Archive for August, 2007


Posted by Nate in Homeowners, Neighborhood.
Tuesday, August 28th, 2007 at 9:37 pm

So…  yeah.  Lots of wedding stuff happening, most good, and some downers – like me finding tonight that one of the beers I was planning to serve is infected and tastes gross.  Damn.  It was one of the organic ones, too, but I think my accelerated schedule made me get a little sloppy with sanitation?  Not sure.  The good news:  the remaining 5 taste amazing!  (Or they will, once the last one finishes fermenting…)

pict0001a.JPGLast week we were part of a pilot program in our neighborhood – murals!  They’re planning to do 8, I think, on some pretty visible surfaces that often get tagged with graffiti.  Murals have proved an effective deterrent for gang graffiti in the past, and I have high hopes for this project.  Our garage was the first one they did – we’re not too highly visible, but I think this was seen as a warmup for the project, so just as well.

pict0003a.JPGAnd it’s awesome!  Designed mostly by the kids in the picture, it incorporated a few sunflowers – ours are in bloom now – a dog, a unicycle (Justin!), and several squirrels.  Fun!  We now have the coolest garage on the block – if only someone would fix our rotting and falling trim…

pict0026.JPGBonus:  Bachelorette party boozin’.

Disgorging the sparkling mead

Posted by Nate in Homebrewing, Wedding.
Friday, August 10th, 2007 at 11:28 am

When I last checked in, the mead had been moved to the basement for riddling, the long and slow process of turning and bumping that’s supposed to collect the remaining yeast and sediment in the neck of the bottle.  It went pretty well, but I would change a few things next time – more vigorous turning early on, while things were still at an angle, or possible skip the entire angle thing and go right for vertical.  I ended up having a few bottles with some small but incredibly stubborn yeast deposits on the neck that just wouldn’t budge.  Ah well.

8-9-2007-8-10-15-pm.jpgSo yesterday morning I cleared a space in the fridge for the mead, and I transferred it into the freezer when I got home from work.  As you can see, it was a tight fit…  The goal was to freeze just the end of the neck, but chill the rest of the mead so it would keep more CO2 in solution when it was disgorged.  As it happened, the 5 bottles outside of the box got so cold there were chunks of ice throughout, which ended up being a problem later…

8-9-2007-8-25-19-pm.jpgThis is everything you need for disgorging, almost.  At left is a cooler with 15 pounds of ice (I meant to do 20, but found a bag inside when we finished) and about 2 pounds of sidewalk ice melter (KCl).  In reading now, I realize I might have been better with plain rock salt (NaCl), which can make a colder brine, but I’d also read yesterday that CaCl could go colder still and without checking I assumed KCl might be the same.  In any case – if you’re disgorging, do some more research.  This worked for me.

Next is a bucket of sanitizer holding the plastic champagne corks, and a measuring cup half full of a dry white wine to replace any liquid lost in the process.  The shiny things are the "cages" to hold the corks in place, there’s a test bottle full of water, some S-hooks we used to spin the cage wire tight, and a mallet to knock the caps in place.  Whew!

pict0004.JPGHere’s Karen fiddling with a cage on a freshly disgorged bottle.  The basic process we ended up with was me working the disgorging and her handling the topping up, capping, and caging.  I’d take an upside down bottle, dunk it in a bucket of water to get the ice and salt off, and then hold it about horizontal with my right hand on the neck, braced against my right thigh.  pict0005.JPGWith my left hand I’d pry off the crown cap, and in a dramatic "splurt!" the frozen ice plug would shoot out as I quickly raised the bottle vertical and slid my right thumb over the opening to minimize foaming.  I’d set it down and wait maybe 15 seconds before releasing, then Karen would top it up and go from there.  Normally we’d add some sugar syrup here too to cut the dryness, but two things: it’s really good how it is, and since I know we’re not getting all the yeast I didn’t want to risk another round of fermentation in the bottle…  At right: the ground was littered with crown caps and yeast residue by the time we were finished.

So, yeah, the first few bottles were too cold – I’d read horror stories online about people not being able to get the necks to freeze in the brine, so I went right in the freezer.  When I’d pop the top, not much would happen…  The ice plug was too deep in the neck, so I’d have to try to dig around and fish out the yeast, resulting in foam and some volume loss, often to watch in despair as the yeast gently floated back down into the mead.  Ahhh!  Too late now, so we just capped it and carried on.  The ones from the case were good and cold, but not frozen at all.  About 10 minutes in the brine and ice got me a decent 1"+ ice plug and the new horizontal disgorging technique resulted in near-perfect yeast plug cannons.  Awesome.

pict0008.JPGAt left is most of the bounty!  There are really only 3 bottles that have a level of sediment and haze I’m not happy with, the rest are almost crystal clear…  And I imagine no one but me will notice the haze.  (but if I have my way we’ll hold those bottles back and only use them if we have to).  Ta da!  Now we let the mead rest upright until it’s time to serve it – oh, about 4 weeks and a day from now!

Holy update, batman!

Posted by Nate in Day to Day, Family, Friends, Work.
Thursday, August 9th, 2007 at 10:02 pm

Well, I finally remembered the password to the blog so I can update it (just kidding, we were just busy)…

j_bach1.jpgA belated picture from Justin’s baseball game bachelor party – he got to play a game on the field and had to try to throw balls past a goalie.  My only gripe with the Saints (hi, Cody!) is that their fabulous prizes are sometimes just medium.  Ah well, we tailgated and a good time was had by all!

veggies.jpgKaren and I are once again part of a CSA share – that’s Community Supported Agriculture.  We’re splitting the share with two friends, so we’re getting half – but believe me, it’s a lot.  Today, for instance: breakfast was CSA potatoes, green pepper, bought corn and onion and hot pepper, and friend’s tomato slices, lunch was slow-cooked cabbage and apples and spices, and so on.  Lots of veggies.

s_car.jpgSierra’s POS car finally died an ungraceful death.  I believe it’s been towed and donated as I type.  The brakes went out on her in rush hour traffic on the interstate.  Unreal.  There was just enough pressure she could slow by pumping the hell out of them…  Glad she’s safe, and glad that guy’s gone.  This shot is her getting the last of her stuff out after we abandoned it in front of someone’s house for the weekend.

brunoellie.jpgWe dog sat a beautiful white lab-ish dog from Nicaragua – via friends of Sierra but currently being minded by the Walshes while the friends hike the Appalachian Trail.  Wonderful dog, but shed an unbelievable amount of white fur.  Combined with Bruno’s we were vacuuming every other day – a terrible gray mixture of fluffy dog hair.  But she sure was cute!

s_challenge.jpgThe Mississippi River Challenge happened!  One of the most work-intensive weekends of my recent memory, combined with a lot of "hurry up and wait"…  At left is a shot of Sierra on night one describing how she’s going to attack the river tomorrow — lies, as it turned out…  phillips.jpgBut, hey, look at all those bottles!  Who could paddle fast after a night like that?  Well, look to the right:  these guys.  Steve and Jack and Trevor came in literally 10th out of … a lot of paddlers.  I know it’s not a race, but woo hoo!

kp_challenge.jpgAt left is Karen at the Fort laying down the law at the ID tent.  Nice walkie talkie…

And there you have it.  It’s been, how do you say…  busy.

Mississippi River Challenge update

Posted by Nate in Day to Day, Work.
Thursday, August 2nd, 2007 at 6:42 pm

bridge_wide.jpgThe news helicopters got to the bridge site pretty quickly last night and all the stations were running as many live shots as they could before they cleared the airspace for rescue helicopters.  It was in one of these live shots, finally a wide perspective from above, that I realized how much of the bridge had gone into the river.  I asked Karen, "what’s that going to do to your event this weekend??"  She just shook her head – clearly, there would be no canoes and kayaks going through that stretch of the Mississippi.

mississippi.jpgThe Coast Guard has closed the river from mile 848 to 857 (mile 0 is the gulf).  I think 857 is right about at the end of the channel that the Corps of Engineers keeps clear to a 9 feet depth for barge traffic, so the northern closure is essentially at the end of the navigable river.  The south side (see map at right) is just two miles north of Fort Snelling — the intended overnight halfway point for the Challenge — near the Ford Lock and Dam.

This afternoon the Corps of Engineers worked to lower the river at the bridge collapse site by opening some of the roller gates at the Ford Dam.  This sped the flow upstream and dropped the water level 2 feet for recovery workers trying to get access to the debris, and I imagine it means the downstream side of the dam will see a similar rise in level.  Apparently that section of the Mississippi is only at 15% flow right now anyway due to drought, and this would put it closer to non-drought conditions.

So FMR was faced with a decision: cancel the entire thing, change the route, or do a partial event — and then wait for the Coast Guard to approve whatever new plan they came up with.  From their site this afternoon:

"We are sensitive to the range of emotions that follow tragedies like this — we are feeling them with you. We understand that some of you may no longer have the desire to participate in the Mississippi River Challenge this year, but we are also hearing from many paddlers and volunteers who do want to continue with the event this weekend — and that we understand as well."

Their website is yet to be updated, but I just heard from Karen that they have heard back from the Coast Guard and decided to go forward with the second half of the paddle as planned, putting in at Fort Snelling on Sunday morning.  There will be more details forthcoming, but I feel like this is the right decision — for a number of reasons, but primarily because of their transparent, sensitive, and very deliberate considerations during the decision making process.  It’s going to be an emotional journey down the river, but I think it’s important to go forward — albeit respectfully and carefully.

RSVP online – BROKEN!

Posted by Nate in Day to Day.
Thursday, August 2nd, 2007 at 8:01 am

Arggh.  The stupid survey plugin I was using turns out to suck!  Despite testing it, once launched it seems to have not recorded a single submission!!!  So…  If you RSVPed online, we don’t know.  And I can’t find in the logs who might have done so…

We’ll shoot an email if we don’t hear from you, but meanwhile if you read this — please shoot US an email with the RSVP stats.  Dag.  Stupid plugins.

Holy shit.

Posted by Nate in Day to Day.
Wednesday, August 1st, 2007 at 10:45 pm

Karen doesn’t think I should swear on the blog.  I think there are some situations where there is no other way to start a post — this is one of those situations.

5:59 – Sierra (Nate’s sister) crosses the Mississippi river on the I-35-W bridge.
6:05 – the bridge collapses.

803-m1332508standaloneprod_affiliate2.JPGWe never watch TV, but we’ve been glued to it tonight, watching the scene unfold.  This is one of those "should never happen" situations – the bridge had passed all recent inspections, we’ve all driven over it in the last few days.  Now they’re inspecting the rest of the bridges, but to what end?  This seems so random, so unpredictable, so outside the realm of "predictable" — what’s the point?  Should we stay off all the bridges?  Should we stay in our house forever?  Or should we take appropriate precautions, wear our helmets on our bikes, seatbelts in our car, and just do the best we can?

I do know that tonight I’m thankful for all the phonecalls and concern.  We’re fine, and everyone we know seems to be safe.  Karen sent an email that hopefully covered everyone who doesn’t read the blog so they’ll know we’re ok.

Much, much love to you all.