The Sad Saga of our DIY Turpentine Wine

When life gives you grapes, make wine.

Such was our thinking this September when we noticed the vine that Wei-ting had planted along the fence a few years ago had grown quite big. With so many grapes on our hands, we decided to try our hand at the age-old process of wine making. After all, how hard could it be?

Harder than we thought, it turns out. The first step in the process involved washing, destemming, and then crushing the grapes with a potato smasher in a mesh bag (no, you don’t just step/jump on them, as we initially imagined doing). We had about 40-50 bunches of grapes, which would yield about 2.5 gallons (12 bottles) of wine. We then let the mixture (which looked a bit like cider) sit for an hour in a sanitized bucket with a campden tablet (potassium metabisulfite), before adding the yeast and transferring indoors for fermentation.

Error #1: We forgot to measure the specific gravity at this point, which meant we wouldn’t be able to determine the alcohol content when it was finished.

Two weeks later, we checked on the wine’s progress, and it had completed fermentation. Although the color was a bit cloudy, once we filtered out some of the sediment, it didn’t look that bad. And the taste was pretty good. We racked the wine into another sanitized jug and let it sit for a few more weeks while we collected bottles.

Error #2: We used a 5 gallon jug, leaving the wine exposed to a lot of air within the partially-empty jug. This, combined with the fact that we never topped it off with a wine of a similar type when transferring into this jug (forgot to look at the instructions again!), meant that the wine oxidized during its racking phase.

When we unveiled the wine a few weeks later, we realized we had made a mistake. Although oxidation can sometimes be fixed, it was pretty hopeless when we smelled it this time around. Cheryl even took a sip (and survived!), describing the scent as something akin to that of turpentine. Not the most appetizing, to say the least.

We were a bit disappointed that our first adventure in winemaking didn’t turn out as we’d hoped. However, the best part about grapes is that they’re a perennial plant. Which means that we always have next year to try again (and use this winter as a time to perfect our process with some practicing!).

Discover Hopkins comes to BJP!!

One of my favorite aspects of volunteering at Blue Jay’s Perch is sharing the garden with others, especially if it inspires them to learn more about food system sustainability. Last month, Raychel and I had the opportunity to share our passions for sustainable food production and campus action with about 20 high school students from across the country partaking in the Discover Hopkins Summer Program. These students were enrolled in a 2-week class entitled Food, Nutrition, and Public Health in which they learned an overview of food system sustainability and toured facilities in Baltimore that applied concepts from in the classroom.

The afternoon started off with a tour of the garden followed by a discussion of sustainable food and student activism at Hopkins. I was very impressed with the level of knowledge and curiosity that many of these students had—and it was only their first day of class! Students asked a variety of questions from composting to challenges with organic gardening to how Raychel and I apply our studies to our daily lives.

Students with us at the BJP!

Students with us at the BJP!

When I was their age, I had never heard of the term “sustainable food systems,” which goes to show the growing awareness of this important discipline. The fact that Hopkins now offers a summer high school course on this is really encouraging. I hope that this is just the beginning of a new movement of conscious students interested in working towards a more sustainable food system.

- Ruthie

JHU FALL CSA @ Homewood Campus

Get fresh, organic vegetables weekly and help support a local farm: Join our JHU FALL CSA.


What is a CSA?

CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture. It’s like a produce subscription service. Members sign up for a share and then get weekly deliveries of fresh, delicious produce at a designated pickup site. This CSA includes about 8 items/week of seasonal, local produce which is chosen by the farm. One share will typically feed a 3-4 person household every week. Click here for FAQ.

The Farm

Our CSA partners with One Straw Farm, the largest organic farm in Maryland. Drew and Joan Norman have lovingly tended One Straw since 1983. They aim to provide their CSA members with the highest quality Food Alliance Certified produce. One Straw is located in White Hall, MD about 40 miles North of Baltimore City.

Why Join?

By joining this CSA you will be: supporting local farmers and the local economy, protecting the environment, improving your health and expanding your diet. With a pickup site at the Homewood campus this CSA is an affordable, convenient way to buy directly from a farm. Buying through a CSA ensures freshness and diversity as produce is harvested at its seasonal peak.


Where: Weekly Pickups will be at Charles St. Market

When: Mondays 4:00pm to 5:30pm

Duration: September 8th to November 17th

Price: $275 for 11 weeks of produce

That’s only $25/week!!!

8 items/week

A typical share: 1 bunch of red chard, 6 corn, 1 bag of tomatillo, 1 red cabbage, 6 Japanese eggplant, 5 pimiento, 6 cucumber, Chrysanthemum greens, 1 romaine lettuce. All for only $25!!!

A typical share: 1 bunch of red chard, 6 corn, 1 bag of tomatillo, 1 red cabbage, 6 Japanese eggplant, 5 pimiento, 6 cucumber, Chrysanthemum greens, 1 romaine lettuce. All for only $25!!!

 Check out this video to see a CSA in action at the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health.


  • Select “JHU Fall” for membership type
  • Select “JHU Fall Only Students & Employees” for Pickup Location
  • Complete the rest of the forms
  • Enjoy your first delivery of fresh produce on September 8th!

Still have questions? Email

JHU Staff Get their Green On

Cheerful sunflowers sway in the breeze, birds chirp in the trees and members of Johns Hopkins Facilities and Real Estate (JHFRE) department are hard at work at the Blue Jay’s Perch Community Garden at Eastern.  


Sunflowers growing in the garden!

For three Wednesdays in July, in an effort to promote social responsibility, foster teamwork and support the garden at a time when it needs it most, JHFRE staff members were basiling (the act of planting basil), weeding and mulching around the green apple tree, plucking pesky weeds, planting some beans and supporting fruit laden tomato bushes. A great deal of employee’s days are spent behind computer monitors; the garden’s fresh air provide a place to commune with nature while giving back to the community.


Volunteers help turn the compost pile to aerate and speed the decomposition process

The volunteer days were an effort of the department’s Employee Engagement Committee, and spearheaded by Office of Sustainability staff. The EEC coordinates activities like these, which are vital to the overall health and happiness of employees. The Office of Sustainability, which resides within JHFRE, seized the opportunity to synergize this goal where it saw a need for hands-on help right here at Hopkins, allowing employees to connect with other students, staff, and faculty as well as community members.


Alicia Mulching the Fig tree (top), Harvesting Tomatoes (bottom)

As we all take actions to be stewards locally and globally, the Blue Jay’s Perch was a natural fit. It’s safe to say that all volunteers left the garden with a renewed sense of purpose and pep in their steps.  To take a line from Arnold Schwarzenegger, “I’ll be back.”

Cheers friends!

Kelly Collingsworth
Outreach Coordinator
Johns Hopkins University
Office of Sustainability

Spring Party Success!

Last Saturday, May 3rd, was our third annual spring opening party! It was a fun, eventful afternoon with awesome live music.

About 75 people – including students, faculty, staff and community members – came out to enjoy the beautiful weather and a potluck picnic. We ate all-natural hotdogs and organic almond butter and jelly sandwiches as well as baked beans, cucumber salad, curried carrots,  and so much more. All the food was delicious!

After eating and relaxing in the sun, some volunteers transplanted broccoli and collard seedlings into the communal rows.  A lot of younger kids helped with watering and turning up soil in the partner plots.  We also got new markers for the communal rows – they look great!

Please check out the calendar if you would like to help us make this summer another successful season!

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Come to our Third Annual Garden Party on May 3rd!

GUESS WHAT? Spring is [finally] here!

Even though we have had a rocky start to the year with fickle weather and late frosts, our first few volunteer days have been very successful! We have transplanted and direct seeded salad mix, swiss chard, green beans, beets, carrots, collards, and potatoes in the communal rows. In the next four weeks, our drip-line water system will be upgraded to a much more efficient, larger unit that will require refilling less often. We have expanded and improved the steps down into the garden, to make it safer for all community members to visit us! Finally, we have hung a new sign to help show community members how they can become involved in the garden.

In light of all these great new developments at the garden, we are excited to invite you to our 3rd Annual Spring Garden Party!

Please join us at the garden May 3rd from 12-2 pm to help us celebrate the start of spring and a new gardening season.

Garden Party Flyer 2014

This exciting day will feature kid-friendly activities, a composting workshop, and  garden tours. All  – students, faculty, staff, and community members (kids and adults alike) – are welcome!!!

All-natural hot dogs and almond butter/jelly sandwiches will be provided. Attendees are encouraged to bring a side dish or drink to share for the POTLUCK PICNIC. Please also bring a picnic blanket or chairs.

All plates, napkins, utensils, and cups will be provided. All the material used at the garden party will be compostable, so please do not bring outside materials (such as plastic or paper plates). 

RSVP @ our Facebook event and invite your friends!!!

Don’t know where the BJP is? Check out our Google map location.

Don’t know how to get to the garden? – Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered! A group of students and other Hopkins affiliates will be meeting in front of the Subway at 33rd st. (across from Barnes and Nobles) at 11:50 am to walk over to the garden! In addition, a group will be meeting by Subway at 12:00 pm to bike over to the garden – so join them if you have a bicycle.

Email with any questions or concerns!

Food for the soul and body!

Hello all,

My name is Charmaine Richardson (AKA Ole Richardson) – I’m a counselor at Marian House, a healing community for women and their children who need housing and support services to transition into independent lives.

Marian House has been a BJP partner since the garden opened in 2012 and the photos in the video below help show what a fun journey it’s been participating with the BJP Community. In 2011, Ann Beckemeyer from the JHU Public Health Studies Program came to us to see if we would be interested to participate in the garden.  The BJP is a great way for JHU and community organizations to partner up. Marian House is just a few blocks from the garden, so our members enjoyed spending time planting, watering, and harvesting throughout the growing season. In addition, we were able to rectify an old garden directly behind Marian House that houses tomatoes, strawberries, cabbages, other veggies of choice.

Check out this fantastic video documenting the Marian House/PHS BJP Partnership:

Moms and kids learned an appreciation for fresh veggies and about healthy food options – many had never seen food growing while others had gardened before and could recommend techniques. The kids especially enjoyed building a scarecrow named “Billy.” You can see him in the garden today faithfully keeping watch over our wonderful garden. We’ve had a great two years and look forward to spring!

All the best,

Ole Richardson