Sunday, November 28, 2010

Cabin Fever

So, since the last post, Southeast Idaho has had quite a bit of snow... and it has been actually more snow than they have had in a while, from what I hear from everybody around here. And by everybody, that typically means my parents, and just the few other people I have contact with anymore. I haven't done much outside, and how can I? I don't dare go outside to even take pictures, as these pictures are taken from within the comfort of my own home, through windows. Its been as low as 2 Degrees Fahrenheit. Take a look:



West, with snow fence!

Brrrr! So much Snow! And the Drifts! Oi veh! Don't worry, the Goats are doing just fine, they stay so warm by themselves! We just need to make sure they well fed over the winter.

Since I've been kind of stuck indoors for the last week or so, I've been trying to prepare things for the winter (as if it wasn't already upon us). The Friday after Thanksgiving gave me good enough weather to get out in the garden and pick up the remaining beets and carrots. And by "good enough weather", I mean it was sub-20 degrees and the only time it wasn't snowing. There was plenty of snow covering everything, but I saved a good number of the veggies from freezing and getting gross. Check out these beautiful carrots:

Over the last few months we've been having our tomatoes we brought in at the beginning of November slowly ripen, My sister and I have been blanching them and freezing them, making them into sauces, salsa, putting them in salads, using them ANY way we can before they go bad. This is the remainders that we're STILL waiting on getting ripe:

As you can see, we had both large tomatoes and cherry varieties. They are wonderful to have, and I've never realized how much I love tomato products before. I haven't gotten tired of them yet, though we've been having tomato products probably every day in the month of November.

Also, as previously mentioned, I've been developing my skills as a bread baker.

Home Made Butterflake Rolls for Thanksgiving!

Sandwich Breads
I'm okay at it, but I'm definitely getting better. Every loaf I bake, I come up with a better idea of what the dough should feel like, and what it looks like when its done.

So, with all these things, I'm becoming more and more prepared for the winter, and cooking, and the long deep cold. Speaking of deep cold, here's the freezer with lots of beets, pumpkin, zucchini, tomatoes, vegetable broth, turkey broth, and some leftover food from Schwan's my parents have bought:

You really can't be too upset about there being Toffee Ice cream bars.

I won't be starting plants until march sometime in the greenhouse, that I have yet to build, but I have recently been pouring over seed catalogs trying to determine what I am going to plant in the spring. I would like to stay with buying seeds locally, but for some things I want to grow, there is another resource I'd like to use, since I've read their mission and I like them a lot. Anti-GMO and they have a ton of very interesting vegetables that you don't see every day. Its a company called Seed Saver's Exchange. It is a non-profit organization, and you can become a member, which opens you up to a whole world of people across the country and the world that have been growing and documenting heirloom seeds and plants for a very long time. Membership would be a great Christmas gift HINT. I am especially interested in growing Romanesco Broccoli .

Other than all that, I'm still exercising every day, and I'm trying to read more. I'm currently halfway though the first book of the Lord of the Rings. The only thing I gotta say, Tom Bombadil would have been sweet to see in the movies.

Bottling of the pumpkin porter is happening tomorrow, anybody have any ideas for a name?


-Jon E

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Brew Prime

Quick Post here: This last Monday (Nov 15th, 2010), I concocted my first Rural Brew, the Blog's Namesake!!!

It is a Pumpkin Porter Style, here's my recipe list I made up while getting grain and brewing:

The Recipe and Method
 Here's what it says:

8 Lbs Munich Malt
1 Lb Chocolate Malt
1 Lb Caramel Crystal Malt 60L
.5 Lb Crystal MAlt 10L

After Lautering (taking the sugars out of the grains with hot water, basically) Specific Gravity (how much sugar is in the water compared to the density of water) comes out to 1.020 @ 141 degrees Fahrenheit (the higher the Specific Gravity, the more potential for alcohol by volume (ABV). This liquid (or Wort, as it is called) extracted is basically is what I'll use to boil down into actual beer (with hops and stuff, including Pumpkin and spices, for this particular recipe). With a specific gravity of 1.020 @ 141 Degrees F, my extraction efficiency was about 70%. This is good considering my last beer I got something like 40% extraction efficiency. The extraction efficiency measures potential sugars taken from the grains after the mashing is completed.

Ugh, sorry for the technical stuff, I'm mostly writing this stuff to document it for me rather than you.

As a  general key, you boil the Wort for about 1 hour to boil it down to the final liquid you ferment. Therefore, I am indicating the ingredients of this recipe in order of when they go into the boil. When you add ingredients at different times in the boil, it brings out different characteristics in the ingredients, depending on how long they are boiled. This is especially true for Hops. THe longer they are in the boil, the more bitterness you'll get out of the hops. The less time they are in the boil (i.e. 5 minutes from the end, etc) the more of the aroma or flowery taste you'll get from them. Thus, as an indication of when the ingredients were added to the boil, I've added an "@ ___ Minutes" after each ingredient to indicate how far before the END of the boil ingredients were added.

Onto the rest of the recipe!

1 Stick Cinnamon @ 60 Minutes
1 Oz Dried Willamette Dried Leaf Hops @ 60 Minutes
6 Lbs Roasted Pumpkin guts n' stuff @ 45 Minutes
1/2 Oz Cascade Hops @ 30 Minutes
1 additional stick Cinnamon @ 5 Minutes
Just shy of 1 tsp Nutmeg @ 5 minutes
1/2 tsp Coriander @ 5 minutes
1 tsp dried powdered ginger @ 5 Minutes
1/4 tsp Clove @ 5 minutes

Irish Ale Yeast from Wyeast

During the Lautering Process
The 1 Lb Chocolate Malt I used gives it a really dark color, which is great, as seen above.

So I'll Rack it (transfer from the Primary fermenter to another 5 Gallon container) to sift out any little yeast waste and pumpkin goo and guts. let it sit for about another week, then its time for bottling, and ready for consumption in time for Christmas!

If you're interested, heres some other pictures from brewday, my sister helped a lot! A little brewer's assistant! And I have to say, the barn is a great place for brewing beer. I'm currently in the process of clearing out a space for me to have a more permanent setup. The funny thing is that I have no running water out in the barn, so I'm carting water out for brewing in buckets. This last brew I was able to do it with slightly less than 15 Gallons of water. 3 buckets full.

As an added bonus, I dried out about 3 sheet pans full of the spent brew grains and I am now trying to use them in bread I'm making. I used my Burr grinder I won as a prize from Zoka Coffee in Seattle to grind down a bit into some nice looking flour. It looks like its going to work very well for adding some subtle notes of flavor and dark color to my breads.

I'll report on how the beer and bread turn out.


-Jon E

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

What a difference a month makes

Whoo boy, where to start? My last post mentioned that I was on my way to Alaska, and I am happy to say that after over 1 month on the road, from Juneau to San Francisco, I am back in Idaho safe, resting up, and getting to work on some of my projects for winter. If you wanna see photos from my trip (I didn't take many) then you can see them from Alaska (these are mostly of either Michael or the Mendenhall Glacier) and Oregon. Sorry friends from Washington and the Bay Area, I didn't take any photos while visiting you, and therefore you are left out... but we'll always have the memories right!?!?

By the way, I think my pictures of the Mendenhall are wayyyy better than those on wikipedia, just saying.

Also, I want to express my deep and loving appreciation for any and all friends that I stayed with, saw, met up with, and generally had a good time with. This trip down the coast was incredible, and I have my wonderful friends to thank for that. So again, Thank you so much, everyone I saw, and everybody that was willing to put up with me for the time I was with them. Thank you for putting me up and putting up with me.

I arrived in Salt Lake City at 3:45 AM and was graciously fetched by my sister and father. They made the 6-hour round-trip trek that meant I didn't have to bum around downtown SLC for 4 hours until the next shuttle came back to Pocatello, for which I am eternally grateful. If I didn't make it clear enough then, thanks you guys, that was a pro move.

By the end of my trip I started to feel lugubrious about the fact that I wasn't back on the farm getting things done. I took that as a sign to skip town, not because I needed to get out of there because it was unpleasant, but because, for some reason, though I've only lived in Idaho on the far for a month, I felt kind of drawn back here. There was so much work to be done before winter really set in.

Well, in that respect, I was incredibly lucky. I got back, and was really only worth anything in regard to work on the farm, a few days after the beginning of November. I had one main goal in mind: Plow and till my garden plot before the winter freeze set in. The weather stayed pleasant for a good week after I came back and I'm happy to say that I got my field plowed (Ifyaknowhaddimean...).

Field Pre-Plow
Field Post-Plow
Believe it or not, those two pictures were taken less than a week apart from each other. Notice the Leaves on the trees above the house. Those fell in probably about 2 days. The field you are looking at there used to be a horse pasture. It is about 60'x100' in the area that I plowed and tilled. It was full of grass and weeds, and was a pain in the ass to plow and till, mostly because all of the old grass, roots, and rocks that were in the ground. The good news is, when you till up the earth where theres lots of rocks, you find a lot of them! Then you can throw them out of your field. Theres a little Farming 101 for you. Professor Farmer Jon's farming basics class!.

Anyway, I'm glad I got all that done with the field, but it wasn't all my work. we got some NEW GOATS!!! Don't worry,  they're nowhere near as cute as the first goat we got, but They're way bigger, which means we can put them to work. we staked them out in the middle of the pasture to graze on the weeds and grass that was out there before I plowed it. They were mildly helpful, I think it would have been better if they could have been out there for a week or so, but I had a time crunch before the weather turned for the worse, and I decided to plow in the rest of everything. I'll be good for the soil consistency anyway, and allow all the roots and grasses to break down and supply nutrients to the soil over winter. Anyway, Pictures of goats!

Rosie the riveter

Connie, or "con-tron" as I call her
The new goats are pretty cool, if not a little bullish at times. They push around Crabby, our little goat, mostly because they're about 3 times bigger. However, bigger means I can put them to work. Crabby is more like a "hobby goat", whatever that means. I just made that up. She's just so little and cute, I don't know what actual use she'll be except as a mascot or something. I'll make t-shirts.

We bought the 2 new goats from a family down the street who didn't want to raise goats any more. I think Rosie is a great name for a goat, but when I heard the other's name was Connie, I thought to myself: "Myself, that's a terrible name for a goat!". Luckily, I have a good friend named Conner Jefferies whom we call Con-tron, or on occasion, Con-Job. I decided, in honor of Conner, I will be calling Connie Con-Tron. You're welcome Conner.

The New Goat Pen!
In other news of stuff I didn't directly contribute to, while on my travels, my dad leveled and fenced in the area behind the garage that was just roofed. This is how we are able to get more goats! Lets hear it for progress! Also, theres the little cute goat in this picture. Also my dad, everybody say "hey dad"!

For a little perspective, I'll show you what this used to look like a mere 2 months ago:

Its almost as if we've made progress!
Wow, Thats a big change, and the area is so much more usable. Especially since Mummycat has now stopped haunting that area and taken up residency elsewhere (Read: Dad threw it in the potato cellar).

I also have started a bitchin' compost pile. Within the first week it was nice and stinky, with lots of visible decay and steam when I stirred it. That'll be good nutriments come springtime for some lucky garden of mine. All the leaves from those trees you saw in that picture of the field I plowed are going to be compost or mulch for some gardens.

Without getting into too much minutia about activities (Which i feel like I'm treading the line of already), I have various other projects, including, but not limited to:

  • Learning how to, without too much effort, bake my own bread. My friend Micah has become a fairly accomplished baker, and he suggested this book to me by Peter Reinhart called Artisan Breads Every Day. I won't get into details, but it helps me to, hopefully, make delicious home-baked bread without having to take all day or wake up way early to do it, leaving me free most of the other times to do my other numerous projects. Right now, I am in the process of making my first French bread b√Ętards, and also I am trying to catch a wild yeast using his method for making sourdough. 
  • Sprouting seeds and lentils for fresh vegetables and stuff during the long, cold winter.
  • Working on my plans and building a greenhouse/cold frame for extending the growing season in the spring. as it turns out, I'm trying to build it out of PVC and plastic sheeting we have lying around the farm. I'll keep you posted, it could turn into a huge hassle.
  • Starting to exercise. This is something I've long been avoiding, in fact, the entire time I lived in Seattle except for a very short period of time in college when I had a free gym membership. I've been doing 30 minutes on the elliptical every evening, and whatever manual labor I have to do during the day. My mom also bought a Wii fit board when I brought my Wii here. The Wii fit is very mean.
  • Video Games and Movies via Netflix. I can't believe I actually get anything done based on the pure volume of content that I have available to me for only $9 a month. Seriously, how is this not the best invention ever? I just discovered that Strange Brew is now streaming. Hallalujah.

Take off ya Hosers,

-Jon E