Archive for November, 2007

Racking them up

November 18, 2007

So, over the last couple weeks, fermentation has taken its course. Early on, rising bubbles keep clouds of yeast and gunk in the cider, but gradually the bubbles slowed and eventually came nearly to a halt. At that point, it’s best to rack the cider – transfer it to another vessel – leaving a cake of “lees” (sediment and yeast bodies) behind. I’ve found it helpful to put the cider out in the garage for a day or so to retard the fermentation for a cleaner transfer. Once separated from the sludge the fermentation slows further, and the cider clears more rapidly. Racking is best accomplished with a stiff plastic tube (the “racking cane”) attached to a length clear flexible tubing. Together, they are used to siphon the cider from one vessel to the next. There’s a little diffuser cap on the end of the racking cane that prevents uptake of sludge from the bottom of the carboy.

Anyway, the first batch of the year was pretty well clarified in the secondary, and I needed the carboy it was in, so I racked it into a Cornelius keg; Holly and I bottled up a few swingtop quarts for a social engagement, where it was well received.  Around that same time the big 6.5 gallon fermenter with the single-variety Roxbury Russet cider in it slowed, so I racked it to a 6 gallon secondary.  A few days later, I racked the three remaining primary fermenters from the cider weekend to secondary, and took a couple empties down to Poverty Lane for them to fill at their convenience for a late season, low-labor batch. I also bought a gallon of 100% blueberry juice at Trader Joes in Cambridge, with the intention of making a small batch of blueberry apple wine this winter, along the lines of the cranberry apple stuff we made last year.

We’ve had our first dusting of snow and Thanksgiving is coming up, and with it another trip to Maine.  I’m hoping to make good progress on the nine remaining trees that need to be dropped before the fence can go up,  and perhaps prototype the tree-post interface that is hopefully going to provide relatively simple corners.

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Energy, life, and stuff

November 4, 2007

So, this blog is supposed to be about making an apple orchard, and also to some extent about making hard cider. But, life, at least when it is flowing along smoothly, seems to defy clean divisions; one aspect of life flows into the next and on into another, until it meets itself again and forms a sort of personal hydrogeological cycle.

My interest in orcharding and agriculture bears an obvious relationship to my interest in the vital flows and processes of nature, which are of a piece with my engineer’s view of the world – at once differential and integral, with beauty both mathematical and aesthetic – and together they inform my work as an engineer: I develop clean renewable energy technologies to address the pressing need for climate-neutral energy sources and to mitigate the looming scarcity of liquid fuels.

So, I’ve added a page and a category, with hopes that the focus of this blog will be expanded but not exploded by opening a window into these contiguous aspects of life.

To every thing there is a season

November 3, 2007

A time to plant, a time to reap…

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A time to build up, a time to break down…

Today I put the NH garden to bed for the fall, just in time for the rain. I pulled several wheelbarrows full of skeletal cornstalks, frost-blasted tomato vines, broccoli gone wild, and giant zucchini, and heaped them on the compost pile to decay. I borrowed a nice old rototiller from the neighbor, and turned in everything that was left. While I had the machine, I also increased the size of the garden by a fair margin by chewing up the grass around the perimeter, so as to boost vegetable production next summer. It’s truly remarkable how much handwork a quart or two of petroleum can replace, even with the crummy efficiency of a single-cylinder air-cooled engine.

Rather than leave the soil bare all winter, I raked the leaves off the yard and spread them over the freshly turned ground, and spread 80 pounds of lime over them to balance the pH and assist with decay. I didn’t have quite enough leaves, but the neighbors did, and strangely enough they didn’t mind me raking them up and hauling them to my yard by wheelbarrow. There may come a time when people don’t give away valuable organic matter so easily.

I pulled out the garden hose one last time and set the sprinkler going to mat down the leaves and keep them from blowing all over the neighborhood. The north wind rattled the trees, and steel gray clouds gradually blotted out the sun – November.