Last weekend I brewed my favorite beer, Piper’s Irish-American Red Ale. I’m sure the beer will turn out fine, but the brew didn’t go as planned. I’m still struggling to get my mill to consistently produce a good crush, and I think my low yields this time around is almost certainly due to the mill. It’s a three roller mill; the first two rollers do a basic crush at a fixed gap, and then the grains pass between one of the top rollers and a lower roller that’s adjustable. For some reason, the grains sometimes come out between the lower roller and the wrong upper roller and they don’t get crushed a second time. Strange.
The big change with this brew was using Creek water to chill the boiled wort down to fermentation temperature. I’d assumed the Creek would still be very cold, but after pumping up twenty gallons, I discovered it was a balmy 55°F. So I pumped up another ten gallons in the hope that it would be enough to chill the wort. Not quite. I got it down to 72°F, which is pretty amazing, but I would have preferred something between 64–68°F.
Still, it was a nice relaxed brew session, and thus far Piper’s has always come out fantastic. We’ll know in about a month.
The other thing I’ve noticed is that the red cabin is starting to get too warm for primary fermentation. At our old house the garage temperature never got much above 60°F even in the summer, so I’d always do the primary fermentation in my insulated box, heated with a light bulb on a temperature controller. Luckily, we kept the old fridge that was here when we moved in and it’s keeping a nice stable 65°F on the same temperature controller I had been using to heat the fermentation chamber. Now I can ferment in the summer, and even experiment with lagering, which is a whole area of brewing that I’ve never attempted in all these years.
Life kept interrupting me while reading this book, and I wasn’t able to devote the energy to it that I would have liked. But I did enjoy it. It was funny, crass, and gave me at least a flavor of what life in the Dominican Republic (or probably any Latin American country ruled by a dictator) was like. The text mixed Spanish slang, nerd-speak, and street language all together for a very conversational style that was easy to pick up and read. One character’s place in the world was prescribed as: “our boy wasn’t no ringwraith, but he wasn’t no orc either.” The world of the Dominican Republic during the rule of Rafael Leónidas Trujillo Molina probably seemed like the time of Sauron and his all-seeing Eye in Middle-earth. Without the happy ending, of course.
In a better world I would have kissed her over the ice trays and that would have been the end of all our troubles. But you know exactly what kind of world we live in. It ain’t no fucking Middle-earth.
Good book, and one which deserves (but will probably never get) a second reading on my part.
In the month or so since I’ve written, the Creek settled down to it’s usual level, the road mostly dried out, and the leaves are out on the trees. We’ve been flush with birds (see my yard list for a complete list), including some ducks on the slough and a pair of red-tailed hawks nesting in a tree next to the back cabin. But summer means work, and that’s what we’ve been doing this Memorial Day weekend.
The list of projects is very long, and we’ve already started on the first large job: building a new shed to replace the “leaning” shed that was next to the red cabin. It wasn’t particularly stable, wasn’t completely water-tight, and wasn’t convenient to get to. I spent the last few days removing the siding, and yesterday afternoon finally pulled it down. It didn’t come down as easily as I’d hoped (the lower photo shows me pulling it with the 4-wheeler), and after all the work it took to get the siding off, I’m dreading the work it’ll take to disassemble the roof and move everything out of the way.
The next step will be to get a bunch of gravel to fill in the low spot between the driveway turnaround and the new gravel pad the shed will sit on. I’m picturing a 2x6 base supported by 4x6 rails resting on concrete piers or cribbing, ¾" plywood floor, 2x4 rough cut framed walls, and a sliding barn door for entry. I’m not sure what I’ll side it with, but ½" plywood, tar paper and then rough cut bevel siding would be a nice choice. I guess an alternative would be to let in diagonal bracing into the walls and forego the plywood, but plywood will do a better job of keeping the building solid if we need to level or move it later. Once the old building is cleared away, I’ll make up a set of plans and see who can mill and deliver the lumber to us.
We got our ATV last week, and it’s already come in very handy. I pulled a log up from the Creek with the winch, we used it to pull down the shed, and Andrea went and got the Sunday newspaper. Once our plow shows up, we’ll get another dump truck load of wood chips for the dog yard, and it’ll get some heavy use moving gravel around in the driveway and for the pad the shed will sit on. We bought it for training dogs in the fall, and for clearing snow, but I expect it’ll get a lot of use this summer too.
Other smaller projects include fixing the planking on the bridge, repairing leaks and cleaning the gutters, redoing the discharge pipe from the sewage treatment plant, and shoring up the roof supports on the other sheds. Once the ground thaws, we’re thinking about building a second dog yard on the west side of the house. This time I’ll dig the post holes by hand. The gas powered auger we used last fall was fast, but not something I ever want to use again if I can help it. We had hoped to build an arctic entryway onto the house and wrap a new deck around it, but I doubt there’s enough time in the summer for that project. We’ll see.
Time to make breakfast, bake some bread and get back out there. Happy holiday!
I’m sitting here on the couch watching baseball (Yankees v. Red Sox again) admiring the view out all our large windows. It was supposed to be cloudy today, but thus far it’s been clear and sunny. Makes me feel a bit guilty to be sitting here.
The panoramic image from where I’m sitting was stitched together using hugin. Despite making no effort to control the exposure on my little point-and-shoot camera and a pretty casual shooting technique, hugin really made it easy. You load the images into the program, select control points between adjacent photos, and it warps and manipulates the images so they fit together. If you click on the image to view the full size version, you can see some of the blurring and idiosyncrasies, but for very little effort, I think the results are quite impressive.
From left to right, you can see the front door and east window which looks out over the deck and the Creek. On the south wall is a bookshelf in the corner, the kitchen table and large south facing window overlooking the dog yard, DVD cabinet, TV and stereo, and the sliding glass doors that lead out to the deck. Piper is sitting in front of the door looking outside. The west wall has a second bookshelf, a side table (which is blocked by my laptop next to me), another large window overlooking Dog Island and the slough. To the right of the window is our heater and the baby gate that blocks off the stairs. The corner of the blue wall behind me shows up on the right of the image.
Might have to give this tool a try outside…