Tuesday, November 25, 2008

A Google View

Google Maps and Satellite have opened up a whole new perspective on the net. Street View, although considered by some a little intrusive, is also a helpful tool.
We have used all three to plan trips or simply find a store in the part of a city or town we are not familar with. We use the maps to plan routes and print them out so we can find our way, Satellite to check out places of interest and Street View to have a look at potential accommodation and the even the neigbourhoods it is in.

View Larger Map

Above is a Google Satellite picture of our area. You can zoom in or out and navigate around using the buttons on the top left corner. Check out where we live and even further afield. Almost the whole world is available with the swipe of a mouse or the click of a button. Have fun!

Friday, November 21, 2008

The Vegetable Garden

With the seven year drought seemingly over in our region and with the extra water storage installed we decided to resurrect our vegetable garden for the summer.
We buy heaps of lettuce, tomatoes and various herbs every week so we decided that growing these would not only save a bit of money (have you seen what's happening in the stock market lately?????) but more importantly provide us with very fresh organically grown pesticide free produce.
So it was a matter of spraying off all the weeds that had taken over while the garden had been laying fallow, digging it over, adding soil conditioner to improve water holding capacity as well as lime and blood and bone fertilizer.

We also decided that pumpkin, squash, zucchini (courgettes) and cucumbers might also be a good idea seeing they are easy to grow and are relatively disease resistant.

We also selected two types of tomato, capsicums (red peppers), basil and rocket (arugula)

and half a dozen different types of lettuce which we will plant every two weeks or so to ensure a continuous supply.
Naturally the weeds which had been seeding unabated for years think all their Christmases have come at once with the addition of fertilizer and copious amounts of water and are thriving just as well as the veges. But hoe-man (and hoe-woman) are keeping them at bay.

Of course we have to protect the whole area from kangaroos, possums, parrots and satin birds which means enclosing the area with a wire netting fence and covering it with some spare vineyard netting.

On our back veranda we also have a potentially good supply of rosemary, more basil, chives and oregano.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Skin Cancer

The co-driver and I went to the local skin cancer clinic for a check up. These dedicated clinics are springing up everywhere around Australia because the country has the highest incidence of this disease in the world. It is a lifestyle thing with outdoor recreation and activities being extremely popular. When I was growing up, surfing was my passion and the beach was my second home. We were baked brown by the sun continuously year after year. Protection in those days was virtually unheard of or even considered a bit wimpy.
As a result, for the last 25 years, I can't remember the number of cancers or pre cancers I have had cut out or burnt off my back, face and arms.
Here are some statistics:
-Over 380,000 Australians are treated for skin cancer each year. That’s over 1,000 people every day.
-Over 1,600 Australians die from skin cancer each year.
-Australia has the highest rate of skin cancer in the world. Skin cancers account for around 80% of all new cancers diagnosed each year in Australia. Each year Australians are four times more likely to develop a common skin cancer than any other form of cancer.
-The melanoma incidence rates in Australia and New Zealand are around four times as high as those found in Canada, the United States and the United Kingdom.
The Federal and State governments have made a concerted effort to make generations after mine aware of the dangers of unprotected exposure to the sun and have instigated intensive publicity campaigns that include:
The SunSmart UV Alert:
This is reported daily in newspaper weather forecasts across Australia. The alert is used to raise public awareness of the risk of exposure to UV radiation and to encourage people to adopt appropriate sun protection measures.
The Famous "slip, slop, slap" Campaign:
Slip on clothing that provides a barrier between UV rays and the skin.
Slop on sunscreen, 30SPF or greater
Slap on a hat that shades the face, eyes and neck.
Then added to this was
Seek Shade which is one of the most effective ways to protect against the sun's UV rays.
Slide on Sunglasses to protect UV rays damaging eyes.
All childcare facilities as well as primary and secondary schools throughout the country and numerous workplaces have adopted an ultraviolet (UV) radiation protection program to help prevent skin cancer. Recreational and sporting organizations also participate.
The top layer of skin contains three different types of cells: squamous, basal and melanocytes. Skin cancer is a disease of these skin cells caused mainly by overexposure to ultraviolet radiation.
UV radiation disrupts the cells' genes and can cause them to grow abnormally. If these abnormal cells are not destroyed by the body's natural defence systems they can develop into skin cancers.
There are three main types of skin cancer named after the type of cells they start from.
Basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma are known as common skin cancers .
Melanoma is the most serious type of skin cancer and is deadly.
So here are some pictures of the three types.
Check yourself out or better still get a professional to do it.
Basal Cell Carcinoma

Squamous Cell Carcinoma

The previous bad experiences have led me to take protective measures by wearing a hat outside, swimming in the early morning or late afternoon, covering up when working in the vineyards and even applying sun tan lotion (when I remember). But I was expecting to have to be "burnt" and cut up a bit more after this doctor's visit. But apart from a few pre cancerous growths getting the liquid nitrogen treatment on the spot all was good.
And the co driver got the all clear too!

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Wine Faults

During wine evaluation by judges, they are not only looking for the good things about wine but also for technical faults. These are many and varied and mainly come from poor wine making techniques.
Below are a few of the more common faults and how they express themselves.
Oxidation: The most common wine fault. It is caused when oxygen comes in contact with the wine during vinification or is a result of poor sulphur addition management. Phenolics in the wine are oxidised causing a loss of colour, flavour and aroma which produces a so called "flat" wine.
Acetyldehyde: This is caused mainly by the oxidation of alcohol and imparts a sherry like flavour to the wine.

Volatile Acidity (Acetic Acid): This is vinegar taint and is caused by spoilage yeasts and bacteria eg. acetobacter
Ethyl Acetate: Smells like nail polish remover and is caused by the esterification of alcohol and acetic acid. It is a common microbial fault produced by wine spoilage yeasts. High levels of ethyl acetate are also produced by lactic acid bacteria and acetic acid bacteria.
Sulphur Dioxide: Sulphur is used as an additive during the winemaking process, mainly as an antioxidant but also as an antimicrobial agent. At normal levels (up to 200ppm) its presence is undetected. However overuse can contribute to flavour and aroma taints which are very volatile and potent. Over sulphured wine will be reminiscent of burnt matches, burnt rubber, or mothballs.
Hydrogen Sulphide: A rotten egg gas smell and is caused by the fermentation of wine where the grape juice has a low nitrogen content. This is overcome by adding additional nitrogen sources eg. DAP
Mercaptans: An onion and rubber smell caused by the reaction of wine components with hydrogen sulphide.
Dimethyl Sulphide: Imparts a cooked cabbage, canned corn, asparagus character to wine.

Cork Taint: Cork taint is a wine fault mostly attributed to the compound 2,4,6-trichloroanisole or more commonly, TCA.
TCA most likely is the result of mould growth on chlorine bleached wine corks and barrels. It causes earthy, mouldy, and musty aromas in wine that easily mask the natural fruit aromas, making the wine very unappealing. Wines in this state are often described as "corked". Cork taint is said to affect 5% of the world's wine. It has lead to the development of a whole range of new bottle closures including synthetic cork and screw caps.
Generally when judges come across a corked wine they will ask for another pour from another bottle as it is not considered technically a one hundred percent wine making fault.
Brettanomyces ("Brett"): This yeast produces a whole number of off flavours and aromas in wine eg. band-aids, bacon, sweaty saddle and rancidity.
Lactic Acid Bacteria (LAB): While LAB is useful in coverting the harsher malic acid in wine to lactic acid during malolactic fermentation, it can also produce wine faults. Wines that have not undergone malolactic fermentation may be contaminated with LAB which can result in refermentation of the wine. Wines then become turbid, swampy and slightly effervescent.

Diacetyl: This is produced by lactic acid bacteria. At low levels it can impart positive nutty or caramel characters which with some wines eg. Chardonnay, can be considered desirable. However at high levels it creates an intense buttery or butterscotch flavour and then it is perceived as a fault.
Geranium Taint: This is a flavour and aroma taint reminiscent of geranium leaves. It is formed during the metabolism of potassium sorbate by LAB. Potassium sorbate is sometimes added to wine as a preservative against yeasts.
Mousiness: A microbial derived fault which can become very apparent on the palate, especially at the back of the mouth, as mouse cage or mouse urine.
Refermentation: This is caused by yeasts refermenting the residual sugar present within bottled wine. The most common culprit is the standard wine fermentation yeast, Saccharomyces cerevisiae. The main problems associated with the fault include turbidity, a slight carbonation and some coarse odours.
Hazes: Of course there are a whole lot of protein and metal hazes as well as deposits (tartrates) that cause turbidity and affect the visual quality of wine (but not always taste) and are regarded as faults.