Archive for February 2015

02-27-2015 Journal–Home Brewing Challenges!   Leave a comment

Today will be a short lesson on making wine.  As I’ve mentioned in past postings I’ve been attempting to make a batch of Honey/Maple Mead.  A few weeks ago I began the process and things were going quite well.  After the initial fermentation the color of the mead was a beautiful golden color and was clearing nicely as the yeast completed it’s alcohol production.   Maintaining a temperature of seventy degrees was the only challenge at first but things appeared to be going well.

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I siphoned the wine a second time two weeks ago and was feeling pretty good about things but I should know by now never to get overconfident.  After completing the siphoning and out of curiosity I decided to take a quick taste.  I was hoping for a smooth and mildly sweet mead.  Wrong, wrong, and wrong. It was extremely dry and tart with almost no aroma of either honey or maple. I’m afraid that the champagne yeast was a wrong choice for this type of wine. Champagne yeast is more resistant to alcohol giving the batch a tartness I wasn’t looking for. Normal yeast would’ve given me a much milder version that was a little sweeter and closer to my goal.

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What I’m really  trying to say is this batch is awful and I was sorely tempted to throw the entire experiment out. I then decided to attempt the impossible and fix the problem.  I needed to add just enough sugar to sweeten the mead to bring back the flavor that is being hidden by the harshness of the alcohol. After experimenting with different sugars I decided to stay with the theme of the mead and to sweeten it with Maple syrup.  I added one cup of diluted maple syrup to each gallon of mead which I hoped would give the mead a much sweeter flavor and a deeper color.  The maple flavor was wonderful and the aroma was amazing.

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I placed the jugs back into a warm room to determine if the yeast would reactivate.  So far it seems to be lightly fermenting which was expected.  I’ll let it sit for a few weeks to allow the yeast to die and for it to clear once again. Then a final taste test and I hope a successful bottling.

I’ll have my fingers crossed the entire time hoping against hope the problem has been resolved. I’ll let you know.

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02-25-2015 Journal–Sunny & OMFG Cold!   Leave a comment

I can’t believe it but I’ve succeeded in sleeping in until 9am this morning.  I suppose  the late night pickup at the Portland Jetport is primarily responsible. My better-half’s flight was scheduled to arrive at 10pm but air travel being what it is she arrived on a different airline and at 1140pm.  Airline travel sucks on a good day but then you add in Maine and winter weather it becomes ridiculous. I won’t get into a major rant on airline companies today because anyone who flies anywhere that isn’t first class or non-stop is well aware how they make you suffer. Maybe they’re doing it intentionally to force as many people as possible to pay the extra money to avoid flying coach with multiple connectors.

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Maybe I should thank my better-half for bringing back a little sunshine from her journey.  For the first time in a long while I was awakened by bright sunshine blasting through the layer of ice hanging from the house and into my bedroom.  It’s a brilliant sunny day and the temperature has yet to reach 20 degrees.  These photographs were taken from inside the house because it’s almost impossible to walk anywhere in this deep snow.

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As you can see it’s impossible to enjoy the scenery without ice and snow being the main focus.  The cold weather is expected to last well into March which means this ice will be hanging around (no pun intended) for at least another month.

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The birds are finally making an appearance in fairly large numbers.  They’re roosting in nearby trees and soaking up as much of the sunshine as they possibly can.  It’s tough being a bird in any northern state at this time of the year.

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The squirrels aren’t going to be too happy either when they’re finally able to stick their heads out of their nests.  Mother Nature has badly damaged their feeder which will be my first Spring project.

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02-23-2015 Journal–Bottle Snatchers!   Leave a comment

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Today is that day that occurs every six weeks or so and honestly it’s not one of my favorites.  Let me explain.

First, regardless of what you know or think you know I’m not a fanatical environmentalist. I’m a former Greenpeace member who bailed out on them when they decided  to turn their attentions to banning nuclear power. I’m a former Sierra Club member who decided that any organization that puts the needs of animals before humans regardless of the consequences is too extreme for me. I’m also militantly against organizations like PETA and the idiots that  run them.

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Now let me confuse you further.  Up until 8 years ago I NEVER recycled anything.  It wasn’t that I didn’t care about the environment but I just didn’t see any long term benefits that required an investment of my time.  I understand the need for it now but for the most part I didn’t take it seriously then.

When I met my better-half and after we decided to be together FOREVER my brainwashing began.  In any relationship it’s mandatory that each participant be willing to compromise on certain things to maintain harmony.  My better-half is convinced that by recycling she will save the world. Totally naïve but understandable. Unfortunately the town of Saco, Maine where we live apparently agrees with her.  We’re now forced to recycle by the local government  which in turn  gives her even more ammunition to use against me.  Separate the paper and plastic into the brown container and all of that good old fashioned trash into the green container.  If you don’t obey the rules the town will refuse to pick up your trash. Heil Hitler to you too.

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All of my working life experiences and accomplishments have now been turned on their head.  Every six weeks or so I’m required to make a trip to a local recycling center to cash in bags of bottle and cans.  I was coerced into maintaining those containers at our residence where each days bottles and cans can be collected and stored.  Now part of my garage smells suspicious like that dumpy recycling center. If you like the smell of stale beer and garbage you too can be an environmentalist.

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We live in a rural area and use a well as our primary source of water.  Unfortunately well water is notorious for heavy mineral content and the occasional smell of rotten eggs.  So for cooking, coffee making, and normal consumption we use bottled water purchased from local retailers.  My new career as forced upon me by my better-half has reduced me to the level of a homeless guy wandering the streets collecting bottles and cans to save a nickel or two.

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So every six to eight weeks I bundle up bags of bottles and cans, put the stinky crap in my car, and head out to collect my seven dollars. It supplies me with just enough money to pay for my cat’s needs.  His food, treats, and litter are now paid for by my endless recycling efforts.  To tell you the truth I’d much rather just pay for it myself and stop all this madness but this is the compromise I must make to maintain this Garden of Eden we live in and all of the benefits it provides.

Oh yeah, I’m also saving the freaking world too. Brother !!!

02-21-2015 Journal–Winter Doldrums!   Leave a comment

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The cat and I have been reduced to bachelor status since my better-half flew off to Delaware until next Tuesday.  She had a death in her family and had to  to drop everything quickly and catch a flight.  I dropped her at the airport in a freaking blizzard and returned home. Three hours later she was still in the plane sitting on the runway waiting for it to be deiced.  Just hearing that made my palms a little sweaty. That late start insured she’d miss her connector in Newark and be forced to stay the night at one of New Jersey’s finer motels. Anything that an airlines agrees to pay for will almost certainly be on the lower end of the luxury scale.  She eventually made it to Baltimore the following day as a much more experienced traveler than when she left.

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I woke up yesterday to a little more snow but it didn’t upset me at all. I tried to get a good nights sleep but the cat was being a huge pain in the ass.  He was upset that my better-half wasn’t there and kept getting up when he heard noises thinking she had come home.  It drove me a little crazy and around 3 am after a few minutes of rude name calling I  locked him out of the bedroom. It truly is a miracle that he’s lived as long as he has because I’ve wanted to kill him on numerous occasions and last night was one of them. He’s definitely used up all of his nine lives by now so he’d better be careful in the future.

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Today I thawed out a large container of my four alarm, OMFG chili and choked it down while watching TV and working on the computer.  I’ve been doing everything possible to convince Windows 8.1 to accept an old computer game from 1995 so I can play it once again.  It’s my all time favorite simulation and Hooray, Hooray, I finally got it working.  The game is called Pharaoh with an add-on called Cleopatra.  It’s still good after all these years and tomorrow I’ll be spending a good part of the day having some fun with it.

The cat has calmed down a little so tonight should be a little quieter. With any luck I’ll be able to get out with my camera tomorrow and commune with good old Mother Nature for a while.  I’d like to get another collection of really good snow photos before winter suddenly comes to an end.

My better-half should be returning on Tuesday after the funeral and I’ll sure be happy about that.

02-19-2015 Journal – Snow Rage!   Leave a comment

For years we’ve all been seeing and hearing about the numerous incidents of road rage that seem to occur daily somewhere in this country.  There are shootings, stabbings, fist fights, and worse reported. Over the years I’ve had two memorable road rage incidents where I was once the aggressor and once the victim. I’m not proud of my actions but for some reason throwing the finger just wasn’t enough at those times. I can understand how those incidents can quickly become hostile and extremely dangerous.  I once had an older gray haired women do her very best to run me off the road into some guard rails with her big Cadillac sedan. I never even received the obligatory one finger salute before she tried to kill me.

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Living in Maine for all these years has made me aware of a local problem somewhat similar to road rage but not quite as serious.  In Maine we have Snow Rage.  With all the snow the northeast has been receiving this year many people in the surrounding states are seeing and experienced it for the first time.

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Since the beginning of the year we’ve been buried in serious amounts of snow and as I cruise around I find myself witnessing many snow rage incidents.  I recently saw a little old man shoveling his driveway entrance after the snow plow almost buried him.  I couldn’t hear exactly what he was yelling but along with the one finger salute was quite the string of obscenities.

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In a nearby town the streets are clogged with snow to the point of insanity. I watched a guy snow blowing large amounts of snow from his driveway back into the city street. With no place to put it he really had no other choice. Unfortunately he failed to see a passing motorist who was pelted with a huge stream of dirty snow across his windshield.  There was a considerable amount of yelling and screaming but as they talked the motorist must have felt a little sympathy for the plight of the home owner.  They shook hands and went on about their business. Violence was avoided by their agreement that there was too much damn snow, that snow plow drivers suck, and the town isn’t getting the streets cleaned like it should.  No guns were pulled or punches thrown as you usually see in some road rage incidents.

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I see and hear many innocent and loud discussions taking place in parking lots all over the area but never any real violence.  We’re all being victimized by good old Mother Nature and regardless of how much we bitch and complain she just doesn’t care. Living in Maine can be trying at times but I wouldn’t trade it for the world.

02-17-2015 Journal – Lady, The Tramp, Alvin & Me!   Leave a comment

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There’ll be no photographs today through no fault of my own.  It was one of those days that I had a myriad of totally blah things to do.  At the same time all of those chores were immediately placed on the back burner with the arrival of the grandson who was spending the day with us.

I was up early and on my way to a local auto repair shop for my annual car inspection. I knew there was going to be some added costs to this inspection when I couldn’t get my car started a few days ago.  I made it to the shop, had the inspection completed, installed a new battery, and was on my way home by 9 am, no harm, no foul!

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I arrived back home just after the grandson was dropped off by his mother and things got interesting very quickly.  Let me just say this.  If I ever see the Lady and the Tramp video again I’ll scream out loud.  We also watched Alvin and the Chipmunks and of course Shrek one more blessed time.  That’s four hours of my life I’ll never get back.

Needless to say our young man is beginning to talk a lot. Unfortunately only he really knows what he’s saying.  As we sat and watched Shrek he talked nonstop for ten minutes as he told me something about the movie but I have no clue what it was. He rambled on and on and was laughing and giggling.  I just nodded and smiled when I thought it was necessary and he was thrilled. Maybe someday soon when he’s a little older he’ll explain to me what the hell was so damn funny.  It had something to do with the donkey but that’s about all I really know. He thought it was hysterical. 

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Later I invited him into the kitchen to keep me company while I made us breakfast.  He loved the scrambled eggs, bacon, and toast and couldn’t wait to tell his mother I’d cooked for him.  I was happy to get him into the kitchen at such a young age because it’ll make it so much easier to teach him how to cook on down the road.  Once I tell him that most women love a man who can cook for them he’ll be hooked just like I was.

He just left with his mom, had an armload of movies, and a few stories to tell his dad later tonight. He’s just so much fun to spend time with but now it’s time for a serious nap because he wears me out.

02-15-2015 Journal – Snow, Birds, & Shoveling!   Leave a comment

I have a huge smile on my face today for the first time in a long while.  I’m celebrating the big OOPS from the weather forecasters.  All I’ve been hearing for the last week is OMG prepare for the blizzard of the century.  The warnings began with stock up on food, water, gasoline, and possibly condoms.  Then they said, the snow is going to be so deep you may not be able to leave the house at all, it’s the storm of the millennium, the blizzard of all blizzards, wind chills of twenty below zero!  God help us all!  It was all just so much BS.

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I went to bed last night expecting to wake up to 24 plus inches of fresh snow, drifts seven feet high, and winds over fifty mph.  NOT, NOT, AND NOT.  I went out early to clear the driveway and measured just 4-5 inches of new snow and the wind speed was moderate.  So many businesses and agencies who listen and swear by these weather people had cancelled their activities as reflected on every TV channel in the area last night.

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I returned to the house and made myself a great breakfast of bacon, eggs, toast and coffee. I looked out the window and it still wasn’t snowing.  I returned to my chore of clearing more snow from the deck so I could reach the bird feeders.  The birds have been clamoring  for days for seed and suet refills and I was beginning to feel just a little guilty. 

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It took about twenty minutes to complete and all the while the birds were circling me and the feeders and waiting for me to get he hell out of the way. These woodpeckers are especially aggressive and are constantly fighting with the blue jays for ownership of the feeders. On top of that they barely tolerate me being in the area. Damn birds.

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For two days I’ve been clearing tons of snow and ice from my deck.  It wraps around the second floor of the house and is a joy in warm weather.  However in the winter it’s a real bitch.  I’ve found out this year  just how well built it really is and how much weight it can hold.

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I think I’ll retire to the living room soon and get reacquainted with my X-Box. I need an hour or two of head clearing mayhem before the better-half gets home from work and rewrites my honey-do list.

Thanks to all of you weather people out there for your miscalculations and incorrect forecasts.  Keep up the good work.

02-13-2015 Journal – You’ve Got Mail–NOT!   Leave a comment

Another day in the deep freeze that is Maine. I keep bitching about all of the snow but each day I’m also anticipating and hoping for a few snow free days. We had three or four inches of snow yesterday which this year is like nothing at all. I’ve been constantly trying to widen the driveway in order to have more room for the new snow that’s coming but it’s a losing battle. Here are a few mailbox related photo’s.  None of them are my mail box because it was totally destroyed by the snow plow in the last storm.  I have only a bag full of pieces left.

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‘This is as good as you can hope for.’

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‘This delusional neighbor honestly thought these red streamers would help.’

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‘You’ve Got Mail – NOT’

I checked the weather forecast last night and OMFG was I sorry I did. A new storm is on the way and is forecast to drop somewhere in the area of two more feet on us on Saturday and Sunday.  To add insult to injury they’re predicting wind gusts of fifty mph which should make for some humongous snow drifts and ball freezing wind chills.  The drifts could possibly get as high as six feet or more.

With all of that good news coming our way I’m going to spend this snow free Friday preparing for the coming storm and also our celebration of Valentines Day.  I’ve completed my shopping for Valentines Day gifts and if it snows a few feet we’ll have lots of snuggling time to be sure. 

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My better-half made arrangements last night for a heating oil delivery this morning and I’m patiently waiting for the truck to get here.  I spent a half-hour last night digging a path from the driveway around the side of the house to where the oil tank nozzle is located. If we don’t have a path properly cleared they won’t deliver the oil. I’m always cooperative especially when I have no freaking choice.

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The next chore is to make a quick trip out for a few gallons of gas for the snowblower. With all this snow on the way the blower will be getting a serious workout and I certainly don’t want to run out of fuel.  I’d have a heart attack and die if I was forced to shovel all this white crap by hand.  We’ve stocked up on food and checked the generator to make sure we’ll have power if there’s an outage.  Just a normal process we must adhere to for any large winter storm here in Maine.  Then we can sit back, watch the snow pile up, and pray for Spring to arrive.

I heard on the news yesterday that we’ve had between seventy and eighty inches of snow since the first of the year which even in Maine is outrageous. It should make for some really cool photographs and I intend to take as many as I possibly can. I guess the old saying is true, “when you’re given lemons make lemonade.”

02-11-2015 Journal–More SNOW!!!!!!   Leave a comment

My life is no longer my own.  It seems my only purpose in life is to monitor the weather reports to determine how much snow is coming and then to spend a great deal of time moving the white stuff around to clear walkways and the driveway.  With two storms a week becoming the norm I can anticipate more and more snow in the next few weeks.

Even my cat is pissed about the snow.  His routine includes four hours a day lying on a huge bean bag in front of the picture window.  He loves watching traffic go by and seeing the birds flying around.  That’s his job and if you get right down to it, it’s a better job than mine.  I took this picture today as he sat looking out at the snow.  He’s not too happy about it either.

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‘It’s a little tough to see much of anything.’

The snow and ice on the roof worry me a little because every night the news reports tell of collapsing roofs on all sorts of buildings.  As you can see from this view from my bedroom window, the icicles are almost ten feet long on the rear of the house.

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It’s a wonder that any of the birds that stick around through the winter are still alive. We normally feed them all winter but it’s tough even getting to the feeders with five or six feet of snow making it almost impossible.  I  tried to take a short walk just a few feet into the backyard and this was as far as I could get.

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I keep hearing that this is the snowiest winter in recent memory here in Maine.  Taking into account that March is normally our snowiest month we may be in for a lot more before Spring decides to arrive.  If this craziness keeps up I may have to invest in a much larger and fancier snowblower. It should have a nice padded seat, a heater, and a hookup for my Ipod.  A cup holder would also be nice because I wouldn’t want to spill my Irish coffee. 

Then bring on the effing snow.

02-09-2015 Journal–Honey & Maple Mead!   1 comment

The cat and I are still in bed as I write this. My better-half is out in the snow storm on her way to work and I’m waiting by the telephone in case of any emergencies. The snow is relatively light but has been coming down steadily since last night and it’s anticipated to continue for the next twenty-four hours. The roads quite simply are a bitch.

To say I’m a little sick of the snow is a major understatement. I’ve decided that going out to clear the driveway will just have to wait until much later in the day. I’m thoroughly enjoying my coffee and cookies and I intend to stay warm and toasty for as long as possible.

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Having this cold weather keeps the house temperatures in the med to low sixties. That temperature issue gave me fits earlier in the week when I decided to make a new experimental batch of home made wine.  I’ve made Mead in years past which is basically nothing more than wine made from honey.  In keeping with my goals for 2015 I wanted to make something new and different.  After a lot of research I created a recipe that would make a Honey & Maple Syrup Mead. I had to make a few educated guesses with the ingredients but I pushed fearlessly forward.

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The basic ingredients consist of distilled water, Orange Blossom honey, Clover honey, and an all natural maple syrup made with the sap from local trees. My difficulty was going to be able to keep the primary fermenter warm enough to properly activate the yeast.  Our house is usually sixty three degrees but I need temps between 68-74 for the best results.

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I was forced to use a small heater that I purchased many years ago that was once a tropical fish tank heater. It’ been sitting in a box in the garage for a couple of decades. It’s a long glass tube that you insert into the fermenter and it’s thermostat maintains the level of heat you select.  After all these years the little devil worked perfectly.  I then added just a pinch of roasted fennel seeds and rosemary for a faint hint of licorice and pine which I hope will give the wine a little character. 

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Once the wine was siphoned from the fermenter into the glass jugs I moved them all upstairs to store them in the warmest area of the house.  The heat must be sufficiently high because they’re bubbling away as they should be. In a few months I’ll have something new and interesting to sample and it’ll  either be 25 bottles of tasty wine or something God awful.  We’ll just have to wait and see. Making wine teaches a person patience if nothing else.

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I’d like to keep writing but I’m wanting more coffee to help me find the motivation I need to get out of this warm bed and to go play in the snow.