Archive for March, 2013

I decided that this year I finally needed to build a hoop house.  I live in New England and so I have a short growing season and need to extend it a little bit.  I don’t want to go too crazy this year, but if I could get my cool season crops started a little early, that would be perfect.  So here is how I built mine over one of my garden rows.

I bought 2′ pieces of 3/8″ rebar, enough for a pair about every five feet.  I put each pair inDSC_0262 the ground across from each other at least one foot deep.  I went further if I could, but I hit enough rocks so that most of them are only a foot deep.  Next, I used 9′ pieces of PVC piping to make the hoops.  I simply slid each end over the piece of rebar that was sticking out of the ground.  Then I draped the 10′ wide row cover over the hoops with enough fabric on each end to cover the openings.  I used Agribon fabric for my row cover.  This is lightweight fabric that is supposed to let sun and rain through to the plants, but protect from frost.  We will see if that is true.  To hold the fabric in place, I put bricks or rocks on the 6″ of extra fabric I had on each side of the hoop.  And that is all I did, a very easy project.  Not too expensive either.  The row cover was about $50 for 100′, the piping was almost $2 for a 10′ section and 2′ rebar stakes were about $1.50.



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DSC_0142Now that your fruit and water mixture has been sitting for 7-10 days, its time to strain it and add honey and yeast nutrient.  I take a large bucket and put a strainer across the top. Then I put a piece of cheesecloth over the strainer so that all the little pieces get strained out of the liquid.  Once I dump all the liquid through the strainer, I let it sit for a couple hours to be sure that all the juice gets out of the pulp.

Next I add the honey.  The recipe calls for 3 lbs of DSC_0141honey per gallon of the final amount of mead.  Since this is going to be a 1 gallon batch, I would use 3 lbs of honey.  This ratio makes pretty strong alcohol with apples.  I have yet to actually measure the alcohol content of my mead, but it is obviously quite potent.  I like to add the honey when it is slightly warm so that it blends in well.  It shouldn’t be hot because it will kill the yeast.

The next thing you add is the yeast nutrient.  The kind I have says to add 1/2 teaspoon per gallon, but a different kind may vary in amount needed. Mix this all up really well and put the lid on the bucket with the airlock in place.  At this point you do not want any bacteria getting into your mead because you could end up with vinegar.  Let this mixture sit in the bucket for another 7-10 days and stay tuned for the next step!

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Buying your own adult beverages can be expensive and they are generally full of extra stuff that may not be all that good for you.  Just like anything else you buy in the store.  I looked in to many different options as to what I might want to make and I have found that the easiest seems to be making mead.  This is my third year making it and I have yet to have a batch fail me.  I am having plenty of fun altering recipes and trying different fruits.  Almost all of the different varieties have been delicious.  I am going to show you the very basic recipe that I use to make delicious fruit mead or country wine or whatever you might like to call it.

You will need:

A large bucket

A glass carboy

An airlock

A siphon or hose

Wine bottles


A cork inserter

3 lbs of fruit per gallon

3 lbs of honey per gallon

1 packet of yeast per about 5-6 gallons

Yeast energizer


This should be everything that you need for the entire process.  I am just going to discuss the first step today as I start my own batch and follow up with the other steps when I do them for my mead.

First clean your large bucket really well so that you would eat out of it.  I don’t sterilize mine, but some people do.  The bucket should be about one gallon larger than your carboy.  It doesn’t have to be, but I found that it is less messy this way.  Add about 3 pounds of fruit to the bucket per gallon of mead you want.  Strong tasting fruit does not require as much and mellow fruit may require more.  Mash it really well.  The picture is my mashed up watermelon in the bucket.  Add boiling water to cover the fruit.  You want plenty to keep the fruit covered but not so much that the bucket is full.  It will overflow once the fermentation starts and there will be a large mess and many fruit flies.  I know this from experience.  You also want a little less than will fill your carboy for the same reason.  You can add more water as we go.  Once the water cools to room temperature, add the yeast.  Too hot and the yeast will just die.  Too cold and they won’t be as active.  Then we wait about a week.

The specific recipe that I am trying right now is as follows: 3 pounds of apple peels and cores.  I have not yet tried using just scraps to make mead, but we will see how it works.  I added a gallon of boiling water.  Later tonight once the water cools I will add one packet of montrachet yeast and mix it up really well.  Most likely next Sunday I will go on with step 2.

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One of my goals for the year is to learn more about fermentation and try a few different things.  I have successfully made mead many times and had very good luck with that.  Now I want to try something new.  Fermented tea.  Kombucha to be specific.  It seems to be very easy and so far it is working very well.  Here is what I did:

1. I got a scoby from Goldfinch Kombucha.  I used this company just because it was the one I found that was easy to get.  SCOBY stands for symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast.  This is what ferments the tea.  DSC_0131

2. I made green tea.  12g of loose leaf tea with enough boiling water to cover the tea bags in a one gallon wide mouth glass jar.  Then I added 3/4 cup of sugar and mixed it all up.

3. 20 minutes later I removed the tea bag and added water to fill the jar about 2/3 of the way.  Once the tea was just a little warmer than room temperature I added the scoby very gently.  It sank right to the bottom, you can see it in the bottom of the jar.

4. Finally I covered the jar with muslin and a rubber band.  Initially I just left the tea like this.  Then when it wasn’t doing anything I realized that it liked warm and dark so I covered it with a towel and put it on top of the fridge.

When I say it wasn’t doing anything, I mean it was still sweet.  After a week and a half I tasted it and it should have been somewhat tart at this point, but it wasn’t.  The bacteria were not using the sugar.  There was a new scoby forming on the top though, you can see it in the picture. Once I covered and moved the tea, it became tart pretty quickly.

5.  The directions say that once it is tart you can bottle it, however it mentioned that newbies often do this step too quickly.  So when I tasted it tonight and it seemed good to me, I decided to wait a few extra days.  I’ll bottle my kombucha at the end of the week.  Apparently all I need to do is remove the mother along with a ladle full of tea for the next batch then strain the rest of the batch through muslin. Then pour it into bottles that seal tightly.  5-7 days later it is ready to refrigerate and drink!

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