Our First Vintage…

Uncle Rod came over Friday morning and we commenced to bottle our first vintage of Windhaven wine! It’s been bubbling and brewing for the last 6 weeks or so. Ready to get into bottles. I got all the bottles clean and sanitized before he got here. Rod gets the bottles from a local distributor who sells used bottles for 50 cents a bottle and a bag of corks for a buck or two. Pretty good deal. I still have to soak off the old labels and design up a new one for us, but well, time got away from me…

First the bubbler was removed from the big 5 gallon carboy. Then Rod has a nice little siphon that is in a old cork that he placed into the brew. You don’t want to move or disturb the carboy too much as the settlings are all on the bottom. It’s the used fruit and yeast from the brewing process. He siphoned off a wee bit and we gave it a sample.

It was maybe a little early to start drinking…. haha…. but we needed to make sure it was worthy to bottle! Just a little half glass to sip. My first impression… it’s very thick and very sweet! But good… the first thing that came to my mind is how delightful it would be a slush!!! A grownup slush but oh my gosh… yummy! It has an incredible kick to it! I felt a little silly after that half glass! Now, I’m not a big drinker but I could tell, this was definitely grown up drinking material. My goodness! It’s gonna need a warning label for sure.

After getting the siphon ready, Rod likes to decant the wine off into a big pot or two. My cheese pots came into good use for sure! This way you can leave the settlings in the carboy and they can settle again in the stock pots before bottling. I guess you could use some cheesecloth and strain it again, but since I used solid fruit juice concentrate and not raw fruit, it was not that bad at all.

With everything sanitized, we just used a ladle and a small measuring cup to pour the wine into the bottles with a funnel. It was really easy. The only thing was to watch not to overflow the dark bottles. You want the wine about right to the top of the shoulder of the bottle.

The corks work better if you put them in a little pan or bowl of water. It helps to get them in smoothly to the bottles with the cork machine. We used reused corks. You had to watch to make sure you got a nice cork from the bag, something that was not punched all the way through. You can buy new ones, but these were a deal and perfectly good. Only one cork was bad and we knew it the minute we bottled because it sort of hissed as it let air escape from the bottle.

Rod has the cork machine and so I just borrowed it for the morning. It is a clever little device for sure! It’s adjustable and works so slick! We bottled 23 bottles in just a little bit. We were done with the whole process within an hour. It was so easy! I thought it would be a little more involved, but it’s really not. It’s just like with the beer. The most work is just the whole process of waiting around!

I went on Friday afternoon into Toledo and went to the brewing store in the old south end of the town. It’s called Titameyers and they have garden, feed and brewing supplies! My kind of place!! Oh yes, and a lot of pet supplies and wild bird feeds! Neat place. They didn’t have the 12 ounce long neck bottles that I normally get, but they had these adorable little 6.5 ouncers! I got one case of them for my last batch of beer that needs to be bottled… our Rooster Red Ale! Can’t wait to see how they turn out. They are so perfect. I’m not a big beer drinker and sometimes a 12 ounce is just more than I want. Now these little guys would be perfect with a meal! Or just because. A late evening nightcap. They say a little brew is a good thing for you. The natural yeasts and such are good for you. I think I could get used to a little medicial nightcap of a nice home brew… hmmmm….. I think I might bottle that batch tomorrow if I get a little time. The hard cider and the nut brown ale are done, and wonderful, and every week they age a little more, the better they are getting. We used one of the nut brown ales in a crock pot of cabbage, carrots, potatoes and onions and just let it cook for hours and hours. It smelled so good and when we had it for dinner it was super delishous… just so good and so basic. Can’t wait to use it on a piece of our own pork… I think a hard cider with a shoulder of pork would make some amazing pull pork BBQ for a late spring celebration… hmmmmmm…..

I can’t believe how much wine that carboy made!! 23 bottles!!! Considering my total investment was only $25, that’s just a little more than a dollar a bottle! Shesh! Okay, I’ll admit, it’s not some fancy French vintage and all, but as a good home buzz and a sweet delight? My gosh, what a savings! I want to try a peach wine soon. Of course, it is going to take me about 23 years to drink all this… thank goodness I have lots of friends that would like to sample my brewing prowess! Just gotta get my labels done and ready to apply! Oh, and I need a name for it.

I think it needs something to warn of it’s very sweet nature. Nothing has really come to me yet, but I think it will. Does anyone have any ideas? It’s very sweet. I think it would be amazing drizzled over some nice French vanilla ice cream and maybe some fresh berries? Oh my… or with a crazy amount of fruit to make a nice sangria… or a slushie…. or it would be delightful as a spritzer… with some carbonated water or say, 7up mixed half and half with some ice? Oh, nice! Or just as a little after dinner desert wine. I’m going to do some reading up and learn if there are other recipes that might make a dryer wine. I noticed different types of yeasts at the brew store… like champagne! I wonder how hard it is to make a bubbly wine. I would suspect it’s like making a beer… I’m not sure. But I sure am going to look into it. This wine experience was fun and it was so nice to learn from a local master! Thanks Uncle Rod!!!

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Seed Farm Results So Far…

So far, my seed starting is going GREAT!   I can’t believe it!  In a house full of cats, they have left my little farm alone!  The pop bottles are a success!  I think it’s partially that they are big and bulky and there’s really no reason for the little twerps to bother these little greenhouses!  I have 27 going so far.  The 8 or so that I started first are really going to town.  They are mostly dollar store old seed packs of morning glory and moon flowers, and a few zinnias.  They are just starting to work on their second set of leaves!  Yah!

The rest, I started last weekend, and they are primarily slow starters, like a bunch of peppers and some herbs like catnip and lavendar.  The peppers can take up to 21 days to sprout, so I think I’m pretty safe with them being started soon.  I haven’t seen any sprouts yet, but it’s only been a week.  I also planted a couple rouge pumpkins and broccoli, too!

My plan is that something will be ready to get in the ground when it’s warm enough.  The soil temperatures around here are really warm for some reason… 40 degrees or so.  That is a great sign of a good early spring.  We just never got super cold this year.  Not that I’m complaining at all!  It’s helping our heating bills considerably.  And I think I’ll be able to get stuff into our straw beds early, especially with a little row cover to protect from chills.

And if I plant my greenhouses in weekly or so succession, even if one early batch gets a little leggy on me, I’ll have another batch that will be a little younger.  There’s a weird bit of reason to my madness…  I think!  I’m just so pleased on how the little greenhouses are doing.  Once they get really crowded, I’ll remove the top lids.  I made sure to give them lots of dirt so that I don’t have to transplant them at all.  Just into the beds!

Maggie just fixed our wheelbarrow… the front wheel was old and leaking air all the time, so we finally just bought a new one and OH MY GOSH… how much better that is!  It’s actually a joy to use now.  So that means we can start to fill up our straw beds a lot easier!  We have 4 barns to clean out of the deep bed litter in the next month, so we want to get started on that.  Pony and sheep barns are first, so that should commence this week…  And then when we start to dig our pond, we’re going to dirt good farm dirt for the tops of our raised beds from a hole that is going to be our pond eventually.  One wheel barrow load at a time!

I hope to start another 10 or so this weekend.  I have this huge stash of old seeds and so far, only one pack has been a total dud.  Since they are upwards to 3 years old, I figure if they start, great!  If they don’t, well, then shame on me, I should have used them earilier. I’ve gotten a few packs of new seeds here and there, some I’ll direct sow when it’s time, some I might start in the next couple weeks.  Just thrilled to have some seedlings this year without all the space, time and critter drama of the past!   This is awesome!!!

 

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First Day over 60 Degrees in 2012…

Okay, I sing a lot at the house.  In the car.  Where ever.  I love to do it and I play in a band, so I guess it’s just one of those things that I do when I’m happy and especially when I’m in the bathroom!  haha… Yeah, I’m a bathroom singer.  And this last Wednesday, it was already 50 degrees in the morning when I was up and getting myself ready for the day.  So I threw open the little bathroom window to freshen up the place a bit and was busy singing away….  “oh my little home in the hills of old Caroline….”  When I stopped for a air banjo break, I heard this curious noise from the window.  Imagine my utter delight to find half the flock of peeps under my window, singing along with me!!!  It was so funny!  I broke into another chorus and sure enough, the chickens and Bucka were right there clucking away!  jessy got the camera when I called and we all laughed at the chicken chorus.  I wonder if the guys in the band will mind if I bring the flock with me for a show?  I think they would go over swell!

Noel still treats me with this cold regard.  She will come over if I have sweet feed, and will occasionally come over to snif my hand cautiously, but she still just doesn’t really like me.  And I love her for it.  I think you need someone in your life that isn’t all hugs and rainbows.  She is my barometer of my own kindness to my woolies.  She watches over the youngsters and keeps my guard up.  One day she head butted me… hard… but I knew she was thinking about it.  I stood my ground and she stepped back as if to say, “okay, that was just a warning, you behave…”  She does it to the youngsters when she thinks they are being disrespectful or in the way of her needs.  She is the queen of the flock and she wants me to know this.  I just love her cranky nature. She is good for them, she is protective like an old schoolmarm, but I know that deep down, she is a happy camper.  I’ve seen her sproinging when she thinks no one is watching.

Jessy caught these four girls being bad.  They were in Cody’s barn, checking out his room.  They were in there eating his hay and just being bad little sisters.  I guess it’s just turnabout and fair play because Cody goes in their shack and likes to run on their hay rack.  I guess it’s the right level for a good scratch now and then.

I tell you, Holly is a walking collection of flora from the farm.  All the others are fine, they have a little this or that, vegetable matter they like to call it…  but Holly?  She has like 10 times as much!  haha… I don’t know why but goodness, that ewe girl’s fleece is going to weigh 24 pounds and will mostly be hay, straw, burrs, and such.  I think I know who might be getting a fleece jacket after shearing day!  HAHAHA….  Guess which ewe is Holly…  I think she is in training to be a ninja sheep.  She’s learning camouflage…

“Look, Cody has a Jolly Ball.  Why don’t we get toys?  No fair!  And look at all this room…  no fair!  We have one third of this space and there are seven of us!  He doesn’t even have to share.  Shesh, who made him King of Windhaven???” 

I think we need to get the new and improved sheep shack ready soon.  The natives are restless.

As soon as we can, we are moving the flock to the big barn to share with the chickens.  And the old sheep shack is going to be our little pigpen!  But first we need to finish the back pasture fencing improvements.  And fix the big door that is in rough shape.  Just need a few nice days strung together to get that done.

We went to a farm auction today, this morning.  It was quite an experience.  It was raining, and slightly cold, and when we got close on the old dirt (mud) road, we found that every single farmer in the county was there because I think there was about 200 pickup trucks!  I have never seen so many farm trucks in my life in one place!  We walked forever to get up there, an old dairy farm that was closing up shop.  It’s sad, when you see these old family farms close down because none of the kids want to carry on the tradition.  We walked about some but it was mostly big farm equipment and the prices were high.  I’m glad, the family will benefit, but we decided it was too rich for us to stay.  The only real thing I wanted was some of the fence gates and maybe some of the feeding troughs but in the end, it would have been an all day affair in the mud and cold and who knows how long to be able to get the car up near to the farm to load anything we might have won.  So, sorry sheepies…  it’s going to be just a few more weeks before we can make the transition!  I hope they understand.

No one suspects a ninja kitty in a wheelbarrow of old hay!!!

Duke loves to get into hay or straw.  He is the master of sneaking around the farm and springing out at you with this very happy little kitty smirk on his face.  He will stalk the pony and run and grab his pony tail feathers and then dash off like a little banshee.  Kittens counting coup on various unsuspecting farm animals.  Cody could care less.  He will sometimes turn around and puzzle at this odd behavior but he really just considers the kitties as part of the environment.  I love how stable and calm he is.  Duke is just a goof for the most part.  All the kittens are doing great out in the farm yard.  We make sure that we involve them in our work out back so they stay away from the very front area of the house.  They are afraid of the cars and trucks and we like it that way.  If you had 3 acres to play in with your kitty siblings, you would want to stay out back too!

My little Windhaven Gothic…  Maggie, Luna and Duke and a wheelbarrow wheel.  On a wire spool table.  Those are some dirty farm jeans for sure.  And one very happy kid.  We were all out and just enjoying the day!  62 degrees!!!  There was a pretty stiff wind blowing but that just made it more fun.  We got a few little clean up chores done, like raking up all the spend hay around the yard feeder and throwing it into the dog yard where Evee has made a muddy path.  If we are diligent about it, then when it rains, she doesn’t come in the house SUPER FILTHY… only sort of filthy.  And we moved that big stack of drainage tiles to their new home in front of the little coop to make some flower beds soon…  We raked a bit here and there and Maggie changed our wheelbarrow’s wheel…  it was flat over and over and the wheel was all cracked and nasty.  We got a new one at Tractor Supply for only $9.99 and wow, does it work SO much better now!  A wheelbarrow is a GREAT thing around the homestead, let me tell you and one that rolls nice is a real treat for sure!

I spent a while with my little pony boy, working on grooming his majesty!  I bought him this cool mane brush/comb that was recommended by the nice gentleman at our local TSC.  It’s really pretty cool.  The brush has these strips of bristles that can flex on their own, so it goes through pony hair very nicely.  And it’s purple.  How cool is that?  Oh yeah and cheap too!  I like that.  But the best part is that the dang thing works!  Works well!  Cody’s mane and tail has been so wirey and just not very soft, and after an hour of brushing and all, it really made his mane look so much nicer and softer!  Now how does it do that?  I’m thinking maybe it helps to redistribute some of the natural oils in the hair? I didn’t use anything on him, just brushing and time.  I would love to give him a bath, but it’s still too cold out for that.  WIll just keep at him with the curry comb and the nubby rake that he loves.  I’m keeping my eye out for a good little carry tote for all his grooming supplies.  I hope maybe I will find something cool and vintage at the auction this Saturday.  I’m no horse grooming expert and Cody is no show pony, but I figure the two of us will learn and pretty soon, he’ll be a dandy little stallion and I’ll be a proud mom of my little man.  I was whispering in his ear that we’re looking for a friend for him…   I know it might be awhile, but we are looking and talking about the perfect pony pal and I have found that when you start the process and you talk about it and make it so, the universe seems to open up and reveal it’s plans for you.  And your pony.  I know he will be SO happy to have a herd mate.  We have found a LOT of mares for some reason, all sorts of pretty little gals but I think that a gelding would be a much better match.  A girl will just cause some troubles I think…   we don’t want more little ponies, and we don’t want to loose our calm, steady little stud boy to hormones and crazy mare ways.  So we keep watching and waiting.

Jack is not thrilled to have Duke messing with his tail.  Normally Uncle Jack likes to play with the kitties but he’s mad because we had to doctor up his boo boo on his neck.  He got into a little scrape with another kitty and ended up with a nasty little scrap.  And he wasn’t keeping it very clean.  So we cleaned it well with some peroxide, put a good blob of Bagbalm on a clean bandage pad and then used a bit of vet wrap loosely to keep it in place.  He was kept in the house for a day and we brought him outside with us in the sunshine.  He was still pretty ticked about it all, but hey, that’s rough, eh?  I didn’t want him loose all night with it because I didn’t want him to get snagged on anything, but it was clear that the wound needed a little time clean and without him messing with it.  A little after this picture I checked it and it was nicely healing over, so I took it off him and he was MUCH happier.  I check this morning again and it’s really doing nicely.  I have to say, that Bagbalm stuff is really good for minor scratches and boo boos in both man and beast.  But I do think the royal blue wrap is a nice look for him.

I wish that we could afford to rush all the animals to the vet at any sign of difficulty, but it’s just not possible for us.  We do have a very good country vet only about 6 or 7 miles from us and she has been great for our important needs and thankfully, not too expensive.  But we have been learning to do some of our own minor doctoring and so far, have had excellent success.  Being on a farm, there are just little things that crop up.  Minor things, like scrapes and such, they get cleaned, a glob of Bagbalm and then watched carefully for any swelling or infection.  It’s mostly the kitties and the dogs that seem to get into more trouble like that.  But Angus, the sheep, he got a little scratch in his ear from something, and Cody managed to get a little raw spot on his back near his mane once.  Both did perfectly fine with a little basic doctoring.  Same with the chickens, they get the farm treatment for anything wrong.  Thankfully, we haven’t had any major wounds or disease and I think we do a pretty good job of keeping our critters fat and sassy.  We do have a little emergency kit for the farm that has a few basics in it.  I think that is important.

 

Later in the afternoon, the girls took their dogs for a walk in the middle yard.  We’re trying to condition them to just ignore the livestock all around.  I know it’s going to take a good long while, but it’s good for everyone.  The dogs are pretty happy to be out and walking about and are oh, so so about not wanting to chase everything.  The funny thing though, is the sheep are SO curious about the dogs, that they follow them all over the yard on the walk.  They don’t appear scared, they appear curious.  It’s good, because the dogs get a little well, unnerved by it.  If they were only running and scattered by the dogs, it would excite them more to chase.  I have no folly to think that they will ever be trained herding dogs, I just don’t think either have it in them.  Evee is an Australian Shepherd, but her whole body language and her extremely poor recall when outside doesn’t make her a good candidate for herding, if you ask me.  We’re working on it, the recall especially, but right now, I wouldn’t put any bets on her becoming the next best thing in herding!  I would be happy if we could just get her to walk calmly through the yard instead of at the end of the lead and being crazed to chase.  After a little bit in the middle, they took them into the far back where there are no animals at this time and gave them time for a good long walkie.  They love that, time to sniff around and just enjoy the nature trail setting back there.  We’ll see how a couple weeks of this goes.  I think it will help.  And it’s good for all of them!

Well, this Friday morning as I write about this wonderful day, I woke to snow!  Haha…  March.  At least it was just a light dusting of the stuff, but it’s still a little nippy and the fact remains, it snowed.  I hope that tomorrow is nicer, but I hear it might be nippy in the beginning when we set off with our banties and our mugs of hot cocoa to the livestock fair!  I will dream of the lovely Wednesday and know that more are soon to come…  sigh!!!!

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