Thursday, January 10, 2013

Birds I'm Watching: The Common and the Not-so-common (January 10, 2012)

Last month was the busiest December I've had work-wise in my 12 years here as a freelance translator. Usually, December is quiet. As a result, I've had little time for chasing birds recently, but a quick trip to San Rafael on Tuesday (January 8) on a tip about a Long-eared Owl (Asio otus) was worth the dash. What a magnificent bird. They are rare here. Not more than one or two show up each year in the area--if that. So, I was pleased to be able to add this fellow to my life list.

I also got some interesting photographs of the many Yellow-rumped Warblers that were flitting about. These are our single most common warbler. They are abundant in the winter months. Some birds are not well named. Others, like the Yellow-rumped Warbler, are rather aptly named, as the photo below should demonstrate.

For information about bird watching in Sonoma County, see my Website Sonoma County Bird Watching Spots.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Found Art: Malevich's Circle (January 8, 2012)

If Malevich had used a circle instead of a square, "White on White" might have looked something like this. But no--too much adornment here. Not simple enough. Not pure enough. Still, this San Francisco street detail looked like art to me.

For more found art, see my blog Serendipitous Art.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Wines I'm Making: 2011 Cabernet Bottled (January 4, 2013)

Finally got around to bottling the 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon/Cabernet Franc. It was a small batch last year. We produced only 33 bottles of wine, but it's quality that counts. I had a tough time of it this time around. First, I used a slightly larger diameter tube for siphoning the wine and a shorter length--mostly because when replacing my siphon I couldn't remember what size I had used in the past. The large size made the wine flow much faster than I'm used to and the shorter length combined with cold weather made the tube stiff and unwieldy. The result was much more spillage than usual. I estimate I lost more than a bottle. In a commercial winery that might be a miraculously small amount of spillage. Here, making wine from the grapes we grow in the back garden, it's 3% of annual output. Second, the crushed Campden tablets failed to fully dissolve. It really is important to see to it that the sulfite is evenly distributed throughout the wine. Finding much left at the bottom of the carboy, I had to laboriously siphon thirty bottles back into the container and then rebottle them. I didn't want some of the bottles to be unprotected and others to have much too much sulfite. Two lessons learned the hard way. Anyway, the wine is now in bottles awaiting capsules and labels (which I have yet to design and print). Judging from what I consumed while siphoning, the 2011 wine will be good, but it is more tannic than usual and has a bit more acidity, suggesting that it will take time to open up. I estimate it will start showing well around 2018.

I also did the first racking of the 2012 wine. Working on the assumption that enough time had passed to allow malolactic fermentation to go to completion, I sulfited the wine lightly and transferred it to clean containers, leaving behind the gross lees. I added oak staves, as usual. The wine (8 gallons, or 40 bottles) is now resting.

Rain: Additional 0.4 inches (January 6, 2013)

Since last reporting, we've had another 0.4 inches of rain, bringing our total for the 2012/2013 rainy season to 21.65 inches (at least at my house). As 15.4 inches is average for this calendar date, were are about six inches above normal so far.

Plants I'm Growing: First Blooms--Daphne Odorata (January 2, 2013)

Swamped with work, I've been stuck at my desk for the past few days, but I belatedly report that the Daphne in the back garden started blooming on January 2 this year. Daphne odorata, as its Latin name suggests, is wonderfully fragrant and one of the few flowers that blooms in the middle of the winter. So, its appearance is always welcome.
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