Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Blackberry Vinaigrette

So, what can one do with dozens of bottles of blackberry wine - well, one thing is to make some quick and delicious salad dressing:

Blackberry Vinaigrette

  • 1/4 cup seedless tart blackberry jam
  • 1/4 cup apple vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 - 1/2 cup blackberry wine - until it tastes good :)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
Mix all ingredients well, and serve with choice of mixed greens & veggie salad.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Oaked Blackberry

So we finally found time to rack and bottle one of our Blackberry Wine experiments from last year's harvest, a 2012 Blackberry, that was slightly oaked.  We were aiming for a full bodied wine, and used 90 pounds of blackberries for a 15 gallon batch - which gave us pretty intense flavors, colors and the full bodied taste we were after.  The wine is slightly sweet, with just a light oak flavor, barely enough to tell, but blending nicely with the fruitiness that the blackberries contribute. 

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Shower Installed!

And some more bathroom progress - just in time for Thanksgiving visitors:  we installed the corner shower unit and it is functional!  Still need to pretty up the walls surrounding the shower and tub, i.e. more drywall mud, sanding and painting.  But we have another shower - hurray!

Sunday, November 24, 2013

More Wine Chemistry

Another three day Wine Chemistry & Microbiology lab weekend just ended.  We had even more "hands-on" experiment time, using and comparing different methods to analyze various wine components.  From conductivity tests to check for cold stabilization, to ripper titrations for measuring levels of SO2, we were busy the entire time.

This morning we worked with microscopes and learned how to identify different strains of yeasts as well as spoilage organisms.  So now we have another item for our winery wish list:  a decent microscope (which would be right after the ebulliometer)!

By the way,  our chromatograms for checking on malolactic fermentation progress turned out a lot better than during our first attempts:

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Stalled Fermentation?

About two weeks we added yeast to our apple cider, which was fermenting in the barn.  We checked the progress for the first few days and it seemed ok, but then we got sidetracked with the new baby, and sort of forgot about the fermenting apple cider. 

We finally went out to check on it yesterday, thinking that fermentation should be completed. But the temperature in the barn had dropped enough during the last week to stop the yeast from growing further.  Luckily, the cider was not spoiled, it had a slight alcohol taste - enough to keep it from spoiling -  but it was still really, really sweet (at 19° Brix). 

Jeff racked the cider into carboys and brought them into the kitchen.  Once they warmed up - which took all night - the yeasts "went to town".  Each carboy looks like it is boiling from all the fermentation activity and the airlocks are just bubbling.  It sounds like there is water running in the kitchen.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Bathroom Progress

All the drywall is now hung in the bathroom, and the first coat of "mud" is covering the seams.  This evening, we sanded the seams, so that we can install the shower unit.   Slowly but surely, the bathroom project is nearing completion - we really could use the extra show next week when the house will be full for the Thanksgiving holiday.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Another Grandbaby

Adelaide Fearn Weyant was born this morning in Mt. Vernon, Ohio.  She weighed 7 lbs 11oz and was 20 inches long.  Rachel and baby did great and the whole family is very proud.  Fiona calls her "our baby". Though Sam and Tina left for Ohio at 2:00 am, they did not quite make it there before the birth.  We had a great time though playing with Toben and Fiona and seeing the brand new baby!!


Monday, November 11, 2013

And back to DYI...

Today was just too windy and cold to work outside, so we decided to continue working on our bathroom project - the one that abruptly came to a halt when the weather got warm... about 8 months ago. 

We kind of got used to having a semi-finished bathroom, but in reality, it is an eye-sore.  Half the room is painted, the sink and toilet are installed, and we tiled the floor.  The whirlpool tub is installed and operational, but we never finished the wall around the tub. We never installed the corner shower unit we had bought last winter and two walls and half the ceiling still need drywalled and painted.

We took inventory of all our supplies and realized that the only things we were missing was a shower faucet and two sheets of drywall - which we picked up this morning.  By the end of the day, we had the faucet installed and the walls around the shower-unit insulated. We are ready to hang the missing drywall!!

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Time Changed - and more Apples...

We successfully processed over 20 bushels of apples this weekend - the final tally was 38 quarts of canned apple sauce and 40 gallons of cider.  We'll can about half the cider and then make wine from the rest this week.

The time change this weekend marked the end of the produce stand season and the beginning of winter "fairy" lights.  We completed the shut down of the produce stand, took down all the signs and planted the remaining mums in various flower beds.  We are still using the pumpkins for fall decorations together with the bunches of Indian corn.  Whatever apples were left ended up in the cider press.  It's a bit sad to see the season end.

Anja and Leif were visiting this weekend and Leif was a big helper with our fall decorations and plantings!

The early dusk this evening prompted us to plug in our winter lights on the barn side of the farm. The fence is lit up, and the barn windows have welcome candles - on timers.   And we made hot mulled cider.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Fall Finishes


Our garden is definitely finished for this season - the last vegetables to harvest this year were load of peppers (of all things).  They did really well and we managed to get 3 large bowls of peppers right before the first frost.

Jeff completely finished pruning, weeding and mowing the large blackberry patch.  He also tied up all the remaining primocanes to protect them from being blown around by winter winds. Tina finished weeding all the blueberries, and we even found time to tie up our sparse raspberry patch.


Not too much for us to do at the farm, except for finishing one last mowing  But when we visited Zach and Rachel in Ohio last week, Tina and Toben had a blast raking up all their maple leaves.


We are NOT yet finished with processing apples, as a matter of fact we just bought another "bin", which is roughly 20 or so bushel.  We've been making and canning apple sauce and will be pressing more cider this coming weekend.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Lucky Auction

Sometimes we are just lucky when it comes to auctions:  Caleb, Sam and Tina went to a farm auction today, which turned out to be mostly vegetable growing equipment and supplies.  The best buy was probably a plastic layer, which Caleb successfully bid on.  Tina and Sam got huge stack of tomato cages, as well as stakes, flats, flower pots and industrial sized bags of potting soil.  Plus it was a really pleasant fall day, which already got us thinking about garden plans for next year!

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Sewing Fur Made Easier

So we purchased a commercial fur sewing machine - I should explain this process: Jeff has been checking out fur sewing machines (a most useful tool) for a while and found a used one on Craigs list in Boston, where Anja and Duff made arrangements to pick it up, but they had to wait until Zach needed to travel to New England for work (from Ohio) with his pick-up truck, so they could physically get this machine, which is attached to a heavy duty table, and then Zach drove home via Carlisle and dropped the machine off.

Jeff threading the machine
This is not at all like an ordinary sewing machine and it does amazing seams with fur - the seam looks similar to one made by a serger machine, but much, much finer.  Up to now, we had been using Tina's rather nice, regular sewing machine, but the fur was pretty hard on it.  Despite this, Anja and Jeff made several raccoon hats before  - see older blog post - and last year we made a fur stole for Grammy, which turned out ok as well.  Looks like this winter we'll get to sew in a much more efficient way!

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Wine Chemistry

Checking for total acidity
using our Vinmetrica
We've been getting better at analyzing and testing our grapes and juice.  Each year, we've bought additional "tools" and learned more about the chemistry and microbiology of wine.  Our last major purchase was a Vinmetrica system earlier this year, for checking pH, Total Acidity and SO2. 

Tina is currently taking a wine chemistry class at the local community college and got to use more sophisticated equipment during a "hands-on" lab this weekend.  This included an ebulliometer, a cash still and an  aeration-oxidation apparatus. We also did some chromatography and had lots of practice with different titration methods.

Checking sulfur dioxide levels
via the aeration oxidation method
Using a Cash Still to determine
levels of volatile acidity

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Apple Cider Time Again

We pressed a "bin" of apples this weekend - roughly 25 bushels.  Fortunately, the apples we got were really nice and large.  Apparently the bin had been dropped, causing some bruising, which automatically turned the apples into "juice grade", which was lucky for us.  It only took a few hours to run the apples through the cider press - it seems that every year we get more efficient with this process.  There is nothing as good as fresh pressed cider!  Though some of the juice ended up in a fermenting tub as well :)

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Wine Supplies and Pears

After measuring all the "vital data" for our newest batch of wine, we realized that our Total Acidity reading were a bit high, and decided to try for malolactic fermentation this time.  Of course we should have anticipated this option much earlier and ordered or bought the necessary bacterial culture.  Unfortunately, the local wine supply store did not have what we needed, and we only had a short window of time to add the bacteria (toward the end of the yeast fermentation). The closest store we could find that had it in stock was in Bethlehem, PA.  While Tina made the trip to buy malolactic bacteria, Jeff and Lars went to a friend's farm to pick pears:


All in all it turned out to be a productive weekend, we got 9 bushels of pears, and we were able to inoculate our fermenting chambourcin grapes with malolactic bacteria.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Chambourcin Harvest 2013

It only took us one day to harvest our grapes, with some helpers, a perfect day and an early start!  We alternated between  picking and crushing, then cleaning up - and started over.  In a way, this was a "test" year, since we don't have that many vines bearing fruit yet. 

We started with picking:

Brought everything to the "crush pad" by the barn:

Where we weighed each container - and also weighed some of the larger clusters (some weighed over 1 lbs):

We used our cider press - minus the actual press part - for crushing the grapes, and the we manually did the de-stemming.  In addition to pulling out all the stems, we were also paying close attention to spiders, stink-bugs and all sorts of other critters.  We were closely on the look-out for Asian lady bugs (the yellow kind), but did not find a single one.
The crushed berries were dumped into one of our fermenters:

Saturday, September 7, 2013

"Harvest Eve"

This afternoon we finished final preparation for our grape harvest.  We had already cleaned up the barn and the press, but we got all our food grade buckets and picking tubs ready and found all our clippers. We also brought our old platform scale down from the top of the barn, because are going to weigh what we pick this year! 

And we finally took down all the pretty strung lights that have been hanging in the barn since Jens and Gracie's wedding over a year ago. 

The last thing we did, right before it got dark, was remove the bird netting on just one row to give us a head start for the morning.  We used the same winding tool that we use for fence wire - it worked beautifully for the netting, which we may be able to re-use next season. (It also worked great for the strings of lights)

Tuesday, September 3, 2013


We did not intend for any fruit to set on our young pear trees this year, but we obviously missed some of the blossoms earlier in the spring.  We actually "harvested"  a few pears from different trees, including a few Asian pears this evening.  Just enough to taste the varieties - don't think it hurt the trees any either.  They were definitely ripe enough to pick: still firm, but full of juice.  Someday, these will make beautiful wine!

Monday, September 2, 2013

More Preparation for Grape Harvest

We had thought that we'd be picking our grapes on Labor Day weekend, but we ended up postponing it just a bit more.  Our total Brix readings were just around 20, and the pH level was around 3.1.  None of the grapes seem to be rotting, shriveling or dropping off, and the netting seems to be very protective.   And there is no rain in the forecast to dilute the grape juice.  So we continue to measure sample grapes for sweetness and acidity, as the sugar levels still go up.

So rather than picking grapes, we spent more time cleaning up the barn where we are planning to ferment the grapes.  We scrubbed one of the stainless steel tanks, which we converted from its former use in a milking parlor to a wine fermenter.  We had to lay it on its side, in order to crawl into it - first to remove a piece of metal that had been welded into the bottom of the tank (a "vortex diverter" for the automated washing system).  This was done with a dremel cutting tool, which was incredibly effective.  Duff took care of the cutting - Tina took are of the scrubbing.   

While the tank was outside the barn, we completely emptied out that section and pressure washed it down.  The press is sitting outside, where it still will need to be cleaned and sanitized as well.   Now we have the tank moved back, and it is sitting upright.  We still need to level it before we can use it, but everything is coming together!

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Preparing for Grape Harvest

Pre-harvest preparations started with the onset of veraison (when the grapes begin changing color) about 2 weeks ago.  We are taking periodic samples of grapes, crush them and then measure the pH, Brix and total acid content of the juice.  We are also getting all the equipment ready for harvesting and crushing.  At this point, we are thinking that next weekend may be the ideal time to pick - which would be perfect as most of our family will be visiting for labor day - and laboring they will be :)

One of our newest acquisitions is another stainless steel tank - again thanks to Zach and his connections to dairy farmers who are outgrowing their smaller milk tanks.   We had to build a small platform with  a step, so that we can easily look into the tank, clean it and later dump grapes into it.  We'll try to use it as a fermenter this year, if we get enough grapes.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

The Long Shot Farm: the Next Generation

Zach is showing Toben how to shoot his bow at the farm,
that would be the 3rd generation of great archers!

Friday, August 23, 2013

Sweet German Breakfast Bread

Here is another favorite bread recipe - for Easter morning, we braid it in a circle and put colored eggs in the center, for everyday, just simply shape the dough into braid and glaze after baking.  The same dough can also be used for wonderful cinnamon rolls. 

  • 1/2 cup hot water
  • 1/2 cup cold milk
  • 1 egg
  • 1/3 cup butter, cut into slices
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 3 and 3/4 cup bread flour
  • 2 and 1/4 teaspoons bread machine yeast

Place ingredients into bread machine, in the order given above.  Then use the dough cycle, which takes about 1.5 hours.  When the cycle is done, and the dough has risen nicely, punch the dough down, and divide into 3 equal pieces.  With each piece of dough, form a long roll - getting rid of all air bubbles in this process.  Shape into a braid, place on cookie sheet and let rise another half hour.  Preheat oven to 375 degree F, and bake for about 25-30 minutes.
While the bread is still hot, cover with a simple icing (melted butter, some milk, vanilla flavoring and powdered sugar)

For Cinnamon Rolls:
Divide dough into half, roll each half into a rectangle, cover with melted butter and sprinkle generously with a sugar/cinnamon mixture.  Then roll up from the long side, slice into 2 inch sections, stand sections on end in a 13x9 inch pan and bake at 375 for about 20 minutes.  Spread icing generously over the rolls after baking.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Blackberry Post-Harvest Maintenance

As soon as we finished picking the last of the blackberries, we started cutting out the old fruiting canes and tying up the new canes for next year's crop. 

While the root system and crown of blackberry bushes are perennial, the canes of the plant are biennial.  During the first year of the cane's life cycle (primocane year), it grows and initiates fruit buds.  The second year (floricane year), the canes will bloom and set fruit, then die once the fruit is ripe.  Primocanes and floricanes are present at the same time in a bramble patch.   So we are currently cutting out the dead floricanes, and tying up the primocanes for next year.  It takes two people about three hours to clean up a row of 100 bushes.



Debris in the Middle
Still found some berries