Sunday, January 30, 2011

I'm Breaking Down and Writing Down

And here it is:  the journal.  Yep, we need one, like you wouldn't believe.

My wife picked me up a big ol' notebook.  I'm breaking the journal up into a few sections:  watering, fertilizing and planting for now.  I think I may start a section just for vegetables when we get to that point.

I've discussed previously that I have the attention span/memory of a cucumber.  That has been solidified by the experiences of the past year.  I have a tendency to forget the last time I watered the potted plants (the "watering" section) and when I last fertilized (the "fertilize" section).  I always think I watered yesterday and fertilized the previous weekend.  Then, the plants get droopy and I realize I fertilized last in February...2008.  So, I'll be tracking each of those in the appropriate section.

The third section, planting, is where I'll be tracking a few things.  First, obviously, is what has been planted.  What goes with that is that most dreaded of four letter words, the "Plan"

Over the past year, we have gone to the nursery, we have shopped, we have purchased plants, we have even put them in the ground.  But, we're finding that once you get to the nursery, it's overwhelming.  We end up doing one of two things, either buying nothing, saying we are going to go home and create a plan we never do, or we have a bizarre mixture of plants that we're not really sure what watering, light or feeding requirements they have.  So, we're going to pick plants prior to going and stick to the plan.  More on that this week.

Also, I'm going to create a yearly calendar, which I'll try and figure out how to put on the sidebar or a separate page of this site with my limited technical abilities.  I always seem to be a couple months ahead or behind in whatever I'm planning on doing, such as pruning, splitting perennials or reseeding the lawn.  That should at least give me an idea of what to plan for in the coming months.

In the meantime, I'm going to go grab myself a pint, as our beloved Tottenham Hotspur were absolutely demolished this morning by Fulham in the 4th round of the FA Cup, 4-0.  We are still sitting fifth, though, in the league and I think we can still qualify for Champion's League (4th or better).  Twenty four hours left in the transfer window, and no talk of a central defender or realistic option at striker.  We'll see how that goes.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Holy Crap, Gardening Happened!!

My son missed three days of school last week with the flu.  Yesterday and today, my poor wife came down with the same illness.  Or, at least the same symptoms.  I, being the most excellent husband that I am, called in sick to work so I could get my son to school and watch my daughter as my wife rested.  Funny, because if I were the one ill, I would have absolutely gone to work.  Who wants to waste a sick day being sick?

Both yesterday and today we topped out at nearly 80F (26C).  That timed with a nap by both the two year old and my wife allowed me to get outside a little.  I was able to fill a five gallon bucket full of weeds in no time flat.  I would also like to throw in that included a vast majority of the yard, thus there aren't many weeds!  Take that!  Actually, we don't get our weeds until spring, and they continue through until late June or July when the 100F+ (38C+) kills them off.

I was also able to get in a little fertilizing and some pruning.  Look at me go.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

What's Next in 2011

Mike Donghia over at Art of Minimalism has asked readers of his blog to post what is next for them in 2011.  I enjoy reading his blog, so thought I would post here what's coming up in 2011.

My miniscule little spot of real estate here in the world of the internet has been around for nearly a year.  I think I'm coming up on the 100th post, as well, but I'll have to check that fact.  Being the beginning of the year, Mike's request over at his blog and the looking back that normally comes with some type of an anniversary has me believing this is a good time to pick some sense of direction, or purpose, if you will.

What I want to do is to actually do what I created this blog for:  a journey or "journal" of a non-gardener attempting to garden.  That's it.  It was also suppose to keep me motivated to perform and keep up with that task by publicly placing expectations on myself.  I've gotten away from that by posting on things that aren't related to my original purpose in order to keep things going.  That's what will change in 2011.

Looking at our garden, it carries a striking resemblance to the exact same garden we had a year ago.  A couple of plants have been added here and there, but for the most part, it's unchanged.  Many projects I started and posted on that I started were never completed.  Again, that's going to change.

So, in a nutshell 2011 will have more gardening.  More planning, creating, maintaining, triumphing and inevitably failing here and there.  Vir Beatum over at Being Manly has a nice post today about pushing through.  "Moreover, the way is often not the along the intended route, but we might well resolve that come hell or high water we shall get where we are going in any case. The important part is not to resign before material difficulties."  Not to resign.  Don't give up.  We'll get there.  Starting now.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

48 Bottles of Beer on the Wall...

Last Sunday morning was bottling day here at Castle Turling for our very first brew, a brown ale.  I spent quite some time getting through two cases in order to have enough bottles.  Then, the day before bottling day while I was washing all of the bottles I realized twelve of them were twist offs!  This will never do!  So, I had a choice, buy 12 bottles or drink all 12 of the Sierra Nevada Celebration's I had in the refrigerator.  Mrs. Turling gave me the raised eyebrows when I told her of my predicament that could only mean one thing.  I was buying 12 bottles.

The one thing I am noticing about this whole brewing process is the dedication to cleanliness.  Now, I garden and build furniture, neither of which would be considered clean pastimes, so this takes a little work for me.  I washed down all of the bottles and then needed to sanitize them.  Our dishwasher has a sanitize function!  Saved!  Into the dishwasher they went.

See?  It says it right there.  Sanitized.

If my brew goes bad due to unsanitarinous (I'm pretty sure that's a word), then Kenmore owes me a few bucks!

After sanitizing the bottles, I set in to sanitizing everything else.  Including me.  Ok, I just washed my hands, but that's better then usual.  After transferring the brew out of the fermenting bucket and into the bottling bucket that contained my priming sugar, it was a hop, skip and a jump to get it into the bottles.  The kit worked like a charm containing everything I needed to make two cases.

I did taste the beer prior to going into the bottles, though, and I'm a little concerned.  The beer carbonates while in the bottles, so it's flat coming out of the fermenting bucket.  But, this brew had a sweetness to it I just didn't like.  Hopefully, it was caused by it being flat, but we'll find out in two weeks.  In the meantime, I'm thinking a pale ale might be my next target...

Thursday, January 20, 2011

An Update on the Olives

The olives have been curring for six weeks, now since we harvested them.  We tested the ones being cured in water and the result was "bitter and watery."  The salt cured olives were just "bitter".  We dumped the water cured olives since I figure adding more water to something that is watery was a loss cause.  I put the salt cured back into cure for another week and we'll try them again.

I still am not sure what type of olives these are.  They were completely black on the tree and have now turned a more pinkish purple after curing.  And, both the water and salt cured looked identical, so I don't think it was the method that affected the color.  I'm thinking it's either Mission, Lucaca or Santa Caterina.  It's now safe to say, since I've typed that, it will end up being none of them.  Onward!

Sunday, January 16, 2011

More Daylillies

I'm starting to think I have some type of daylilly crush.  I picked up a couple of more.

Ok, the main reason I picked these up is a) we have no plants and this is a gardening blog and b) the red one on the right is called Red Rum.  Redrum!!!!  Really, how was I going to let that one pass.

All axes will be kept far away from the far side of the yard...for obvious reasons.

Now, I took a picture of them in the pots to point something out.

Each pack came with two plants and, honestly, I don't remember which is which, so we'll say the one's in the back are the Red Rum's.  Yes, there are five, that's for later, stick with me.  I have previously planted some day lillies, but as you can see if you care to look back, there is no green sticking out the top.  The previous daylillies (yes, I've spelled it differently 4 times now, get over it, as I'll probably spell it differently going forward) did not have green stuff sticking out.  They were on sale for $1, I think, and there was no green as it was late in the season.  So, I just shoved the whole thing in the pot, thinking it was like a bulb.  It's not like a bulb.  It's like a day LiLLy (now, I'm just messin' with you).  The fifth plant in the picture above is the lone survivor from the one's I planted previously.  I know it's small, that's because we have f-ing rabbits who continuously eat it to the ground.

I've now put all five up on a table until they get large enough to where the rabbits won't seem to want to eat them.  I've found they tend to stay away from the larger plants.  Then, into the garden they'll go.  Look at me go...gardening.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Brew Day!!!!

The New Year's weekend provided too many commitments to allow our first brewing with the new brew kit I got for Christmas.  So, we had to wait a week.  I think it actually turned out for the better, as I could spend a week gathering what I needed nearly all of which I ended up not even needing.  But, better to have it and not need it, then to need it and not have it.  So, off we go.

I brewed a Brown Ale, which is the kit my wife got me along with the brewing kit itself.  It contained all of the above, with the exception of the Widmer Bros. Halo India Pale Ale.  I added that, as I felt some liquid encouragement may be required.  And, I was thirsty.

The kit contained dark liquid malt (in the can up top), dried malt, dextrose and First Gold hops.  I decided to stick to the recipe rather then deviate as I had been contemplating, since more than anything, I just want this first batch to be drinkable.

I set everything out above, along with all of my equipment to make sure everything would go smoothly.  Or, as smoothly as I could.  For anyone that has seen me cook, it's normally an exercise in panic as I inevitably forget to chop, smash, saute' or obtain some key ingredient until the moment it's needed.  I didn't want that here, and it worked out pretty well.

First thing required was boiling a couple gallons of water.  I bought six gallons of bottled water, rather then stand by the filtered water in the fridge for two hours waiting for six gallons to come out.  We're making the nectar of the Gods here, I'll save the planet from plastic bottles next week.  Stay with me.  The little pot to the left is to heat the malt, so it would come out of the can easier.  And, believe me, from what was stuck to the lid, there was no coming out without heating.  It was like caramel.  Except in taste.  Not caramel.  Don't taste.  Trust me.

Then I added the malts (liquid and dry), dextrose and hops.  Looked like split pea soup.

Smelled like pizza dough, so anyone worried it will stink up the house, unless you don't like bread, it won't stink.  Luckily, my pot, which we use to steam tamale's, could easily hold about six or seven gallons of liquid.  I stood by the wort (that's what the brew in the pot is called, look at me, I'm practically an expert with the lingo and all) in case of boil overs.  But, that would have been one hell of a boil over to get out of that pot, so we were safe.  After it stopped foaming, it looked like this.

Boiled that for 30 minutes, then into the sink it went.  No, not that way.  Per Palmer's How to Brew, you should cool the wort as quickly as possible, called the "cold break" in order to keep the beer from clouding.  So, I filled the sink with water and ice and in the pot went.

Yes, yes, yes, I haven't finished tiling the backsplash, so shut it.  I know.  To the left, you can see that I set aside a jar to pitch the yeast.  All of you brewers out there can see the temperature is too low.  I know, I heated the water too soon, so I needed to reheat it to between 95 and 105 F later.  I would like to point out the one purchase I made that I found indispensable for my first time out, and that's an electronic thermometer.  I put it in everything, from the yeast jar to the wort as it was cooling.  I kept a separate jar of sanitizer on the counter and dropped the thermometer into that after each use.  Cleanliness is the name of the day in this process.

So, the wort took about 25 minutes to chill down.  I got it down to about 80 degrees, then I filled the fermenting bucket with three gallons of the bottled drinking water.  We're looking for 5 gallons of beer here.  I figured once I poured the wort in, it would get it down to about 70 from the new water, and I was right.

After preparing the yeast, I poured it into the fermenting bucket, popped on the top and the airlock and then took it to its home for the next two weeks.

Luckily, we have an interior closet that is under the staircase.  It is smack dab in the middle of the house and none of its walls touch the outside of the house.  It is a constant 70-72 degrees, regardless of the time of year.  Now, we wait for two weeks, and then bottle.

I checked on it this morning (I made it yesterday), and the airlock is bubbling away, meaning the yeast are doing their thing.  Hopefully, by Super Bowl Sunday, or read: the Big Game if you're from the National Football League (I have no money, so don't sue me for saying Super Bowl), we'll have two cases of drinkable beer.