Saturday, September 26, 2009

Birds I'm Watching: Howarth Park (Lake Ralphine)

Spent an hour and a half or so this afternoon taking a break from work by walking along one side of Lake Ralphine, the boating lake at Howarth Park, in Santa Rosa. I've found that this is a good place to see warblers and other small woodland birds. I'm a novice when it comes to warblers, but I'm a quick learner. Today I saw yellow warblers and a Townsend's warbler, along with chestnut-backed chickadees, Oak titmice, bushtits, scrub jays, juncos, Anna's hummingbirds, Canada Geese, snowy egrets, mallards, a pacific-slope flycatcher, a brown creeper, a Nuttall's woodpecker, and a hairy woodpecker--16 species. Not too bad for a two-minute drive from home.

If you care to try this one, take the trail out of the far right corner of the upper parking lot at Howarth Park (far right if you're facing the lake, looking along the long axis of the parking lot). After about 100 meters the path splits. Take the left, lower, unpaved path--the path less traveled by--rather than the main, paved path that begins to rise. The lower path runs right along the side of Lake Ralphine. This entire stretch is a good place to look for birds, particularly in the more open areas toward the end of the lake.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Wines I'm Making: Harvested and crushed 321 pounds of Zinfandel

Harvested the neighbor's Zinfandel grapes today. We took in and crushed 321lbs of grapes. We had to pick a little earlier than would have been ideal because of raccoon losses and because the grapes were not watered much, so the sugar was rising more as a result of dehydration than because of maturity. Still, the must tests at 23.2 Brix and 1.090 by the hydrometer with a pH of 3.6--not too bad. Sulfited to around 55ppm. Will inoculate with yeast tomorrow. This will be my first time making Zinfandel. The Cabernet and Sangiovese grapes in our own back yard have been better cared for. I expect to harvest them in the next week or so. Above is a photo of my grape-stained hand, looking as if cast in bronze.

Following day: Inoculated the must at around 4:30 with Rhone yeast L2226. Must tested at 1.091 by hydrometer, pH of 3.66, and total acidity of 1.080, at 70 degrees. That translates into a temperature-adjusted Brix of 22.3 for potential alcohol of 12.9%--quite respectable.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Wines I'm Making: Harvest in About a Week? (2009)

Checked out all the grapes today. The Sangiovese is at 20 Brix (although at least one berry tested higher a few days ago) and a pH of 3.51 (pH squared times sugar equals 246). I'd like to get the sugar up to 22 Brix at least, ideally 23. So, will wait. The Cabernet is at 22.5 Brix, with a pH of 3.61 (293), again, getting close, but I'd like at least another degree of sugar. I think harvest is likely to be right around the end of the month.

The neighbor's Zinfandel vines that I'm tending this year with the help of our (other) new neighbor, Steve, are at 21.0 Brix and a pH of 3.41 (244), still too early to pick in an ideal world, but, as we all know, the world is not ideal. The problem is that the grapes are fast disappearing to the raccoons, as Ben, the owner of the grapes, didn't want to bother netting them. Looks like we'll be forced to harvest these earliest of the three varieties, probably on Steve's next day off, Thursday.
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