Garden update

It has been a while since I posted about the status of the garden.  Just about all of the lettuce, spinach, arugula and coriander has bolted and gone to seed. All of my beets went straight to seed and/or died, which is weird, because beets aren’t supposed to go to seed until their second year.  Most of the carrots I planted did not get enough sun and died shortly after sprouting.

For once, I have onions that are actually forming a bulb and are not going straight to seed.  The shallots that never came out of the ground last year have all multiplied and appear to be doing well.  I have some Italian Rose beans, as well as Blue Lake bush beans all going strong.  The tomatoes that were volunteers in mom’s garden are doing extremely well.  One is a beefsteak type and the other appears to be a cherry.  Two of the bell peppers that were planted two years ago refuse to die, they have some small peppers on them.

My hops are looking pretty good.  I think I over fertilized a couple weeks ago because they all but stopped their growth (maybe they were putting energy into root growth, ahead of a big push above ground)  I know that you shouldn’t expect to get much, if any, of a harvest from you first year, but it would be really cool to make a beer with home grown hops this year.

The fruit trees are doing ok.  The Blood Orange has a couple fruit on it, the Honey Mandarin is going gang busters, grapefruit is putting on some leaves (it needs them), the pear looks good (probably won’t get any fruit production until next year), the apple… the apple… darned neighborhood kids.  I have close to two dozen apples on the tree earlier this spring.  Now, there are 5.  I think they kids thought it would be fun to use them as projectiles… or food. Grumble…. And last but not least, my Kumquat is working on it’s third crop in a year and a half.

All in all, not bad, but I should put more production into the raised beds…  As with everything else, it’s finding the time.  I have to put that drip system and timer in this weekend.  That should help out.

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WOW!!!! back to Bikram… I don’t remember it feeling like this…

So today I took my lazy butt back to yoga.  It has been six weeks since I was last at class.  Life had gotten crazy and just didn’t have the chance to get to class.  I knew it was going to be a little rough, and I wasn’t just going to step right back in where I left off, but….

It is really amazing how tight ones back can get from staying away from the yoga studio.  Right off the bat, with half moon, I knew that my body was not going to cooperate tonight.

So, I go at it with the intention of “taking it easy”…. which lasts all of about five seconds.  I’m pushing for the limit… and it’s only 10 seconds into the 60… oh boy, so this is how my first class back is going to go…

Make it through half moon, awkward pose… amazingly strong.  Excellent, maybe this won’t be as bad as I thought.  Eagle pose, piece of cake, confidence is building.  Standing head to knee, I’m not the greatest, but I can hold my own for a big guy… not bad.  Balance is a little off, but I pull through.  Standing bow… right side ok… left side… umm… I think my foot is supposed to come over the top… I think… Oh boy, heart rate is really starting to climb.  Hmmmm, this could be trouble.  Balancing stick, I’m still here… Standing separate leg, breath… and of course everyone’s favorite! Triangle pose!… oh crap, legs are shaking… I really don’t remember this being this hard… come on, come on, let me switch!!!!! ok, switch… oh crap, now I’m doing this to the other side.  Phew, made it through that, standing separate head to knee… wait… this is normally an easier pose… awwww crap… this really is going to be one of those nights.  Tree pose and toe stand… balance is wobbling, please don’t fall over.  And then one of the best parts of the night, Savasna… dead man’s pose… I’m on my back trying to catch my breath.

The rest of the night was manageable.  I made it through.  But my arms were feeling the strain.  I think it will take another two practices to get my back back to straight. If someone had told me it was going to feel like this, I would not have taken a month and a half off.  Moral of the story, do not take a long time off and expect that you will come back where you left off.

Adding a drip system to the garden

Last week I purchased a kit to install a drip system in my garden.  There were multiple reasons I wanted to do this.  One being water conservation, another, save myself some time.  Combined the two equal money savings.  I will be automating the system as well, which will help when I travel out of town, I will not have to worry about making arrangements for someone to stop by and water.

Conservation is a two fold attribute.  One, I live in Southern California… a desert.  Yes, the water saved will not be much, but ever last bit counts.  The other part of conservation, a decrease in the bill.  The less water that I use, the smaller my bill, the more money in my pocket.  I will be able to conserve by putting the water where it is needed, instead of water the entire area, losing some of the water to evaporation.  The automation saves me time, which equates to more money saved.

A third point, and maybe I am just justifying this to myself.  Starting the project gets me outside, and adds knowledge and experience of a new skill that very well could come in handy down the road.  Eventually I would like to do this with a rain catchment system, to further lower the cost of operating.

The squeaky bottom bracket gets the grease

My trusty steed had developed a squeak.  I’m talking one of those squeaks that drives you up the wall… squeak… squeak… squeak… It appeared to be in the left side of the bottom bracket or in the left crank arm.  For those of you who may not have any idea what I am talking about, my steed is a circa 1985 Nishiki Olympic steel road bike that I converted to fixed gear, and for those of you who don’t know what a fixed gear is… a fixed gear is a bike that has the rear cog fixed to the rear hub.  If the bike is moving, so are the crank arms.

So, my squeaky steed….

This squeak was driving me nuts, it would only show up after I have been riding for a couple of minutes and the turning of the cranks generated some heat in the bearings.  And, let me tell you, on a bike that you cannot “free wheel”, every time the cranks go around and I get a squeak… I was about ready to kill it.

Instead of killing it, I thought it would be best for some maintenance.  You see, I bought this bike years ago while working in a bike shop, from a customer who had destroyed one of his wheels.  I bought it off of him, because the cost of a new wheel was more then the bike was worth to him.  So I offered him the cash that I had on me… $58.00.  I then proceeded to spend about $300.00 on components to make this bike rideable…. boys with their toys… Oh yes, not killing my bike.  I took the crank off and disassembled the bottom bracket, the spindle that the crank arms attach to.  I do not believe that the bearings had ever been serviced, with close to 30 years on the parts… it needed some attention.

So, I replaced the old grease with new synthetic, super high speed, incredibly expensive bicycle grease.  And, to my great please (of course) I no longer have a squeaking steed.

The moral of the story, with a couple of tools and a little know how, I saved myself the cost of having to pay someone else to work on my bike, freeing up those funds to go toward other necessities.

To rack or not to rack… (to secondary)

This is another one of those age old questions, do you want cheese on your burger, do you want a rare or a medium steak, do you rack your beer to secondary?  There are arguments for and against.  So, which I do prefer?

I have been brewing beer for one year, almost exactly.  In that time I have brewed nine batches of beer, with number 10 coming this Sunday.  There is one thing that all of these different beers, from California Common to a Double IPA to an Imperial Oatmeal Stout to a 12% Belgian Strong Ale, aside from using malted barley, yeast, and hops, I have racked every batch into a secondary fermentation.  For the non homebrewers out there, racking is the process of siphoning liquid from one vessel to another.  The idea is that you move the beer off of the spent yeast and other particles that have settled out, to give you a “clearer” brew.

Some believe that unless you are making a high gravity beer, alcohol percent over 8, that you do not need to take this step.  They argue that the additional contact with airborne wild yeast and bacteria, the chance of an infection getting into your beer is greatly increased.  The idea behind racking a high gravity beer is to remove the dead yeast cells and other left overs from the fermentation so as not to leave any off flavors behind in the beer.  Higher alcohol liquids are a very harsh environment, this is the reason alcohol is used to extract essences of herbs… IE vanilla.  Over the past year, there have been several podcasts that have addressed this topic.  Some argue that the flavor is even better in beer that has not been racked to secondary.  To this, I cannot speak, as I have never excluded this step.

One additional situation where racking a beer to secondary is a good idea, is when you “dry hop” a beer.  Dry hoping is a technique that was derived from the long trip the English supplies used to take in the colonial days to get from England to India.  The beer was spoiling before it could be delivered.  So, the brewers started loading up the barrels with hops to help “preserve” the beer for the trip.  Dry hopping creates a rather citrusy, floral character in the beer that the soldiers became quite fond of… and the rest is history.  The idea is that you want to remove your beer from the left overs from fermentation so that they do not interfere with the character derived from the hops.

Personally, I like to transfer into a secondary.  At this time, I only bottle my beer, I do not use kegs.  I know many who keg that do not rack into a secondary, the act of transferring into a keg… actually is a secondary, of sorts, so… it is a bit redundant.  I feel that the concern of contamination is virtually eliminated with good sanitation practices.  So… for me, I will rack and produce a clearer beer.

I’m back, and the mead is jammin’

I’m back and recharged.  Been quite a couple of weeks.  There was a surprise birthday party we were invited to, part of the surprise was us flying to San Jose on one day’s notice.  Followed the next day with 350 miles of driving, out to the Grand Canyon to see the annular solar eclipse.  Got some good pictures through the 12″ Dobsonian telescope.  Just didn’t seem to be able to find the time to sleep.

On a positive note, I did make a new batch of melomel, honey wine with fruit, in this case one pound of cherries with three pounds of honey and about 2/3 gallon of water.  I don’t have any wine yeast unopened at the moment so I thought I would throw in a tsp of standard Red Star bread yeast.  Let me tell you, the fermentation is sure more aggressive then I expected.  This fermentation has a larger krausen then any other that I have observed.  It is possible that the large krausen is a result of the larger amount of yeast I pitched.  I also started the fermentation at a lower temperature then I normally start mead.  I started at 65 degrees, instead of 72 or 74.  Not knowing what characteristics the bread yeast will impart on the wine, I wanted to give them every chance to be mellow and produce fewer phenols and fusels.  I imagine I will rack into secondary after 8 weeks and then age there for 3 or 4 months.  I may make another batch with 1/3 pound of kumquats I harvested from my tree this afternoon.  I think I will make this a combo mead, with some fresh thyme and mint leaves from the garden.

Taking the week off

I’m sure by now you have noticed that there have not been any posts this week.  Too much going on, been too busy.

Today, water line to the water cracked.  Tomorrow…. Lord knows.

This weekend I am taking my sweetie to the Grand Canyon for some R&R and to watch the annular solar eclipse on Sunday.

Hope you have a great week.  I will return next week.