Monday, November 25, 2013

"Humidifier" and "Lights"…….

We bought a cast iron tea kettle for on top of the wood stove to help bring some humidity into the house this Winter.  I knew it being made of cast iron it would be heavy, but didn't realize just how heavy!  I oiled and seasoned it in the oven before it was filled with water and set on the stove.  Hopefully, it will add a significant amount of moisture in the air…….

The end of the great room was a bit dark at night, too, so Don bought some small lights and installed them on the window to bring a bit of light during these early darkness hours.  Our parakeet, Sam, really enjoyed them and stayed outside her cage much later than her "normal" time.  Evidently the 50 lights and their reflections were like early morning stars to her?

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

"Transfer and 2nd Fermentation……"

The 1st week of fermentation of our wort is over and has been transferred into carboy #2 for another week of fermentation/clarifying.  More yeast particles(?) will settle to the bottom and the beer will become more clear.  ;)  It certainly smelled like beer when we transferred it……is it still technically called wort or can I now refer to it as "beer"?  I guess I will have yet another question to ask and get the answer to the next time we go to Bad Teacher Brewing Supply, eh?  ;)

Here is what carboy #2 looks like after the transfer.  As you can see, it already has a much clearer consistency, but is supposed to become even more clear during this next week.  Whatever minuscule solids in will settle to the bottom and when we transfer it to the 5 gallon "bottling bucket", it should be even more clear as it goes into individual bottles.

The foam and solids from the yeast, hops, and citrus peels that were a part of the first week of fermentation were, for the most part, left in the 1st carboy.  Now to clean and sanitize the 6.5 gallon carboy for future brews.  ;)

The 1st carboy was surprisingly easy to clean!  I suppose if not done fairly quickly after the transfer and allowed to dry onto the glass, it perhaps might have been a bit more of a challenge to get clean.  Its nice to be retired and be able to schedule time as needed.  ;)

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

"First Time Brewing Beer…….."

After attending "Beer Brewing 101" at Bad Teacher Brewing Supply (, Don and I were up for trying to brew some beer.  We bought their brewing kit and one of their beer ingredient kits, brought them home, and let them sit.  :)  We wanted the home brewing setup to be the easiest and most efficient, so we called our plumber to give us an estimate on installing a double tub laundry sink.  That took awhile before we could get it installed, but the day finally arrived and we were ready to brew our first batch of beer.

Here I am checking on the boil.  The beer starts out with 3 gallons of water, with more added later in the process.

This will give you a better view of it.  The boil is timed with different things added in at certain times.

The first thing added before the water is brought to a boil is the grain mixtures.  Since this is one of their beer kits, it came with the correctly proportioned mix of grains.  I took this photo of the grain bag after it had steeped in the water for the correct amount of time……at the correct water temperature, of course.  ;)

There wasn't too much during the process that would be interesting documented with a photo, so this next photo is of us cooling the boiled mixture, now called "Wort", down to the correct temperature so that more water could be added before "pitching" the yeast into it.

This piece of equipment, which hooks up to the water faucet, is called a "Wort Chiller".  Cold water is run through the copper tubing to cool the wort down to about 70 degrees.  The Wort Chiller was a gift to us from Elspeth and Bruce, who came and visited us earlier this Fall.  After they had driven back to their home in Madison, they called Bad teacher Brew Supply and bought the Wort Chiller as a gift, having Brian, the owner of brew shop call us with the wonderful surprise!

This shows the Wort Chiller at work…..

In this photo, I am preparing to siphon the wort from the boil kettle to the 6 1/2 gallon "carboy".

The 6 1/2 gallon carboy (glass bottle) is where the wort will ferment for a week before it is siphoned out of that and into a 5 gallon carboy.  All the pieces of equipment that you see me using during this entire brewing and fermenting process are included in the brewing kit that Bad Teacher Brewing Supply has put together.

After the wort is siphoned into the carboy, another 2 gallons of water is blended into it.

The yeast is then "pitched" into the wort.  That is the last ingredient that is added and now the wort is prepared to "do its thing" during its first week of fermentation.

The last step in the initial process is to plug the top of the carboy with an "airlock", which is half filled with water and allows the CO2 to escape during the fermentation, but doesn't allow anything to get into, or enter the carboy during that time.

Here is a better look at the airlock.

Don and I were really amazed watching the fermentation process.  Watching the wort "work" through the glass of the carboy looked like a tornado or super storm, swirling and whirling around erratically, especially during the first few days.  The airlock was busily "burping" CO2 quite quickly!  After the initial frenzy of the yeast "working", it has slowed down and has been more of a lazy and gentle swirling action.

It has now been a week that the wort has been in the 6 1/2 gallon carboy.  I will transfer the wort into the 5 gallon carboy sometime today and it will then "work" one more week before we transfer it to another vessel where it will have a small amount of sugar water added before we bottle and cap it.  The sugar water adds just enough food for the yeast inside the bottle to make some more CO2.  It needs to mature a few weeks in the bottle before it is ready to share.  Hopefully, it will be worth sharing!  ;)

Monday, November 18, 2013

"Don's THE Man!"

You may remember that we bought a new John Deere Tractor with a snowblower attachment.  It would fit in the garage but only on the "other side" of the car, which would mean we'd have to back out the car in order to get the tractor out to snowblow…..not the best solution, right?  :)

So…….we ordered an 8'x9'x12' Shelter Logic Hoop Style Shelter to house the tractor.  Don read the instructions for assembly and began putting the pieces together, calling me out to help move/hold things, "as needed".

Once the frame was set up, he was able to continue again without my help.

But I went out occasionally to take photos of his progress……

And yes, I was out there to hold the ladder steady, too (when not stepping back to take a photo).  ;)

Unfortunately, the written assembly instructions were not the best (to say the least!), because after assembling something, a few steps later, they'd have to be unassembled in order to complete the new step.  Finally, Don got to the point of attaching the tarp sections to the frame.

As you can see in the photo below, Don isn't smiling……..frustration had set in and he was done for the day.

The next day and after "redoing" some of the "previous steps", Don was finished!

Here he is backing our tractor into its new home.

It fits perfectly!  A job well done!  YEA DON!!!!!

Here is a side view of the structure.  It should be pretty easy to keep snow off of it, too, with the curved ribs and angles sides.  "Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow……."  We're ready!  ;)

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

"Matcha Tea……"

Don and I went to the "Tea 101" class at Light of Day Organic Tea Farm last Saturday.  We're also scheduled to take their "Tea Wellness" class in the next few weeks.  I believe I had mentioned in an earlier post that this is Michigan's only tea farm?  We're very fortunate to live nearby…..

We bought and are trying their "Matcha" green tea, mixing it in soy milk and pineapple juice.  I believe it is the only tea that is meant to be totally ingested and not steeped, and I must say that in this mixture, it is quite tasty!

Down the hatch!

We are interested in seeing if the proclaimed health benefits will help us, too.  ;)  Only one way to find out, eh?  Here is the link to their site where you can read more about Matcha, too.

Monday, November 11, 2013

"Patrick's 35th Birthday……"

How in the world can my oldest son be 35???!!!  Truly, it seems unbelievable to me.

Patrick, Julie, and Abigail drove up to our house to celebrate his birthday with us.  We were very fortunate that last Friday, November 8th (his actual birthday), was bright and beautiful!  One of the first things he wanted to do upon arrival, was to go and check out Don's tree stand.  He'd helped us raise it the week before, but hadn't been able to stay until it was secured to the tree.  He, and his sidekick, Abigail, immediately climbed up and into the stand.  I missed this because I was too slow in getting outside, but Abigail seems to have no fear when she is with her Daddy and climbed up the ladder like a little monkey climbs trees.  :)

After climbing down from the tree stand, we all headed inside, where Abigail tried on this Halloween mask that Peggy, a friend from when I worked on Mackinac Island (the Summer of 1972!), had sent us.  Yes, it went home with Abigail.  ;)

Asking Patrick what he wanted for his birthday dinner was like pulling teeth.  He finally told me he likes lasagna, or chili…..that was all I could get out of him.  Lasagna was what we had for the Julie and Abigail's birthday dinner, so chili it was!  The BIG surprise was his birthday dessert!  I had made him Frozen Strawberry Pie, using a recipe that I had gotten from my Mom, who had been given the recipe from her cousin, Jill.  My Mom used to make this "Grandkids Favorite" all the time.  I thought it pretty darn cool that when I told him I had made something special for his dessert, he waited until he saw what utensils were set out after dinner, then guessed the dessert was FROZEN STRAWBERRY PIE!!!!  The boy is good!  ;)  Do you think this look on his face shows his true feelings about this dessert?  LOL

We enjoyed their visit very much and look forward to seeing them again soon.  We LOVE living closer to them!  ;)

Thursday, November 7, 2013

"My Job on Egress Window Well Cover….."

My job that had to be done after the window well cover was installed was to cut and attach easily removable sides.  I did that Tuesday and am pleased with the results.

I bought a camouflage print tarp, cutting 2 pieces to size, then added Velcro strips to both tarp and frame.  After making sure it fit correctly, I stapled the Velcro to the frame and brought the tarp piece in, sitting down at my sewing machine and securely attaching the Velcro strips to them.  Yes, I am pretty pleased with myself.  LOL

They are up just in time, too.  When I was out there working on them, I saw we'd already had a few leaves blown into the window well.  I'm sure that after the wind and rain yesterday, many more would have found their way into it.  ;)  Next test……seeing how well it keeps snow from inside the window well.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

"Bacon…..Sweet Bacon!"

Don found and sent me a link of a recipe for "Bacon Candy"….or "Candied Bacon"….either works to describe how it turns out.  It truly is delicious, too.

The recipe calls for 8 strips of bacon and between 1/4 and 1/3 cup of brown sugar.  That's it, nothing more is needed, although, I was told after the fact, that adding cayenne pepper to the brown sugar makes an awesome taste twist on this recipe, too.

Take each slice of bacon, dry it on a paper towel, then dredge both sides in the brown sugar.

Next lay them in a pan lined with parchment paper on a cooling rack.

I didn't have a pan large enough for both of the racks, so went with 2 smaller and it worked fine.

Put the pans/racks in a cold oven, turn it on to 350 degrees, and bake for 15 minutes.  Turn the bacon at this time and begin checking every few minutes to make sure they do not burn.  I used "thick sliced" bacon which was done in another 12 minutes, but thin sliced bacon would finish more quickly.

When you believe the bacon to be done (and this happens quickly!), take it out and let cool before removing them from the racks (they are called "cooling racks" after all).  ;)  Then ENJOY!  Yes….there is one piece of bacon Candy missing from the last photo.  I HAD to make sure they were OK to serve Don.  ;)  Boy, were they!

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

"Don's Tree Stand….."

No, Don isn't a hunter but he does love being in the woods.  Who'd have thought that about my "city boy", eh?  ;)  I suggested he get a tree stand so that as the leaves fall, he would be able to see further through the trees, from a higher vantage point.

He assembled most of the tree stand in the garage, then laid it out behind the house to add the final ladder pieces.  It is 17' tall.

When Patrick was here last Friday to build the window well cover, he helped carry it out to Don's chosen tree and we got it lifted into place.  Then Don got busy with securing it to the tree with its straps and ratchets.

This area was pretty much "clear cut" back in the day, so most of the really big trees are no longer here.  The tree Don chose to have the stand attached against is "almost" as large as he needed but since it was a bit too thin up near the seat, he added some slab wood to fill out the sides.  Adding them made a HUGE difference in stability.  It really was stable before he added the slab wood but having the extra little bit made both of us feel better.

Yeah…..the grin says it all, right?  A boy with a new toy.  ;)

Secure and stable.  Now it was time to go get the seat cushion an secure it to the seat frame.  The tree stand isn't all that far from our clearing……you can just barely see the house and garage roofs through the trees in the lower right side of the photo.

But first, another photo, "zoooooomed in".  ;)

I retrieved the seat cushion and found there was a camouflage "skirt" for the stand, too.  Don began the task of attaching them to the stands frame.

It wasn't long before he had the seat cushion and skirt in place and tied……

He said it was an amazing difference between sitting up there before the skirt and after adding it.  It made the entire structure seem more solid even though the addition was only a thin piece of material.  The visual impact/tricks of ones mind, eh?

I took a parting photo as we headed back to the house.

Don is VERY pleased with the tree stand and has gone out and enjoyed sitting up in it a couple of times since Fridays installation.  He is one happy man.  :)

Monday, November 4, 2013

"Egress Window Well Cover……"

Last Friday morning, Patrick drove up to our house to help me build a window well cover for the guest room's egress window.  As per usual, Patrick did most of the work while I was the "go-fer" and holder.  We did the cutting and construction for the frame in the garage as it was a drizzly, wet day.  It fit nicely.  ;)

The 3 pieces of polycarbonate clear roof sheeting were cut as one piece which gave the circular saw a firmer surface to slide along and also made sure they were all the same length.  :)

Here we are getting ready to attach the 1st pice of polycarbonate roofing.

As told, I hold, Patrick does the work.  ;)

Once the sheets were held in place by a few screws, Patrick went back and added a screw to each "low spot" in the sheeting surface.  We went with the low spots to give it a stronger bond on the 3 cross boards.  I had bought brackets that were "supposed" to fit underneath the sheeting, but the "waves" on them did not fit the "waves" in the polycarbonate sheeting.  Since the angle of this cover is quite steep for shedding snow, we figured it wasn't a big deal to attach the sheeting without full back support……"hopefully", that holds true.  We did use the screws with a rubber washer under the head which will help keep the screw holes from leaking, although even leaks wouldn't be a problem in this situation.  As you can see from Patrick's outerwear, the drizzling had gotten a bit heavier.

The cover is being secured to the window well frame.  Notice the new horizontal boards attached to the side wall?  Patrick used our left over pieces for ladder rungs on both sides of the window well.  The lowest rung will get trimmed to match the upper 2 the next time Patrick comes up to our house………...providing he remembers to bring along his reciprocating saw.  ;)

The "almost" finished window well cover.  Now comes my big part in the job.  :)  I want to cut a tarp to fit the open sides of the window well cover, attaching them to the covers frame with Velcro strips.  Our thought is they would be left on all Fall and Winter to help keep blowing leaves and snow from inside the window well, then be removed in the Spring and Summer to allow for more daylight, plus allow for more freely flowing fresh air to come in when the guest room window was open.

Don's job was to spread the 8 bags of river rock we'd bought for the bottom and mid level dirt surfaces in the window well.

Nice, eh?  ;)  We were surprised that each bag of river rock had water in them even though they were completely sealed bags.  The individual rock colors showed when we bought them but after handling, the water became muddy and that is what you see in the photo below………muddy water dried to a dull brown.  Next Spring (perhaps even this Fall), we will take a hose and spray them down so that their various "true colors" show.  ;)