Garden Update – Going Strong

First Garden Bed

Started the vegetable garden in the new house this year and it has been learning all the way. The first beds I planted were basically just stick the starter in the ground and hope for the best. No compost here. No raised beds. No double digging. Worst of all is that I have it under the shade of a big pecan which at the time did not have leaves. Well this was going to be a learning year so not too bad. Things are growing, the vegetables are still green and I am even seeing cucumbers developing.
peppers and eggplants

Raised Beds

Now we’re getting fancy. It wasn’t long before I came across permaculture and raised beds. I thought I’d give it a go and was pretty happy with the results. Two of the four beds have plants in the them and the melons have really taken off and turned into Franken-Melon’s. This is a whole new ball game and because I’m still learning I made each bed a bit different to see the results. So far so good and I think that after a good winter rain these beds will start to decompose a bit better. I am using drip irrigation so save water so the whole bed does not get water at the moment and rain is non-existent in this Mediterranean climate.
tomato patch

Creepy Crawlers

pumpkin
I had luck with pumpkins in the old house when a pumpkin started growing from some of the food scraps that found their way into the compost. It was one huge pumpkin so hoping that I might get a bit of success here with them. I planted pumpkins and watermelons in the part of the yard I won’t get to turning into raised beds this year. So though I’d put in some drippers and plant some seed and let nature take its course. Again I’m like a little boy each time I see these huge leaves. Hopefully some pumpkins will emerge, only time will tell.
watermelon

Because I didn’t want to leave the space open I also planted luffa and peppers in between where the drippers didn’t have a pumpkin or watermelon. I spaced these out a bit further to give them space but the drippers are pretty much 30 cm apart so that can’t be changed. Where ever I have open drippers I’ve been planting extra vegetables like pumpkin, melon and watermelon. We’ll see how this strategy pans out this year’s garden.

Trellis for the Franken-Melons

From having never built a trellis to hooking up half the vegetable garden with trellis’. With the little space I have I’ve really being looking at going vertical as much as possible with the vegetables and fruit that could be left to crawl on the ground. That’s why I setup a quick trellis for the melons I planted. I should say they have taken off like crazy so had to get something up as quick as possible.
melon trellis

Setting up the Melon Trellis

There is a ton of branches lying around from untended yard and years of wind tearing through the huge pecan tree. So I decided to get some of those in a tent style trellis system and loop some string that I have lying around. Whole project took the best part of an hour to mess around with. 
melon trellisHave to wait and see what the results will be but I’m pretty happy. Not that permanent so will make changes easy as this garden is far from settled.

First Brew in a Bag (BIAB) – Session #4

American Pale Ale (BIAB)

Ingredients

Grain
250g Caramalt
150g Crystal
1600g Pale Ale
Hops
30g Cascade (30 Min)
Yeast
S-33 Yeast
Bottling
50g Grape Sugar

Volumes

Start: 15 liters
Pre-Boil: 13 liters
Fermentation: liters
Bottling: liters

Gravity Readings

Pre-Boil: 1.032
OG: 1.030

Changes Made

BIAB for the first time. Trying to go all-grain brewing and this will be my most logical option.
Using frozen water made the day before to cool the wort directly.

Preparation

24 hours prior to beer prep boiled 3 litres of water and placed this it the freezer. Also filled five 1 litre bottles with water and placed those in the freezer for the ice bath. I used to buy ice but this is rather a waste if I can just reuse old plastic bottles

Mash

Started the day having to sew the bag for the brew in a bag (BIAB). First attempt at brewing all grain and the face that I don’t have a huge pot means needing to make a few personal adjustments. Firstly I don’t have a 20 liter pot required for the 17 liters Brew Smith recommends. Also I could only put in a max of 15 liters of liquid in the pot. So basically I started with about 2.5 liters too little water for the mash. I then also removed about two liters so that I could put the grain in without it over flowing. I let basically 13 liters of water sit with the grains for 1:30
Wrapped it in a blanket and gave it a stir every now and then. In hindsight this was the first of my mistakes but so I learn.

Pre-Boil

I then had to do a mash out. I have no idea what this is and will need to find out on the forums how to do this. The liquid really drained quite easily from the bag but I think the material might not hold up to many brewing days. I added back the two or so liters I had removed and the pre boil volume is 13 liters. Took out some of this mash and placed it in the fridge to cool down to take a gravity reading. I basically watered down the beer far too much throughout the session. As you will see I also added ice directly to the wort to cool it down and ended up with a lower gravity from the pre-boil!

Boil

Boiling well and gave it a stir every now and then. Also removed the foam/scum that had formed on top. Not nessary and probably something I will skip next time. At 30 min added 30g Cascade, after posting on the forums and checking this was too much hops for the size of the batch. The tasting after the boil really was a bitter taste. Something I was trying to avoid from my previous batch

Post-Boil

Turned off heat at 60 min and added 30g Amarilo. Also added 3 liters frozen water to bring the final volume up to 13 liters. Brought the temp down nicely to just above 60 C. Into the ice bath and trying to get the temp down to 25 as quickly as possible. The yeast also looks good that I had rehydrated. Added the mash to the yeast to give it a bit of a start half an hour into the boil after taking the gravity. The results

20150503_233001-01

Next Time

Measure a batch for BIAB that the max liquid is 15 liters, probably end up with a 8 liter batch.
Still came out pretty bitter. Need to half the bittering. 15g at 30 min and then 15g at 15 min to see if that can take some of the bite out.
Maybe also the cascade hop is just too bitter or has too much of a bite. Can also be the fact that the quatity is hald of the actual 20 liter batch.
Might need to take the amount of hops right down.
Don’t use ice directly to cool down the wort.

Busy Saturday

All round busy saturday. Woke up early to get the chickens into their new home. Had to secure the bottom of the cage and put in some stronger fencing. Lily was on site helping direct operations. They were quite happy flapping wings and enjoying the open space once I moved them across. I then went up to Yiron where I make wine with a group of guys. Got to taste some of the fresh wine that we aerated, the Shiraz was wonderful if not a touch sweet. Then I had myself an afternoon nap 😉 After this put down the irrigation for the new raised beds which went well but took a while. So I have drip irrigation setup for all the current beds and left some extra pipe for the future connections. Last but not least I went and picked up some worms for the worm box. Super busy but glad that I got things done.

Worm box quick and simple

I’ve been reading up quite a bit about vermiculture or worm composting. This sounds like a fantastic idea and someone on the kibbutz actually has a farm going already. I just needed to get a composting worm box setup.

Putting on the wire

Slapping a Worm Box Together

So the idea is to get the bedding up and running, I’ll be using shredded paper and sawdust. This needs to be kept moist which will be the biggest issue in Israel with the hot summer coming up. I’ll put a container into his worm box with some fresh food so that they’ll move into the new home after a few days.

Complete Wormbox
The bottom of the worm box needs good drainage so I used the fencing I found to build the nursery for the chicks. Been looking into permaculture too so I’ve been thinking how to get this whole ecosystem working together. Also been trying to use materials found around the bins, giving someone else’s “junk” a new life.

Bottom wire
The box itself is basically old wood that is in its third life. It was a deck at the office at work that was ripped up. I took the better pieces and it was a gate in the old house. I took it along to the new house thinking I’d use it with the chickens. I used the frame but not the wood. So I cut the pieces I needed and put it together for the worm box. No need to pat me on the back 😉

Wormbox insideNow all that’s left to do is go pick up the worms. I’ll probably do that over the weekend and try and setup some sort of watering system. I though about using the arduino to monitor temp and moisture levels. That might be something else I can do to keep me busy in the evening.

Chicken Nursery from an old Cupboard

Not sure what to even call this as it’s not an incubator but rather a chicken nursery for young chicks until about a month old. Might need to read up a bit and find out exactly what it’s called. I’ve found a source for cheap chick’s in the village next to the kibbutz. So I went along and it seems these will be perfect to get started with and learn about how to keep my chickens fit and healthy.

Chicken Nursery

Chicken Nursery

I’m trying to re-use stuff and not go out and buy or build something from scratch. No point in pouring cash into a project that might not be worthwhile in the end. So I found an old cupboard and fencing. This was a cupboard for a corner so it’s pretty big. I ripped out the shelving and removed the glass that was on the door. I replaced this with some old fencing I found lying around to give proper ventilation and turned the cupboard on its side. This gives me plenty of space and easy access, most importantly the chick’s can’t get out and nothing can get in. I also put it on an old table stand to raise it off the ground.

Old Cupboard
A few holes drilled into the side just to add to ventilation if I close the front with some sheeting during bad weather. The final part was getting some heat in there as I understand the first few weeks they need to be kept warm. I used one of the drilled holes and attached a light fitting. A friend has a lightbulb that gives warmth and a bell watering container that I’ll pick up tomorrow. So all in all this is a recycled chick nursery with zero out lay. Took about an hour to slap together and pretty happy with the results. Might find some paint lying around and let the kids have some fun giving it a new coat.

Light Fixture for Warmth

Vegetable Trellis for Cucumbers and Zucchini

I put in some cucumbers and zucchini a week or two ago and needed to somehow get a vegetable trellis system up and running. I had a few idea’s of how to get it up and with some trial and error I got the vegetable trellis stable. Took a look on Google to see more or less what I needed to do.

vegetable trellis

Continue reading Vegetable Trellis for Cucumbers and Zucchini