Friday, April 5, 2013

Plants I'm Growing: Phlomis, Rose "Flutterby" (April 5, 2013)

A lot of flowers coming into bloom in the garden now. The first Phlomis blossom opened on April 3 (pictured). The first flowers on the big climbing rose called "Flutterby" at the front of the house opened yesterday, April 4. Lithodora diffusa, a ground cover with a pretty star-shaped flower started blooming today. Most of the Ceanothus varieties in the garden are in full bloom. The sound around them is amazing; Ceanothus attracts a startling range of insects. Pacific Iris are in bloom, and leaves are just appearing on the smoke tree in front of the house. Both our pink crabapple tree and our "Pink Lady" apple tree are in bloom. The large salvia "Point Sal Spreader" is in bloom as well. The wisteria behind the house looks like it will start blooming soon, which always attracts many large bumblebees. A pretty time of the year.

Rain: Another 0.75 inches--But We Still Need More (April 5, 2013)

In the past couple of days we've had another 0.85 inches of rain. That brings our total for the 2012-2013 rain year to 24.55 inches. By this time of year we've had nearly 33 inches of rain in an average year, so we are more than 8 inches behind normal. We still need more rain, but this recent rain has been significant.

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Wines I'm Making: Hard Cider Success (March 31, 2013)

Success. Yesterday I opened the first bottle of the hard cider I've just finished making--my first attempt. It was a great pleasure to hear the whoosh! as I lifted the bottle cap and to see a rush of bubbles rise to the surface of the liquid, indicating that the in-bottle, secondary fermentation had gone as planned. I was a bit skeptical two weeks ago when I dosed the cider with a little sugar and sealed it up to wait for a silent fermentation to work its magic. I had feared something overlooked, some mistake would result in a cider as flat as when I put it in the bottles.

I giggled. I was reminded of my first real chemistry experiment. We precipitated a bright yellow lead compound out of colorless liquids. Magic, indeed. I felt the same giddy pleasure looking at my cider that I felt then, in high school chemistry class, when the classroom experiment worked just the way the teacher said it would.

I suspect this batch will disappear quickly and that I'll want to do it all over again. In the fall, I hope to use real pressed apples rather than store-bought apple juice (albeit of a very good quality; after all, we're only a stone's throw from the apple orchards of Sebastopol).  

The cider has a good apple aroma. Delicate apple flavors on the palate. Quite dry with a light carbonation that adds interest. Overall, subtle and delicious. Exactly two months start to finish. The first related post is here. For more, use the search box to search for "cider."    

Rain: We Need More (March 31, 2012)

A hint of rain a few days ago and off-and-on showers last night have together added 0.30 inches to our precipitation total for the 2012-2013 rain year. The total at my Santa Rosa location is now 23.30 inches--still well below normal. We need more rain.

[Update: We got a little more rain, on April 1--an additional 0.40 inches, bringing the total as of April 2 to 23.70 inches. That's still low, but as improvement. More rain is in the forecast for the rest of this week.]
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