Here it is, the first day of Spring and I’m trying to write a personal blog that I now realize I have not written all winter. To be fair I did write about cats on January 14th and now Spicy is vigorously massaging my arm while I am trying to type. So some things have not changed much. The cats are in a standoff where Gray-C is not allowing Spicy in the house and Spicy is making Gray-C afraid to go outside the house.
Cheryl started seeds today and cut down old flower stalks in the garden yesterday. Snow has almost melted off the vineyard and is gone most places. I’m still finding ice under the compost pile. The living room still feels a little empty without the Christmas tree which adds to the overall feeling of more light and air.
We both had our second Moderna shots as of February 25th. We had sore arms and extra fatigue for a few days but are really glad to feel a little safer. We even plan to go to our second movie, News of the World, tomorrow and eat out afterward. These seem like huge changes but there have actually been a lot of changes so far this year. We have hardly gone anywhere, even to Spokane. So all the “action” has been at home for Joe. Cheryl does most shopping, does laundry and still gets massages.
Last year’s grape harvest was cut down by an early freeze in October. I made some ice wine but the process is all quality and very little quantity. To boost output I reconfigured my cider press with an electric motor (thanks to my brother John) and got very good deals on apples from local orchards. On days when the temperature is above freezing I could press the apple pulp with a press that runs off hydraulics from a garden hose. The process nets lots of raw juice in a hurry. It also generates a lot of apple pulp. I became very popular with the local deer.
The apple cider sugar needs to be concentrated either by boiling it down or freezing the water and draining off the sweeter juice. After spacing out a pot of boiling cider that burnt into a huge mass of solid black foam that took days to clean, I have been going with the freezing method for a couple months and still have some left to process. A bonus is that I have been able to make elderberry and huckleberry wine with the apple concentrate as a base, all without any additives or even commercial yeast. Another benefit is that working outside under the greenhouse cover on the crushing pad, the cold keeps down flies and ants and the juice stays fresh for days.
Making biochar in a 55 gallon barrel took all day off and on. It yielded a couple cubic feet of biochar. I decided to get a bigger burn box and found a used metal diesel engine shipping container at Real Steel, the local metal recycling yard. The new box makes 15 or more cubic feet of biochar in one burn over the course of a day. On the other hand it can use up to a full cord of wood. I have had help with wood from a local orchard and have some other sources lined up. Red Bridge feed provided grain bags and sewed them up with a label I printed. Biochar has been selling well by word of mouth. The two places I have asked about being retail outlets have so far declined. That may be for the better since there is not much time to gather wood right now.
So that was winter. Last night I made pie from a butternut squash that Cheryl precooked. Our tradition of almost always having a pie to eat continues from the Farmers Market. The harvest of 2020 carries us into 2021. And although with big pauses, my tradition of writing a personal blog continues.