After sanitizing and prepping all my tools and the second bucket, I prepared to siphon off the first bucket. It's been a long time since I've siphoned anything, and I ended up drinking a lot more of the mead in the process than I had expected. The good news is that it definitely has alcohol at this point. It was a light honey and berry flavor with slight carbonation. It certainly needs more time to age, but I'm happy with the way it's going.
Once I finally finished the siphoning process, I packed up the new bucket and put it away. The berry must actually still looked rather good, and didn't show any signs of decay at all. I think the next batch will run for the full 10 days before siphoning. However, the realization that the bucket had a very large amount of oxygen in it weighed heavily in the back of my mind. Oxygen allows the bacteria that secretes vinegar to grow. The reason for using an airlock is to force out excess Oxygen with the Carbon Dioxide the yeast produces. With such a small amount of yeast in a large container, I wasn't confident that the CO2 levels could create enough pressure for this.
As a result, I went ahead and performed the second racking, which is straight into the bottles:
Because I don't have any bungs small enough for the bottles, I had to use a neat trick I read in the The Known World Handbook. Simply put balloons over the top of the bottle and it will fill up with the excess gas. Sadly, I noticed that my balloons weren't inflating. In fact, the mead didn't even appear to be bubbling. I panicked a bit and shook the bottles, trying to aerate them a bit more. Had I exposed it to too much oxygen? Did something infect the batch? Had the yeast been exposed to high temperatures for too long?
Thankfully, a balloon made noise a couple hours later and stood up. Not long after, all the balloons started popping up like they're supposed to, and the mead is currently bubbling right along.
So now the brew is back on track and my buckets are ready for another batch! I haven't decided fully on how I want to proceed. I'm sure I'll buy a gallon of honey this time and make a much larger batch. All said and done, this mead costs a total of about $6 per gallon to make. Not a bad price!