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

Mushroom Hunting!!

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Toby and I spent the last week in Cleveland Ohio for the 9th Gay Games. It was a spectacular event! Toby’s volleyball team, Juicy fruits, received the bronze medal in the B division. We had a great week with the wonderful people on team Ottawa. I can’t wait for the next one in France!

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We were pretty excited to be home and see all our animals! The goats had grown fluffy coats and were half again as big as when we left. Frisket also seemed to have grown a bunch and maybe its just me but there seemed to be a new air of maturity about him.

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It had rained most of the time we were gone so everything was pretty saturated. This made me wonder what kinds of mushrooms might be popping up around the property. We went for a walk to check things out and Toby discovered that our stand of pine trees is home to all sorts of mushrooms. He brought one over for me to check out and I was thrilled to recognize a bolete mushroom. Pine groves are known for being home to these mushrooms because of the acidic soil.

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I could hardly contain my excitement when he told me there were many more where he found that one. We went back to the house to get the necessary gear for mushroom hunting: a carrying basket each, a sharp knife each and our camera to capture our first hunt together.

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We spent about 45 minutes wandering through the trees gathering an outrageous amount of mushrooms. We also took pictures of all the other types of mushrooms we happened upon.

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Once we felt we had enough and just as it started to rain we headed inside to prepare them for drying.

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First we removed any pine needles or other debris from the slightly slimy tops of the mushrooms then we sliced them into 1/4 inch slices and loaded up the layers of our dehydrator. We left them to dry 12 hours before rotating the trays and then left them for another 12 before storing them in jars.

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We ended up with three full jars! Not bad at all for our first haul, also the absolute max for our current dehydrator!!

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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!

They Grow Up So Fast

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You blink and it feels like you missed years. Long gone are little balls of fuzz cheeping in their dog crate home. We are even past the awkward teenage days when they are half way between fuzzy down and new feathers. Now we have young chickens – fully feathered and full of spunk!

In my last post about the chickens I told you that we had put them in an old dog crate as an improvised brooder. Just about a week after that post they had grown enough that the crate was becoming quite cramped. I spent a few hours in the morning taking apart old crates and piecing them back together to create a much larger pen. I lined the floor with cardboard and covered that in wood shavings. I set up the heat lamps in one corner, the food and water centrally and added some roosts in the corners.

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This pen has been working really well! It gives the birds a lot more space to be birds, and makes cleaning/feeding them easier. I recommend adding lots of roosts! The birds love them and boy are they cute all puffed up perched on them.

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When I first put the water can in the pen I placed it on the ground and within an hour it was full of bedding, poop and food. It is designed to hang and works much better that way. If it is suspended just low enough that the birds can reach they will not be able to make a mess of it.

I had some bad luck with the feeding tray I purchased. First it was sharp and difficult to use which in its self was a pain. Second it is a tray that goes on the ground so the birds would make a huge mess of it and I had to change it twice day. It also has very small holes for feeding and the chickens weren’t able to eat all of the food. I noticed that when I would go to change the food the chickens would be quite aggressive. Once a bird bit me and hung off my arms as I tried to remove the dish. Although it hurt a bit it was pretty hilarious. I assumed they were defending their home but was a little hurt that my babies were so mean. But I started to notice when I put the dish back in they would swarm it aggressively. So Toby pulled the lid off half way as an experiment and sure enough the part with no lid was cleaned out in an hour. I tried using it without the lid but they mostly threw the food all over the place. Finally I picked up a hanging style feed that has worked one hundred times better!

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Toby’s dad Randy lent us a chicken tractor to use until we get ours built (hopefully this weekend). So I have been putting them outside during the day. They love to be outside but hate the commute. I have a Rubbermaid tote that I put them in and carry them back and forth. It is getting harder everyday. They are getting bigger and sneakier! They fly out of the tote faster than I can get them in. Needless to say I am excited the have the permanent coop built so I don’t have to carry them. I am also getting nervous about when the roosters become more aggressive.

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Frisket is learning that the chickens are friends not food, but he really wants to play with them. Hopefully when the roosters get a little bigger they will show him who’s boss and that will be the end of that.

So that is whats going on with our flock! I’ll be sure to send photos when we get our coop built and our first eggs!!

 

Receiving a helping hand

Toby and I both have a tendency to dream big, and snowball from there. What starts as a simple idea develops and grows until even we have to recognize that it is too much. So what happens when two dreamers buy a house and start a farm? Well they get a little overwhelmed. Here we are starting our third month in the house with a to do list a foot and a half long. Each day we try to scratch off an item or two but usually end up adding three. Its been a little stressful and a lot of work but we are starting to find ourselves in a position where we can get to the fun stuff.

So far we have the chickens set up, seedlings planted, greenhouse frame most of the way done, the best puppy in the whole wide world and a house full of half started projects.

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As I started to dig the first garden bed I quickly realized the bedrock is only about 20 inches down. This was a little disappointing but not the end of the world. I am a huge fan of the bio-intensive growing method which is all about adding to the soil and raising the height. I left the bed dug out so we could talk bed position strategy before digging the rest. That night it poured and poured. In the morning I went for a walk with Frisk and noticed that the bed I had dug was completely filled with water. This was a pretty big deal – no drainage means drowned veggies and that is no good at all. So we decided to seek outside help!

We approached the farmer who owns the fields to the west of us in hopes that he could clear/till the section we are planning on using for our garden. Two weeks ago he came out with the tractor and began removing trees, rocks and brush from the area. The area is now mostly cleared and ready to be plowed. How fantastic is living in the country? What a wonderful helpful community we have become a part of –  He is doing the plowing as a house warming present and charging basically nothing for the rest.

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Toby and I are both chomping at the bit to get started. So today we planted 6 seedling flats containing lettuce, brussels sprouts, swiss chard, basil and garlic chives. We also finished preparing the bed for our friendship garden and planted a little more than half of the wonderful plants brought to us by friends and family.

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It feels good to be getting closer to having the garden up and running. Life could not be any better. We are just a little excited..Can you tell???

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