Monday, March 28, 2011

Starting seeds indoors

Last year we had plans of a huge garden at our community garden plots. We started our seeds indoors two months before the last frost date. We started out ok, the seeds germinated and they took off right away. Then they just stopped growing. Thought that maybe they would do better being outside in the sun during the warm days, so we started setting them outside to harden off. They were doing ok, but still not growing. Then after one very hot day we lost the majority of our plants. So we ended up searching for a green house to buy our plants. The area we live in seems to be going away from the 6-pack style plants and more into single plants. Thats fine if your planting a small garden or are rich, but we wanted a big garden so we had to search all over the county before we found a small greenhouse that still sells plants in 6-packs. They were nice plants and grew good and priced far better than lowes or the other big box stores.

This year things have started off much better. We chose a better soil to start the seeds in, we're using bigger pots and a grow light. So far they are doing way better than last year. Infact its time to move some of the tomato plants into bigger pots. Soon we will be starting some squash and more tomatos and jalapenos. 

Filling up the pots.

Hot & bell peppers are doing good. We made the labels out of an old window blind. These work really good.

Hoping the warm days come back soon so we can move some of these guys outside to the "greenhouse".

Bottling day

Today was gluten free beer bottling day. If you like beer but have celiacs then you need a gluten free beer. Here is the gluten free recipe I used.

7lbs of white sorghum syrup
1oz cascade hops (beginning of boil)
1/2oz cascade hops 15 min before end of boil
1/2oz cascade hops at end of boil
1 packet of dry ale yeast or liquid ale yeast

Mix syrup and about 1 gallon of water in brew pot and bring to a boil. Add 1oz of cascade hops. Boil 45 minutes. Then add 1/2oz cascade hops and boil for 10 more minutes. Then add 1/2oz of cascade hops and boil for 5 more minutes. Put in primary fermentor and add remaing water to get to 5 gallon mark. Cool as quickly as possible to 75degrees and pitch the yeast. Fill airlock and wait until the fermentation stops (at least 1 week) I usually wait 2 weeks and rack to secondary for clearing. I like leaving it in the secondary for about 3 weeks sometimes longer.

We tried an easier way to clean/sanitize the bottles this time using the dishwasher on the sanitize option. Then as usual we rinsed all the bottles with a no rinse sanitizer.

This seemed to work really well. The rinse aid was empty so we figured we would give it a try.

Anytime I brew or bottle, its always nice to have a drink of the last batch. This is a hard cider that we made and bottled in beer bottles. It turned out really good and very strong.

Here's 54 cleaned/sanitized bottles ready to be filled. You can buy bottles from a homebrew store but what fun is that? I opted for buying a couple cases of beer with popoff caps, (the twist off ones you can't reuse) and drinking those until I had a nice collection of bottles.

After mixing up the priming sugar, to give the beer carbonation. Its time to siphon the beer into the bottling bucket.

Now to fill the bottles.

Now onto the capping, this is my favorite part.

All capped, in 2-3 weeks it will be carbonated and ready to enjoy. I can't wait until the 3 week carbonation period is up so I can taste the finished beer. The sample I had today is promising to be a good brew.

My next batch (cherry stout) is ready and going into a cornelius keg so the carbonation period will only be 2-3 days. Hopefully this will be a project for this week. Also going to brew a batch of honey lager this week.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Raised beds

After three years of taking care of flowers that only flower for about 1 week out of the year. We decided to rip them out and build some raised beds.

Pic of last years flowers, some pepper & tomato plants. Digging up peonies is not a fun job, their roots are a lot bigger than I expected them to be.

After two trips to Lowes and lots of shoveling the boxes turned out pretty nice. After building the four 6'x4' boxes out of 2x6's Friday morning and layering the bottom with old cardboard it was time to start filling them with dirt.

I layered the fill with leaves saved from last year, compost from our compost barrel, and some wood ashes from the wood stove.
Didnt want to cut down our walnut tree so I decided to build a box around it, hopefully this will keep the plants safe from it.

Attaching the string to make the 1'x1' squares.

Got some lettuce, carrots, beets & radishes planted.

Attaching the hoops for the "greenhouse".

All finished.