Monday, 5 November 2012

Real beer and using spent grain to make bread

I'm far too exited about my most recent discovery. Should anyone be this excited about 'spent grain'?


Grains and hops ready to be added to hot water


Having just brewed some beer from scratch  and finally got my head around sparging, mashing, boiling and so on I was overjoyed to discover that once I had completed the brewing beer bit I could then use the spent malt to make flour!

There's really not many times when you can really use a food stuff twice...the brewing process unlocks loads of sugar and other bits n bobs from the malt and although it does rob it of some of its goodness its still damn good stuff that can make a real chunky granary bread... (and a nice hot porridge for the hens for when it's really cold)

I'm very pleased about the brewing bit too as Ive only ever done 'proper' beer once (in other words not using malt extract) and I didn't give in to the the temptation of parting with serious money to buy a boiler with a thermostat. Ok so it would have been easier but two large jam pans did the trick , keeping them covered after the mix reached 150 F and giving them a quick boost every 15 or twenty minutes or so.

Hops and grain boiling

Managed to sparge (flush the sugars) out of the malt with very basic method of gently pouring the liquid (the wort) out of a jug and through a sieve from a height of about 1 foot above the suspended grain bag. It was quite an epic brewing day but in the end after taking into account the loaves of bread that will be made from the spent malt , the beer will come in at just 10p per pint! (Even without the reuse of grain it comes in at less than 40p per pint)

10p per pint and real beer too, that's amazing :)

Books I used to get to grips with all this were:

Brewing beers and stouts
C J.J. Berry

Brewing beers like those you buy
David Line

The big book of brewing
David Line
                                      Sparging the malt

          Large amounts of spent grain dried and ready for use

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

More raised beds....but no soil!

I think everyone has had a really tough year growing this year, what an awfull year it has been for cropping. Despite all this we did manage to get a decent amount of home grown food this year and the money we saved paid for our raised beds and other bits and pieces that we needed. As it was our first year growing here we wanted to see how things went before creating more growing areas and trying other growing ideas out, so now we know that even in a tough year we can manage it.

Just looking back at some of the problems this year I remember picking off 100-200 slugs each night and that was just from several 10 foot raised beds. In the end beer traps, picking, squashing, torching and Nemotodes ( )seems to get them under control long enough for plants to actually do something. After the slug it was the turn of the birds and then the small mammals got involved and then not having sun and then endless rain.....oh yeah and the very cool temperature and of course the gale force winds!

Like many growers this year we lost many of our young seedlings and we literally had to re-sow more than 50% of our crops. Was very glad of the polytunnel but even in there it was tough, so cool and humid, many kilos of green Tomatoes....but this time we did manage to ripen them in boxes with apples and Bananas.

Anyway after all this it was a success and we are now working on several more raised beds, we should be able to grow more than double the food  in this space and if we improve the existing soil depth we could get to 3 times the food.

Our biggest problem is of course not having soil,,,quite limiting really when trying to grow things. The new beds are going to take many layers of 'Stuff' to make it possible, here's what's going in...

1) Wood ash
2) Chicken muck
3) Leaf mould
4) Nettles
5) Comfrey
6) Straw
7) Ditch dirt
8) Straw again
9) More Ditch dirt
10) Fresh leaves

Just need to throw anything we can at the new beds to create some kind of soil...last years we collected something like 30 trailers of leaves from along the track and I think we will need to do more than that this year as we don't have any muck. Have cleared out 150 feet of ditch and theres one more ditch that might give us another trailer s worth of rotted stuff...

Been looking at the excellent ' How to Grow More Vegetables and Fruits, Nuts, Berries, Grains, and Other Crops) Than You Ever Thought Possible on Less Land Than You can imagine' (John Jeavons) it really does look like the best system for us here and we are combining this with what we have been doing for several years with a 'no-dig' system....I really like not digging :)

Sherry and Cherry Brandy Liqueur

Yes it's that time of year again.....have tried out a sherry kit to make 30 bottles of 18% stuff. Had to try a kit as I missed my chance some months ago to make some from scratch. Well I can say that even with the sherry just finished its tasting pretty sherry-ish and it does pack a punch....I think we may have gone beyond what could be called 'testing' now. It should now improve if left for 4 or 5 weeks & we definately look forward to testing it again :)

The kit we used was made by 'Butlers' and cost about £25. Not bad for 30 bottles! I hope next year though to make some from scratch which would probably cost £5, will it be as good?

After making a whole bunch of cherry brandy liqueur for our wedding celebration we knew that this was wonderfull stuff! Mainly we realised that it was wonderfull because we hardly got a chance to drink got swigged, swaggled and guzzled so quickly!
Of course we have had the tricky task of sampling this before its fully matured and its tasting mighty fine. Next up is some beer from scratch,  but that really needs a day when half of the house can be taken over...

Hens, straw and more birds?

With so much rain the hens area wasn't looking too chipper. Luckily along came an offer of 6 bales of straw in exchange for some home brew and jam. One bale of straw has covered their whole area, it went a long way as they were heavily compressed bales for building with (They came from someone building a round house).

Just gone past the 500 mark with eggs from new birds! Regular orders for the 4 boxes we sell each week. We still need another 1000 eggs to break even on the new fencing and feeder, when I first did my trainspotting-egg-sums, I thought 1500 eggs sounded rediculous!

After only 5 month we are at 500 and something eggs and the fencing and feeder should last way beyond 10 years. If all goes well I think we will get another four hens next spring, the hens would be warmer in the winter and that would give us an extra 1000 eggs or more to sell each year, fantastic :)

Friday, 31 August 2012

Fruit cage extension

Previously I have built a couple of polytunnels using water pipe and reclaimed wooden batterns, so decided to use the same method for extending an existing wooden fruit cage. The exisiting cage didn't allow you to get inbetween the fruit and we wanted to put a bunch more raspberry canes in as well

If you havn't come across this method before, it's fantastic and quick to make. I've used old tent pole pushed a few feet into the ground and the water pipe sides right over the top of the pole to ground leval. Its definately a good budget way of creating a polytinnel or cage, here's a link to an online resourse for making something silmilar:

Wednesday, 23 May 2012

3 tonnes of wood pellets later...

Took delivery of 3 tonnes of wood pellets today....when I say delivery I mean that they drop them at the bottom of our very steep hill, about 1 1/2 miles from our boiler! Was a little warm for the job really...all ready for winter then!!! (It's cheaper to buy them now). 

It would be great to rely just on the raw logs for heat and all that but after our first winter here we can see we would need a huge barn to do this. Aready the wood shed is maybe 30 ft long or something like that and it does give us a lot of heat through the regular wood burner....the thing is once autumn comes and the solar water panels arent doing much your really glad of the wood pellets!

We did start up the pellet boiler quite early last autumn as we had only just arrived and were still acclimatising to the temperature up in the hills rather than down in the valley, will start it up later this year......hang on a minute whats all this talk of starting up boilers and the winter!!!! Right my next post will be about spring and all the fantastic things that are starting to grow in our new raised beds. :)

Solar dryer

Solar drying power! Have recently built this very simple solar dryer for drying herbs and things...may even manage sun dried tomatoes here in west wales! So far have dried wild garlic and mint very quick compared to usual hanging it around in brown bags etc

As usual made from reclaimed bits n bobs and is really just a box with an inlet hole at the bottom and one at the top to let real hot air out. (Could do with adding insect proof screening to these really.

Will look at drying stuff for adding to wine to give a country boost (for selling at market mainly) or for when its the dead of winter and not a berry around...