Wednesday 2 January 2013

Logging with Bob

...and a Happy New Year from the Lovely Girls. We gather from friends that hens are meant to slow down their production a bit through the dark depths of winter but it's been so mild and sunny and our hens are ignoring that advice. We are on three a day at present from three 'working' hens. Broody Betty is, we are sure, coming back into lay. She has bright yellow legs and bright red comb and wattles and spends a lot more time with the Lovely Girls rather than separate looking after the young ones. The young ones are now very much part of the normal comings and goings, so we see all 7 birds strolling about together.

This morning I needed hay to bed down the chooks once I'd cleaned them out, and for a hay-mulch on the asparagus bed, so a chance to go for a blat in the 2CV. I love this and the roads round here are just perfect for 2CV. The words "bowling along" seem especially apt for the slightly rolling surfaces, especially in the boggy bits of the County, where a straight road tends to undulate over, I guess, harder and softer bits of the peat substrate. So I took Deefer for a trundle down to our hay/straw merchant and threw a bale of hay into the back seat, giving the car a suitably farm-vehicle sprinkling of hay bits. A bale is €4.25 and lasts us for ever, much cheaper than buying the silly little pillow-packs in pet shops for mad money.

Next job was to go with John Deere Bob down to our little stand of coppiced ash to bring back some of what I'd cut down before Christmas. It's been a bit wet to get the tractor down there but has now dried out through Christmas and Bob reckoned he'd get through if he picked a careful route, sticking to the better drained sloping ground and nipping through a hedge-gap rather than using the much-puddled-up gateways. He has a reasonable sized "box" mounted on the 3-point-link of the tractor.

This is, by the way, Bob's only vehicle, so he uses it for shopping, trips to Mass, going visiting and even trips to his favourite restaurant for lunch once a week. He was happy to lend it to me for this job, but I declined, sure I'd get it bogged down, so I persuaded him to do the driving. I followed on on foot across the fields with Deefer in tow, chasing about and exploring the hedges and cattle foot-prints. We gathered up about 3/4 of what I'd cut and brought it home, coming down in through the cattle race and able to turn round in the yard, so we could back the tractor right in to the back door, almost, making it dead easy to off-stack the logs onto our log store.

This is ash so, when dry, burns with a fierce hot flame, very good in the range. It grows like weeds in all the hedges round here and, even better, you can coppice it. It grows back from the base when you cut the trunks down. Sustainability!

Also on the agenda today was to bottle up the home made wine. It had its finings treatments yesterday and had now done the 24 hours of settling to fall clear. First job was to rack it off (syphon it off the sediment) into the 5 gallon bucket, a job best done all in one smooth 'pour' with no interruptions and no movement of the 'source' bucket. If you stop/start there is a risk of the syphon tube letting wine fall back and stir up the 'lees', where upon you'd have to leave it another 24 hours to settle.

We have been keeping a stock of the Rioja bottles we get from Lidl which come with one of those modern tough, stiff, spongy plastic "corks" which we figured we could re-use. We had also kept a few screw-top bottles and had a back up supply of washed out 2 litre milk containers to house any surplus. This all proved to work perfectly well except that at the last minute I decided I had better try to sterilize the corks and tops with boiling water. I tried one just in case they'd go all soft but it seemed to survive, so I went for it.

Unfortunately while I then went about racking the wine off, these corks took up a small amount of the water and swelled. They were an absolute PIG to get back into the tops of the bottles. I used an old trick I knew, to lay a bit of narrow wire down the inside of the bottle to just pinch the cork away from the glass enough to let air out as you draw out the wire, but this wasn't an air-pressure problem, it was just that the corks were now too big. If you are doing this a lot it's worth buying a cork compressor but we've not got that organised yet. I ended up squidging them in as best I could, and then whacking them gently with my rubber mallet. It almost worked. The corks are 3/4 in with a 'muffin top' like a champagne top. We'll have to check they don't start popping out! We will be doing this again and will gear up with corks, the compressor and other stuff.

The verdict? The wine is nice looking, a lovely red colour and clear as a bell. The taste is maybe a bit 'thin' but is pleasant enough and not offensive in any way, not acid, not tannin-ish, not young/sweet. We could believe it was a merlot and we can believe the oak-aged thing but we'd want to blind-taste it to convince ourselves. The thinness has us thinking it is going to be easy to drink and we hope not inclined to give us sore heads or hang overs. A success. We are very pleased. Thank you very much Mr and Mrs Silverwood for this very thoughtful Christmas Present.

1 comment:

Mr Silverwood said...

No Problem, do you still need the corks and stuff, will pop down there tomorrow if you do?