Archive for April, 2012

Bottling

Saturday, April 21st, 2012

I finally bottled the last gallon of the 2011 batch of homemade wine a week or so ago. When I’m siphoning the wine from the gallon jug into the 750mm bottles, there is always a bit left in the bottom of the gallon jug at the end. My habit in the past has been to swirl that bit around and dump it down the drain. But towards the end of this year’s project, I poured the leftovers in small Ball jars and stuck them in the fridge.

I noticed that when the jars sat in the fridge for a week or so, that it cleared nicely on top, with a distinct layer of wine sludge on the bottom. The wheels in my brain started turning…

For the last 3 batches or so, I kept all the tail-ends. I then asked Alice if I could borrow some of the wine from the bottle she opens for her enjoyment on the weekend. She said sure with some puzzlement, since I don’t drink wine. I cleaned and sanitized a smaller 375mm bottle, poured the bottoms of the last several batches into it, and filled it up the rest of the way with weekend chardonnay, and corked it. You never do know how these things will turn out. It could be terrible or it could be the best thing we’ve ever done.

I was particularly impressed with the ease with which I pulled this project off. Bottling wine is not uncomplicated. I could tell that I’ve practiced that particular skill when I was putting the label on that bottle after about 5 minutes’ work. I gathered the supplies I needed from the basement, proceeded with the task, and finished it all up while engaging in a conversation. I guess that makes me a corker.

Wined

Saturday, April 7th, 2012

One advantage to being retired is I get to prioritize projects at home. I leveraged this luxury into a pretty neat surprise for Alice last Friday.

The end of Spring semester is often hard on Alice, and this year has been no exception. There just seems to be no relief except the weekends, which fly by too quickly. During the day on Friday, I got an email from Alice suggesting we might sit out on the patio after she got home if it was warm enough. “Hmmm,” I thought to myself.

The dock was still on land from last fall, and one project for the next few weeks was to be to launch it. Alice and I have really enjoyed the dock for sitting and enjoying the wind and water after a hard day’s work. Why not launch the dock today and surprise her with a dock-sit when she came home from work? So I started the dozer and lumbered out there with it. I reeled out the winch cable and hooked a choker up to the outer leg of the dock, walked back to the dozer, engaged the winch, and watched the dock gracefully undulate down to the water, and float there like a graceful waterfowl. I’ve done this sort of thing enough times to know that many things could go wrong and convert this project from a quick one to an ordeal. This time it went pretty slick.

I walked out on the floating dock and tied a rope to one of the outboard legs, walked back to the land, and gave a tug. The dock swung around and floated directly to her land cradle. With one hand on the rope and another on the end of the dock, I lifted it up and onto the cradle. “Thunk,” and that part was done.

Next I got in the canoe with the pipe wrench, and removed the pins from the legs. One by one I dropped the legs through the sleeve and into the soft mud, and then used the pipe wrench to auger them into the pond bottom. In about a half hour I was done. No mishaps, dropped pins, missing wrenches, nothing.

Since I had a bit of time to spare now, I drove the dozer back to the shop and grabbed my wheelbarrow. I have a small table I had built as scaffolding for a project some years ago, which I loaded into the wheelbarrow. I dug out a scrap of ripped flannel sheeting for a table cloth, and stapled this to the table. Then I got our dock chairs out of storage and set them up. I filled some cat litter plastic jugs with pond water and laid them across the legs of the chairs so they wouldn’t blow into the pond. Then I went back into the house and got a stainless steel bowl and some ice, and put a bottle of wine in it. This got carried out to the dock along with a wine glass and cork screw.

Now the only problem would be to get her out there without suspecting that something was amiss. When she came home I suggested we do the sit on the patio she had suggested, but wait! The folding chairs we would need to sit out there were still stored out in the shed by the pond. Would she like to walk out there with me. She hemmed and hawed briefly, but in the end we walked out there.

When we cleared the hill it began to dawn on her that she’d been fooled. It wasn’t until she’d walked out on the dock that she discovered the table and the bottle of wine. She was a happy girl. I was pretty happy too. The ruse had worked about as well as I could have hoped.


Here is a picture of her discovering the wine in the bowl. We had a lovely dock sit; memorable as all first ones of the season should be.

Franco The Forager

Thursday, April 5th, 2012

Franco and I did a road trip this past week. We left early Thursday morning in the pickup, bound for Lansing for a short visit with my parents. After some initial whining, Franco usually settles down and is a pretty good traveler.

I brought his crate along, which he had spent a great deal of time as a puppy. Once we felt we could trust him in the house at night, we put the crate away, and mostly only use it when we’re travelling. Franco feels good about his crate, and once we arrived in Lansing and hauled it into the basement of the house, he entered his crate and lay down without complaining. Mom and Dad’s home has light colored carpeting and has numerous fragile items a big dogs tail could knock down, so I carefully brought him through the house with his leash on, down the stairs, and into his crate each night.

On Friday night, my two brothers and their families met us at a restaurant for dinner. Included in the evening was my older brothers son and his son. Like a lot of little boys, Connor was interested in dogs, but skeptical about big dogs. After eating dinner out, we all came back to my parent’s place for dessert, and Connor said he’d like to meet Franco. I took him downstairs and let Franco out of his crate. Connor was a bit scared at first, but Franco soon won him over, and Connor was brave enough to stroke his fur. Things were going fine until I heard a crunching sound.

Mom and Dad had had some trouble with mice in the house, and had spread some rat poison on the basement floor. Apparently this stuff is made to smell and taste good, and Franco ate one of the pellets before I could stop him. I immediately put him back in his crate and ran upstairs to announce that we needed to locate some emergency care for him. Of course it was after hours on a Friday night, so the normal vets were closed for the weekend. Then someone remembered the vet clinic at MSU. I loaded Franco up in the truck while my brother and his partner drove to the clinic with me following close behind. I think we got him there within a half hour of eating the poison.

The staff at the clinic were very professional, and as soon as we got him inside, I began to settle down. I’m trained as a medical first responder, but I can tell you that when your own loved ones are involved, all your training goes out the window. When they brought Franco out, I learned they had gotten him to eat a bunch of activated charcoal, which should neutralize the effects of the poison. Left to its own devices, the poison would attack Franco’s blood’s ability to clot, eventually making him bleed to death. The vet suggested I bring him by on Sunday morning on my way back home. They wanted to check his blood’s ability to clot. If it was compromised, we’d need to keep him on vitamin K supplements for a month. If not, we were good to go.

When I brought him back at 6:00 on Sunday morning, I had to ring the buzzer to get inside. I was met by a vet tech and a vet. I explained to them we were there to get the blood test, and the vet was explaining to me what the cost would be. Franco was on his leash, but was sniffing around. Suddenly he lifted his leg and peed on the floor! NO! I yelled to him, and grabbed his scruff and pushed him to the ground as is my habit. After I was done, the vet and vet tech were looking at me kind of strange. The vet said, “I thought you were upset at the price I quoted you for the blood test.” We all laughed at that one.

They took Franco to the back room and when they came out they told me his blood was normal. Yipee.