Sunday, October 26, 2014

Winter is coming...

Good day and welcome back on my Blog!

Here in Holland it's autumn at the moment. The temperatures are dropping, it's raining a lot and leafs are covering the streets. Love it! Most people get cranky in this period, but I like it. Autumn has a great influence on all my hobbies and also on my day-by-day life.

I remember that one day I was heading home from work and it was cold, raining like hell and I was soaking wet. I felt so sorry for myself! I think that everyone has already lived this type of terror, so it won't be hard to imagine in what kind of gutter I was riding my bicycle. Then I looked to the right and saw about 10 ducks playing in the mud, having the time of their lives! Motherfuckers! And then I realized how silly I was and smiled. Since that day I don't take this type of weather that serious anymore. Of course I still prefer to sit somewhere warm and dry, but the contrast between this depressing weather and coming home, pour myself a nice dram of whisky and lit my pipe is what makes me appreciate these days.

This is why I love autumn:

Drinks

Herfstbock, my favorite seasonal beer! This beer is sold in the Netherlands from autumn till the end of winter. Every year they taste different and every year I have another favorite. This year I'm a huge fan of La Trappe, which is also a Trappist (brewed in a monastery by monks or under their supervision). I like the bitter and lightly sweet taste.

La Trappe - Trapist - Bockbier


Next to Bock, these dark days also invite me to drink other special and stronger beers and again: La Trappe is my favorite brand until now, especially the Tripel and the Quadrupel.

Whisky! And I'm talking about a nice, peaty single malt whisky. I'm always in for a heavy peated whisky, but the colder it gets, the more I like them.

Earlier this week I've received a present from my lovely wife: the Laphroaig's Quarter Cask! I've had this whisky before and with the few years experience I have in Whisky-Land, I can say this is a good-quality whisky for a very decent price: € 39,95. Last year it was cheaper: € 32,50.

Laphroaig - Quarter Cask



I'm not an expert yet and I don't know if I'll ever be, but let me just tell you what I know about this dram. Now what makes this Quarter Cask so special and why is it named "Quarter Cask"? It has to do with the last 9 months of the maturation process, which is completed on smaller casks (125 liter). Theses smaller casks date from many years back when they needed to carry (do you see the smugglers?!) the casks by hand. Less whisky in contact with more wood means more taste adaption from the wood (correct me if I'm wrong, whisky-experts!). I won't name 10 types of fruit or other stuff that I taste, because I can't... It's just a damn good dram! A good amount of peat and more complex than the regular peated whisky.

Smoke

Latakia: Dark evenings ask for dark leafs. Nowadays mainly produced in Cyprus, but named after the Syrian port-city Latakia. This tobacco is first sun cured and then further cured over an oak or pinewood fire, which gives this tobacco its typical taste. If you smell the tin of a Latakia tobacco, you get scared of the burned old-tire smell and probably think it's a huge nicotine bomb that will make you crap your pants! The good news is that it doesn't contain much more nicotine than a regular tobacco and that the burned old-tire smell from the tin turns into a very tasteful, but smooth taste. The taste is strong, but you won't fall off your chair.

I only smoke once (sometimes twice) a week, so there's not enough time to try all the tobaccos in the world. I'm still searching, but for now I only have a few favorites. Let me show you one of them:

Peterson's Old Dublin in a Parker Bent Bulldog

Peterson's Old Dublin. I think this is a very underrated blend and many people will tell you there's much more on the market that's even better, but till now this is my number 1. It contains Latakia, Oriental and Virginia tobacco. Strong taste, smooth, spicy, but no tongue-bite. And about the "Smoking kills" sticker... They should also put it on alcohol, fast-food, sugar, salt and all the albums of the Doors! Kind of hypocrite, don't you think?!

Cacti & other succulents

Now that it's becoming colder, it's recommendable to give less to no water at all (do it gradually! Do not suddenly stop watering them) to cacti and many other succulents. Depending on the species, it's also important to lower the temperature, so that the plants can enter their winter rest. This might give them the extra kick they need to flower next year. The growth will also be prettier, because the sun is much weaker in the winter and won't give them what they need to grow strong.

Balcony-greenhouse

My balcony-greenhouse is just perfect to keep them on the right temperature. I've also prepared the heater and time-clock so that I can control the temperature a bit and it won't drop below 5°C. I should buy a thermostat, but these are kind of expensive and I rather buy one when I have a bigger green-house installed.

Winter-hardy

Winter is coming; another chance to test the winter-hardiness of some cacti. I won't type down the info I've got from other sites, so this will all be based on my own experience with the species. (keep in mind that besides the species, DNA is also a factor) All my plants are standing in pots and in pot-culture, you have 100% control over the drainage. If I would have a garden, I would build a drainage well to have more or less the same effect.

Opuntia humisa - Eastern prickly pear (Canada and the USA)
Outside on my balcony for 3 years already. First covered by the balcony above and since last winter in the open.

Opuntia humifusa

Maihueniopsis darwinii (Argentina and Chile)
This species has already survived one winter (-17ยบC) outside in the open.

Maihueniopsis darwinii


Cylindropuntia imbricata - Cane/Tree cholla (USA: Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, Texas and Mexico: Chihuahua, Coahuila de Zaragoza)
I have one plant, a cutting that I've got from someone of the Cactiguide.com forum:

Cylindropuntia imbricata, growing cutting

I've also already taken one cutting of it for my brother in law. It still has to develop a root-system, but I guess it'll be ready in spring next year:

Cylindropuntia imbricata cutting for my brother in law

I also grow one Cylindropuntia imbricata outside on the balcony .This plant I've bought earlier this year on the National Cacti Show in Kudelstaart and has been grown from the seed:

Cylindropuntia imbricata, grown from the seed


Escobaria missouriensis - Fox-tail cactus (USA: Arizona, Idaho, Kansas, New Mexico, North Dakota and Mexico: Coahuila de Zaragoza, Nuevo Leon)
The ones I have are seedlings from earlier this year. They're all in one tray and I don't feel like re-potting them yet. I also won't put them all outside in the cold to test their hardiness, because I might lose them all at once.

Escobaria missouriensis seedlings, 6 months old


Poll

As I've mentioned in my last article: there is an amazing Poll on my Blog right now! I'm having a little doubt about what I should sow next year and I want YOU to help me with that! I've named 4 species (photos included) and you can choose one. The winning species is the one I'll sow. If I know you, you'll win one of the sown species in the future! (for the Poll: scroll down!)

The end

That's about it! Thank you for reading and till next time!