Sunday, March 31, 2013

Wine, pie and lichen

With Easter obligations wrapped up and the wine corks appearing to hold, we capped and labeled 30 bottles of wine last night.  I'd forgotten how much fun shrink caps are to put on.

They also finish the bottles nicely, as opposed to the moonshiner look we were rocking earlier with raw corks visible. These have now been tucked beneath the stairs to age a bit. Next up is cider (come fall).

In between bike rides, baked an apple pie this morning and unearthed some more cherries while rooting about the freezer (so we know what next week's pie will be).

We also took a walk. No sign of wild asparagus poking up yet but lots of interesting lichens.

If I get ambitious, I will bake some bread and cornmeal muffins this week. The melt is proceeding quickly which is great to see--some lawn is starting to show though and the cold frames are starting to heat up nicely.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Bottling the wine

After a bike ride yesterday on slightly icy roads  (90% fantastic, 10% terrifying), we spent the day outside enjoying the sun, chopping out the storm drain and sticking out hand in the cold frames to feel  how warm it was.

Then we came inside and wrapped up our first go at wine making by racking off the wine and then bottling it. No major disasters during either process, although I'm glad to have had this experience prior to fooling around with apple cider this coming autumn. 

The wine needs to sit for a few months before we drink it (a bit acidic right now--but not the worst Pinot Noir I've ever drunk) but we turned the extra bottle in the carboy into a pitcher of sangria. The rest of the weekend will be about cleaning up the winery, and maybe making a pair of bean trellises. I see Operation Fruit Rescue Edmonton is holding its first AGM on April 21.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

More pie and raspberry muffins

Another Sunday means another foray into the freezer for berries and rhubarb. Jennifer turned the raspberries into raspberry-oatmeal muffins (which are delicious).

I made a strawberry-rhubarb pie which we'll have for dessert tonight.

With Jess on spring break this week, we have a bunch of garden-related chores to attend to (despite the three feet of snow outside) including building some frames for pole beans out of some electrical conduit in the garage. I'll also finish the tune-up of the bikes--inflate the tires some and maybe replace some brake pads.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

More pie and sugar beet seeds

The freezer clean out continued this weekend with raspberry-apple pie. The apples were (I think) from Operation Fruit Rescue picks and the raspberries were from Roy's Raspberry farm. Very tasty--next is strawberry-rhubarb pie. I also put a bunch of frozen beans and carrots into soup on the weekend.

In the mail yesterday came my sugar beet seeds. Couldn't find any locally but the folks at Apache suggested I e-order from Seeds for Change (which have great heirloom seeds). I put together the minimum $5 order (kale, beans and the beets) and then went to check out and they wanted $22 for shipping (cheapest option)! So I went to ebay and got 500 seeds (plus a random piece of scripture!?) for $11. Come on spring!

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Racking off the wine

With two weeks of winey-smells permeating the basement, the fermentation finally finished on our first batch of wine and it was time to rack it off. Fortunately the internet provided answers on just how to do that. The instructions in the kit were a bit too concise--kind of like the 13 words my dad used to explain driving a stick: "punch the clutch, stick it in gear, pop the clutch, hit the gas". Technically correct. Yet missing some of the nuances and, consequently, we sprayed the campsite with gravel as I spun the truck out onto the road. Ah, good times.

The pictures of racking off the wine were not exactly flattering, so I've posted only the "best". We managed to get almost all of the wine into the carboy, with only minor spills (on me) and no contamination. Now we wait another couple of weeks for this to clear. Depending on how much it settles, a second racking might be in order or we may bottle.

We've had nearly 18 inches of snow this weekend (based upon the accumulation on the deck) so gardening is a ways off! But I expect my sugar beet seeds to arrive this week. Now onto cleaning out the freezer and seeing what we'll be eating the new few weeks.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Cherry pie

With Jennifer starting a new job on Monday, I will reprise my role as head cook and bottle washer into the foreseeable future. This sent me to the freezer on the weekend to see what I could see (lots of green beans, as it turns out). Note to self: fewer green beans this spring.

But I also found a bag of sour cherries we picked and pitted this summer. Thus delicious cherry pie. Alas, I was too lame to make my own crust this time. But another pie is the goal this weekend, along with racking off the wine into a carboy.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Fondling the seeds

With sunlight streaming into the dinning room, we hauled all of the jars and enveloped of seeds out from the cupboard today to see what we had and give some thought to what we might plant where. Some of the impetus of this was a gift of seeds from a colleague (hey Mike!) in Athabasca. So we had to figure out where we'd try Italian pumpkins (more of the front lawn must be sacrificed!) and also where we're going to work in his scarlet runner beans.

I packed away a fair number of seeds last autumn, using powdered milk as a desiccant. Seemed to work alight as the seeds look and smell okay. Jess and I had a spirited discussion about whether to plant only one type of potato (Jess loves the blue caribe we planted last year--which yielded huge numbers of potatoes) or whether we should throw in some baking potatoes as well. Since I'm doing the digging, we'll do a mixed patch this year in the garden we rescued from the irises.

The wine is cooking away in the basement (need to rack it off next weekend). In the meantime, I'm going to look into turning some old electrical conduit into frames for beans. I know we're months away from any meaningful gardening (although the soil in the cold frames is starting to soften ever-so-slightly) but it feels good to mull the upcoming summer.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Experimenting with wine making

Spring is in the air today so we went out early to get some skiing in before the snow melted. A bit icy but a fun start to the day.

One of my goals this year is to make some apple cider (meant to do it last year but just couldn't get it together). I bought a wine making kit on kijiji and thought we should get some experience with an starter (i.e., idiot-proof) wine kit before venturing into cider. So today was the day the pinot noir got started.

I was also excited to try out the apron I got at Xmas (which is now suitable stained) and Jess and Jenn both patiently waited for me to muddle through the instructions.

As far as I can tell, we didn't miss any steps or do anything wrong. I suppose we'll know for sure in four weeks.

The cold frames beside the house are starting to warm the soil a bit and there are places where it is thawed down a whole centimeter! A few more weeks and we'll be in a much better place. But the smell of earth is very nice.