This is a blog about everyday life. Food, gardening, photography, and nature. What you won't find are pictures of lots of people.

Please leave a comment so I can pop over to your blog and visit!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Primary Fermentation and a Problem

The berries smelled wonderful when I took the lid off and peeped inside.  I gave it a good stir after adding a tablespoon of yeast nutrient and when it quietened I "pitched the yeast.  This simply means sprinkling  the packet of yeast on top.  NEVER use bread yeast. NEVER.  The character and flavor of wine is largely determined by the type of wine yeast you use.
I used the whole packet (pictured below).  It is enough for 5 gallons but I usually use the entire amount for 1 gallon, or divide it between two if I'm running low on yeast.  You always want to have more than enough yeast or the wine will be sweet.  Wine can be sweetened but not the other way around.  Kinda like salt in cooking.

For this batch  I used Red Star Pasteur Red which produces a very smooth dry wine.  It likes to ferment for at least 3 months.
After adding the yeast I laid the lid on the bucket and the next morning before work.......

Notice the yeast is reacting?  I give it a good stir......

And it bubbles and gives a satisfying sizzle.  I observe the slight musty scent now and lay the lid on again.  The next day....

Its a bit hard to see but there are now clumps of the thick foam on the surface.  My house is cool in the winter and this slows the fermentation.  If your situation is warmer you might get this overnight since the process is accelerated by an increase in temperature.  Another good stir.....
And we wait another day after I cover the "must".  During this time I sat the bucket on the edge of a heating pad covered by a thick folded towel.  Yeast is happiest around 68 degrees Fahrenheit as a minimum.  The object of primary fermentation is to allow the yeast to start and then quiet so that it doesn't blow off the airlock in the secondary vessel.  Knowing when to transfer comes with experience.  This particular wine I usually allow 3 to 4 stirrings then transfer.

The next morning...........

OH NO!!  When I laid the lid on a piece of a tea towel was lodged underneath and the must was allowed too much air.  This moldy substance smells like wet hay, which any country person will tell you is a sad state of affairs, but not a tragedy.  I skim off all the white mold I can and immediately begin the transfer to secondary fermentation.  The wine will probably recover, as does the hay in the field, so don't throw it out.

 You've probably been wondering where is the sugar? Well now I strain the must onto 2.25 lbs of sugar.


Stir it til the sugar dissolves and then add to my gallon jug.

Notice the water level in the air lock.  After I put it on the jug in just a few seconds.....

The carbon dioxide that is released when the yeast is working begins to push the water up to escape.  A very good sign this is!  But if your wine doesn't do this immediately do not worry.  It will be bubbling by the next morning most likely.
I cover the jug to keep the light out so the wine doesn't fade and I lay a wet dishcloth over the top just in case the yeast hasn't quietened to a steady fermentation.  I learned this from experience of wiping down the walls.  I would get home from work and the walls and everything would be covered in a fine spray of lavender mist.  The good news is it washes up easily with warm water!

Now we wait.  For weeks.  Since this batch wasn't optimal I will "rack" (siphon) the wine off the "lees" (dead yeast and solids) in about a month.  I'll know then how good the wine will be.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Mixed Berry Wine

Come on in to my house and we'll start some wine!

That is my street out of the window as I drove home.......we just had a minor ice storm.

The fruit is mashed then boiling water added. Cover. Allow to cool then add pectin . The next day add yeast nutrient and "pitch" the yeast. Cover loosely. Each day for 3-5 days stir the must and cover. On the last day strain over sugar, mix well and add to jug and attach airlock.

The Basic Recipe Ingredients

3.5 - 4 lbs of mixed berries
2.25 lbs of sugar
1 tsp pectin (or pectic enzyme-same thing)
1 TBSP yeast nutrient
dry red wine yeast

Now let's make some wine!  This mixed berry wine is easy to make and uses the most basic techniques and ingredients.  You will need berries, a bucket, and a potato masher to start.  I have left the berries out and they have thawed.

Here are the berries I use.  In general, frozen fruit is as good if not better than fresh.  Freezing help to extract the juices.

Into the bucket they go!!

Next you mash them to a pulp.

Boil 2/3 or so of a gallon of water and pour it over the mashed berries and stir.

Put the lid on loosely or cover with a thick cloth.  I use the lid because it cleans easily.

This morning before I left for work I added one tsp of pectic enzyme and stirred.

The pectin helps in the maceration process (extracting juice and flavor) and it also prevents pectin haze which will make your wine cloudy.  It isn't essential but it makes a prettier wine.  The nutrient will be needed tomorrow when I "pitch" the yeast.  But for now my bucket of berries is resting on the table doing whatever it is berries do to prepare for the  yeast!

It is winter here and my house thermostat is set for 67 degrees F.  That is the ambient temperature so liquids will be slightly cooler.  Fermentation likes cooler temperatures that do not fluctuate so I try to make most of my wine in the winter when I can control the temperature.  Anything above 75 degrees F the wine ferments too quickly and the result is an inferior wine.  Note I said inferior, not bad.

Tomorrow morning the real fun begins!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Air Locks ~ The Essential Winemaker's Tool

With this post I thought I would begin a series to share some general information that I've gathered in the time I've been making wine.

How did I get started?  Well one spring day I was gazing out my window at work and the empty field next door (which is now a fenced in soccer field) was covered in beautiful yellow dandelion blooms.  Being an opportunist  I announced to my co workers I was going to make some dandelion wine since there was a pristine supply next door where no lawn chemicals were used.  I've always had a soft spot in my heart for this beautiful yet hated plant.

 The research began and I was overwhelmed by all the details but I finally just jumped in head first.  I went to the local liquor warehouse (called Liquor Barn in these parts) and bought an extra glass gallon jug, 2 bungs, siphon hose, and a mesh bag for straining.  The clerk also recommended a book called "First Steps In Winemaking" by C.J.J. Berry so I bought that as well (more another time on that wonderful little book).  I picked a recipe and picked my dandelion flowers and my future as a vintner was born!

This is a close up of air locks.  They are your best friend in winemaking.  In fact, without them you will most likely get vinegar.  This isn't the only type of air lock available either.  I have seen pictures of airlocks that look like little buckets perched atop the bungs.  The bung is the rubber stopper in the picture in case you aren't familiar with the term. 

Air locks keep oxygen out of the wine so the anaerobic process can succeed.  It also keeps out fruit flies which will spoil your wine and appear from nowhere even in the dead of winter in freezing temperatures.  Basically, the yeast eats the sugar and the byproduct is a gas that bubbles up through the water in the airlock and is released.    The sugar in turn is converted to alcohol.  The trick is to keep out as much oxygen as possible while all the yeast is working.  The air lock, your best friend, keeps it ALL out while sitting on top of the bung. 

If you want to make wine you must have a good air lock.  I like these because you can watch as the gas as it pushes its way out of the jub and it helps to judge how well your wine is fermenting.  And especially when it ISN'T fermenting which is when you have to help out a bit.

Winemaking can be made a complicated process but my intent here is to give you an overview and to get you started so that you can enjoy one of nature's oldest processes and not be bogged down in scientific terms, equipment and verbage.  I want to inspire you to make your own wine.  Even if it turns to vinegar you still have a product that you can use in your household!  How is that for a no fail project?

Friday, December 17, 2010


In the corner of my dining room I have my "babies" swaddled for the winter .......

Come back and join me with the next batch of wine!  And thanks to Rhonda for allowing us to meet.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Attention Potential Winemakers!!

Hello and Welcome!

In response to Rhonda's post over on her blog down-to-earth I'm going to be blogging about my winemaking process.  For those of you who stop by and want to join in I'll go ahead and list the items you need to start.  Don't worry. Wine is a patient slow process and you can start any time.  All of the fun is at the beginning as is most of the action and it isn't a race so you can join at your convenience.

These are friends sampling a bottle of my favorite recipe!

See how happy it makes you!


2 gallon jugs (glass)  (if you want to start 2 gallons have 3 jugs etc)
airlocks for the jugs 
2 gallon food grade bucket with loose fitting lid


wine yeast
fruit and or concentrate

You will also need some citric acid or acid blend and pectin.  Depending on the type of wine maybe some tannin.  Wine can be made without these things but it greatly improves the flavor and the chances at your wine being a success.  I will select a wine and list the necessary additives later.

Please Note

I use metabisulfite to sterilize.  I do not use campden tablets.  They are used to stop the fermentation process completely......I've not found it necessary to add.

Here in the USA it is legal to brew wine and beer as long as you do not sell it.  I do not know the laws in other countries so if you are outside the US you might want to check.

Leave a comment if you have starting questions and I'll try to answer them or point you to a resource.

 I talk American so keep that in mind.  Making wine isn't like bread so a few ounces here and there won't matter as long as you have hungry yeast.

Sunday, December 12, 2010


Here are some of my Xmas hats.  I still have a couple to make.
The three in the foreground bottom right are for the kids.

This one is the coolest hat.  Its for my neice's husband with a big head....

This one is for my neice.....just basic hat.

My first serious attempt at mittens....I hope the kids have swollen thumbs  :)

And finally my Jaunty Hat.  It ended up with a little brim that allows the wearer to go out with a bit of style...my sister in law. 

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Finger Puppet!

I wanted to make some presents for Christmas this year and it started with hats.  Then while I was waiting on head sizes I took a detour into finger puppets.  I thought it would be a nice surprise for my little great neices all aged < 6.  I made two out of cotton. 

Meet Gus!

That is my friend modelling Gus on her finger.  I don't know if I will give him eyes or not.  I got his nose from an elderly lady's old sewing box I inherited as she is too old to sew now.  My sewing skills are minimal but I managed (with my friend's help) to get Gus a very fine nose!  He also has a mate named Sadie (not pictured).

Making all these Xmas goodies is fun!!!  What are you making for Xmas?

Wednesday, December 8, 2010


Dear Visitors,

I'm having a lot of stress at work. 

How do you all cope?  I need suggestions on what I can do to calm down and not throttle my "boss" .

There I feel better if I pretend I'm Woodstock...............

Sunday, December 5, 2010

More Snow!!

It is still snowing.  We have had a record snowfall for this time of year. 

I love my window!  I feel lucky to have a job where I can look out at this.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Squirrels and A Snowy Morning

This is the view outside my window this morning.......
As you can see we are getting more snow today!  There will be lots of people in KY that will be sadly disappointed if we do not get the rare white Christmas this year.  Its unusual here but not unheard of.    I'm warmly tucked into my office working and enjoying the view out my 4 ( count 'em) windows!!  I'm on the second floor and it is a lovely scene.

My little furry friend the squirrel has been renesting and doesn't visit as often but I can see his new home high up in the second tree from the left in the background.  Previously it was in a smaller tree out on a limb in a tree at the right.  There were days last winter when the wind blew my friend and he and his wife must have been swaying like they were in a boat at sea!  He's a young squirrel that replaced the older squirrel that came to my window for nuts.  I often wonder if its his son.  I could tell he really fought for this home because his ears would be scratched and he lost the tip of his tail!

Friday, December 3, 2010

This Is On My Mind

The motivating scene out my window at work............

Because I have hats to finish for Christmas!!!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

A Morning at Work

Hello Dear Readers!

You may or may not know that I'm a civil engineer and I work an average of 50 hours a week.  I haven't always done this, but that is another story I will tell you sometime.   This time of the year is often a busy one because our state transportation department is preparing for those projects that will built next year.  That means we have to get all our detailed engineering plans together for them with an estimate of cost.  The work is tedious and seems to never end and in this case we are rushing.  I hate to rush because there will be errors in the work and later on they will have to be corrected.

This is my messy desk.  It is very dark outside right now and I took this picture with my phone camera.    I don't like to work in an environment with overhead lights (flourescent) so I use lamps.

When I first get to work I check a couple of blogs I follow and my email then I usually get to work.  Today's task will be finding the quantity of different types of pavement that will be needed to construct the road.  This is one of the most expensive items in highway construction so it needs to be very accurate.  I make the work more enjoyable by color coding everything.  My day usually starts by 6 am and I like being the first one here and working in the darkness of the morning.

I took a look up from my screens and this is what I saw........

The sun is just coming up over the trees.  Yes this is the view out of one of my windows.  A parking lot and the back of a motel.  But a girl can dream!  The fabulous mountains of eastern Kentucky are not more than a hundred miles that direction.  Mountains that sadly, we are cutting the tops off to make roads so that people can drive fast to get through them when in fact their lives would be enriched by slowing down to look at their beauty.  I have co workers that have left the mountains to come and work in cubicles because of the lack of jobs in the mountain regions.  Seems like we build roads but the jobs stay away.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

My First Visitor!

Happy morning to everyone!

Pretty picture of a car..my boss owns it....

I had gotten rather discouraged about the blogging and only checked in once in awhile to see if anyone was really out there.  I was DELIGHTED this morning to find a tiny little one in the comment area with Rita's name beside it.  Thank  you Rita! 

Since my last post I have once again gotten very busy at work.  During the lull I had begun to compose stories mainly for the amusement of a friend and this blog came from that exercise in writing.  However, spending 55 hours a week designing highways sort of interfered with that.  But my very first reader has given me new found inspiration!

The internet is a fascinating place.  I would never have thought my first visitor would have found me by a simple little post from another blog about homemade dishcloths.  Amazing.  What is really inspirational for me is how that very same tiny autobiographical detail is what seems to interest the readers of my little stories.

In honor of my first visitor I shall post a story I wrote.  Its a snippet of my childhood.  Well, I'll post it when I figure out how to actually perform such a task.  I'm still working on the whole pictures-emailed-from-phone thing too.

I do hope you enjoy "The Piano Lesson"......Let me know what you think!

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Another Month is Gone!

Hello to All!

I am just now getting back to the blog.  I hope you haven't missed me too much.  ;)  I sent a couple of pics from my phone I took while staying at the Seelbach Hotel in downtown Louisville on the trip. The hotel is drenched in history and that is very appealing but over all I wasn't impressed.  I felt claustrophobic in my room and only stayed there to sleep.  Thank goodness one of my co workers lucked into a suite where I could hang out before I went to bed.

I am still eagerly awaiting my first visitor.  I could advertise the blog I suppose but that seems like cheating.

The insanely hot weather has abated and I'm sensing that fall is coming.  Everything here is dry and dusty and did I mention the garden is pretty much DEAD?  I do still get a few tomatoes but only because I water them.  I didn't even bother planting fall greens and its just as well since we haven't had rain in a month.

I have some ideas for stories rolling around in my head.  Maybe next time I will share.......

Monday, August 9, 2010

A Trip to the City

 Tomorrow I join my co workers for a trip to Louisville.  We will be staying in an old hotel that dates back to around 1900.  I haven't been in the hotel in 30 years but I'm certain it is as elegant as ever.  I will certainly enjoy staying in a place with marble mahogany and gilded everything.  Some might even say I've gotten above my raising as we say here in Kentucky!
   The conference will be hectic and tedious at times.  Thankfully, my co workers are nice well mannered men.  I will most likely have an escort. 
  I will try to post some pictures for your enjoyment!  Well, since no one has actually read the blog yet for my enjoyment.  But I do feel like you are listening to me blabber on about this and that.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

100 Degrees

This is the hottest summer I ever remember experiencing in Kentucky.  No joke.  I have always had a garden of some sort and I have had droughts and heat waves but nothing like this!  We had August heat in June and its never let up except for a few days here and there.

As a result my garden is limping along.  I spent some time last night mulching around the tomatoes and watering.  Then I pulled a lightweight fabric over them and hoped the wind wouldn't blow it off.  It will help keep the sun from blistering the fruits.  Crazy weather.  The rutgers tomatoes keep right on bearing.  They are an old old variety and have stood the test of time.  I see why.  They are not spectacular nor big.  They are medium sized red tomatoes that are consistent.

100 degrees in Kentucky is very rare.  I'm talking ambient temperature and not heat index.  The HI is estimated to be 104 to 109 degrees.  IN KENTUCKY!  Whew!!  Where is that sweet tea?

I knew it was coming.  My little buddy hasn't been by.  He is holed up trying to stay cool.

I'll send some pics along later.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Silliness Incorporated

Good morning to all!

I had a most entertaining week that could have easily been stressful if I had lost my sense of humor. In my last post I mentioned the dip and had promised a picture of it but sadly it was all eaten up before I could photograph it! It won second prize though. Hard to believe bacon dip was beat out by rueben dip that has SAUERKRAUT in it. Anyway, from that point on it was pure madness. Read on dear reader!

I decided to upgrade my phone since I had killed it in a glass of sweet tea along with my ipod. What are the odds of that? My carrier wouldn't let me upgrade 5 days early so I researched the phones very carefully and decided on a phone. Unbekownst to me it was a smartphone and carried extra charges. Okay. No problem here go ahead. Then the phone just happened to be the carrier's first android phone and they picked one that was marginal as a phone. The android part was very good but the phone well....it shut off at random, muted itself at random and some other annoying quirky features. Google worked like a charm on it though (DUH!). So I took it back. After much prodding from the droves of Appleheads using Iphones I decided to get an iphone. Big mistake.

Now Iphone folks make no mistake your product is awesome and King of Appledom. The cost is silly and that is why I didn't get one years ago. The cost is now down to $99 for the oldest Iphone but you get no insurance with the phone you get to pay lots more that from Apple. I decided I didn't need a toy in my pocket that could conceivably fall into another glass of sweet tea and returned it. I do have a job you know and I'm just as prone to tinkering with toys such as the iphone as are my iphoning co workers. That was my second mistake.

Apparently the iphone hijacked my new sim card. When I took it out to copy my contacts from my old sim card I was rewarded for it by a change in my data plan. More money of course. My carrier, who shall remain nameless (wink wink) informed me this is within their rights and anytime I put that sim in a smartphone that will happen. I informed them I did NOT do that and SHALL not. They were non plussed. Even if I briefly put it in a friends smartphone that will happen. I have no friends. I blog for chrissakes!!!!! But the carrier's customer service reps and I parted amicably.

At 4 am on Sunday morning I get awakened by a text informing me my smartphone is now activated! Who doesn't sleep in on Sunday? No rest for the wicked though. I have also had multiple emails about my iphone. Doesn't anyone ever take one back?

Folks, the story is even longer and includes bribery of the sales person at the carrier's store. Incredible. I traded a letter of commendation (yet to be written) and an evaluation of 5 stars for the second trade in to get RID OF THE IPHONE FROM HELL!

So I figure I needed this lovely pic my brother sent on his trip along the blueridge parkway in the smokey mountains!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

A Busy Week

This is my first post and I hope to make it as informative as I can. I have several things going this week and I'm happily running around getting things done. It isn't stressful mind you everything is done in a leisurely fashion. Oh and I have my job too. Its really an unjob as I enjoy what I do very much.

The main thing today is to figure out a dip for a friend to take to work. Its a contest of some sort for charity with a tasting. What a challenge! I love to cook but I rarely make dip and when I do its chili con queso or fresh salsa from the garden. Since the tomatoes are just coming in salsa is out. I will do some research and make the dip and let you know how it turns out. If its a winner I will post the recipe!

That's my little friend that meets me every morning for his breakfast! He's a youngster and has a short tail that got clipped somehow this spring when he was fighting the old squirrel for the spot on my windowsill. The old guy lost :( and I don't know what happened to him.