Friday, November 8, 2013

Little Birdie

A Little Birdie stopped in for a visit yesterday   photo by Georgianne Jackofsky
We've had very little rainfall for the past six or eight weeks. In a time period that we normally get six or more inches we have had less than a half an inch of rain. I've been filling our birdbaths everyday, so our yard has become somewhat of an oasis for local critters. Between the birds, deer, squirrels, and Rocky (our resident raccoon), pretty much all the water is being consumed every day. As I'm typing this a huge flock of grackles (several hundred) just landed in our backyard. Wow, what a racket they make!

This "Little Birdie", a golden crowned kinglet, knocked himself out when he crashed into one of our windows. At first I thought he was dead, but he woke up as soon as I picked him up. He didn't seem to mind being handled at all as he sat in my hand, let me stroke his head, and crawled up and down my arm for ten or fifteen minutes before he took off. When he finally did take off, he hovered in front of me, like a hummingbird, then did a few slow laps around my head before he settled on a nearby tree limb.

I made this quick recording of the traditional banjo tune Little Birdie. This song is a favorite of Ralph Stanley. It was one of the first songs he learned from his mother, who taught him to play banjo in the traditional frailing, or clawhammer, style.

Saturday, November 9, will find the Homegrown String Band performing at the Elwood Public Library, 1929 Jericho Tpke., Elwood, NY, at 2:00 p.m. Reservations are recommended. Please contact the library at 631-499-3722 to save yourself a seat!

The next day, Sunday, November 10, will find HGSB performing at another Long Island library. For those of you a little further west, we will be at the Franklin Square Public Library, 19 Lincoln Road, Franklin Square, NY; (516) 488-3444. The show is also at 2:00 p.m. The library is only open for the concert on Sunday, so please go to the side door entrance not the front door!

Sunday, November 17, will find Georgianne and Rick presenting the duo program, Homegrown Two, at the Bellmore Memorial Library, 2288 Bedford Ave., Bellmore, NY; 516-785-2990. Once again the show will start at 2:00 p.m.

Sunday, December 8, will find the full band doing their last Long Island show of the year. The Town of Oyster Bay, Cultural and Performing Arts Division, presents this program at the Bethpage Public Library as part of their Distinguished Artists Concert Series. Bethpage Public Library, 47 Powell Avenue, Bethpage, NY; 516-931-3907. 2:00 p.m.

* Many thanks for coming out to a show & for helping keep the music alive! *

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Fungi Fun Guy

Rick's Homemade Tempeh
I have been experimenting with and cultivating various strands of yeast, mold, and bacteria for several years now. Georgianne and I have been making our own yogurt for about 30 years, we've also had a sourdough culture bubbling away in the fridge for the last 20 years. Three or four years ago I was introduced to the writing of an interesting "fermento" by the name of Sandor Ellix Katz. Sandor's books, Wild Fermentation, The Revolution Will Not Be Microwaved, and The Art of Fermentation changed the way I think about food. Katz points out that fermented cultured food has been an important part of our diets for thousands of years, providing a safe and easy way to preserve food while enhancing it's flavor and nutritional value, but our modern love affair with antibiotics and our obsession with sterilization is destroying our culinary culture along with the bacterial cultures we need to survive. The big food and agro business conglomerates have managed to convince most people that genetically modified, shrink wrapped, artificially colored, chemically saturated, irradiated, vitamin fortified "food" produced in factories is somehow safer and healthier than fresh home cooked food and foods preserved using traditional time tested techniques. These mega corporations lobby for government regulations in the name of "food safety" that require traditional foods to be produced in multimillion dollar laboratories and clean rooms rather than in kitchens or on farms. That's crazy pants! When you use traditional, low tech methods of food preservation, like drying and fermentation, you are creating an environment that makes it impossible for toxic bacteria, like botulism, to survive. Modern techniques like canning, vacuum packing, and sterilization, do just the opposite. They wipe out the beneficial and benign bacteria, creating an environment that is easily colonized by toxic organisms. And unlike the smelly slimy organisms that cause food to rot and decompose naturally, many of these toxins can't be seen, smelled, or tasted.

Rooster Rick's Oyster Mushrooms
Since reading Wild Fermentation I've enthusiastically joined the ranks of passionate fermentos. When you walk into our kitchen you will be confronted by the sounds and smells of my various fermentation projects. At the moment I have a cranberry wine must fermenting in an open crock, a batch of hard cider bubbling away in a one gallon air-locked jug, a half gallon of kombucha (fermented tea) with a mushroom like SCOBY (symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast) floating on top, two small oak barrels of live apple cider and wine vinegar, a quart of milk being transformed into a pro-biotic fermented super food by some magical kefir grains, and my latest fermento adventure: a bag of soybeans inoculated with the spores of a fungus called Rhizopus oligosporus that will yield a pound and a half of delicious tempeh. Meanwhile, down in the basement I have a box of coffee grounds and newspaper that I am using as a substrate to grow some very tasty Oyster mushrooms.

All this made possible by friendly yeast, mold, and bacteria. So many people fear these organisms, not realizing that they are responsible for creating so many of our most popular foods: yogurt, bread, cheese, coffee, tea, wine, beer, sauerkraut . . . They may also not realize that their own bodies are host to billions of bacterial cells. According to the National Institute of Health's Human Microbiome Project published in 2012, 90% of the cells in a human body are non human microbes. A healthy human body contains two to six pounds of bacteria, friendly bacteria that aids in digestion, protects our skin, and keeps the bad guys in check. By the way, antibiotic means anti-life, take a pro-biotic stance, eat real food.

Photos by Rick Jackofsky

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Planting and Picking - Garlic and Guitars

Last weekend we had a great time performing for the folks at the Hampton Bays Public Library. One of the highlights was when we were joined onstage by our, inimitable, old friend Artie Scholtz who accompanied us on his rhythm bones for a rousing version of This Train is Bound for Glory. This weekend The Homegrown String Band, The Family That Plays Together,  will be doing two shows. On Saturday, November 9, 2013 we will be performing at the Elwood Public Library and then on Sunday the 10th we'll be at the Franklin Square Public Library. Both shows are free and start at 2:00 pm.

Photo by Rick Jackofsky
The weather has been dry, we're starting to get cool nights, and I knew I would be busy for the rest of the week, so I decided to plant my garlic today. I followed the old axiom, plant the best and eat the rest, so I picked out 120 of the biggest cloves from this year's garlic crop. Last year I planted 100 cloves and harvested about eight pounds of garlic. Georgianne says "that's not enough," it's never enough, but by June we'll have a few pounds of delicious garlic scapes and by early July the 120 plants should give us about ten pounds of organic ophio hard neck garlic.

Photo by Rick Jackofsky
A couple weeks ago I was discussing various types of garlic and planting strategies with a friend when he mentioned how much he and his wife enjoy garlic but hate peeling it. I told him about a cool little tool we had discovered about 15 years ago called the Canterbury Crack and Peel Mushroom. It makes peeling garlic a snap. The magic mushroom had been out of production for a number of years, but has recently been brought back by the Vermont Bowl Company. It's a low tech wonder!

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Storm's Corner, AKA Valley Cottage, NY

Storm's Tavern
Sunday, October 20, 2013, The Homegrown String Band will be performing a free concert at the Valley Cottage Library. The town of Valley Cottage in Rockland County, NY, was once known as Storm's Corner and was home to the historic Storm's Tavern. The tavern, built in 1765, was a stop on the stagecoach route along the Kings Highway between NYC and Albany. During the Revolutionary War, the Tavern was an important meeting place for the Continental Army and later became a stop on the Underground Railroad. This Sunday, stop in to the library and catch the new old-time music and dance of The Homegrown String Band. The show starts at 2:00pm and runs 'til about 3:30.

110 Route 303
Valley Cottage, NY 10989

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Livingston, N.J. and Bayport-Blue Point, N.Y.

Homegrown Two  Photo by Paul Macatee
On Saturday, October 12, 2013, The Homegrown String Band, "the nuclear family that radiates fun," will be performing in a concert setting at the Livingston Public Library in Livingston, NJ. The show starts at 2:00 pm and is FREE to the public. The following day (Sunday, October 13, 2013) Rick and Georgianne will be performing as Homegrown Two: The Duo, at the Bayport-Blue Point Public Library in Blue Point, NY.This show is also FREE.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Setauket Fall Festival

This weekend, October 5, 2013. The Homegrown String Band will be performing two sets, 11:15 am and 1:00 pm, at The Setauket Fall festival on the grounds of the Emma S. Clark Library. Other entertainment will include a "Birds of Prey" demonstration presented by the Sweetbriar Nature Preserve and a Civil War re-enactment by the 67th New York Volunteers.

Monday, September 23, 2013

2013 Hudson Valley Garlic Festival

On Sptember 28th and 29th The Homegrown String Band will be returning to our favorite food, music, and arts festival, the one and only Hudson Valley Garlic Festival in Saugerties, NY. This year we will be performing three sets each day on the Pavilion Stage located right in the middle of the festival ground.

Monday, September 16, 2013

From "The Market" to Montrose

2013 Rocky Point Harvest Fest - photo by Charlie Bevington
This year's Rocky Point Farmers Market  Fall Festival was a huge success, a big crowd and perfect weather along with great food, drink, and music. A big thanks to everyone who helped make it happen. It is really nice to be part of a hometown event, like "The Market," that helps to bring the community together while supporting local agriculture and arts.

The Homegrown String Band will take to the road for the next two weeks with performances at the Hendick Hudson Library, in Montrose, NY on September 22, 2013 and at the Hudson Valley Garlic Festival in Saugerties, NY on September 28 and 29, 2013. The band will be back on Long Island for the Setauket Fall Festival, which takes place October 5, 2013 on the grounds of the Emma S. Clark Library.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Rocky Point Farmers Market Harvest Festival

This Sunday, September 15, 2013, the Second Annual Rocky Point Farmers and Artisan Market Fall Festival will take place at Depot Park in downtown Rocky Point. The park is located at the corner of Prince Road and Broadway, adjacent to Thurber Lumber and Gracie's Restaurant. The festival will feature the usual offerings by food, farm, and craft vendors, as well as a pig roast, courtesy of Naturally Grass Fed, and music by none other than Rocky Point's own neo-traditional, high energy, old-time 20th century family string band, The Homegrown String Band, and Long Island's number one beach, surf rock band, Shecky and the Twangtones. The festival will be starting at 8 am and continuing on throughout the day till 4 pm. The Homegrown String Band will be performing from 11am 'til 1 pm. The Twangtones will take the stage at 2 pm and play 'til 3:30pm.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Ricky Skaggs and Bruce Hornsby Live - CD Review

I really like this CD! I wasn't sure what to expect when I popped it into my player. What happens when you add pianist Bruce Hornsby to a powerhouse bluegrass ensemble like Ricky Skaggs & Kentucky Thunder? I was half expecting some newgrass in the vein of New Grange, an album that featured Tim O'Brien, Darol Anger, Allision Brown, Mike Marshall, Todd Phillips, and Philip Aaberg, but the CD cover, complete with an image of what looks like Bill Monroe pickin' to the chickens, seemed to shout out traditional bluegrass. Truth be told; what it is is a little of both. On tracks like How Mountain Girls Can Love, Toy Heart, and Little Maggie, Hornsby proves that a keyboard can be seamlessly integrated into a traditional bluegrass band. At times Bruce's piano, very capably, takes on the role of a mandolin or 5 string banjo, but at other times his jazzy style takes the band well into newgrass territory. A great CD by Ricky Skaggs, Kentucky Thunder, and bluegrass piano pioneer Bruce Hornsby!

Friday, August 30, 2013

Don't Let Your Deal Go Down

Rick and Erica performing Don't Let Your Deal Go Down from our 2007 CD Ragged but Right.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

New England Mini Tour 2013

New England From Space Summer 2013 from NASA Earth Observatory
The Homegrown String Band will be doing a quick New England "tour" this week with shows in Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Rhode Island.

The first date is Wednesday, August 14th, in Bourne, MA. Our show is 7:00 pm at the Bourne Library, in the neighborhood of the famous Aptucxet Trading Post.

Friday's show is at the Hyde Center in Newton Heights, MA, at 6:00 pm.

Saturday, August 17, we will be at the Sandywoods Center for the Arts in Tiverton, RI, show starts at 7:00 pm.

We close out the week in East Haddem, CT, with a show at The First Church of Christ Congregational. The music starts at 3:00 pm. At this show we will also be displaying some of our craft work, including hand dyed yarn, knitting patterns, Navajo spindles, pewter and enamel buttons, copper and silver shawl pins and earrings, and hand crafted soaps.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Appalachian Fiddle and Bluegrass Association Festival

Banjo Cat T-Shirt by Frank Lee
We sure had a great time at the Appalachian Fiddle and Bluegrass Association festival in Wind Gap, PA, this weekend. Great music and great company on the beautiful grounds of Mountain View Park. We did two stage shows on Friday, taught fiddle and dance workshops on Saturday, and attended old-time and bluegrass jams till the wee hours of the morning on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights. We were planning on heading home Saturday evening, but we lost all track of time while catching up with our old friends, in the James Reams and the Barnstormers band, so we decided to stay over till Sunday and enjoy one more night of jamming. I was clean out of clean shirts, so I used that as an excuse to add one to my collection of Frank Lee designed T-shirts. After much deliberation I picked out this one with a cool cat frailing an old-time banjo.

Livingston, NJ August 6th Show Canceled

Good news/bad news. Unfortunately, due to logistical problems, our show at Livingston's National Night Out has been canceled. That's the bad news, the good news is the Livingston Library has rebooked us for a full length indoor concert on Saturday October 12, 2013 and we are looking forward to putting on a full length show for the good people of Livingston.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Wind Gap, PA - August 2, 2013

Wow! We had a great time playing at the beautiful Bayard Cutting Arboretum in Great River, NY, this afternoon. What a great venue and super audience. Although the on and off rain forced us into the carriage house barn, it didn't dampen anyone's spirits .
The Homegrown String Band featuring the Amazing Annalee. -  Photo by Mark Shanholtz

On Friday, August 2nd, we will be appearing at the Appalachian Fiddle and Bluegrass Association festival in Wind Gap PA. Friday looks to be a very oldtimey friendly day at this, mostly bluegrass, festival. We (The Homegrown String Band) will be performing along with PA oldtimers The Lost Ramblers, cowgirl yodeler Texas Rose, and legendary old time string band The Freight Hoppers. For bluegrassers, over the course of the four day festival, you will hear James Reams, Dan Paisley, Special Consensus, and Nothin' Fancy among others. This festival takes place at beautiful Mountainview Park in Wind Gap, PA, Thursday through Sunday, August 1-4. Come for a day or the whole weekend of banjos, fiddles, string bands, bluegrass, and good times! We will be doing two sets on Friday at 11:30 AM and 9:25 PM. We will also be facilitating fiddle and dance workshops on Saturday, August 3rd.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Glocester, Rhode Island

On Wednesday July, 24, 2011 The Homegrown String Band will be crossing the pond they call a sound to do a show on the peninsula they call an island. The show is part of the Town of Glocester summer concert series held on the beautiful grounds of Chepachet Union Church across from the Glocester Town Hall. The concert begins at 6:30 PM and lasts for 90 minutes. Bring a blanket or a lawn chair and come relax for a while! 

Glocester Town Hall
1145 Putnam Pike
Chepachet, RI  02814-0702

Sunday, July 14, 2013

HGSB @ Franklin Township Library

On Wednesday July 17, 2013 The Homegrown String Band will be performing at the Franklin Township Library in Somerset, NJ. The show starts at 7:00 pm. Take advantage of this great opportunity, provided by the good folks at the Franklin Township Public Library, for friends and family to enjoy a FREE midweek concert featuring some high energy acoustic American music and dance performed by a traditional family band.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Niobe, Leto, Tantalus, Columbium, Tantalum, & Niobium

I've been doing a lot of work in my metal shop lately. I got curious about an interesting metal called niobium. It's a silky smooth, ductile, hypoallergenic, super conductor available in a variety of colors. So here's a brief history of niobium, it's unique characteristics, and the myth of Niobe.

Copper Earrings with Niobium Earwires

In 1801 English chemist Charles Hatchett discovered a new element, which he named columbium. Then in 1846, a German chemist identified what he thought was a new element and called it niobium. In the 1860s, it was determined that columbium and niobium were actually the same element; the names were used interchangeably until 1949 when niobium (Nb) was declared the official name for element #41. The name, niobium, was chosen due to the element's chemical similarity to tantalum (Ta). More about that later. 
Current world supplies of niobium come from two mines located in Canada and Brazil. Niobium is a physiologically inert element, its hypoallergenic properties make it ideal for jewelry, as well as for use in implanted medical devices. Niobium is naturally gray but can be colored by an anodization process. No dyes or coloring are used in this electrical process. Different colors are attained by varying the voltage, which effects the thicknesses of the oxidized coating, which in turn affects the wave length of the light reflected off the surface of the metal.

This unique material gets its name from Niobe, daughter of Tantalus. Dad was the mythical Greek king of the city of Sipylus and source of the scientific name for the element tantalum. Niobe suffered the wrath of the Titans for the crime of hubris. Apparently she made the mistake of boasting to Leto, the mistress of Zeus, that she had given birth to seven times as many children as the Titan had. Leto sent her two children, the twins Artemis and Apollo, to punish Niobe by killing her fourteen children. Niobe's husband, Amphion, was also murdered by Apollo when he swore to avenge the deaths of his children. Niobe herself was turned to stone, but that didn't stop her petrified eyes from continuing to weep tears of grief. Today, water seeps from the porous stone that forms "The Weeping Rock" in Turkey. This rock formation is said to be the petrified form of Niobe. Niobe's father, Tantalus, also evoked ire from the gods. He had been invited to share the food of the gods, but broke the rules when he shared ambrosia, the nectar of the gods, with other mortals. Tanatlus' perceived disrespect was punished with unending hunger and thirst. The king was placed in a body of water that drained away when he tried to drink and the fruit that hung from the trees above him was blown just out of reach when he tried to grasp it. Tantalus' name is the source of the verb to tantalize. Moral of the story . . . don't mess with the Titans!

Monday, May 27, 2013

Edwards Farm Day 2013

On June 2, 2013 the annual “Afternoon on the Edwards Farm” will once again be taking place complete with baby animals, ice cream making, quilting, weaving, and. . . 

Photo by Charlie Bevington

1- 4pm at The Sayville Historical Society's Edwards Farm
39 Edwards Street, Sayville, NY

Call 631-563-0186 or E-mail for information.

Monday, May 13, 2013

The Homegrown String Band Friday Night at St Paul's

This Friday night, May 17, 2013, at 7:30 pm, The Homegrown String Band will be featured as part of the Friday Night at St. Paul's Concert Series in Exton, PA. We played there last spring and a good time was had by all. We are surely looking forward to returning to see old friends and hopefully make some new ones too. Exton is about 30 miles outside of Philadelphia, if you're in the area stop in and lend us your ears.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Bob Brozman 1954 - 2013

Photo by Franz Pisa

Last week I was saddened by the news that Bob Brozman had passed away at the, relatively, young age of 59. The sadness was deepened when I learned that he had taken his own life. What a terrible loss for the traditional acoustic music community. Bob was an author, teacher, musicologist, and instrument designer, as well as a virtuoso musician. Beginning his career as a busker, performing on the streets of Santa Cruz, California, Bob would eventually record about thirty albums, several instructional videos, and travel around the world entertaining audiences with his unique interpretations of jazz, blues, and Hawaiian music.

A couple months ago I purchased Bob's Ukulele Toolbox DVD for Georgianne. I posted the following review on and on a forum for ukulele enthusiasts.

"The other night I sat down and watched Bob Brozman's Ukulele Toolbox Volume one. Bob is a great player and a great teacher. On this video he teaches you how to play the ukulele; not how to play songs on the ukulele. There is a lot of information presented here, some for the complete beginner, but mostly the lessons seem to be aimed more towards people who have some musical background but may be new to the uke. He starts out with some right hand techniques that are applicable to players of any level. He then moves on to chord positions, progressions, and turn arounds in several keys. Bob does a good job explaining but, given the limited time, he goes over things pretty quickly. I think a person with some basic knowledge of chord structure and chord progressions (things like, I - IV - V, or I -VI - II - V- I,  etc.) could get a lot out of this video. Basically you get couple lessons with a master musician for only 20 bucks, too bad you can't stop him to ask questions or pick his brain, but I think if you watch it and take what you can, you'll get your money's worth and more."

The talents, wit, and wisdom of Mr. Brozman will be missed.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Banjo Reclamation

Now for the unveiling of my second winter banjo project. This is a late 19th or early 20th century banjo with a lightweight metal clad rim and a paddle headstock that I picked up at a festival in Pennsylvania about ten years ago. It's very light, has no tone ring, and is a shorter 25" scale. It needed a lot more attention than the Minstrel Boy did. I replaced the violin-type wood tuners with a set of Grover Sta-Tite friction pegs. The bridge and tailpiece were missing so I put on a modern, repro, No-Knot tailpiece and a standard maple ebony topped Grover bridge. I also replaced the broken skin head with a Renaissance synthetic head.

This little baby is equipped with 38 hooks and brackets! Apparently, back in the golden days of yore, brackets were a major banjo selling point, the more the better, kind of like gigabytes, watts, and horsepower are these days. 38 brackets is a lot of brackets. My Minstrel Boy Banjo has 10 brackets and my Wildwood Troubadour Tubaphone has 24. Getting all those brackets off and back on made changing the head a lot more work than I was expecting. I eventually got everything put back together and the little guy is a quite playable, basic no frills instrument. I call it my Quaker banjo. Not very loud and definitely not a gigging banjo, but fine for late night picking and to play while giving lessons. Here's a short sound sample of my new, old, lo-fi, Quaker banjo.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Minstrel Boy Banjo

Last year I used our midwinter downtime to put together my banjo book, Ragged but Right: The Ungentle Art of Clawwhammer Banjo. This year I have kept busy singing the Snow Shoveling Blues while making maple syrup, mead, and hard cider. I also decided to take some time to fix up a couple of old banjos that were in varying states of disrepair.

Yesterday I changed the head and restrung my Minstrel Boy banjo. This banjo, based on a mid-nineteenth century banjo made by William Esperance Boucher, was built in 2003 by Randy England. Randy made these historically accurate instruments to be used by fellow Civil War re-enactors. I played it quite a bit in school programs and fairs that featured Civil War encampments, as well as for a series of shows I did at The Long Island Museum at Stony Brook while they were hosting Jim Bollman's banjo collection in an exhibition entitled "America's Instrument - The Banjo in the Nineteenth Century." Two of the gut strings had broken and the calf skin head had a hole in it that was threatening collapse. I replaced the strings with a set of synthetic "Nylgut" strings and replaced the head with a synthetic "Renaissance" head. I guess it is no longer historically correct but it stays in tune better and should be more durable. I made a quick recording of myself noodling around on this low tuned banjo. I'll need some time to regain the touch required to play these lower tension soft strings, especially the short 5th string.

P.S That's Georgianne accompanying me on rattling silverware, banging pots, and running water.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Bump Banjo Case

I was looking for a new case for my Wildwood Troubadour 11 inch open back banjo. My old case had served me well, putting in thousands of miles on the road over the last twenty years. I think the old case was a TKL, though heavier and sturdier than any of the current models. Like I said, the case had been through a lot and gotten to the point where there was more duct tape on the outside of the case than the original vinyl/leatherette covering. The inside had also gotten pretty worn, but worst of all the latches were not staying properly closed. I had nightmares about grabbing my prized banjo out of the back of the van and watching it crash onto the pavement, so I began a quest for a new case. I liked the look of  the Saga/Superior "Bump" case and Mark Platin, the builder of Wildwood banjos had mentioned it in a list of case options he sent me, but when I read reviews I noticed several people had complained that it was too short or too narrow for their banjos. I was concerned that it wouldn't fit my Wildwood, which is 37 inches long, but when I saw one pop up on Amazon, for $20 off the regular price, listed as "like new open box" (returned by someone whose banjo didn't fit, no doubt) I decided to take a chance. I figured if it didn't fit the Wildwood I could switch it out with my 35 inch long Mike Ramsey fretless banjo, which was resting nicely in a TKL Professional arch top case. 
I got the case. The box was trashed, and had obviously been repacked, but the case is in perfect condition and looks like new. My Wildwood fits, but it's a pretty tight fit, only about a half inch between the tip of the headstock and the end of the case. I'm going to use it for the Ramsey, but I thought I would post this review to take some of the mystery out of buying this banjo case for the next guy who's wondering wether or not it will fit a particular banjo. 

Here are the interior dimensions of the "Bump" case:

Length - 37.5 inches with a little extra cutout for the tailpiece. (the TKL is about 40")
Neck Width -  4.25 inches (before the bump in), at the 5th string peg
Headstock Width -  3.25 (after the bump)


1. Light weight and compact
2. Lots of padding around the pot
3. Looks great
4. Very reasonably priced


1. Maybe too light weight and compact. Not sure what this case is made of, but it's a bit thinner than my newer TKL and Much thinner and lighter than my ancient TKL. 
2. It has only one neck "cradle" at the head stock end and none on the other side of the string compartment. It came with a padded wedge velcroed into the head stock section of the case. With the wedge in place, the planetary tuning pegs prevented the neck from resting in the cradle. I took the wedge out and put it at the other end of the string compartment where it gives the neck some needed support at that end of the banjo.

Bottom line, the Bump case is a good, but not great, fairly sturdy, arch top open back banjo case. It doesn't seem to be as well made as the TKL arch top case but it's about half the price, less if you get a deal like I did.

Maybe I will fill the old case with CDs, photos, and memorabilia then bury it out in the backyard like a time capsule to be discovered by some future generation of pickers who will be amazed by the tank like construction as they try to envision the he-man banjo player who was strong enough to haul it around for twenty years. : )

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Micro Maple Sugaring

I started my micro maple sugaring project last week with the goal of producing somewhere around two gallons of homemade Long Island maple syrup. Thursday morning I tapped six maple trees, five sugar maples and one red maple. Three of the sugar maples are big, 25-30" in diameter. The big trees have yielded as much as 2 1/2 gallons of sap a day. The smaller trees are ranging from a quart to a gallon a day. By Monday morning I had accumulated about 30 gallons of sap, time to start boiling. You need somewhere  between 32 and 40 gallons of sap to produce 1 gallon of syrup.

Inspired by Rink Mann's book "Backyard Sugarin'", I decided to build a homemade, makeshift evaporator. Rink's philosophy is to use as much Yankee ingenuity and as little cash as possible. I had some old cinder blocks laying around the yard so I used them to build a simple fire pit with a flue in the back. I lined it with gravel and put an 18 x 24 inch oven rack over the front and a piece of slate over the back section helping create draft and giving me a warming shelf. Keeping with the backyard sugaring spirit I decided not to buy a special pan and use a 12" diameter, 6" deep graniteware pot we already had.

DAY 1:

The first day of boiling was not very productive. I started late, about 10 am, and for the first few hours I didn't have the fire hot enough, so the sap was really simmering more than boiling. Even after I got the fire roaring and a good rolling boil going I was only able to cook off about a gallon of water an hour. I ended up boiling down about 6 or 7 gallons of sap and my eight hour day yielded only 2  1/2 cups of delicious, but very hard earned, grade A fancy maple syrup.

DAY 2:
After a pancake breakfast, with fresh maple syrup, I got an early start. By 7:30 am I had a nice hot fire with my 12" graniteware pot and a 6" cast iron pot filled with boiling sap. By lunch time I had already surpassed the previous day's evaporation total, but I was still limited by my available surface area to about 1  1/2 gallons of evaporation per hour. Turns out the formula, which I neglected to take note of, is that you need 100 sq. inches of surface area for every gallon per hour of evaporation. The oven rack was also starting to buckle under the intense heat and the weight of the pans. I guess my lovely wife, Georgianne, took pity on me (actually she was just afraid I was going to quit and she really liked that syrup). She jumped in the car and ran down to One Way Restaurant Supply in Patchogue and came home with two nice stainless steel steam table pans, one 12" x 21" and one 6" X 21". I now have nearly 400 sq. inches of pan space. The rest of the day I managed to up the evaporation rate to 3  1/2 gallons per hour. Now we're cookin'! By the end of the day I had managed to boil down about 18 gallons of sap and make nearly a half gallon of syrup.

Today it's raining, and I only have about 10 gallons of sap collected anyway, so this will be a day for staying inside and making music. Erica is on her way over for Homegrown String Band practice and a taste of the fruit of Dad's labor. Now I know why real maple syrup is so expensive, it is incredibly time consuming to make. The syrup I made, if I do say so myself, is the best I've ever had. Now with my new rig I should be able to boil down 30 to 40 gallons in a day for a yield of nearly a gallon of Rooster Rick's Grade A Fancy Maple Syrup.


I ended up with a gallon and a half of syrup over 4 days of boiling. I never hit that fanciful 30 - 40 gallon a day mark. I think the most sap I boiled in one day was about 20 gallons. My last day of boiling I got severely dehydrated which wiped me out for a couple days. I was also running out of dry wood, so I decided to pull my taps and pack it in for this year. I had a couple gallons of sap left, so I followed a recipe for traditional New England maple beer from Stephan Bruhner's Sacred and Healing Brews. I boiled the sap down to one gallon, pitched in some ale yeast, and let it ferment in a small carboy for a couple weeks. The resulting brew was fairly weak and tasteless. If I try brewing maple beer again next year I'll boil 4 or 5 gallons of sap down to one gallon and then ferment.

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Thursday, February 21, 2013

Vote For Erica

Our fabulous fiddle player and resident yarn freak is a finalist in the knitwear designer category of the 2013 Readers Choice Awards.

Vote for Erica Jackofsky here: 2013 Readers' Choice Awards

Monday, February 11, 2013

Rooster on the Rooftop

Well, we are finally dug out from Friday's blizzard. The first plow hit our street at about 4 pm on Monday afternoon. Thirty inches of snow and three days of shoveling. Saturday, we dug out two cars, two driveways, the pathways, and the twenty-eight steps leading up to our house. Sunday, I shoveled the snow off our roof. Monday, I dug a neighbor's car out of a snow bank and cleaned up the plow slop. I'm getting used to shoveling, maybe tomorrow I will shovel the whole backyard. Maybe, or maybe I will sit on the roof and play my banjo all day.

Rooster Rick on the Roof - photo by Georgianne Jackofsky

Sunday, February 10, 2013

The Big Snow Makes Our Show a No Go

BREAKING NEWS: L.I.E. to close from exit 57 to 73 Sunday 7am to 5pm
"Town of Brookhaven Issues Emergency Executive Order to Keep All Vehicles Off the Roads"

I know we had a lot of snow (30+ inches), but I never thought that our street here in Rocky Point, NY would remain unplowed and major roadways would still be closed 24 hours after the last snowflake hit the ground. Looks like we are going to have to reschedule our show at the Suffern Library scheduled for today February 10, 2013. We have about 30 miles of closed and unplowed roads standing between us and the first patch of dry pavement. We just spoke to Officer Vinny over at the 6th Precinct who advised us to sit tight during this state of emergency.

The Suffern Free Library Show has been rescheduled.
Sunday February 17, 2013 at 1:30 pm

Friday, February 8, 2013


Our Driveway, Garage, & Annalee's Car  - photo by Rick Jackofsky
Well winter is upon us and Winter Storm Nemo has brought us our first significant snowfall since 2011. We got about two feet of wet sticky snow with drifts over three feet deep. Of course it had to come on the one weekend this month that we have a gig. So, as soon as we dig our van out of the snow, I will dig out my old snow shoveling song, The Snow Shoveling Blues. We'll get that polished up for you, and head up to Suffern, NY for our show at 1:30 pm on Sunday, February 10th, 2013 at The Suffern Free Library. Bring your cold feet and aching backs out to this free show and The Homegrown String Band will warm things up for you with some hot pickin' and fancy flatfoot dancing.

Show Rescheduled for February 17, 2013

210 Lafayette Ave.
Suffern, NY

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Spinning Yarns and Winter News

Georgianne and I have been extra busy making Navajo spindles since the first of the year. Our creations have been finding their way into the hands of talented fiber artists all around the country and a few other countries as well. Here's a photo, taken by spinner Kiki Jukes, of one of our spindles resting on a bed of natural fiber in Wales, U.K.

This month we've gotten our first real taste of winter since 2011 as temperatures have stayed in the teens and twenties for the past couple weeks. Hopefully the cold weather will make the sap flow better because this year we are going to try our hand at maple sugaring. I've gathered up the supplies to tap six trees this year and if all goes well we'll expand our efforts next year. 

Not a lot of Homegrown music shows to report on this winter, but we should have some more spring, summer, and fall gigs to announce soon. Our next family band performance will be at 1:30 pm on Sunday, February 10th at the Suffern Free Library, 210 Lafayette Ave., Suffern, NY. 

Thursday, January 10, 2013

16 Years of Family Style Roots Music

Today was the sixteenth anniversary of The Homegrown String Band's first public performance. The inaugural performance took place at a Long Island Traditional Music Association event in 1997. Tonight Georgianne and I celebrated by doing a private show for a group of local Girl Scouts and Cub Scouts. It's always a rewarding experience to introduce traditional music to a young new audience. Most of the kids seemed to be having a good time and, hopefully, had a memorable evening of unique and enjoyable entertainment, but a few seemed especially interested and may be moved to follow up and learn more about the rich and varied traditions of American music. The music never stops . . .

The full band will get together for a proper celebration of sixteen years of making music together as a family this Sunday, January 13th, 2013, for a 2pm show at The River Vale Free Library in River Vale, NJ.

412 Rivervale Rd.
River Vale, NJ