Home-Made Wine From a Kit: Degassing, Stabilization, and Clarifying

If you’ve been following along with this little adventure then you’ll notice it’s been quite some time since the last post. If you’re just joining us you can check out part 1 and part 2 first.

The wine has finished it’s secondary fermentation over the last two weeks and is ready for the next process: degassing. If this sounds like something you need after Thanksgiving dinner then you’d be close. All of the fermentation has produced millions of carbon-dioxide bubbles that remain suspended in the wine, and we’ll need to get rid of those to prevent corks from popping out or bottles breaking. The bubbles also help to suspend particles that we are trying to get out of the wine to clarify it. The “Wine Expert” kit we’re using has you mix all the sediment in the carboy back into suspension as you stir very vigorously. I use a special paddle with a long rod that attaches to a power drill. Before stirring I add a couple chemicals: potassium metabisulphite kills off the yeast to stop fermentation but also is a powerful antioxidant that prevents discoloration and spoilage, and potassium sorbate which is basically a preservative. These chemicals stabilize the wine to prevent further fermentation and get rid of harmful acids or bacteria. These are added to water first and then stirred into the wine. By stirring rapidly, all of the gas bubbles are released and the wine foams up just like soda poured into a glass. After stirring for a couple of minutes I add something called isinglass clarifier, which will clump together all of the solids suspended in the wine and make them drop to the bottom of the carboy. Then the wine gets more stirring until all the trapped CO2 bubbles escape.

The last step is to put an airlock on the carboy and wait. It’s fun to watch the wine clear. First it’s all cloudy, then the cloudy layer slowly moves toward the bottom of the carboy over the course of about a week. When it gets to the bottom the wine is almost clear.

The cloud of gunk getting near the bottom of the carboy

The cloud of gunk getting near the bottom of the carboy

After about two weeks the wine is totally clear but still has a nice color. The instructions tell you to bottle it from here but I like to transfer the wine into another container and leave the sediment behind. Next I’ll wait another week for any sediment to settle again before bottling.


Filed under Homesteading

Take the Midnite Special and DubStep Into Deafness

Due to some house guests that I had to attend to for the past three weeks I haven’t been able to blog at all. Plus I’ve been feeling a little depressed recently and usually when that happens I drop out of things and disconnect from other people. Things are looking better though, I had a great visit with my son when he came up for a week over school break.

When I drove to Cape Cod to pick him up I also dropped off my two brother-in-laws. I get along pretty well with them but after a couple of weeks was happy to be driving them home. My fatal error was bringing the cable I have that connects an ipod to the car stereo. My brother-in-law hooked up his ipad and took control. He’s into, and I mean REALLY into, this reggae band called Midnite. They come from St. Croix, not Jamaica, so that immediately sends up red flags for this Reggae purist and aficionado. Have you heard of “jam” bands like Phish and the Greatful Dead? Well Midnite is basically a reggae jam band. Their songs are like ten minutes long. Supposedly they come out with three albums a year, so much for quality over quantity. My brother-in-law breathlessly exclaims that at the last show he went to in New York they played for four hours straight with only a short break. Uh, no thanks. I’ve never been into that kind of music, so I’m not faulting Midnite fans, it’s just not for me. In any case we all had to listen to how “Rasta to the bone” the lead singer was and other ramblings accompanied by some pretty generic and forgettable riddims. This was at a volume that surely voided any warrantee on the speaker system. I did get turned on to a Reggae artist from Guyana called Natural Black. He’s been around for a while but I never checked him out. He has a nice song called “Life be Same” on the Istanbul Riddim that you can watch on YouTube here.

After that I got to pick up my son and enjoyed a couple of memorable road trips back and forth from the Cape with him. On these drives we got a chance to talk a little about random things that interest twelve-year-old boys. Part of the time was spent educating me* on the new music “gamers” are listening to. They call it DubStep, It sounds a lot like techno to me but I’m just not hip anymore. At least there are no annoying lyrics like you get from pop these days. My son is amused that I’ve become interested in DubStep, and I found out why after reading about it on Wikipedia. Apparently it originated in South London and is derived from “Drum and Bass” and Reggae Dancehall Dj styles. The emphasis is usually on the third beat, just like Reggae, and most DubStep songs include a “bass drop”, which is also employed in many Reggae riddims. My son hates Reggae, and it probably kills him that DubStep is related.

It was sad bringing my son back to my ex’s house after a nice week together; but he had a lot of fun skiing, bowling (the only thing I can beat him at), shooting a shot gun, and exploring the woods with me. He’ll be back for more visits and I’ll get to see his hockey tournament in a couple of weeks too.

Best wishes for a happy, healthy, and prosperous new year to all!

* Playing his ipod through the car’s speaker system at decibel levels approaching a space shuttle launch.


Filed under Pop Culture, Uncategorized

Friday Fictioneers Challenge: Au Clair De La Lune

Every Friday bloggers from around the world come to the blog of Rochelle Wisoff-Fields to share 100 word works of fiction in response to a photo prompt. Here is my submission:

copyright Douglas M Macilroy

copyright Douglas M Macilroy

Charlie couldn’t believe the view from his balcony. A year ago he wouldn’t have imagined leaving his apartment, never mind honeymooning in one of the most glamorous hotels in Paris.

He inhaled deeply, taking in the heady scent of the city stretched out below. The Eiffel Tower glowed proudly just across the river Seine.

With trembling hands he maneuvered his wheelchair back inside. The warmth of the room enveloped him. He heard her softly humming in the bathroom as he closed the embroidered silk curtains.

The two of them had conquered his fear and self-hate together, victorious.

“Regina?” he whispered.


Filed under Fiction Writing, Short Stories

Company For Christmas –Join the Party!

If you find yourself alone on The Big Day, head over to Company for Christmas and chat (WordPress style) with us!

Company for Christmas is a seasonal blog set up for folks that are isolated or can’t be with family or friends. A group of all-star bloggers will be moderating. Somehow I managed to sneak my way in. We’ll be talking about Christmas, community, blogging, relationships, and barbecued ribs. Basically it’s just a big ole party, and YOU’RE invited! Just click on that big C4C button on the right and join the fun.

I’ll be moderating in the coveted early-morning slot from 8am (eastern standard time USA) till 10am, so make sure you drop by my page and show some love, I need the support of my peeps!


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The Most Hurtin Christmas Tree Ever


My wife has a thing for “Charlie Brown” Christmas trees. This year she insisted that we (I) cut down a tree from our back woodlot and bring it in. This was in the middle of an ice storm.

“Can’t we just go up the street and buy the littlest and cheapest tree they have?” I asked.

“Get your saw,” was her reply.

So I trucked out to the woods, which was no small feat since there was a crust of ice over about a foot of snow. I kept falling through and my boots would get hung up on the ice so that I was constantly about to trip. I came across some big moose tracks, how do they stay warm and dry on a day like this?

I located a beautiful fir tree that was about the right height. It was completely encased in ice. When I cut down the tree about half the needles came off. By the time I got it back to the house it was mostly sticks. The wife still wanted to put it up and decorate so in it came, still about half encrusted with ice. We had a nice puddle going where the presents are supposed to go.

That’s the tree this year, anyone else have a soft spot for ugly trees?



Filed under Homesteading

Ice Sculptures


I have a professional grade luge course in my driveway. The temperature has been below freezing but somehow instead of snow, it has been raining. The entire house, deck, and yard is covered in ice. This is looking out the kitchen window at the lovely shrubbery.

So I dumped a bag of rock salt on the driveway and started hacking away with a metal spade. It was nice to be outside, and out in the woods I could hear branches snapping and giving way under the ice. After an hour of chopping the wife was able to drive up the hill and into the garage, success!

Luckily the power is still on. Is anyone else out there covered in ice too?

UPDATE: We lost the power about a half-hour after I posted this. Figures.


Filed under Homesteading

I’m giving meaningful presents this Christmas

Hey everybody! I’ll be taking part in Company for Christmas this year, a seasonal blog that provides a place to come and chat on Christmas. Check out this post for more information:

Come for Company

Hello folks.

I’ve been advised by my medical team that my Blog changes direction so often and so quickly that I should provide neck-braces! I can’t afford them, so I can only beg: please don’t sue me for whiplash. I am very poor!

This is not love poetry, political spleen or ridiculous advice on writing, criminality or homelessness. This is my other arm (yes, I have unusual jumpers) known as Company for Christmas.

I’m trying to do something lovely for people who will find themselves alone this Christmas. It requires no money and only a fraction of your time! It may even earn you some Blog traffic.

You can help by simply reblogging this post. Job done.

If you want, you can also read this post and offer advice, thoughts or even volunteer to help out. No matter what, it can be as little as ten minutes.

You can…

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Friday Fictioneers 100 Word Flash Fiction–Afghanistan


Every Friday, writers from around the world gather at Rochelle Wisoff-Fields blog to share their 100 word flash fiction stories based on a photo prompt. Here is my humble submission:

“That’s nice, you like dolphins?” Regina asked as she deftly finished wrapping Charlie’s wound.

“It was my Mom’s,” he sighed. “She bought that a couple years ago on a trip to Pensacola. That was before the cancer. She’s gone now.”

Regina stood, stuffing bandage wrappers into a large Ziploc bag.

“I’m sorry,” she said.

“I can still feel them,” he said. “My legs I mean. It feels like a friggin bus is parked on top of them.”

“That’s just phantom pain Charlie, it’ll fade with time.”

He closed his eyes, forcing back tears.

“It’s ok Regina. You can go now.”



Filed under Short Stories

Mega Millions of Losers

ImageMega Millions lottery officials announced today that two winning tickets had been sold for a jackpot of 648 million USD. One ticket was sold in Georgia, and another in California. In recent days, lottery officials have been practically gushing as the estimated prize went up and the hype reached nearly epic proportions. What they don’t tell you is how many LOSING tickets were sold.

I see this as well at some convenience stores, they’ll have photocopies of winning scratchies up at the counter or a big sign that says: “$10,000 Winning Lottery Ticket Sold Here!” Ask them how many thousands of dollars they’ve sold in the various state-run gambling schemes in just the last DAY? CNN reports that $8,000 of Mega Millions tickets were sold in just one hour in Florida alone, how much loot do you think they raised across the country? I haven’t been able to find that figure anywhere, but rest assured the states will always win more than they pay out. After all, they make the odds. I would love to be able to print up $50 million worth of scratch tickets that pay out only 5 million in prizes, but of course that would illegal. The 48 states that run lotteries have the balls to send people to jail for naughty things like bookmaking and using drugs, yet they all run the biggest con games on the planet.

How come the media isn’t doing any reporting on all the people who lost money? It wouldn’t be a very glamorous story. Gamblers tend to come from lower-income households, these are the people our state governments choose to prey upon. How many people missed a meal, or couldn’t buy shoes, or pay the bills on time because they blew their money on this latest scam? The Obama administration, champions of the poor, even gave states the right to run their own internet gambling operations.

You’ll hear the argument: “you can’t win if you don’t play”. It sounds logical, but what are the actual probabilities of winning? They are so low as to be almost non-existent. So you may be playing a game, but it’s a game you’re going to lose.

“But Bill, aren’t you a libertarian? Don’t people have the right to gamble away their money if that’s what they choose?” They sure do, but what frosts my balls is that the states run the show. You or I can’t run an internet gaming site unless we want to set up an off-shore company; we can’t print our own scratch tickets and sell them on Ebay. The state gets to determine which casino gets to open and where, so the casinos will not compete with their lotteries. Then they get to spend millions advertising their scams to pull more money out of our pockets, and we go along with it.

Lotteries are a tax, people. Plain and simple. You either choose to give the state more of your money or you don’t.

THEY can’t win, if we don’t play.

How much money did YOU lose on Mega Millions?


Filed under Rants

Master of the Universe


Image credit: Vertigo Comics

My ass is busted. This weekend I got so much crap accomplished I thought I was another person. Normally I’m something of a procrastinator. OK I’m a professional level procrastinator with a lazy streak. If there was a trade organization for procrastination I would be the president, only we would never get around to having meetings. So when I saw myself actually getting things done for once it was hard to believe.

A foot of snow with drifts up to my knees and weather at night dipping down below zero, no problem. My new snow-blower worked fine, although it’ll take some getting used to. I kept getting hung up on frozen rocks in the driveway, maybe I’ll set the skid plates lower. I also didn’t realize until I was done that I had my reading glasses on the whole time. No wonder why things seemed blurry.

I also had to shovel off the deck, and make a little trail to the woodpile. From the woodpile I moved a couple of days worth into the house because I didn’t want to be going outside in the middle of the night when it’s ten below zero (-22 Celsius for you folks that insist on using the metric system, like that’s ever going to catch on).

Let’s see, what else? I made cheese omelets, fed and watered the chickens, baby got her bath (it’s an ordeal, trust me), put plastic film up on a bunch of windows, knocked off some other honey-do items, did laundry–well you get the picture.

Tonight I’m still a little sore. The fire is cranking and the house is all toasty. As I thought about the weekend I remembered a story from Harvey Pekar’s “American Splendor” comic where he fixes a clogged toilet and feels overwhelming pride in this simple accomplishment.  When you have depression problems it’s sometimes hard just to get dressed, so yeah when I get a bunch of stuff done it’s a big deal. I may even celebrate. Now if I could just get that short story finished…



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