Chronicles of the Long Shot Farm

Sewing Fur Made Easier

So we purchased a commercial fur sewing machine – I should explain this process: Jeff has been checking out fur sewing machines (a most useful tool) for a while and found a used one on Craigs list in Boston, where Anja and Duff made arrangements to pick it up, but they had to wait until Zach needed to travel to New England for work (from Ohio) with his pick-up truck, so they could physically get this machine, which is attached to a heavy duty table, and then Zach drove home via Carlisle and dropped the machine off.

Jeff threading the machine

This is not at all like an ordinary sewing machine and it does amazing seams with fur – the seam looks similar to one made by a serger machine, but much, much finer.  Up to now, we had been using Tina’s rather nice, regular sewing machine, but the fur was pretty hard on it.  Despite this, Anja and Jeff made several raccoon hats before  – see older blog post – and last year we made a fur stole for Grammy, which turned out ok as well.  Looks like this winter we’ll get to sew in a much more efficient way!

Wine Chemistry

Checking for total acidity
using our Vinmetrica

We’ve been getting better at analyzing and testing our grapes and juice.  Each year, we’ve bought additional “tools” and learned more about the chemistry and microbiology of wine.  Our last major purchase was a Vinmetrica system earlier this year, for checking pH, Total Acidity and SO2. 

Tina is currently taking a wine chemistry class at the local community college and got to use more sophisticated equipment during a “hands-on” lab this weekend.  This included an ebulliometer, a cash still and an  aeration-oxidation apparatus. We also did some chromatography and had lots of practice with different titration methods.

Checking sulfur dioxide levels
via the aeration oxidation method
Using a Cash Still to determine
levels of volatile acidity

Apple Cider Time Again

We pressed a “bin” of apples this weekend – roughly 25 bushels.  Fortunately, the apples we got were really nice and large.  Apparently the bin had been dropped, causing some bruising, which automatically turned the apples into “juice grade”, which was lucky for us.  It only took a few hours to run the apples through the cider press – it seems that every year we get more efficient with this process.  There is nothing as good as fresh pressed cider!  Though some of the juice ended up in a fermenting tub as well 🙂

Wine Supplies and Pears

After measuring all the “vital data” for our newest batch of wine, we realized that our Total Acidity reading were a bit high, and decided to try for malolactic fermentation this time.  Of course we should have anticipated this option much earlier and ordered or bought the necessary bacterial culture.  Unfortunately, the local wine supply store did not have what we needed, and we only had a short window of time to add the bacteria (toward the end of the yeast fermentation). The closest store we could find that had it in stock was in Bethlehem, PA.  While Tina made the trip to buy malolactic bacteria, Jeff and Lars went to a friend’s farm to pick pears:


All in all it turned out to be a productive weekend, we got 9 bushels of pears, and we were able to inoculate our fermenting chambourcin grapes with malolactic bacteria.

Chambourcin Harvest 2013

It only took us one day to harvest our grapes, with some helpers, a perfect day and an early start!  We alternated between  picking and crushing, then cleaning up – and started over.  In a way, this was a “test” year, since we don’t have that many vines bearing fruit yet. 

We started with picking:

Brought everything to the “crush pad” by the barn:

Where we weighed each container – and also weighed some of the larger clusters (some weighed over 1 lbs):

We used our cider press – minus the actual press part – for crushing the grapes, and the we manually did the de-stemming.  In addition to pulling out all the stems, we were also paying close attention to spiders, stink-bugs and all sorts of other critters.  We were closely on the look-out for Asian lady bugs (the yellow kind), but did not find a single one.
The crushed berries were dumped into one of our fermenters: