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My Review of Marmot 5°F Snowcrest Sleeping Bag – 600 Fill Power Down, Mummy, Long

Originally submitted at Sierra Trading Post

CLOSEOUTS . Gear up for your next backcountry adventure with Marmot's Snowcrest sleeping bag, made with 600 fill power down insulation for warmth down to 5and#176;F. 600 fill power down insulation for warmth down to 5and#176;F Anatomical hood with head gasket Classic trapezoidal footbox Ground …

18 degrees and snowing? No problem!

By MrMoonbeam from Woodbury CT on 2/3/2013


4out of 5

Pros: Lightweight, Packs Small, Warm

Cons: Zipper Snags Easily

Best Uses: Backpacking, Cold Conditions, 4 Season camping

Describe Yourself: Avid Adventurer

What Is Your Gear Style: Comfort Driven

Was this a gift?: No

This was my first winter bag and first mummy bag. This is also lighter by a few pounds than my aging 3 season down bag with a tight knit cotton (almost canvas like) exterior.
I’ve just had my chance to try it out this weekend when the weather dipped to the mid teens at night, and an inch dusting of snow was predicted.
My son & I went out to his platform treehouse, each armed with a self inflating air mattress, and our respective bags.
He used double bags, and multiple layers of clothes along with gloves and a hat, and ended up with a nice ice crust in the AM – and smiles.
I wanted to push the envelope of what this bag could do so I wore some thick winter wool socks, jeans and a midweight flannel and topped it with a smartwool beanie (as I would if I were backapacking)
It was a bit difficult to get the bag sorted at first. I tried to use a pillow from the house, but this made the hood too bulky so that ended up on the outside nearby. I found that once it cinched up it was more comfortable than I expected. While it dipped to perhaps 17 overnight, I was ok and pleasingly warm throughout. I had problems sleeping on my back as the falling snow tickled my face irritatingly until I flipped onto my side, and was just as comfortable. I noticed as others had, that the larger the space and air pocket the more that particular area tends to feel slightly colder – so size this appropriately. My relatively thin clothes probably made me more sensitive to this, but that was my intent.
I am 6ft 2, and 185 pounds and the long size fit me very well with ample room at the feet without being too much.

I had never used a mummy bag before my purchase, so I’m sure some of my issues were simply getting used to things such as centering the hood, and awkwardly tightning the closures while striving to keep my hands inside the bag.

All in all a great bag. My main beef was the zipper tended to snag as it came to the top, but this may have been due to positioning or experience. This seems to be appropriately rated, though I’m not sure I’d use it for temps lower than 5 without some serious layering. Get this with a coupon and it is a steal. Great color too :)



My Review of Merrell Barefoot Train True Glove Shoes – Minimalist (For Men)

Originally submitted at Sierra Trading Post

CLOSEOUTS . Merrell Barefoot Train True Glove minimalist shoes combine the benefits and performance of a lightweight, zero drop trail shoe with the looks of a conventional casual shoe.

Almost barefoot running shoe

By MrMoonbeam from Woodbury CT on 8/2/2012


5out of 5

Pros: Flexible, Mold well to feet, breathable, Zero drop

Cons: Inner liner tears out, Break in period

Best Uses: Running, Daily Wear

I began my running a year and a half ago with a pair of Huaraches from Invisible Shoes.
There was an initial period of adjusting including toughening and strengthening the feet and I was able to get through it easily enough.
I found myself flip flopping between the Huaraches and traditional running shoes, until the winter weather set in and I ran with the sneakers full time.
I have since gone back to the Huaraches on occasion, but found I began running somewhat awkwardly otherwise the front would flip under.
And so, when I realized a month ago my sneakers were beginning to wear through I looked at the crowd of minimalist/barefoot shoes.
I’ve always liked Sierra Trading, so I limited myself to what they had and soon came across the Merrells.
From what I can tell Merrell and New Balance seem to be in the top tier of the minimalist shoes along with the Vibram 5 fingers.
The vibrams do not accomodate odd shaped toes well, and other than the newer models, the New Balance tended to have more drop than I would prefer.
I have run in these shoes 3 times thus far, and can say they seem to be the best I’ve used. Admittedly my toughening period was minimal this time around as I wear my Huaraches on weekends regularly as well as general barefoot walking.
The rear continues to rub just under my Achilles and I am breaking in a blister over time.
I also found the shoe liner was tearing out, which caused a problem on my inside left foot and another blister in the end.
Both of these issues are being addressed by bandages, and after a run in the rain the shoe molded to my foot very well.
There is plenty of space to allow for toe splay.
I do not feel as connected to the road as I do with my Huaraches, as this has a thicker sole, but I do have enough sensation.
What I find is that in these I am always running upright in the proper position.
My gait is more frequent as you’d expect, and I land on the fore or middle of the foot.
I’ve also noted that when I run hills I would get lower and stick my butt out before, wheras with these, I am pretty much in the same position, but with even more steps to get up the road.
All in all I am very happy with these, and may get another pair to wear when not running.
I am hopefully the liner does not cause further issues, but do not think it will.


Tags: Picture of Product, Made with Product



Born to Run – Barefoot??

I am a barefoot runner.

There – I’ve said it.   Now some of you are scratching your heads, or asking ‘why?’  Or ‘what does that mean?’  Or even ‘Are you crazy?!’

Let’s go back to the beginning here.

You see, growing up I was fortunate enough to live near the woods and fields.  I can remember spending hours and days, and perhaps even a week, walking around barefoot in the summer.  We would run to our friends down the road, run to the pond through the fields, or even biking around the neighborhood.  All while wearing not a sock, shoe or flip-flop.  It was glorious.  Not much at the time, but looking back I loved it so much.  It was like a feeling of freedom.  Squishing through the mud.  Feeling the grass blades underfoot.  And I just… didn’t care to wear anything.  My parents left me well enough alone, so I pretty much was able to do what I wanted.

Years later, and just a few months ago, a friend on Facebook posted a picture of new shoes he had gotten.

The second I saw them, I had to ask what they were.  They seemed a bit bizarre, and yet made sense without knowing anything about them.  He tipped me off to a book he had been reading by Christopher McDougall, ‘Born to Run.’

I downloaded an audio copy (I listen to them while I’m driving to & from clients in the car).  But I didn’t have a chance to listen to it, but added it onto my own personal queue.  A few weeks later I got around to listening, and was completely engrossed.

In a nutshell he talks of how mankind’s natural instinct is to run barefoot.  All people all across the globe do it on a regular basis.  Some say that is why we were able to evolve as a species, and surpass the other mammals.  Not only that, but by wearing shoes it prevents a natural gait and stride, limits the arches our feet were designed for, and can typically cause more problems the shoes are meant to resolve by means of added support.

I was sold well before I reached the end.

I’ve had back problems for years.  Much of this stemmed from a snowboarding accident (Cernik!!)  Though I’ve been managing just fine with Chiropractic help.  But unfortunately it makes running difficult, and my back begins to hurt if I run further than 200 feet.  Not so with barefoot.

I decided to take the plunge last week.

The recommendations, more than anything else, are to ease into it.  If you’ve been running for some time, you’ve already got the stamina to keep going, but your arches and soles may not be quite so prepared.  Tales are common of people doubling over, miles into their run in pain.   My chiropractor was even less kind when I asked him for his opinion of it, and he dismissed it ‘as a passing fad.’

Having little running experience, other than those two months back in college, and my love of nature and hiking, I made sure to start off easy.

I stripped off my shoes, decided today was the day, and ran out the front door.

Next thing I know I’m at the end of the driveway, and I just kept going on the pavement down the road.  Now most people (myself included) think how painful this could be.  But you see that is also why you take it easy.  Your soles need time to toughen up, and your eyes can be your greatest asset as you dodge the rocks and pebbles that can cause the sharp quick stabs on your undersides.

Before I knew it, I was at the end of the road, and turned around and headed back home.  All in all, a short 1.2 miles per

The next day was Saturday.  Nico had his soccer practice, so I took it upon myself to scoot around the grassy fields.  Per the same site, my 5 laps equaled about 1.5 miles.  A little easier on my feet this time thanks to the comforting grass and cushioning soft earth.

And that brings us to today.  A run on main street with the kids on their bikes, and taking turns with Michelle holding the dog.  The time went by quickly, but I certainly felt it on my feet far more this time.  1.82 miles, per a new Android app EndoMundo (thanks Will)

3 days down, and I can feel the difference.  My toes have small blisters on them, and hurt for no less than 2 hours after finishing the runs.  To top it off, what I thought was a blister on one, turned out to be a rock embedded in my foot. But I haven’t given up hope.  McDougall’s book centers on people living in Mexico called the Tarahumara.  They run with thin soled sandals, that allow the natural feet to capably run, while protecting against small rocks and such.  Needless to say I’ve already ordered a pair at

My hope is to run a 5K either barefoot or with the Tarahumara sandals.  Either way, I’m not only getting in shape, but able to enjoy it too.  For the first time in years, I’m really looking forward to running… barefoot :)


Born Again Shaving – Week 4 update

So here we are.  4 weeks into spring, and 4 weeks into my latest hobby.

I’ve got some experience under my plate now, and a better handle on what I’m doing wrong, and what I’m doing right.

Probably the best thing I could recommend, is get some help!  There is a lot of resources out there, and I’m really starting to like the people at Badger & Blade the best.

One of the posts I came across was one of those time machine ones.  You know – the one where if you knew what you know now and could start over again – what would you do different?

Lots of good answers on this one here.  Check it out for yourself.

Along with those posts I also stopped by the only area shaving shop for some advice.  Gentlemans Best over in Southington CT.

After some talking with Ray (hell of a guy by the way,) I’ve decided to try a few things to make life better.

First tip – stop changing things around so much.  I’m hopping around from one soap to the next before I’ve gotten a handle on how to manuver the razor around my face.  Plus I’m still figuring out how to best gauge and build up the lather.  Best bet is to stick to the same soap for at least a week before I switch out.  I’m going to work my way through one whole sample to the next from now on, rather than one bit here and there.

Second tip – after shaving, splash a hot water rinse on and pat dry, apply Witch Hazel, then splash cold and pat dry again, then balm or aftershave.  The warmth helps sooth, the hazel tightens things up, and the cold makes it all close back up nice.  So far so good on that point.

Third tip – change up the razor blade once a week or every other week.  Not just to keep things sharp, but also change out the brand after 2-3 weeks.  After similar soaps at that point, you can get a better gauge on whether a new blade brand is working out or not.  So far my jump from the Merkur to Derby’s is one I should have done earlier.  Remember different blades work better or worse for different people.

Fourth tip – Lots o’ soap!  When you’re using shaving soap (as I’m leaning towards), let a tablespoon or so of water soak on top before you dip the brush.  It makes it much easier to load the brush, and easier in turn to lather it up.  You can always add water back in.

I think I’m ready to up my brush to a better quality one, and I’m working my way through the many samples.  I have to agree that Mama Bears Soaps are still pretty darn good, and my favorite brand thus far.  A nice smell, good lather if you soap the brush enough, and my face seems to like it too.

I’ll keep you posted as I learn more.  Know any good tips you’ve come across?  Share yours as well!


Shaving Soaps And Creams – Ask And Ye Shall Receive

Samples Baby!

So now, at the 3 week mark since I’ve begun using a Double Edge Razor, its time to figure out what kind of soaps I should use.

It all comes down to personal preference in the end.  Some soaps and creams are easy to whip into a lather, while others have a great scent.  Some let the blade glide  on your face easily, and still more have quality oils and moisturizers to minimize razor burn and make your face feel as good as it looks.  Depending on what you really want, you’ve got lots of choices.

I’ve been reviewing some forums and sites including the comments at Amazon products, The Shave Den, Badger & Blade, Shave My Face, and The Shaving Room. There are your high end products, mid range, and inexpensive ones.  Now to be fair, you can get a great soap and lather with an inexpensive brand just as much as the expensive one.  Sometimes marketing plays a big role.   There are a number of fans of Mama Bears Soaps, yet her handmade soap pucks are just under $8 for 5oz.  On the other hand people also say that G.F.Trumpers Lime Cream is the best, yet that runs $17 for a 2oz tube.

Much as different people have different preferences, no brand can really fit everyone to a tee.  In a nutshell, use what you like.

I like a good strong scent.  But more importantly I need to have a lather that can glide over my face of coarser and thicker hair than most.  I’ve seen some people alluding that certain soaps work best with more pre-shave preparation such as using a facial oil or moisturizing cream just before applying the lather.  Or even mixing it in with the lather, but after having used a hot towel.   In my mind, the more you have to do in advance, the poorer the product.  By all accounts all that should be needed is a hot shower, or wrapping a hot towel around the face, and splashing additional water on just before you lather up.

So this was my perspective.  I had purchased my razor with some soap from Col Conks at Amazon right from the start, and later looked over the counter at the CVS and found some VanDerHagen Select soap as well.  A few reads later, and I’m over at the Crabtree & Evelyn at the mall, and find they sell out frequently.

Then, on the way out the door, the saleswoman hits me with inspiration – samples!

Why spend $8, $18, or $28 on soap you won’t like, or that won’t get it done the way you want it to?  I set my mind to it to get samples for $2 or less wherever I could (most were free.)  Crabtree & Evelyn couldn’t give me the hard soap sample, but I was able to get some of their shaving cream and some aftershave balm to boot.  Bath & Body Works?  No samples, but they did have a small tube of the C.O.Bigelow for $5, and they offer a money back guarantee that lets you try it at home and return the unused portion for a full refund.

In a mad rush I began emailing and visiting sites of all the brands I’ve read about.  Col Conks said ‘Sure!  Just send us your address!’  G.F.Trumpers said they don’t give away samples, but offer a whole pack including after shaves for about $5 shipped from the UK.  Mama Bears Soaps offers samples, but as she has so many scents, she charges a nominal dollar for a good sized soap chunk of the preferred type, enough for perhaps 2-3 shaves.  I heard back from Taylor of Old Bond St, but they don’t do samples at all.  ”Too much effort for such as small amount,” is what they said.  Well, that’s about all the effort I’m putting into getting some of their soaps then.  Paid, sample, full size or otherwise.Manly men use real shaving soap!

So now that I’ve begun receiving a few of these, I’ll be sure to let you know the results.  Hopefully I can better judge the quality and what works for me better, as my technique and experience improves.  If nothing else, the variety of scents has me more excited than ever, to grab that brush and shave away.


Making Maple Syrup

Maple buckets on the treesLate February into March…  what do you think of?

After getting the paper cuts and allergic sneezing fits on Valentines Day, and trying multiple times not to repeat Groundhog Day, I think of pending Spring and tapping the trees.

Now some people think of maple syrup as nothing more than a condiment you put on your baked goods.  Growing up however, it meant a whole process, that ended up a wonderfully thick, golden, sweet and tasty spread.  I grew up in North Salem NY.  It was known more for raising horses than raising children, but thankfully we were fortunate enough to be surrounded by open land and woods.  Right next to our home, was the biggest sugar Maple tree I have yet to see bested.  This, along with many others on property, were tapped and collected into buckets to make maple syrup.

So first, if you’ve never tasted real maple syrup, you’re in for an exquisite treat.  While similar to the fake stuff, it isn’t nearly as sickly sweet, but rolls with an undescribable warm goodness you have to try on your tongue, to understand.

The process is far simpler than most people realize.  Basically you drill a hole into the tree, hammer in a tap spigot (which you can get online or at area hardware stores), and hang a bucket off of it to collect it.  Of course you should put a top on, and drill a hole into the top to allow it to drip – otherwise you get too many bugs, or too much rainwater mixed in.  Once you have half a 5 gallon bucket or more, you strain it through some cheesecloth into whatever collection device you have.  I use a very basic, 30 gallon spare garbage bucket.  Now it sounds a bit nasty, but I make sure to clean it first, then line it with a new, also clean garbage bag.  Once you have a decent amount of time, pour it off into a big pot and boil away!  Any worries about bacteria or further nasties get scalded off with the water vapor.

Boiling the syrupNow the professionals use things called evaporators, that take the process to a highly efficient stage.  I myself however, use your basic lobster pot over a contained fire using spare fire bricks and the grate off my outdoor grill.  Not exactly pretty or highly efficient, but it certainly gets the job done.

So once you have it boiling, keep in mind, maple sap collected is little more than all natural mildly sugared water.  Somewhere in the neighborhood of 4% sugar content in the sugar maples and less content in others.  Boil it down at a 40:1 ratio and you get maple syrup (as in, 40 gallons of sap make 1 gallon of syrup).  The easiest way to tell when it is done, is to note how thick it is as it gets condensed and the water evaporates.  The other more accurate way, it to add 20 degrees onto the boiling point of water on any particular day.  This varies depending on air pressure and weather conditions, but generally it will be done once the sap/syrup reaches 120 degrees.

At our home we’ve collected the mason jars from pasta sauce, and use these to save the syrup.

This past weekend, since I’ve just begun collecting and it is relatively early in the season, I’ve tapped just 3 trees and gotten about 10 gallons of sap.  After an all day fire, and time spent chopping wood and keeping it roaring, we’ve ended up with about 1 and a half 32 ounce jars, or about 3 pints worth.

At every pouring stage you need to filter using cheesecloth and a mesh strainer, which complicates things, but makes it all the worth while when you got a full stack of homemade pancakes and a slow waterfall down the sides of the good stuff.

P.S. – Bite me Mrs Butterworth.


Woodworks – Finished The Poker Table Railing

Railing01So after much ado, and nearly a year of trying to find time, I’ve taken a week and a half off of work.

On top of the 50K things the wife threw my way, I insisted on finishing the railing for the poker table, begun soooo long ago.  I already had purchased all the parts I needed, so it was just a matter of doing it at this point, once I had the time.

I began with rolling out the large inch thick furniture foam.  Once it was laid out, I sprayed the railing with 3M adhesive and pressed it centered onto the wood.

After that it was a matter of guiding a razor knife around the curves, while leaving enough foam to go over the sides as well.Railing02 Needless to say I have a whole bunch of scraps left over for the kids to dive into.

Once that was done, I moved onto the top material.  I had picked out a black leather-like cloth, typically used on boats, with a nice soft feel to it that easily stretches.  With this however, I planned on using staples to hold it in place rather than the adhesive.

After sizing it up, I laid the foam covered railing on top of the cloth, and wrapped the outer edge first.  I spaced out the staples every 6 inches or so, pulling it tight as I wentRailing03; working on the sides first and moving into the curves.

With it roughly sized and pulled taut, I sliced it open to allow for expansion and let me more easily staple into place, while not changing the shape of the wood or the foam too much.

After that it was back & forth between the inside and outside of the railing, placing staples ever closer to each other, while continuing to pull it tighter.Railing04

Eventually I was able to get them all in place, and neatly wrapped.  I cut off the excess, and placed additional staples to reduce the bulges and warping of the fabric due to all the stretching I had done to work it around the curves.

There were more than I would like, but as this was on the underside I didn’t think anyone other than drunks would see it, and they would hardly care.

Railing05So I carried it out into the wonderful New England weather, from our nice warm basement, to the frigid outside barn, while hoping I wouldn’t slide down the driveway on the ice patches.

I managed to hoist the bulky result in, and after some minor adjustments, including pushing it back onto the table, we have liftoff!!

The railing should work well, and looks great.  To be frank though after months of using it without the foam I think I could have made do just fine, but it looks more finished this way.

If all goes well I might be able to get the word out, and get some orders to build more tables for other people.  If I can set aside dedicated time a 2 month turnaround should suffice for nights & weekends.  I might consider the finished railing as an option, or allow the client to use a vanished railing with rounded edges instead.  In either case, I’ll leave cloth and racetrack stain colors choices up to them too.

See something you like?  Don’t like?  Let me know if you have suggestions.  I’m  thinking about making a smaller version – a round 5 person one, and have that available as well at reduced pricing.  Now to enjoy a successful project :)

NicoCole 2009 EndDecember2 067 (Small)


Make Hard Cider – Step 4 – Bottle It Baby!

Cleaning bottles againSo after roughly a month, I am back to the cider.

After having sat there in the chill of the garage, it looks to have cleared up really well.  All the particles from the pressed apple juice have fallen to the bottom, and I’m left with a clear amber liquid – yum!

From the tasting before I left it alone, I found it was a little dry, and more like wine than fermented apple juice.  To make it bubbly when you open the bottle, you’re supposed to add some sugar back in.

I figured, why not kick the flavor back in, which giving me the bubbles I’m looking for anyway?  So I went out to the store and got a can of apple juice concentrate (all natural).  The sugar content was near even with a measured cup, so for the 5.5 gallons I have, I added in just over a cup of concentrate.  Since you’re supposed to add about 1/4 cup of sugar per gallon to make it bubbly, I had the numbers just about right.

Cleaning the bottles twice!So I blended it all back into the 5 gallon carboy, which barely fit, but just enough.  Next step was to prep the bottles.

You have two options here.  Buy them new, or wash out ones you have.  I opted for the second, not just to save a few bucks, but I also figured it was a home brewing right of passage.

I started picking out bottles that looked in decent shape, and soaked them in a bathtub for 30 minutes or so.  After that I set to scraping off the labels, and quickly found some brewers use more glue than others.  If I had to recommend, I’d say to stick to Sam Adams or Dogfish brewery.  Both labels came off easy enough after a soaking.  Magic Hat however was a bear, and while I made do, I used different ones for the next batch.  After that I put them into the dishwasher, without soap, to rinse out any bacteria and reduce any odd flavors it would lend.

Then I used my siphoning wand once more to rack it out of the carboy and into the clean bottles.

Suck it Laverne & Shirley!A few spills here and there, and the thoughtful use of a catch basin helped a lot.  There was a little loss, but not too bad and nothing I couldn’t live with.  The floor might be a little sticky until I can bust out a mop though ;)

I put the last few overflow ounces into a bottle for tasting later on.

The day before I lucked out, as the brewing store was only open for a few hours on their holiday schedule.  Thankfully they had more than enough cappers and caps for me to pick up.  After getting the bottles ready, I learned on the fly and capped them off one by one.  I filled the bottles up 1-3 inches below the cap depending on the bottle, so we’ll see if the air, and how filled they are, makes any sort of difference.  My fear was that the carbonation would build too much and make the tops pop off well before I’d get a change to drink any of them.  So I thought to vary how filled they were in turn.

Bottles bottles everywhere!As with the labels I found some brands better than others.  Thankfully the Sam Adams held up well.  The Wychwood bottles that I was really keen on using (with the embossed witches on them), turned out to have bulby tops rather than the bulgy standard, and I nearly broke the capper trying to fit a cap on.  While moping about them I couraged up considering I hadn’t spilled a drop, and picked out another bottle instead.  I might need another capper, but it lasted through the rest regardless.

As for the taste test?  So far so good.  Definately a stronger brew, and still not quote as “apple-y” as I’d like (but closer), but that should  change once the bubbles kick in.  If you’ve ever tried a flat soda or beer, you know what I mean.

Overall I’m really enjoying the process.  Its nice to have a start and finish, and so long as I don’t take it too seriously I’m having fun learning it all too.  It seemed to make for a nice Christmas present for friends and family, so I have about 30 bottles now when all is said and done.  Perhaps this will help me get into brewing my own beers later on ;)


Merry Christmas – Cut Your Own!

The Tree in the wildEvery Christmas growing up, we’ve always been a fan of real live Christmas trees.  Not the plastic ones, or the ones with the lights already setup, but the real pine smelling, finger pricking, always needs watering kind.  We’d take a hike over to a nursery, or over to where the Boy Scouts were selling them in some field, pick a nice one out and strap it to the car.

A few hours, and a few glass shards on the floor later, and we’d be all decorated up and in the holiday mood.

After we moved to Woodbury a few years ago, I began looking at cutting our own.  More because I wanted a good strong smell, but also because I heard the trees last longer.

Hauling it homeI always try to buy local when possible, so after some questions around town, we picked out a tree farm nearby.  I brought a saw, a pair of gloves, and a warm coat.  This farm, as do many of the tree farms, is setup on a hill – a few hills.  Naturally the ones closest to the parking lot get cut down first, so to get a decent one you have to trek around some.

Sooner or later you either get lucky, or settle on what appears to be the best available.  Both last year and this year, we found a tree larger than we wanted, and though the lower part was thinned out, the top was filled out really nicely.

A few cuts later at waist height, and we’ve got just the right sized tree!

Tree TrimmingSo then you grab hold around one of the branches, and drag it through the hill and dale back to the car.  Here’s to hoping you can avoid the mud or muster the strength to lift it over the puddles.

So while my lovely wife keeps the wolfish children at bay, I tie it onto the roof with some assistance from the Carhartt crew, and away we go.

Everyone has their own method for getting the tree into the house.  Ours is pretty basic.  I prep the tree trunk by fitting it into the stand before I carry it in, and cut off the lowest branches for a better fit and look.  Once that’s done, we clear the area, prop open the doors, and slide it through the doorway, beginning the needle drop right from the get go.

What a Beautiful Tree!After that, we bring out the boxes upon boxes, and bags, and wrappings that protected all our ornaments like little pieces of mummy antiquity the other 11 months of the year.  With children we’ve progressed from no ornaments below 2 feet, to only plastic ones below 4 feet.  At this point, whether an over excited hand or a sweep of the dogs tail knocks off one, we should be ok.  So they put it on, we adults move them off the one branch the 20 ornaments have been placed upon, and next thing you know we’ve got the Christmas spirit :)

Happy Holidays!


Make Hard Cider – Step 3 – Secondary Fermentation

So the primary fermentation has stopped.  How do I know?

Simple.  No bubbles!  When I began it naturally foamed up like a bubble bath as the yeast chewed through the sugar, and shed gas and alcohol.  Now it looks flat with no bubbles on top.

Cleaning the equipmentAs with the other steps I began with a cleaning cycle.  I had picked up a long plastic wand, that I can use to siphon it out of the bottle (called racking).  You do this to filter out the drink from the yeast and whatever else has settled to the bottom of the bottle over time.

The gallon bottle I was going to use to set some aside.

Once that was done I headed down to the basement to begin racking it.

Racking from primary fermentationThe wand is nothing more than a tube and a plunger type thingy.  You move the plunger up and down a few times and it creates suction that pulls it out of the upper bottle and into wherever the hose is directed.

I managed to get the 1st bottle drained down ok.  I had to leave about 3/4 of an inch on the bottom, otherwise I would end up suctioning the yuck off the bottom that the racking was all about.

On the 2nd bottle, I tried to be trickier about it, moving the full bottle to a higher point first.  But all I did was end up pulling the hose out accidentally, and spilling some all over.  Not a huge loss, but enough that I spent some time on cleanup afterwards.  In the end I sloshed it around more than I wanted to also, so if I kept racking I would have brought over more of the yeast than I wanted to.  So I chalked up the remaining 2 inches (maybe a quart) to experience and pitched it.

I also siphoned some off into the gallon bottle for tasting, to see how it was coming along.

Once this was done, I refilled the airlocks and moved the bottles over into the garage where it is cooler and less apt to get bumped.

Primary CiderSo how has it turned out so far?

Well, lets just say I was hoping for a cider similar to what you’d buy in a store, like Woodchucks.  What I have so far though is more like a dry white wine.  Definately high in alcohol content, and drinkable, but no real apple taste to speak of.

I asked around as to what other people had done, and between this and online research it looks like my best bet is to mix in some concentrate and sugars just before bottling.  This will kick in the carbonation as well as bring back more flavor.  Supposedly, allowing it to sit a few weeks and months also brings out a stronger flavor.

So while it’s not exactly what I expected right now,  I’m pretty sure it will get there eventually.  Maybe I can make a Christmas gift out of it?