First time brewing beer!!!

Toby and I have be wanting to start brewing our own beer for quite a while now. Luckily for us Frisk got us a starter kit for Christmas so we could go ahead and get to it. That guy! So thoughtful!!

We have been broadening our beer horizons over the past few months. Buying anything new and tasty looking at the LCBO. We have even been keeping each new bottle or can! So now we have a whooooole bunch of bottles stocking our pantry! Anyone have any fun DIY ideas for a whooooole bunch of bottles? I was thinking maybe a wall of bottles behind our future bar? Who knows?

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I am finding that more and more I am really enjoying dark and flavorful beers.. things with a whole lot of character. I adore pretty much everything that comes out of Lake of Bays Brewery. Actually though.. such good beer.

I really don’t know much about beer and figured that brewing my own would be a great way to learn. I want to be a part of every step of the process. Explore what makes beer great and what makes beer just kind of OK.

The plan is to brew as much as we can testing all sorts of different conditions etc. We are both very interested in arduino based projects and I hope to incorporate some of our own devices into the brewing process.

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I picked us up a few books to explain the basics of brewing. I’ve looked them over and made notes but really I just wanted to jump in! I thought about starting with an all grain batch but was told maybe that might be a wee bit much for the first batch. So instead we went with an Oktoberfest kit from True Brew. The kit was a good choice. It is hard to screw up and gave us decent exposure to the process. I think we may end up doing a few more kits before jumping to anything more complicated.. or at least stick with extract brewing for a little while longer.

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We opened the package up and jumped right in! The first step was to sanitize and sanitize some more!!! The kit came with a small tub of cleanser to be used on anything that comes in contact with the beer. It is really important to avoid any contamination during the brewing process. We washed everything, we sanitized everything and we rinsed everything before using. We re-sanitized after each use.

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The Cleanser

The Cleanser

The next step was to fill a large pot with 2.5 gallons of water, place the crushed grains in (in the steeping bag) and bring the mixture up to 155 degrees.

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As the water heated up it began to darken and give off a delicious malty aroma! Nom!! We removed the lid and label from the malt extract and placed in a pot of warm water to loosen up.

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Once the water reached 155 we left it to boil for 15 minutes before removing the spent grains. We took the pot off the heat before adding the malt extract. As I poured in the malt extract Toby stirred the mixture constantly. We tried a taste of the liquid malt extract and it was not bad.. very similar to molasses.

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We then added the bittering hops! I loooove hops!! They are my favorite. This recipe came with Liberty Hops, which smelled especially delicious.

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We returned the pot to the heat and brought it to a boil for 45 minutes. Then came the waiting game.. we watched some netflicks, Toby did some MOOCing and I made some funny faces!

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After the wort had boiled for 45 minutes and we were finished with all the shenanigans we turned off the heat and used the wort chiller to bring the wort down to between 65 and 75.

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Once the wort had reached the appropriate temperature we transferred it into the carboy and topped it off with cool water. We did not have a siphon hose so we poured it into the carboy using a makeshift funnel (a rolled cutting board). It got pretty bubbly.. which I hope is OK. We didn’t really know how much to top it off.. so we kind of guessed. The carboy fits just over five gallons so we aimed for five. Next time we will mark the carboy so we know how much we have to add. Using a sanitized turkey baster we removed a small portion to measure the original gravity. The reading was quite a bit off which we have come to realize (thanks to reddit) is most likely because we ended up with more top off water than wort.

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Finally, we added the yeast, sealed it with the airlock and tucked it away to ferment!!

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By this afternoon we saw some pretty consistent bubbling!! There is still a whole bunch of foamy gunk at the top but I’m not sure what to do about that.

OK! So there is the quick summary of what we did! It seemed to go pretty well for our first time but I guess we wont know until we have our first sip! I cant wait to start our next batch!

This morning I put together a table to make it a little smoother next time. Super fun, super simple and not super attractive!

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This is what is goating on at the farm!!!

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So goats are the best. They are adorable, affectionate, hilarious and intelligent animals. Toby and I love to have them around.

We had a big scare in October when one of our goats was attacked by a dog we were house sitting. The goats had managed to put the door of their house open and the dog just did what any animal with a prey drive would have done. Unfortunately I was away doing a Yoga Tune Up workshop but Toby did a wonderful job of managing the situation. When he arrived home to find the dog covered in blood and Montoya torn up in the backyard, he called the vet and rushed over.

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They treated her wounds and gave Toby shots, cleaning solution and instructions on how to help her recover. The injuries included: a puncture wound through the base of one ear causing neural damage resulting in temporary loss of movement, puncture wounds through the bottom of her mouth, cuts at the base of her jaw and cuts across her face.

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The main concern was infection, her staying hydrated and well fed. I had a pretty solid cry when I first saw her and rushed her to the vet when I thought she might have developed an infection in her ear.

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But within a week she was making huge improvements, eating lots and even seeming cheery. When we put her back with the other lady goats they beat her up quite a bit. Eventually she was reaccepted into the herd and now she is good as new. Just a few scars, which let the other goats know she is a badass.

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Toby and I built a small winter house for the ladies. It has insulated aspenite walls and a tin roof. It is pretty darn cute! With their combined body heat they stay nice and cozy warm during the night. We have surrounded their house with a 6 foot high section of snow fence.

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The boys are still out in the old chicken coop and have a nice outside run attached to their house. The plan is to build a little cuddle cave in the corner out of straw bales with an insulated roof. This way they can keep cozy at night and have something to jump on in their house.

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Within the next month we will be breeding Bella and Buttercup to Vizzini in hopes of kids in June. That will give us time to get setup for kidding and milking. I cannot wait to have our first kids! They are going to be super cute! All the milk and cheese to come!!!

Hooch the crazy rooster and his harem of feisty hens!

Its been a little while since I have given an update on our flock so here I go…

One time I heard a knock at the door..

One time I heard a knock at the door..

The chickens started laying towards the end of the summer. It started with one or two hens laying and everyday there would be one more egg than the day before. Until finally we were getting an average of 9 per day (which means one per chicken). Now that the weather has turned and the days are shorter we get between 4 and 6 most days.

EGGS!!! AHH!

EGGS!!! AHH!

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The eggs are rich, fluffy and delicious!! After our first week of eggs we decided to do an experiment.. eggsperiment?.. Toby and I cooked up some scrambled eggs with store bought eggs we had left and some with our eggs.

The brown ones are ours

The brown ones are ours

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Immediately after cracking the eggs you could see the difference. Our yolks were a darker deeper yellow and our whites were layered (one tight thick portion around the egg and a second more watery layer).

the smaller darker yolk is ours

the smaller darker yolk is ours

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It was much easier to scramble the store bought eggs. Our tried desperately to hold their form but once they were scrambled they had a gorgeous colour and texture.

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The cooking process was identical but in the end our eggs were prettier, fluffier and tastier.. but then again I may be biased.

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Toby did not taste a huge difference with the scrambled eggs but was blown away when he tried the soft boiled yolks side by side.

We have had all sorts of crazy eggs. Some without shells, some double yokers, big ones, small ones, fat ones, tall ones.. all of the shapes and sizes!

Big egg is the double yoker!

Big egg is the double yoker!

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We moved them into a fancy new coop that I found on Kijiji. It was a fantastic deal and they seem to be a great deal happier. We have continued allowing the flock to free range and they take full advantage despite the weather. We have ourselves a fierce bunch of birds. The coop is so pretty!! I love love love it!! It works perfectly for our little family of birds. The previous owner had insulated it, installed heat lamps and kept it in pristine condition. It was a really great find! Next summer I am planning on increasing the size of the flock, which will mean a larger coop or a second coop.

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Toby named our Rooster Hooch because he is CRAZY! He has it in for me I swear!! He and I have had a few not so fun run-ins, but we keep him around because he does a fantastic job of protecting the ladies. Whenever a large bird flies over head he calls all the ladies to hide in the bushes, he also makes sure they are all within sight during the day. Hooch even fought a dog once! We had been dog sitting for a friend and didn’t think hard enough about how hard it would be with our many animals. The dog had already seriously injured one of our goats so we made arrangements for him to stay in a friendlier environment. As I was bringing him out to the car he and Frisket managed to push through the door ahead of me and take off. The dog ran straight for the chickens and Hooch ran to meet him. They fought and admittedly the dog was winning but Hooch sure put up a fight. Frisk and I managed to save Hooch before he got hurt.. it was still very scary. Currently he is looking very fierce on account of the frost bite on his comb. It will bleed sometimes making him look like a zombie chicken.. which is mildly terrifying. Unfortunately there is nothing that we can do to prevent the frost bite. He refuses to stay inside when it is cold and we don’t think he will wear a toque. The next rooster I choose will be better suited to our climate.

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Other than that there is not a lot going on with the chickens. They are a wonderful addition to the farm and we really appreciate the eggs. I highly recommend anyone who has the space look into backyard chickens.

2014-12-03

Weekend of Blacksmithing with my Love

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Toby and I have both been interested in trying out metal working for a while now. I have always wanted to make my own jewelry and Toby likes the idea of making our own tools. So this year for his birthday I booked us a weekend introduction to black smithing course with David Robertson at Ontario Artist Blacksmith.

The itinerary for the weekend was as follows:

Friday night 6 pm to 9 pm
We cover safety, introduction to tools large and small, proper hammer technique, and the first project of a Tool Hook.
Techniques: drawing out, curling, notching, curving, hot cutting.

Saturday 9 am to 6 pm
Consists of a series of projects with techniques building upon each other. Projects include Coal Rake, Coat Hook, Leaf Hook, Finials, and Tongs. Techniques include: Pointing, Flattening, Shepherd’s Crook, Hot Reverse Twisting, Pointing Flat Bar, Spade Point, Pattern Punching, Offsetting , Shouldering, Through Punching, Leaves, Rattail.

Sunday 9 am to 6 pm
Starts with a discussion of alloy steels and follows with making a Cold Chisel from high carbon steel, Finishing Tongs, Discussion of Forge Welding, Discuss Setting up a Personal Workshop, Several Hours are set aside for working on a Personal Project.

(taken from the course description page)

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We drove up early on Friday and made it just in time for our first lesson. David started off explaining the safety precautions that must be taken when working in the shop. After that, he went over all the basic tools: hammer, tongs, forge, air hammer, anvil and various other useful things to have in the shop.

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When David was finished the talk we jumped straight in and started working with the metal. He demonstrated the first step of forming a small wall hook and we immediately followed suit. This was the flow of the weekend, he would show us one or two steps and we would continue on our own. We made each made 2 wall hooks, a decorative wall hook with a leaf, a fire poker, tongs, a chisel, a center punch and a personal project.

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I found that I could either hit the metal hard enough to move it or hit it where I wanted to.  The choice was between power and precision.. and you really need both. By the end of the weekend I had settled into a good rhythm and was finding the work much easier. For my personal project I decided to make a pair of copper, leaf shaped earrings. It was soooooo much easier for me to work with the softer metal, I could shape it any way I wanted to.

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We learned all sorts of neat things through out the weekend, including all the basic black smith skills. We practiced many times and discovered that working with metal is unbelievably approachable and a whole lot of fun. I don’t think I can adequately put the experience into words but I highly recommend that you give it a try if the opportunity presents itself. Toby and I will most definitely be building a forge at the farm.

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Update on the Farm: Building the Goat House!

We are just finishing our fourth month in the house and still as busy as ever!! Our to do list only gets longer and our weekends are getting more and more booked up as the summer comes to an end.

This Friday/Saturday we will be visiting some family and picking up some wood. We are intending to heat with wood this winter but are quite a few cords short. Hopefully we will be able to cut enough for the winter, it would not be awesome to have to buy it when we have it available to us through family.

We should have Sunday free for work around the house. We will most likely get started building our wood shed. It will be a simple post and beam structure with recycled barn boards on two walls. We will also spend a few hours on sketch up working on the building plans for the barn! We are running out of time and need to get started on a winterized building for all our critters. So far the plan is post and beam framing on a concrete foundation with radiant heating and straw bale insulation. It will be a very useful space containing stalls for the bucks, stalls for the does, kidding pens, a milking room, a feed and tack room and a chicken coop. There will be separate fenced in runs for the animals out back. Keep your calendars open for a barn raising party in the fall.

A few weeks ago we built a small structure for the goats to sleep in until the barn is built. It was a relatively quick project and looks quite nice.

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We grabbed cedar posts and old barn boards from Toby’s dad’s house and used some of the 2 by 4’s we had laying around at the house. Toby built  the walls on the ground, dug some small holes for the posts and propped them up so we could attach the walls. There was a pretty immediate need for the shelter so we designed as we went. Toby made sure it was as level and square as we could manage without a foundation.

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We attached the barn boards to the sides trimming and adjusting where necessary.

Toby put together two big barn doors in no time and voila we have shelter!! Unfortunately after only one night of sleeping in the shelter the males began trying to mount the females so we had to move them into the old chicken coop on the property.

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For a week or two we just had sheets of aspenite on the roof. Last weekend we used some tin from Toby’s dads barn and finally put a real roof on it. We still need to tar the roof so it is sealed but it is pretty much finished. The goats love it!

Flour Water Salt Yeast

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The Book for Beginners and Practiced BakersDSC_0045

 

I purchased this book a few weeks ago and have only great things to say about it! I have made 4 recipes so far and each one has been relatively simple and absolutely delicious.

If you are interested in baking your own bread but don’t know where to start or have heard that bread baking is oh so complicated and aren’t wanting to try and fail –  This is the book for you! Honestly, the first few chapters go over technique in great detail (including pictures) it then gives you a detailed list of necessary equipment and recommended equipment before even getting into the recipes, which are super easy to follow. All of the recommended items can be purchased from amazon. The 12 and 6 quart tubs are a must have for any kitchen! I don’t know how I managed without them.

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One my favorite things about this cook book are the example schedules given with each recipe. He gives full day options and options that work around a regular business day. This allows me to neatly fit bread baking into my daily/weekly routine.

I also enjoy the simplicity of the recipes. They have few ingredients and simple instructions. You fold the bread directly in the tub and only have to flour a work surface once to shape the loafs. The author, Ken Forkish lets you know exactly what to expect and look for. The book starts with the easiest recipes and finishes with advanced ones. It reads like an instruction manual moving logically and gaining intensity as you go.

Will little effort and a chunk of time you can produce beautiful, delicious, chewy perfect bread that will blow away dinner guests.

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The cook book also has quite a few chapters dedicated to pizza. Tonight Toby and I tried one and hoooooooooollllllyyyyy cooooow!!!!! It was like fancy wood oven pizzeria pizza. The crust was crispy, bubbly and chewy. Each pizza took only 8 minutes to bake and was cooked perfectly all over.

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For such light fluffy pizza it was surprisingly filling. We made five personal pizzas and only ate two.. which is not much at all for us.

I love the book so much that I will not post any of the recipes online, you will have to borrow or buy a copy and see how great it is for yourself. But I will host anyone interested for dinner and a sample loaf!

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Our Goats! Our wonderful beautiful goats!!

The title of this post was going to be Totes My Goats but I could hear Toby’s voice in my head saying “Ouuuur goats” so I had to change it. They are our first real farm animals (the chickens are easy!) and we are in this together. This is a post about the Nigerian Dwarf Goats we picked up two weeks ago. They are dwarf milk goats that can produce on average one liter of milk per day that has 8% butter fat.

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They are the cutest most adorable little beasts. I’ve never had experience with such affectionate livestock. They “baaaaa” every time they see us and run up for kisses and cuddles when we get close.

Toby took the lead on finding the right farm to get our goats. After much searching he happened upon The Potting Shed, a garden center and hobby farm owned and operated by Jack Kent. Jack was super helpful and enthusiastic about getting us set up with our own herd. He sent us a video of the first kids born and pictures of our future goats.

Two weeks ago we drove out to Dunnville, ON and picked our five goats up. The garden center was spectacular! There were beautiful plants, stunning flowers, rare trees, peacocks, goats, fish and chickens.

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Jack took the time to show us around the place telling us all about how he and his partner became successful. We learned a bunch and had a blast! I highly recommend stopping by the potting shed if you any where close! They also have  a really great gift shop with all sorts of rustic garden decorations.

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I really can’t say enough good things about Jack and the Potting farm.. but this post is supposed to be about the goats so let me try and get back on track.

Before leaving I prepped the car to transport 5 goats for 6 hours. I laid down a tarp and tied it up so that it would not slip when the goats move around. I created a divider using some hardware cloth we had lying around for the chicken coop. This was a very good idea because the goats tried very hard to come sit in the front seat. I finished off by lining the back with two old duvets.

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We left the house just after Toby finished work and drove straight to Toronto to have dinner with some great friends. We stayed the night in the city and took off first thing to meet our new babies. As soon as we arrived at the potting shed we knew that we had made a wonderful choice. We explored a little on our own before finding Jack. He showed us around and brought us to meet the goats. It was easy to see which ones were ours because they had been tattooed that morning and still had green ink on their ears.

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We loaded them up as Jack gave us all sorts of tips as well as hay and feed to get started. Finally we said goodbye to Jack and all the other animals and started for home. Immediately the goats pooped everywhere and baaa-ed there little hearts out.

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It didn’t take long for the goats to settle down and get comfortable. The ladies cuddled up together in the back while the boys stayed closer to us.

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We drove straight to Kingston with no problems. We stopped in to visit my dear friend Laura and to introduce the goats to Caitlin and Tom. As Toby ran to grab Caitlin and Tom from the coffee shop down the street I stayed with goats at the car. It didn’t take long for a crowd to form around the car – at least 20 people were gathered to meet our new gang.

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We had just decided on names before driving into the city. We went with a movie theme,  The Princess Bride. The tricolour male is Fezzick, the brown and white male is Vizzini, the larger white and beige female is Buttercup, the smaller female is Bella and the tricolour female is Montoya.

After leaving Kingston it took no time at all to make it home. We backed the car right up to the fenced in area behind the house and introduced them to their new home. We ran around with them snapping pictures as fast as we could. Frisk tried to herd them which was very impressive.

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The first week the goats ended up sleeping in our breezeway – which will smell like a barn forever more! But last weekend Toby build an amazing improvised shelter. It is made from cedar posts, salvaged barn boards, salvaged tin and some 2 by 4’s we had in garage. It looks rustic and beautiful, the goats love it.  The ladies are sleeping there and the boys are sleeping in an old chicken coop that came with the house. We could not be happier with the goats. I’m glad we decided to go with milk goats instead of meat goats. Not ready to slaughter an animal I have raised.

We welcome visitors to play and help out on the farm! Please come on out!