many colors), placed on an ice sculpture light. The ice sculpture light has numerous small LED lights that won’t heat the tank. My ice sculpture light has color-combination choices, and it can be set to shift colors over time: more beauty and a nice nightlight for the hall. I already had all of these things from fishes past.


Or use a tank with no lights at all in the living room or on the kitchen table. Far more beautiful and entertaining than any dried flower arrangement!

The only work involved with keeping a beta is feeding him and giving him clean water to live in. I feed mine a crumb or two several times a day. He likes it and it’s fun! It won’t take them long to get excited about food when they see you. Betas can turn their eyes and their heads, making them seem quite smart, for a fish. I suggest using the food that floats on top of the tank in little pellets, not the flakes. They don’t like the flakes and the flakes tend to foul the surface.

Once a week you’ll need to change out about half of their water with fresh–more for a smaller tank. Always leave fish water out for an hour so the chlorine off-gases before pouring it into the tank or putting the fish into it. Also, avoid shocking the fish with temperature changes. A siphon makes this job fairly fast and easy. Or if the tank is small, simply use a fish net to transfer the fish to another container, maybe a quart jar, clean his tank, and put him back. Betas can survive in a very small tank, as you’ll see in the pet stores, but less than a half-gallon for their permanent home seems a little cruel to me.  If the water isn’t changed often enough, the fishes fins will turn ratty.

The cheaper fish at Walmart look awful. But take one home and in a few weeks, it will be a beauty. Betas are tough.  However, Walmart fish will probably never have the full fin structure available for a few more dollars at Pet Co, or a similar fish store. The fish, above, fish is from Pet Co.

This is merely an overview of what having a Siamese fighting fish pet might be like. Read up on how to care for them before buying one.

A few final notes:

  1. These fish are fought for sport in Asia. When males prepare to fight, even the drab, short-finned fighting class of Betas become iridescent with color, and then they fight to the death.
  2. Female betas are a drab taupe with short fins. She will become somewhat iridescent in color and thick through the middle when she’s ready to breed.
  3. When the male is ready to breed, he has created an impressive bubble nest on the surface of his tank. If you want to breed, I suggest putting the male in a 10-gallon aquarium.
  4. Male and female Introductions for breeding must be handled carefully, or the male will kill her. When both are ready–the male with his bubble nest, and the female full of eggs, introduce the female to the male (he has the nest).  If they are ready, the male will wrap his body around the female and squish the eggs out her. As he’s off merrily squirting his invisible seed over them, the female looks like she’s been killed. The male gathers up the eggs (with his mouth) to put in his bubble nest. The female recovers, and they repeat it a lot of times. When it’s over, get her out fast. The male goes into immediately into protective mode and might kill her. The male protects the eggs through incubation and even a few even a few hours after they’ve hatched.

Grape Concoctions 2017

I had in my mind that my grapes were no good until friends at a cookout complimented them. I thought they must be crazy. The grapes don’t usually produce much fruit, and what is produced is in small ratty looking clusters. However, I picked some for them, ate a few myself and they tasted good! What a pleasant surprise. To explain, my grapes are in a shaded arbor behind the house. It wasn’t shaded when I planted them, but trees grew up around them due to bad planning. Japanese beetles eat their leaves all summer. I don’t spray them for anything, and only prune them to keep the area under them clear. I do toss fertilizer at their feet a few times a year. Since the grapes tasted good, I designated last Friday, September 9th, the Day of the Grape.

I started five gallons of pyment (grape-honey fermented beverage) and made over 2 quarts of excellent grape jelly. Then the next day, being so pleased with these successes, I made two quarts of grape drink. The jelly and drink are bursting with grape goodness. I won’t know about the pyment for a few years, as mead needs to age at least that long. I plan to write a separate post on the pyment experiment.

My friends asked me what kind of grapes I had, and I didn’t know. They were planted long ago, some died and were replaced. But now I know some of them since I kept notes. For the jelly I used about half Marechal Foch grapes (planted in ’98), the small grapes pictured, and half red Catawba grapes (planted 11/00). The juice for the pyment included these grapes but was mostly made of two types of large purple grapes with seeds, and I have no idea what they are. My notes say they are two varieties of white seedless grape, which means these grapes died and I replanted and didn’t record what they were…  Note to self, take better notes. Note to you, white seedless grapes may not be vigorous in the West Virginia climate.  (The two types I tried were Ramaily Seedless and Interlaken Seedless.)

It was late in the season, and about half the fruit was on its way to making funky looking raisins. From what I’ve read about wine making, older grapes are sweeter and have a stronger grape taste because water has started to evaporate out of them. Certainly, the jelly and drink were bursting with flavor.

For the jelly, I simply used the Sure Jell recipe–the recipe in the box, not the one on the internet. It calls for five cups of juice, seven cups of sugar and one packet of Sure Jell (pectin). It will make about 9 cups of jelly. Canning seemed like a lot of work, so I simply sealed them hot, put them in the refrigerator and told people to eat them up. They should be fine for a few months.

The drink, recipe is below, strong enough to stand up to a glass full of ice.

Picture Taken with a Flash


3 cups of strained grape juice. To make the juice, crush the grapes by hand (your fingers) and simmer them on the stove for about 10 minutes, crushing them with a spoon. Then strain. The more fine the strainer, the more clear the drink/jelly, the more frustration you will have, and the flavor will be the same. (If you don’t simmer them on the stove, there will be a little less juice but the main problem is color. The drink will look pale and brownish. Heat extracts the color from the skins.)

1 cup of honey heated and mixed with 3 cups of water.

Mix the grape juice with the water-honey mixture and pour into two-quart jars. Add a pinch of salt to each.

I then used the microwave and brought the jars close to boiling before I put the lids on them so they’d last longer in the refrigerator. (Don’t mistake this for canning as it is not).

Greasy Back Beans

In 2014 I bought heirloom tomato plants from a man at work, and he threw in about a dozen “greasy back” beans, an Appalachian heirloom. So I planted them. I’ve been saving seeds and planting these beans ever since. Next year they’ll be the only string bean I’ll plant. They’re pole beans; I’m done with bending over to pick beans!  As string beans, they’re plump, meaty and their pods stay juicy over a long period of time. They are not greasy! The “greasy” moniker is because the pods are supposed to look greasy, but I don’t get it.

I’ve tried saving various seeds over the years and marigolds, zinnias and beans have never failed me.  Below is the last harvest of the greasy back beans this year, in their pods and shelled.  Cooking dried and younger beans together is a unique home-garden treat, combining the flavor of string-beans with dried beans. Cook like dried beans with ham and/or bacon, and serve, of course, with cornbread. (The brown beans are Kentucky Wonder. A fine bean, but I don’t believe they’re as good as the greasy back beans in any way.)


To save beans to plant next year, simply set the biggest and glossiest of the dried beans to one side. I put them in a clean, dry pop bottle with no lid and stick them on the book shelf.

A quick search on the internet shows a number of places to buy “greasy beans” and a number of different types. Some are called “greasy back beans” but they don’t look like these. I suspect all greasy beans are similar. If you try them I think you’ll like them.