Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Sweet potatoes!

These are not from the greenhouse, they came from the outside garden

Ok, so I couldn't stand it any longer and I just had to dig them up, even though the sources I read said to wait until as close to frost as possible.  I got a four gallon bucket full.  Many are quite small, but a good number are respectable to large in size.  They are delicious.  I read that you should cure them for several days in 85 degree temps and 85% humidity before cold storage.  I have them spread out on my increasingly versatile compost screen in the greenhouse that is creating the perfect environment.

You can sort of see that this variety has a pinkish color to the skin.  The inside is a deep orange and the flesh has a firmer texture when fresh-picked then cooked.

The only negative is that the skins are deeply pitted on nearly all of them.  I suspect this is from the very firm and rocky soil that they were growing in.  I have read that sweets do well in sand (like many root vegetables) and that's why they are popular in the South Atlantic region.  

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

The hops are dry

I weighed them today and determined that my total harvest for this year is a whopping 10 oz. of dried hops.  Not bad considering the past 5 years have yielded zero ounces.  I expect my vines to be twice the volume next year so I'll get a pound if I'm lucky.  They took about three hours to pick and clean out the leaves.  I don't have any plans to be a hops farmer, but it is nice saying I am making beer with my own home-grown hops.

Next is to grow 25 pounds of barley and malt it!

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Drying home-grown hops

So my first-year vines produced pretty well this year.  It was a pretty great summer with all the rain and cool temps.  I had 3 vines and got nearly 5 gallons, including what I used in my brew today.

Here's what I have left:

I am using my compost screen to dry them.  The limited info I found said to stir them a couple times over 2-3 days, depending on conditions. We should have some nice dry weather for a while, and not too hot, so hopefully they will dry out nicely without falling apart or getting moldy.  Fingers crossed! 

I did some wet-hopping today

Fresh-picked hops, straight from the vine and into the wort!  I added about a gallon (didn't weigh it and it can't really compare to dried weight anyway) at the beginning of the boil for bittering.
I didn't think they would do much to the wort, but I tasted it afterward and it might be TOO bitter!  I hope I didn't ruin 13 gallons of IPA.  Only time will tell...

Saturday, September 7, 2013

I am now building a basement root cellar and lagering cave

I needed to repair this leaky window and I have the space, so I figured I would get started on some cold storage.  I know I will probably  soon need more, but a 4x4 footprint fits my budget.  When all is done, I figure that it should cost me around $150.

Here is the old basement window that I plan to use for air exchange.

 I pulled out the old cover and added this plywood with 2 four-inch holes.

I am planning to use the back wall as part of the structure. You can see that I will need to work around the sewer pipe. 

1st wall. 

 You can see that I have to also work around some low-hanging radiant pipes.

Two galvanized stove pipes fitted with some 1/2" screen. 

I probably should have left a bit more overhang so I could connect the tubes more easily.  Oh well, it will work.
 The door frame will sit up off the floor about 18" for better insulation.

Here are all the shelves I plan to have.

Rather than fit a roof with plywood, I decided to just use rigid insulation.

Here is my simple design for an air exchange system.

Just a sliding piece of plywood...

That controls the size of the exchange holes pretty nicely.

And here it is installed.  The idea is to allow cold air in the right side, into the tube and fill the bottom of the cellar.  The left side will allow the warmer air on top to escape.  

And here is the door installed.

I added a few stops to add pressure for a tighter seal.

The only thing it still needs is another can of spray foam and some thermometers.  Fingers crossed!

Peppers are filling my house!

I get a bucket like this every couple of days.  What a great year for peppers!