Sunday, December 29, 2013

Microgreens Experiment -- Seed Sprouting/Microgreens Growing Tray Part 1

You may have seen me use a pastry tray to use to germinate seeds back in fall, but this time I'm going to try microgreens with them. For those who are unfamiliar with microgreens, they are essentially mini-plants grown for their sprouts. Many different varieties of seed can be used to grow microgreens. There are the popular sprouts like wheat grass and bean sprouts, and more vegetable cropped based ones like radish, cabbage, spinach, and others. They are ideal to grow indoors or in small space areas because they don't require a lot of light and are ready to eat in 4-7 days. Since they are small, microgreens also contain a lot more flavor than their full sized vegetable forms since it is concentrated all in the little stem of the plant. The disadvantage of growing sprouts is that it requires a fair amount of seed and unless you are growing plants for seed elsewhere, you'll have to keep buying more and more seed.
Germination tray from fall

Friday, December 27, 2013

Bicycle Bell Ringer

One day the ringer for my bell mysteriously disappeared.  I had temporarily strung a baseball bat key chain around the handlebars to use as a striker, but it came time to build a new one.
The design was inspired by the plunger from a pinball machine.  The ringer is a spring loaded brass #10-32 screw with an angle iron bracket.  The bracket itself attaches onto a convenient #10-32 (M5-.8) screw on the bell's handlebar mount.
The bracket.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Aloe vera Propagation and Transplanting

New plants
My mother has a large Aloe vera plant in a container on the patio. She wanted me to help her separate some of the new plants that had grown off the main plant. Apparently this is something you do yearly since she had a bunch of pups from last year all along the side of the wall. In helping her out, I learned more about the aloe plant and how it grows.

Baseball Bat Key Chain

I was commissioned to make a baseball bat key chain similar to one I made in school.  I used a piece of recycled aluminum from a bicycle kickstand found in a dumpster about .440"⌀ to build it from.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

DWC setup maintenance

I returned home to find the hydroponic system I built at home in a sad state. Several preventative measures had not been taken to ensure the survival of the crops in the system. With many of the old plants coming out, I had to make sure the new ones being placed it would stay alive. Here are the main things I had to take care of.
How the system looks now. There are a few vacancies needing to be filled.

Operation "Woody" Part 3: Chisels

While I was raiding the tools to be scrapped at work, I came across a box of left hand metric taps.  I thought wow, this must be the most useless type of tap out there.  (Ironically I later ended up needing to buy a left hand metric tap for another project).  Since taps are made of hard steel, I took them to make some wood turning chisels from.
I originally planned to make an interchangeable handle to grip on the shank and grind the threaded ends for the cutting edges.  I ended up doing the opposite by grinding the shank end and using the threads to screw into the handle.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Free Beer*; Why the open source recipe movement is a joke

Now that I have your attention, let's discuss a movement. They say the best beer you can get is the one you get for free. Today while browsing the internet, I found out that I could get FREE BEER* (and you can get some too!) (*Free as in free speech). Free Beer is the "first brand of beer with a 'free' recipe", to which I call shenanigans. Let me tell you why this movement is rubbish.
Free Beer

Monday, December 16, 2013

Operation "Woody" Part 2: Tool Rest

In order to enable efficient wood turning on my lathe, it required a tool rest for using chisels.  Most tool rests on wood lathes are cast iron, but I made one of machined and welded parts.  My initial design looked too much like a bench and didn't seem ergonomically friendly, so I went for a more typical tool rest shape.
Initial design
The new design only used two, rather than three, pieces: a 3/4" milled piece of round stock, and a piece of plate.  It did, however, require a 45° angle to be milled on one end to accept the milled rod.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Company Analysis: Freight Farms

I usually don't endorse or review companies (I could start doing this if people want me to), but this is a company that stood out. I have been keeping my eye on Freight Farms over the past year. It is basically an embodiment and harmony of both Greens and Machines. This new startup retrofits old shipping containers, turning them into self contained hydroponic growing units for greens, vining plants, and mushrooms. They currently only offer the "Leafy Green Machine" model which claims to produce 400 heads of lettuce per week. Recently, they ran a Kickstarter to raise some cash to build a unit and get their footing and product to the market. Additionally, they have recently sold a unit to a hotel in Concord, NH and have sold a unit to a customer in San Antonio, TX. Personally, I think their idea and product concept is pretty good. Let's do some analysis.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Hey I made Wine again -- Apple Cherry Wine

It's ready to go
What do winemakers do while they wait for their wine to ferment? They have a beer of course. I decided it was time to use those concentrated juice mixes I had in the freezer. The brew closet was looking a bit empty and needed something in it for the winter break.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Bottling Day: English Brown Ale

Continued from Sunday
Smells great, tastes malty
Five days after transferring the brown ale to secondary, we went ahead and bottled it. We got to play around with a few new toys this time. The first of those being our new sanitation solution Star San. After delabeling all the bottles and a few squirts of the solution, we were ready to fill.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Hydroponic system dismantling + tomato plant removal

Friendly and bigger cabbage
Fearing the worst, I prematurely stopped my balcony hydroponics operations. This was a multi-step process, since a few of the cabbage plants downstairs were still growing strong. I didn't want to lose them during the freeze. So I decided to remove all the tomato plants from the right side of the upstairs balcony and plant the cabbages there. In doing so, I harvested the remaining tomatoes that the plants decided to grow in this cold.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Everything I want to do requires a license

I'm going to do a bit of a follow up post of an article my brother did a while back.
Selling Homebrew is Illegal
Keep the homebrew at home: The brewers will thank you
I like to make things. Production is in my nature. Being an entrepreneur at heart, I always want to sell people stuff. Anything I can get my hands or make on, can potentially be a money opportunity. However, a lot of items people produce cannot legally be sold without going through a bunch of red tape.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

English Brown Ale to Secondary

The yeast cake at the bottom
1 week ago we brewed our English Brown Ale. Today we moved it to secondary. My roommate and I agreed that this was this was the best tasting homebrew we've made so far. The final gravity came out to be 1.012, giving an ABV of 4.1%. The next time we make this, I think it'll be able to be bottled immediately after fermentation is complete. Since we don't dry hop this one, it doesn't really need secondary fermentation.

Winter is Coming: Forecast week of December 1

Forecast from
The forecast tells me that the growing season is coming to an end. Starting Tuesday it is predicted that the temperature will drop below 32°F at night (that's 0°C for you non Americans). I'm predicting that some of my warmer crops that made it through fall, like my tomato and pepper plants, won't make it. I'm more worried about my hydroponic garden though. I've seen the pool at my apartment freeze over and I don't want that to happen to my plants. The ice could possibly damage the pump, airstones, or even the plastic bins themselves. I don't want to explain a waterfall to my neighbors below me if the bins do burst. The best possible option might be just to harvest everything now and drain the bins until warmer weather comes again.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Fabricating a Bike Seatpost -- Part 2

As I was contemplating what I was going to do about the failed seatpost from last time, a piece of 1.125" tubing magically appeared in the scrap bin at school the perfect wall thickness to make a seat post from.  I had an idea for a movie about a guy with the super power to make anything appear out of dumpsters called "Any Dumpster, Any Thing".  I felt in this instance I had used this power of scrap alchemy.

Monday, November 25, 2013

I watch my plants grow at night -- Garden Update 11/25

I've neglected posting some plant photos, so I took some of the downstairs garden. It turns out my camera can do some decent night shots using the flash (and a flashlight to aid). I don't have any upstairs photos this week as my camera's battery refuses to charge (I'm literally walking around with an extension cord when I use it). I ordered a replacement already so normal photo taking can resume shortly.

Lettuce in DWC nighttime
Lettuce at night

Deep Water Culture system (DWC) Growth Updates 2013

I will be posting photos of the observed growth from the DWC system I built back home. The most recent photos will be at the top of the page. Currently in the system are Napa cabbage and red lettuce. As the Napa cabbages are being harvested, they are being replaced with broccoli and other cabbages.

Learn how to build this system
System growth in 2014
System maintenance between growth cycles

December 5
This week's view of the system looks nearly the same as last week. The cold weather might be inhibiting growth. is now

Quick update to viewers who might be being redirected from the blog; I purchased a domain name, so we are now officially I'd like to thank all the viewers for being with me every step of the way.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Brew Day: English Brown Ale + Recipe

We're back in action. I had to bang on some pots and pans to wake everyone up today. This time we're making an English brown ale to test our new mash/lauter tun setup. Additionally, we have purchased Star San, a concentrated solution of phosphoric acid, to sanitize our equipment. After the infection of our last batch, we aren't taking any chances today.
Brew Kettle on stove
Getting the kitchen clean and spotless

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Operation "Woody" Part 1: Drive Center

I originally tried to make the teeth of the wood center out of some 3/4" stock, but I drilled the center hole too big and accidentally messed up the drive teeth by a combination of not hitting my dimensions or using a faulty indexing head.
I decided this time I would just make it out of a square shaped stock with bigger diameter.  I turned it down to 13/16" and drilled a smaller center hole.  This way, there would be more room for the teeth.  Next I went to the milling machine and put it in a vise and milled the teeth one at a time with an end stop on the other end.  Since the end was squared previously, I could mill the teeth perfectly timed 90 degrees apart.  Also this setup was much more rigid than a rickety indexing head.
I utilized a left handed endmill so I could cut the direction I wanted without climb-cutting.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Zapap Lauter Tun -- Brewery Upgrade

As part of our brewery renovation campaign after our last batch got infected, we decided to do away with the brew-in-a-bag method for all grain brewing and build an actual lauter tun. We watched a video showing different methods and devices used for a lauter tun. Some options included buying 5-10 gallon water coolers. We opted to use three 5 gallon buckets to build ours (known as a zapap lauter tun) since we are cheap.
Drilling holes in lauter tun
1/8" inch drill bit used for the holes

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Swiss Chard Plenty -- Garden Update 11/13/13

I'm a day late posting this, as I took these photos yesterday. My hydroponic system is doing well along with the plants upstairs. The weather has been nice, but I am beginning to lose a lot of sunlight. Here are some photos.


Lettuce DWC
The bigger plants are blocking sun from hitting the smaller plants in the middle. I should start to harvest leaves to eat salads.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Baking with Beer -- Beer Bread

If you like the flavor of beer and the wholesomeness of bread, then you'd definitely love beer bread. It's incredibly easy to make.
Beer Bread Loaf
Loaf is love, loaf is life

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Food that Food Eats -- Garden Update 11/5

Remember, remember the 5th of November. Well I'm not too much for a revolution, unless it's a food revolution. Anyway, now that all my parts from Hong Kong have arrived, I can run the pump without fear of water siphoning back into it (check valves arrived). It has been incredibly windy this week, so I've had the misfortune of some leaves being ripped off lettuce/bok choy. I was impressed by the flavor in the severed leaves though.


It's easy to tell the romaine apart from the leaf lettuce now that its bigger

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Fabricating a Bicycle Seatpost

I had intended to make a new seatpost for my bike because the original one wouldn't go high enough.  My bike's frame is almost 10 sizes too small for me, but I've been able to manage by getting a stem extender and raising the saddle as high as it would go.  So high, that the minimum insertion line was exposed, and it still felt too low.

I was planning on finding some tube to turn one down from until I found some conspicuously shaped tubing for free on the streets.  They were about 4 feet long 1" tubes that were reduced to 7/8" on the ends.  7/8" just happens to be a standard dimension for saddle attachment hardware, and 1" happens to be a standard seatpost dimension.  The problem is, my seatpost is a 26.4mm (actual dimension 1.037" or 26.3mm) which meant I would need to make a shim.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Hydroponic system upgrade (Kratky to DWC)

After seeing the success of the system I built back at home, I decided that aeration was necessary for the system on my balcony. Previously, the plants sat in a static nutrient solution (known as the Kratky method). I added in a pump with 2 air stones to each of my growing bins.
Aeration equipment for hydroponics
Parts (check valve not pictured)

Friday, November 1, 2013

R-8 End Mill Holders

In my recent raids on the scrap bin at work, I found several R-8 shank blanks.  These are for making your own custom tool holders to go in the milling machine.  Since I only bought collets to hold 3/8" and 1/2" tools for my machine, this is the perfect opportunity to make holders for the other sizes as well as other things like slitting saw arbors and boring head adapters.  No sense leaving them all sit around looking like pepper grinders.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Bok Choy and Cabbage gets Bigger -- Garden Update 10/30

How are my plants doing today? I removed some unproductive tomato plants because it's starting to get cold again. I think this year will be much colder than last year, so I'm taking steps to remove tomato plants before frost comes.


Bok Choy looking nice

Sunday, October 27, 2013

The Baltic Porter didn't make it

It comes with great sadness to announce that our batch of Baltic porter is undrinkable. When we went to transfer it to secondary, we could see and smell that an infection. It's a great disappointment to lose such a potentially good beer. However, there are some lessons learned from this.Always sanitize and sterilize your equipment. Additionally, we'll need to purchase a new bucket/airlock to replace the old one, as we don't want to risk the infection lingering in the same bucket until next batch. Here are some photos of the infection for those who are interested in that sort of thing.

Homebrew infection 1

Homebrew infection 2

Homebrew infection 3

Friday, October 25, 2013

Pumpkin Apple Hard Cider

It's fall again, and pumpkins are in season. As many other breweries have pumpkin beers, I too will experiment with pumpkin. It wasn't easy finding a recipe for pumpkin cider, but I found one to modify.
It isn't fall without pumpkin

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Leafy Greens -- Garden update 10/22

Don't think I forgot about my garden, it's still alive. The content has been changing so much lately. Here are photos of how it looked this morning.


Tomato plants till alive

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Lathe compound nuts

Since I still have the wreckless tendency to overtighten things, it was no surprise when I stripped the T-bolts for adjusting the compound angle on my lathe.  I obviously had too much leverage with a long 14mm wrench to tighten the nuts.  Another concern when the compound has a nut to tighten it is stripping the hex off the nut, which is no fun.  I opted to repair it by making some nuts to go in the base of the compound and secure it with an Allen screw.  This way I won't be as likely to overtighten it because the Allen wrench is much shorter than a 14mm wrench, it's also less likely to be obstructed by other things.  Also the bonus of not needing a 14mm wrench, ANOTHER VICTORY FOR AMERICA

Farmer's Market Apple Cider

I got a request (and a jug of apple juice) from a friend to convert the apple juice sold at my local farmer's market into cider.
Ironic that we want the juice to ferment

Monday, October 14, 2013

Beer Batch 4: Baltic Porter

After seeing how well the brew-in-a-bag method was, it was time to make our second all grain beer. I convinced the others that a strong, dark beer should be a good addition to the beer cabinet.
Porter Grains
16 lbs of grain

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Let's make more sauerkraut

Following the success of the first batch of kraut I made, I decided to follow up and make another batch. This time with red cabbage, onion, and caraway seeds.
Finished green sauerkraut
A successful experiment
Materials for red sauerkraut
Materials for this batch

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Bottling Day: Centennial Pale Ale

Today we bottled our first all grain batch. The first step to bottling any beer is sanitation.
Delabeling bottles
Most tediously boring part of the process

Sunday, October 6, 2013

DIY Sauerkraut

Since I have a cabbage finishing up soon, I'm considering making sauerkraut out of it. First I'm going to make some from farmer's market cabbage to see if that is really what I want to do with it.
Growing Cabbage for sauerkraut
It's getting there

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Downstairs Fall planting

My tomato plants in the Kratky system have lived out their lives. It is time for me to plant some fall season plants. I will be trying Bok Choy/Cabbage in one bin and lettuce in the other bin.

Original setup before cleaning

Upstairs Garden reorganization Fall 2013

Since it was getting harder to water the plants on my stack system, I decided to do some renovation to the left side of the upstairs balcony. I removed the cardboard box (which had rotted away) and slid the subirrigrated planter over to fill the gap. Luckily, the box fits perfectly in its new location. Now I no longer have to reach over so many plants to water those further away from my door.

Newly reorganized

Monday, September 23, 2013

Beer Batch #3: Centennial Pale Ale + Recipe

Today was our first attempt doing the brew in a bag method (BIAB). We decided to see if it would work for future batches by making a pale ale. Our recipe was incredibly simple.
Supplies for Pale Ale
Step 1: Assemble supplies

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

DIY Hydroponics -- Deep Water Culture (DWC)

Finished Deep Water Culture Hydroponic setup

This week I am actually back home at my parents' house. So I decided to be useful and build them a hydroponic setup for lettuce and other greens. I decided that a deep water culture setup, similar to the one I have on my balcony would work best. The main differences between mine and theirs are:

1) They have aeration
2) Different sized plastic
3) Using smaller net pots.

Additionally, since I did not bring my fertilizer, I will be using some of theirs, some 18-18-21 tomato fertilizer. Here are the necessary and optional materials:

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Grape wine from concentrate ages well

I forgot that I had a bottle of white wine left from when I brewed it last February. So I decided to pull it out and taste it. It turns out that it did age and for the better. I'm not good at describing flavors, but it makes me want to make some more wine. Luckily, I now have two 1 gallon glass jugs I can use as fermentation vessels, so I can now make small batches of wine or mead.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Boring Bar Holder

Since my tool post has no way to put my boring tools on centerline (let alone holding them), I built this holder for them.  Since all my boring tools have the cutting edge aligned with the center of the shank, all I had to do was raise the center of the shank .5" off the tool post.  The hole is .75" and the smaller tools fit with adapter sleeves.
Using the same 2"X1" hot rolled steel, I milled off a piece 1.5" long.  I really should get a saw.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Summer is almost over -- Garden update September 5

It has been a while since I showed the upstairs garden off. My second round of cherry tomatoes are beginning to mature. Here is a close up shot of the tomato canopy.
It's getting harder to water these