Sunday, March 14, 2010

OK, so this isn't fishing it was just picking up a starfish at dawn on Christmas in Belize.

more fishing stuff later... including the best of photos before we get going for the 2010 season in the northwest, and hopefully mex.

Saturday, March 13, 2010


Once the placement for the garden was set the real fun began, the digging...

Fortunately I had just cleared the area for the chicken run and coup so I was in the digging mood so to speak. First I cleared the grass and filled in an area next to the garden to hopefully divert the water that had been running down that side of the property and through the area for the garden and coup. I added a drainage ditch as well.

Next the 2”x12” sides went in the ground. The idea behind this was again to increase the barriers to a river running through the garden and chickens as well as barriers to pests that could potentially eat our forthcoming goodies.

With the raised planter bed of the garden now lag bolted together the only things left to do before the plants go in the ground and start growing us food is to wait for the winter to leave us (we have still been getting some freezing nights), fill in the raised bed with good fill dirt (Craigslist, is helpful, but when it is raining people don’t advertise free dirt really, maybe I should search for free mud…), and start the seeds indoors until they can be transplanted.
View looking north of our yard. Drainage rock and chicken run on far left, small compost area next to it. Garden shed where our lawn mower and yard tools live, crappy left over lawn furniture to the right of that and finally the garden on the far right.

found many a thing while i dug up and aerated the soil of the garden, rocks, glass, marbles, a box cutter and this little gem. Why is mickey only wearing tighty whities?

Friday, March 12, 2010

Planning a garden

We decided a while ago that there needed to be some things growing around here. That is to say more than just the grass, bamboo and moss in our backyard. So where oh where to begin? Well I am new round these parts so I didn’t really know much about the growing season, daylight hours or sun during the day so I began with some research. I began on the internet but came up underwhelmed with the complete lack of information. Perhaps I was just asking the wrong questions, but I prefer to think that the people out there planting gardens are not the computer savvy ones in the world so I decided to use an older source that I have often turn to and read, fantasizing about someday, The Solar Greenhouse. The book is actually one year older than I am, and like me it is still useful in this world. From its pages I was able to understand the hours of sunlight, the exact location of sunrise and sunset using my latitude, and also the angle of incline. Of course as we all know this changes daily as the earth orbits the sun as well as rotates itself (and now those wacky NASA scientists say that all these major earthquakes are altering the rotation of earth as well so we have to factor that in too). But roughly, on the longest day of the year, the summer solstice, the sun will rise at a compass heading of 65’ and set at 295’ with the max incline of the sun reaching 60’ from the surface of the earth.

With that done I decided to take a look in the yard and find the best possible place to have a garden. The only problem, all our neighbors have trees. And not small ones either, really big ones. The foliage is definitely big enough to obscure the sun for many hours a day. So my best option was to place the garden on the north side of our property and hope for the best as our days get warmer and longer. I marked out a 8’x12’ patch for the garden with room next to it for plants that need to stretch like squash. I also decided to dedicate some room on the south side of our property of flowers, peas, tomatoes and whatever else will fit. So there we have it a 96 sq/ft planter and various other spots that can be utilized around the yard.

south fence of our backyard

Bob enjoying some outside time.

The future location of our garden

All Tied Up This Week

As some already know my wife has a very interesting job. One day she is building a giant 7’ dinosaur topiary and a week or two later she is building a ship. She has put beds on walls and cut room for shelves, or helped true outdoor plants thrive in an indoor consumer setting. Suspending things from the ceiling? No problem, even though the ceiling is 25 feet from the floor. She works hard building things that people take for granted as they shop and are convinced through presentation that they need to purchase. She is not nearly honored enough for her creativity, skill and dedication to her work. It is these reasons and many more that inspire me to help her in any way or shape possible. I actually have come to enjoy going shopping with her on occasion to Home Depot, thrift stores or various other places. The opportunities I have however are few and far between that I actually get to take some part of her workload on and make her job easier. So, imagine my joy when she came to me and asked me to make something for her displays… go ahead imagine it. The pictures and video should be fairly self-explanatory… Who says captains class teaches you nothing? or is it… Who says you can’t teach yourself anything in captains class? Either or. Enjoy!

Ok, so I was informed that this apparently took way too long to tie... Sorry if it bores you. But hey, I was pretty proud of it...

...and now we are entirely out of rope at our house.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Saturday yard workin' it

Last weekend was a fairly nice one here in Seattle so I decided it was time to get some Saturday yard work done. the garden was dug, the seeds started and now the lawn needed my attention. armed with only the simplest of knowledge of mowing lawns I decided a stiff greyhound would give me the necessary courage to tackle our back yard. sure enough, about an hour later the job was done and it even inspired the folks we share our house with to cut the front lawn on Sunday.

"K" rockin' out inside while I slave away in the yard with only my trusty hound to keep me company.


A.W.B. anyone?

So as of right now we are three batches into our beer production. The quick recap to get us up to date goes something like this…

Batch 1:

Brewed this at the rents-in-laws place and this was the instruction batch. It was to be a clone of the Pacific Northwest beer Mac n Jacks. For those whom may not have ever tried this liquid gold, it is an African amber that you can only get locally up here and only on tap. So hopefully you can see the draw to brewing your own so that you don’t have to go out to a bar a lay down $5+ a pint. Brewing took place on a January afternoon and primary fermentation as well as secondary fermentation and bottling was done at an away field. The fermentation went smoothly and after about a week I was called back to rack the wort from its first container (a food grade 6 gal bucket) into its secondary fermentation receptacle (a glass 5 gal carboy, or water cooler bottle). This too went swimmingly and again I was called back in about a week to start bottling. The beer was bottled into 19 1liter bottles with rubber stoppers (think grolsh bottles). 12 of these bottles we kept and gave the rest to the beer instructor, Bob. Now came the hardest part, waiting to drink the beer. 3-4 weeks later we drank our first and it was a magical experience to say the least. Not quite Mac N Jacks but a highly “drinkable” beer as some may say. The taste was somewhere between Mac N Jacks and Red Hook ESB. Alas at the time of my writing this there are only 2 more liters in our fridge of this brew.

Batch 2:

By this time I realized a few more things about the brewing process than I knew going into or even completing batch 1.

First I realized that I wanted to do more of this! Brewing my own beer was something I liked and it was a strange engaging mix of chemistry, biology, recipe calculation and playing with fire. If I wanted to do this at home I needed more equipment, because borrowing could only go so far and I would have to travel to make my brew.

Second I realized that if I wanted to start primarily drinking my own brew full time I would need to start another batch as soon as its predecessor was moving out of the tanks and into the bottles, if not sooner.

Lastly I realized that I needed control over all aspects of the brewing process. As I mentioned before this brewing process is somewhat like chemistry in that specific times, temperatures and ingredients are not just necessary but imperative to achieving desired results.

For batch 2 I decided to go for one of my all time favorite Mexican beers, Negra Modelo. I found a clone recipe that I though would work and headed north again to brew at the rents-in-laws with my brother in law (a first time brewer himself). Brewing went easy enough, however when it came time to start primary fermentation a bit too much water got added to the primary fermentation bucket so we wound up with about 2gal more than we should have. This was not realized unfortunately until it was time to transfer into the secondary fermentation receptacle. It is not my place to point fingers at the cause of this excess liquid as it could have been anyone of the three new brewers who were working that day, but the fact remains that this illustrated in my mind the need for me to do 100% of the process at my location. To accommodate this extra volume of liquid 1gal containers were purchased to supplement the carboy in secondary fermentation. At the time of writing this I have no idea how the beer is because it still needs another 1week minimum in the bottle before we can try it and find out if this extra volume affected the beer at all. I will keep this updated and let you all know when I find out this weekend.

Batch 3:

I had finally gathered all the basic elements necessary for my own brew set up in my apartment! YEAH! FUCK YEAH! This accumulation of necessary elements was no easy task let me tell you. Perhaps the nicest part was that I had a birthday right in the middle of beginning to homebrew so the rents-in-law set me up with some of the more necessary things that I would not be able to get second hand from craigslist or e-bay. For this batch I decided to go with a recipe from my local homebrew place that happens to be just up the street. It is a Belgian Tirpel. A lighter colored Belgian ale characterized by a slight fruity finish and unusually high alcohol content.

Sanitized everything that I would be using so as to not let any wild yeasts into the beer.

I began by steeping the grain sack for about 15min in 150-160F water.

I added the malts, dry and liquid as well as the Belgian candy sugar to the wort pot (a 32quart stock pot originally designed for turkey frying)

Once a boil had been achieved I added the boiling hops and began timing for 1hour.

At 45 minutes I added my clarifier, a seaweed pellet and the flavoring hops.

At 55 minutes I added the finish hops and let it finish out the remainder of the 1 hour boil.

Removed the wort from the heat and let it sit for 20 min as per the recipe instructions before cooling wort using nifty wort chiller I made about a week earlier.

Cutting to the chase, I cooled liquid to 75-80F and pitched yeast.

Took my OG (original gravity) using a hydrometer and recorded it at 1.100. This is pretty freekin high, even for the beer I am trying to make. This is a reading you would get most likely from a barley wine and not a beer, but hey what the hell, just means I am going to have a pretty strong brew on my hands when its all said and done.

Tripel on top bubblin away Negra on bottom waiting to be consumed

As of me writing this the beer is still in its primary fermenter and most likely tomorrow (3-8) I will be transferring it to the carboy to finish out its time. Another hydrometer reading will be taken when racking and all I can hope for is that those billions of little yeasts in there have been busy converting all that sugar into good ol’ alcohol.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Here goes

So here goes... This thing seems to be getting off to a fizzle instead of the bang that it should have, but hey what the hell can you do? You have to start somewhere and if I don't ever put anything down I may never... Lets make some lemons out of lemonade shall we? This blog is going to be an investigation into the new surrounding I find myself in as well as the things that myself and my spouse have done to occupy our free time. Personally I seem to have much more free time than my female counterpart, but this is most likely owing to the fact that I have been shall we say less than employed since September 2009. Not unlike my badger friend I have been engaged in a life and death struggle against a foe that I must remain on present terms with in order to survive in this unfamiliar place. The adversary is one of immense power and infinite resources. The foe of which I speak is "The State." As I am sure many know I have been an educator, and it is not nearly as easy as one would think to be an educator and to change states in which you educate. But I digress this is merely an introduction so please forgive me for my specificity in relation to topics. Though, now that I have slipped with a possible future thread it seem that I should at least mention future topics that I would like to elaborate upon at a later date.

1. homebrewing (we recently started making our own beer 5 gal. at a time)
2. our own kinda farming
-our garden (100+ sq/ft)
-our chickens (about 2 weeks old right now!)
3. travel and sights around here
4. fishin'

and of course battles with "the state..."
none of these things are intended to be instructive in any way shape or form, just our experiences in a new place.