Strawberry Wine

It’s strawberry season ’round here.
That means there’s ample u-pick places to go and get your fill of berries.
This year we’ve had enough rain that the berries are huge, juicy and amazingly tasty.
Or, maybe we’re all just happy af to have berries after last year’s drought.
Either way…
We made our way out to get some berries.
Which for me means eating a basket on the drive home and then freezing the rest for wine.
Well, and a batch of jam for Hubby, because he likes jam.

I use a simple wine recipe I found way back when I first wanted to make fruit (or country) wines.
Danger Dave’s Dragon Blood wine.
It’s an easy peasy, should be ready to drink in a month, wine.

Now, as always, I adjust the recipe…
The original calls for a mere 6lbs of fruit.
😂😂😂
Yeah so, I typically use 20lbs of fruit, sometimes more.
Like when I do a green tomato wine, minimum is 25lbs of green tomatoes.
I also often leave out the lemon juice, depending what fruits I’m using.
Actually, truth be told, lemon juice is kept on hand for canning tomatoes, so unless I’m making *lemon* wine (google “skeeter pee”…you won’t regret it 😉 ), I pretty much leave it out.
Same with the tannin…if I think of it, I add it, but most times, I don’t even think of it…

‘Kay so, my strawberry wine looks like this:

20lbs fruit…washed, sliced and frozen
3tsp pectic enzyme (helps the wine clear…but I often forget this too)
3 tsp. yeast nutrient (stir)
1 tsp. yeast energizer (stir)
With the nutrient and energizer…I only use nutrient, because I rarely have energizer on hand…if you have both, great, but not necessary…and I add this the next day with the packaged yeast.
Yeast package…I typically use EC-1118 yeast, but a while back I got a fantastic deal on a bunch of Super B wine yeast…all I could grab in a handful for $5…yay for having freakishly large hands for a woman!! 😂😂😂
This is another thing you’re going to want to get from a brew shop…yeah, you can use bread yeast, but honestly, it’s worth the money to buy the right yeast for the job.
Bread yeast gives a hot, yeasty finish…it’s not pleasant, IMO.
YMMV.

(Can you tell this is a very loosey goosey kinda recipe? there’s *lots* of wiggle room!)

Then sugar…normally I find around 5-6 kgs does the job…just plain old white sugar…I’m aiming for a starting gravity (s.g) of 1.070-1.080…
And good, clean water.
I tend to make 8 gallon batches…this recipe is about right for that…

So, of course this goes on the assumption you have some basic wine making equipment.
~ A big pail…my main primary (big pail) holds 10 gallons (it’s kinda small, I gotta find a bigger one *and* a place to put it!)
~ A mesh fruit bag…this is a cheap af luxury. You can do without it, but it makes your wine making life a bazillion times easier. Go ahead and spend the $5. It’s worth it!
~ A hydrometer. You can get one cheap (under $10) at any brew shop. This simple tool tells you your s.g and your f.g.(final gravity).
With those numbers you know a. when your wine is done fermenting, and 2. how much alcohol is in your wine…if you’re going to go on and distill any of your wine (where it’s legal or you just don’t care 😉 ), you’ll want to get a proof and trailles hydrometer as well…you use that with your distilled spirits to find your proof (proof is double your alcohol percentage…ie. 110 proof vodka is 55% alcohol). You need to know this in order to dilute or for using your distillate for tinctures….but that’s a whole ‘nother blog post. 😉
~ A racking cane…this helps you siphon your fermented juices off the gross crap (called lees) at the bottom of your pail.
~ A carboy with a bung and airlock.
Glass is best for a carboy. You can bulk age (typically) 6 gallons at one time.
You use the bung and airlock to keep oxygen from ruining the shit out of your wine…and wild random yeasties from turning your 6 gallons of wine into 6 gallons of vinegar.
Trust me. That fucking sucks when it happens.
~ Sanitizer. This is a must if you want your wines to turn out.
Not bleach. Just spend the money on proper sanitizer from the brew shop, ‘kay?
I use the pink stuff, but tons of folks swear by StarSan…and one day I may switch to it because you don’t have to rinse afterwards, so *that* would be bonus…but I buy the pink stuff by the 2kg bag and it lasts a long time.
And lastly, on the list of should have (though I view them as must haves) is:
~ Bottles and a corker.
Duh, right?
But seriously, the first kit I made, I didn’t have enough bottles when it came to bottling time. I used mason jars for what didn’t fit in the ones I had…drank that first though, because mason jars, unless processed like in canning, don’t keep air out.
Now, the corker *can* be optional, if you’re using screw tops…and TBH, when I *know* a wine isn’t gonna last me longer than a few months, I use 1 liter plastic bottles with screw tops.
Longer aging wines (like dandelion or my beet root…yes, you read that right…I make a beet root wine…) get corked glass bottles.

So there…if you have a basic kit of supplies (like *so basic* every brew shop has a “buy it as a kit” version where everything except maybe the brew bag and the proof and trailles hydrometer are in it), you can do just about any wine/shine (you’ll need a still for shine, but again, that’s a whole ‘nother post 😉 )…with stuff from the grocery store/local farms/your own garden or backyard.
Though, you can buy wine kits too…and those can be awesome too.
I too will buy a kit now and then…but I also love the fuck out of harvesting fruits (and some veggies) to create a wine.

I follow the process for the Dragon’s Blood fairly closely.
At least for the first bit while it’s in the primary pail (I cover my primary with saran wrap and a towel, I don’t worry about a lid), but once it’s in the carboy, I’m a negligent winemaker.
I’ve got a couple “bulk aging” right now (read:too lazy to bottle) that have been there for a year or more…in fact the chokecherry is coming up on 2 years in the carboy. I just keep topping up the water in the airlock to keep air from getting in and ruining it.
When I get around to bottling, it oughta be effing amazing.
😉

So, that’s how I do it.
Any questions, feel free to ask.
I will do my best to answer.
🙂


White Turkeys

That is a wrap on white turkey growing for the year.
Yee. Haw.
We learned some things, have plans to improve those things, and yup, will definitely grow them again next year.

First thing…
Remember I said I wanted to keep the hen for the breeding program with the Narragansetts?
HA!!
Good thing we decided against it.
The one I thought was a hen…wasn’t.
In fact it was the only male in the group of 6.
That’s right, the massive 30-40lb birds were actually the hens.
So I would have been keeping the wrong bird!
And clearly, the size of the hens would have made long term health for them all but impossible.
But they’re not bred for health, they’re bred for fast and furious growth and off to the freezer.
Still, mine went 24 weeks without issues, where most commercial turkeys are done at 16.
I figure as long as they’re running and hooting looking for their morning hard boiled eggs, they’re good to stay.

Which brings me to the 2nd thing…
Size.
Oh my word.
Those hens I thought were toms were huge!
I don’t have a final dressed out weight yet, but they did not fit the restraining cone.
And even though we tried to make it work, the cone completely split on the 2nd to last bird.
So we need to invest in metal restraining cones.
Whether Hubby makes them or we buy them, doesn’t matter.
Also, thankfully we had the turkey fryer pot for the scald to pluck dip.
Our regular pot we use with meaties and roosters is waaaaay too small.
And!
Our plucker, which says it can handle turkeys…can’t.
Or, at least not the size these hens made.
So we either grow them smaller next year (😂😂😂) or we hand pluck.
They are easy enough to hand pluck.

Of course the other thing about size is the rest period after butcher.
They have to stay in the fridge for 24-48 hours afterwards and before packaging.
We have our regular food fridge up stairs and the basement beer/butchering fridge.
Um, the basement fridge is really, really full with 6 turkeys.
😂😂😂
If we grew more than 6 (we had 10 but had a 40% loss over their growing season) we’d have to do processing for more than 1 day.

Finally, feed costs…
Turkeys are expensive to raise.
There’s no getting around that.
For the first 8 weeks, they need a quality high protein feed.
For us, that meant buying the gamebird feed from the local feed store…and supplementing with hard boiled eggs.
Each poult eats an average of 3 ~ 55lb bags in their first 8 weeks.
They grow fast and need ample protein and energy to do it, so feed is out for them 24/7.
After the first 8 weeks, I transition them to the fermented barley/wheat chop that we feed everyone else.
But they still get hard boiled eggs.
Both for protein and to help the transition.
Once fully on the chop, they get that with garden weeds, thistles, greens and kitchen scraps.
And hard boiled eggs. 😂😂😂
What?
They really, really, really love hard boiled eggs!
Plus the next poults will learn what the goodies from Loop are sooner, rather than later. 😉

So, 6 whites go through roughly 55-110lbs of fermented feed a week.
That fluctuates with the amount of green/weeds and food waste from Loop.

Cost wise?
$6.70 for each poult.
3 x $27.50 for gamebird feed.
16 weeks at 2 x $8 for chop/6
**edited to adjust the chop costs since I forgot to divide the 16 week total by 6 for 6 poults.

Which gives us a total of $131.86 to raise a poult to butcher.
It’s that upfront of almost $100 in feed, plus that we pushed them out to 24 weeks.
But their size shows that 24 weeks was fine.
And to get size like that in 16 weeks, you’re feeding more bagged feed than the chop.
See?
Turkeys are just plain spendy to raise.

So why do it?
Well, it’s because happy food tastes better.
This growing your own food thing isn’t always about saving money.
Hell, I’d say growing food animals is almost always a money losing activity.
BUT
I say this so often…we are what we eat.
And eating poorly raised, never ever see the light of day, no delight in weeds and greens tossed to them, no space for turkey races and fun, turkeys has an effect on us.
Never mind that it’s cruel, in my opinion, to keep birds locked up away from the sunshine and the ability to act naturally.
So we raise our birds on the ground, in the sunshine, giving them the foods they love and that help them grow. Anyone who’s been here can see, my birbs are happy af.
Just watch ’em come running when they see me…because that means The Food Lady is bringing *something* good. 😉
That’s worth the cost.

To sum up:
Turkeys are expensive.
The end product is huge and worth it.
Need metal kill cones.
And a 3rd fridge (or a walk in) would be nice.

Last Day of February

Ever have one of those months where all you can think is “holy shit, I made it!”??
Yep, that was February for me.
😂😂😂

But today is the last day, I’m almost ready to fire up the grow lights…
Oh.
Wait.
So I’m sending Hubby out on a mission tomorrow. Because my stand for growing seedlings isn’t big enough.
And I always end up with some in the library window, with a hanging lamp that doesn’t have enough light to keep the plants from getting long and leggy before planting.
Thanks to the google, I discovered the Home Depot here in Canada has a led light fixture that is a grow light.
Probably designed for the folks who want to grow pot (because that’s legal here now) but hey…it works for us gardening folks.
So I’m sending Hubby out to buy me one tomorrow after work.
And then, if that works, I’ll send him back for another 2 of them.
And we’ll build one of the shelving units we have in boxes in the basement and hook up lights for 3 shelves and then I’ll have 2 plant stands and 4 shelves to grow seedlings!
Not that I’m excited about growing seedling for the garden or anything…
Oh no.
Not me.
Not even a little bit.
😂😂😂
Okay…maybe a little bit.

We’re a week into the first round of incubation.
I haven’t candled the eggs yet.
Maybe tonight, if I remember.
Not sure how many are going to be good…I had to collect for 6 days before I had enough, which is longer than I like to collect eggs for.
After that polar vortex ripped through here, the hens were withholding eggs like crazy.
Down from 60ish a day to 8…if I was lucky.
They’re on the upswing now, which is good because in 2 weeks Ima need aaaaallllll the greens and blues they’ll give me.
I always collect as many of those as I can for hatching, then fill in with the browns.
Those genetic egg pictures tell me my big roos from brown eggs crossed on blue and green egg layers should give me more green eggs…
I love me some colour in my egg basket.
😉

This is Miracle the Rooster…and nice side eye from that black hen there…🙄

See? Big rooster.
This guy’s name is Miracle.
He came to us a year ago on NYE with 2 other boys and a group of hens.
A friend needed to rehome her birds and asked if I was interested.
Yup!
Now, this guy and his 2 brothers were originally called Larry, Darryl and Darryl (google it if you don’t get the reference 😉 ), but this summer and fall we had no end of trouble with that damn coyote.
Bastard got the other Darryl and we thought got this Darryl too…
Until the evening (because that stinking coyote was brazen enough to be picking my birds off in the middle of the damn day!) and we were bbq’ing and my Kid goes dashing off the deck yelling “rooster!!”
And I’m like “wtf?!?” as she runs to the pasture fence, climbs over, then climbs back with this rooster in her arms…well, he was short some tail feathers and he was definitely in shock, but we couldn’t find any other injuries on him.
So we banded his leg and re-named him Miracle because it’s a damn miracle he got away from the coyote!
Lemme tell ya, he’s a lot more careful how far he lets his hens go and he sure does make sure they listen and scuttle their feathered butts back to safety the *second* he says so…
He’s a lucky boy to still be alive and he knows it!
Hopefully he teaches the other roosters to be just as diligent with their ladies.
(though thankfully we haven’t seen Wile E since the last time we fired shots at his rear end…)

So we’re ready for March.
Looks like it’s coming in like a Lamb, and I’ll be expecting it to go out like one too.
Either way, we’re ready for spring, for building, for gardening, for the growing season overall.

And maybe a nap or two too. 😉

December Already…

You wouldn’t know it, looking out my window.
It’s sunny and cool, there’s not much snow, and today is Rooster Rehab day.
I’m grateful for the nice weather.
Not only because I can take out more roosters from the flock, but because I’m just happy for nice days.
We don’t get a lot of those right now.
So I’m trying to find a bit of peace and happiness wherever I can.
Plus this nicer weather means The Merry Mares aren’t gobbling through the winter hay supply like it’s endless.
😂😂😂

Last week we butchered 3 of the turkey boys.
Welp, Narragansetts win for flavor!
Holy. Moly.
This ain’t your grocery store bird, lemme tell ya!
So we’re pretty okay with our breeding flock, now more than ever.
I still plan to raise some whites, but now it’s just to prove I can.
Not that I’m stubborn or anything.
😂😂😂

Aside from running the Rehab today, there’s not much new here.
We’re still plugging along, watching the world burn around us, trying not to get caught up in it.
Egg sales have finally caught up, and I’m making some of Alton Brown’s aged eggnog this weekend.
At least I’ll have that to sip while the world continues to lose it’s collective mind.

Here’s a picture of Astrid in the early morning light, just to make you smile. 🙂

Blessed Lammas

Mid summer already.
Holy smokes, this year…after the slowest passing winter, this summer seems to be flying by us.

Things are kicking into high gear here.
Meat chickens are graduating to freezer camp…the first 10 went last weekend.
The rest go this weekend.
The freezers are being cleaned out of last year’s meats and turned into sausages.
Yeah, I’m really on this kick of making sausages.
The roosters from last year were so flavorful, but not good eating on the bbq. They were just too tough.
We bbq a lot.
But cooked low and slow, they were amazing!
So I figure I’ll take what’s left, grind with some bacon and seasonings and make sausage.
I also have some of last year’s pork left that I’ll do the same with.

We found some bags of chopped green tomatoes in there too.
So the next round of green tomato wine starts this weekend.
As well as a grapefruit one…we got a fantastic deal on MinuteMaid frozen concentrates. I wanna say it was 3 for $1.
Since my lime wine turned out pretty decent (still have to bottle that one) I figured I’d try grapefruit.
And then, I have my dandelion petals ready to start a small batch of Odhinn’s Mead.

I’m still fighting weeds in the garden.
I think I will forever and ever.
That’s just the nature of gardening.
But, my beans are in full flower, the tomatoes are too, and I don’t have any clue what’s in there for carrots.
I’m keeping my fingers crossed that the weeds sheltered the teeny seeds enough to let them get a good hold on growing, but I’m not really expecting anything.

Ducks have resumed laying eggs.


Which is good because the last nest the one hen sat on was all rotten eggs.
We’ve seen the drake doing his job, so I’m collecting a dozen eggs and firing up the incubator.
I didn’t want to run it again ’til spring, but this is an opportunity I can’t pass up.
I’ll be watching out for a sale on 2nd one too…that way in spring, once the ducks pick up laying after their winter break, I can run batches of chickens and ducks at the same time.

Haying is moving right along.
I’m putting up as much as I can, while I can.
I had the opportunity to purchase a 2nd scythe. One with a longer blade. Oh how nice it glides through the grasses!!
It’s given me the chance to cut an extra area that I couldn’t do with the shorter ditch blade…so I’m a happy girl!

Plus, the longer blade makes 2nd cut here go so much more smooth!
The short blade isn’t meant for those later in the season softer grasses, so it tends to rip instead of cut. No matter how sharp it is.
I do have to fix the tip of the new-to-me one, but aside from that, I’m even making the snath (which is just a hair too short for me) work with a change of posture.

So that’s where we’re at here.
Working, working working.
Prepping for winter.
Thinking about plans for next year already.
I feel like this is all stuff I’ve shared before, but really, day to day right now is a lot of “more of the same” with only small changes.
Feel free to ask anything though, if there’s something y’all are curious about.

Ruby enjoying a nap in the sunshine…