Thursday, June 30, 2016

Beer Brewing: Brewing vs. Gardening

I decided to try my hand at small grain growing. And what better grain to grow than barley? It was somewhat of a last minute decision, so I ended up with some subideal conditions and limited choices. Ideally, I should have prepped the bed last Fall and ordered a nice, top-quality malting barley.

Instead, I ended up with a hasty bed prep and the only 2-row barley (Conlon) that I could find in small quantity with short notice. That said, it is coming along nicely. The coverage was a little thin, despite my heavy broadcast seeding. We had moderately heavy rain and unusual some cold at germination time. I didn't reseed some of the really thin areas because I kept waiting for more to germinate. Still, I think it came out pretty nice.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Beer Brewing: Oatmeal Extra Pale Ale

Time to step out on my own. It's really not too hard to formulate your own beer recipes. Take roughly 10 lbs. of grain, with the majority being pale-malt barley, add some hops, ferment with some yeast, beer. A cousin-in-law (is that a thing) went to a restaurant and asked for suggestions of beer choice based on the sign. I suggested the oatmeal extra pale ale, based on the description on the website. She opted for a different one, but I caught the bug.

I decided to make a simple recipe with 2 lbs. of flaked oats and 8.5 lbs. of 2-row pale malt. I'm going to hop this with 2 kinds of hops and ferment with Safale S-05 yeast. It should make a light blonde ale with a good mouthfeel and plenty of head retention at 5% alchohol.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Beer Brewing: The next chapter

I am a really, really bad blogger. I just realized that I started writing this post 6-ish months ago and never finished it. So, here it is... 

Apparently, it was more than a year ago that I first made beer in the modern era. If you read that post, you know that I made beer nearly 20 years ago and it was time to start again. Well, since then, I have brewed a few more beers. I did an American pale ale, an Irish red, and American red, a golden ale, and a couple others that I can't think of. All of these were extract kits with additional special grains. All of them were good, but all were lacking something...

I decided that I wanted more. One problem with kits, aside from the price is that you are limited to only what is being sold. The solution is to go to an all-grain brew. Using all grain adds complexity but it also adds flavor.

So, I went to the net to find a brew. I found a red rye recipe which looked promising. I like red beers. I like rye beers. Therefore, I must like red rye beers. I acquired all the ingredients for the beer and made it up. The process was smooth, although the sparging step was tedious. I tried a continuous sparging, which took a really long time.

The only other issue was that I had a faulty scale. I weighed out the right amount of priming sugar, but the measured volume way way too high. So, I put in the correct volume of sugar. The right amount was probably half way between, because the carbonation level was really weak. It was a nice red color, although, the floral, spicy notes of rye were burried a bit in the end product.

Friday, January 22, 2016

Random Thoughts: Food Shortages



In this day and age, it seems shocking and unacceptable at the thought of food shortages in our fully industrialized western world. However, it has happened in Rhode Island (one of highest population density States). The stated reason is weather. However, the diversity of crop shortages suggest something more dire.

It is my belief that the issue is primarily one of logistics combined with centralization of production. It is my opinion that is is an inherently bad thing to have broccoli and tomatoes produced in the same place at the same time. They are two very different crops with very different requirements.

For a small family farm, that approach is about diversification, just like investments. You don't put all your money in high-risk stocks, so you shouldn't put all your efforts into one crop. However, that approach is antithetical to the centralized monoculture production found on large farms.

If it's unusually hot or dry or cold or wet, you get shortages and delays. If all the region produces is a single crop, there is a minor annoyance. If the region produces all your food, well...

This problem is compounded with the logistics of production and distribution. Farmers (large farm coops or multi-national food companies) decide what to grow based on the price of each crop. If broccoli is high priced, a farm grows lots of broccoli. However, every farmer does the same thing. The result is an over-production of broccoli and an under-production of tomatoes.

Meanwhile, when it comes to market, everyone has broccoli and everyone wants tomatoes. This happens much more with commodities, however, all crops are slowly migrating towards this model and I fear the end result will be less than great.

What does this long ramble mean? Wel, aside from being unable to buy broccoli for the last month, it means I need to try to produce a lot more food in my small garden this coming season. I will need to spend more time weeding and watering because I, quite literally, can't afford to sacrifice one bit of production. It also means I need to be a lot more focused when buying seeds. Anyone know what will be a shortage next Fall/Winter?

Monday, August 3, 2015

Fishing: Good, great and even better.

I got invited to go fishing on a rental boat last week. I had been meaning to go. For a couple months now, my 5 year-old has been asking to go. Her first (and second and third) time fishing. My 8 year-old had fun enough, but didn't really take to it.

So, when I got the invite, I asked if we could bring my 5 year-old along. We went out in some fairly rough inshore seas from a moon tide, and had a pretty dismal first hour with 1 sea robin caught.

After that, the seas subsided and the wind stopped gusting. Then, it was nearly lock and load fishing... for everyone but me. My daughter pulled up a bunch of black seabass and scup (aka, porgies). I managed a couple of keeper scup. I did manage to pull in 3 short fluke, but no keepers.

At the end of the day, we went home with 8 good sized scup and 3 black seabass. More importantly, I got a day on the water. Most importantly, my daughter got a day on the water.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Chickens go for a walk

Chickens grow fast. The typical supermarket bird is 8-12 weeks old. That means they go from palm-of-your-hand to a large roaster in a few months. The traditional breeds that we choose are a bit slower growing, but they still grow fast. In fact, they are quickly out-growing their plastic tub.

We decided to let them go outside today. I had some plastic chicken "wire" fencing. I used some sticks and stakes to form an enclosure out on the grass. They spent most of the day outside. They'll probably be outside permanently by the end of the week.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Chickens!

There aren't a lot of options for me when it comes to livestock. In fact, to comply with the letter of the law, I really can't have any traditional livestock. I could breed "pet" rabbits for food, but that's about it. However, there is enough wiggle room that I can safely keep chickens, as long as I don't annoy my immediate neighbors.

For years, I had some Rhode Island Reds. Then, one fateful night, I went to see Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol. I wasn't home to secure the birds at sunset. A raccoon found his way through the weak point of my run and killed the last of my girls.

Winter was brutal and Spring was late and the we had an out-of-town wedding, so we held off ordering some chicks until late June. We recieved them last week and they are settling into their new home nicely.