Saturday, March 13, 2010

Garden/Wine Making Updates

March and April is probably my favorite time of year. The rains have mostly come and gone, the sun is out, the bees are busy, and it seems the whole plant world is exploding.

And then there is the wonderful smell of orange and lemon blossoms. Sometimes the smell is overwhelming. And sometimes, it just sneaks up on you. Can't get enough of that.

We've been busy the past few weekends, getting work in between the rains. I've been working at taking out four oleanders in the front of our house. Hopefully that job will be done today. Some random garden notes:

We've cleared most our garden beds. Onions are started. Beets, peas, lettuce, beans and carrots are planted.

Marcia is starting the tomatoes from seed this year and we have a table top in the house now devoted to tiny little tomato plants.

After the super bowl, we picked the rest of our avocados. Was a great year for our tree and we have new flowers now. Hopefully the production will be the same this year.

We had broccoli from the garden the first weeks of this month and more is growing. However, some animal (I don't think it is a gopher) is nibbling at the base of the plants and we've lost several.

We had two tomato plants that made it through the winter, but are looking a bit worn out at this point.

Unfortunately, my cuttings from the Earthside wild grape don't seem to be taking.

Wine Making

Which reminds me that David has asked about our wild grape wine experiment. It was fun to pick and crush the grapes and, as I reported last year, the juice tastes similar to a concord grape. But, here's what happened to our wine effort. We successfully made wine out of the wild grape juice. But, turned out that the recipe we followed added too much water to the juice and the result was a kind of watered-down concord grape wine. I tried to compensate by adding some Welchs concord concentrate. The final product is drinkable, but not something I would recommend to others. I hope to do better this year.

Our less than stellar wild grape wine experiment matched our other experiments in fermentation. Our blackberry wine experiment (using blackberries gathered from our summer Oregon and NoCal trip) resulted in a very good blackberry vinegar, but no wine. Two seasons of trying to make hard cider have resulted in more very tasty vinegar.
Out of desperation, we finally tried a commercial wine making kit with all the ingredients and step by step by step instructions. The result has been a first rate red wine.
I'm looking forward to another try this year.


ben wideman said...

I'm not sure if this is an old wives tale or not, but if you have fruit flies around, vinegar is the likely end result of fermentation.

Cleanliness is key in beer fermentation, I'm sure much the same is true in wine.

Michael Coppess said...

Actually, we did have fruit flies around when trying to make the blackberry wine. We thought they came in with the berries.

David Sneiders said...

Hi Michael,

Thanks for the fascinating update. My grape cuttings are leafing out only because I kept in warmer kitchen in water:

Also trying in soil outside but no leaves as of yet but cold takes em longer to get going. Didn't try rooting hormone but if you want to have nother go around went to Earthside again & noticed vines leafing out in sunnier areas but unleafed shadier sides still have viable vines to start ( thicker finger sized vines give better chance).

Earthside two footed "residents" look to have departed. Heres more pics of Earthside (toward end):

Hope your wine experiments age to fruition. Like they say try, try again.

Michael Coppess said...

David: Last I heard, the city was going to try to take care of the two-footed visitor type. They're well along on construction of the health center and maybe that has them paying more attention to the area.

The shot of the grape leaf was great. And thanks for the tips on making cuttings grow. If at first you don't suceed .....

altadenahiker said...

Yes, the Welch's experiment doesn't sound tempting, but I'm impressed you got a first rate red.

(Checked my wild grape cuttings -- nothing so far, but haven't given up hope.)

pasadenapio said...

Love the photos. I'm glad you're having fun with this project!

Michael Coppess said...

Hiker: With the sunny weather here, think I'll get my grape cuttings out in the sun. Would be great to actually grow wild grapes.

Ann: Thanks. The whole wine making thing is fun, particularly when I can see progress along the way.

Cafe Pasadena said...

This has been a first rate comfort blog post.
I'm looking 4ward to another, soon!

Gina said...

We had rats decimate our broccoli last year (our peaches, tomatoes, and immature watermelon and cantaloupe as well). For the broccoli the rats would shear off only the florets leaving an ugly bare stem. We put out traps and killed about half a dozen of them and will be using barrier methods in our garden this year as well. I am also contemplating an outdoor cat.

Michael Coppess said...

Wow. I got a first rate comfort post from CP! Must look out for more food posts.

Thanks Gina. It is really disappointing to watch the plants coming up only to have an animal munch it down. We have a trio of cats (ours and our neighbors) who patrol the yard and leave us "gifts" from time to time. That's why it was so surprising to see someone nibbling at the garden. Hope you get to have your watermelon this year.

Ysabelle said...

what a great post,one of my favorites drinks was wine strawberry.

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