Friday, January 31, 2014

The Winter Sun Shines on my Balcony -- 1/31 Garden Update

As it is the last day of the month, I feel obligated to give an overall update of my garden. The weather has been very weird lately. There have been days where it has hit 70 degrees within the past week. In the last two days, the area got its first rain of the year. I'm worried that these drought conditions will continue, as we haven't gotten enough rain yet. Regardless, this garden is still growing strong.
Sun glare lettuce
The sun shines upon my balcony

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Beef and Cabbage Pitas

I never got around to posting up the recipe for the beef and cabbage pitas I made from the cabbage I harvested from my garden. These are incredibly easy to make, requiring minimal ingredients and kitchen equipment. All you need is a skillet, some beef, a head of cabbage, and your appetite.
Beef and Cabbage Pita

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Iceman IPA Bottling day

We were busy on Monday night, so we had to postpone bottling our IPA until tonight. The original recipe called for the beer to be dry hopped for 7 days. Since our beer was transferred to secondary on a Monday (a holiday), bottling on a school night wasn't easy to arrange.
Iceman IPA bottled
All bottled and almost ready to drink

Nevada Lettuce

Nevada Lettuce Heads

Nevada Lettuce is what I would consider special for my part of the country. It can tolerate extreme heat compared to other varieties of lettuce. Mine was able to survive 90°F and higher conditions without bolting. It's very similar to other leaf varieties of lettuce, but it will taste a little bitter once you end up harvesting it. The bitterness is not overwhelming though, and the plant is a good choice for gardens that have climates like the state of Nevada. Although I haven't tried growing it in cold weather, it probably grows just as well as any other lettuce variety for the season.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

A Year in Review -- Greens and Machines is 1 year old

On January 26, 2013, I convinced my brother to start a blog with me to better display progress on our projects. If you followed along back then, you may remember it being called Italian Brother's Legacy. We have come a long way. I especially have learned a lot about gardening, homebrewing, managing a website, and life in general from doing this. Many improvements have been made to my original setups, all for the better. But not everything has gone as planned with us; there have been many unfortunate accidents that occurred during projects (luckily, no one was ever injured). We build upon these mistakes and do better next time.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Start your homebrewing adventures with 1 gallon batches

If you are interested in starting homebrewing as a hobby, but have no idea where to start or don't want to spend a lot of money initially, there are still ways to brew. The easiest way to setup shop is to try an easy recipe to make fruit juice wine. However, you'll need a container to make it with. It's good to start small; I recommend using a 1 gallon sized container.
Cider fermenting
Glass is optimal for 1 gallon fermentation containers
Nearly any kind of 1 gallon beverage container can be used to ferment with. Personally I recommend using a glass jug, like one from cheap wine or luxury apple juice. However you can use juice containers or even milk jugs if you have access to nothing else.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Apple Raspberry Juice Wine from Concentrate

Glow of wine
It has a magnificent glow
Since no new beer supplies were purchased over the weekend, I decided to make the most of my stockpiled juice supply (and space in the closet) and start a new batch of wine. This time I used apple raspberry juice from concentrate. A little while ago last year, I bought both the apple cherry juice and the apple raspberry juice to see which would make a better juice-blend wine. I forgot which juice was the better tasting one, so I decided to start with the apple cherry juice. I think I made the wrong selection initially, but now I am back to fix my mistakes.

Iceman IPA to secondary

It was time to transfer Iceman IPA to secondary fermentation. After 1 week + 1 day of primary fermentation, we transferred it over and dry hopped it using some cascade hops. Our final gravity reading was 1.010, meaning we got 5.3% ABV in this. I was expecting it to be worse, seeing as how our mash didn't go as planned. However, WLP001 yeast did the job, fermenting quickly and efficiently.
IPA large krausen
Look at that krausen

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Russian River Brewing Company Field Trip

It's MLK weekend 2014. What does the Northern California division of Greens and Machines decide to do on it's day off? Make the pilgrimage to Russian River Brewing Company of course. My roommate and I, joined by our friend Padawan Kannan of "My Lack of Writing Skill", set off on our journey across Northern California to try the legendary brews of Russian River. Russian River Brewing Company is most known for their IPAs, specifically Pliny the Elder and Pliny the Younger. Although Younger is not ready yet, Elder is still worth going to get. Additionally, they make quite a few sour beers. This was a perfect opportunity to load up on craft beer and try a sour.
Russian River facade
Located in Santa Rosa, CA

Friday, January 17, 2014

Getting the downstairs garden running again

California weather has been crazy dry and warm for this time of the year. Since temperatures are coming above 32°F at night and approaching 70°F during the day, it was time to get my deep water culture running again after a one month break. For this season, after seeing how well it did last year, I started a full crop of bok choy for the system. I would plant lettuce, but I have plenty of that in soil containers all throughout the rest of the garden.
Cabbage Closeup
Container Cabbage Closeup

Thursday, January 16, 2014

How to successfully market your homebrewing product to underage drinkers and get away with it

I love Kickstarter quite a bit for all the great projects that people have to offer. Occasionally there will be one that is not so great. I discovered the "Bootlegger Bottle", a device that sits on your kitchen counter top, allowing you to ferment nearly any juice you throw into it in 1-2 days. Now every teenager can go around his school and tell all his friends he made wine and feel proud about himself. This product has underage drinking written all over it. Additionally, the patents that the creators are trying to get can be replicated by anyone smart enough to research it.
Bootlegger bottle

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Scrap Attack: Best of 2013

2013 was a good first year for the Scrap Attack! section of the blog.  Aside from the acquisitions of a welder, lathe/milling machine, and loads of free tools and scrap metal, we made some cool stuff.

I present the top 5 Scrap Attack success stories of 2013:

#5 - Wood Turning Center

In the process of equipping my machine for wood turning capabilities, the most important piece was the drive center.  The design was developed to utilize a standard #3 Morse dead center by welding the drive teeth onto the end.  This was a fun project as it required both machining and welding.

Iceman IPA

Iceman IPA grains
It's time to brew once again
Today we brewed our 5th batch of beer, going the style of IPA. We haven't done a pale colored beer yet, so this was our chance to give it a try. Especially since one of our friends who I have been helping get into homebrew also made an IPA. So I want mine to be better. We coined the name after our favorite antagonist from one of our favorite movies: Top Gun.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Quick start your fermentation using a cheap yeast starter

Some new brewers might be asking how to work with liquid yeast that comes in tubes or yeast saved from a previous fermentation. One way to work with it is to pitch it directly into the fermenter once the wort has cooled. Another way is to make a yeast starter. A yeast starter is essentially a mini fermentation used to bring the yeast out of dormancy.

Yeast Starter 40 oz bottle

Thursday, January 9, 2014

January 9th Garden Assessment

Out of control cilantro
It has been about 3 weeks since I left my apartment and my plants to the elements for my break. What remained when I returned? Well for starters, my area has had uncharacteristic drought conditions, meaning it hasn't rained during that time (unlike last year). Some plants did fine over the time, but others were wilting away when I came back. I think the plants that could have survived the drought did, and those that looked scraggly when I returned have perked back up after some watering.

7 Vegetables that can grow well in 1 gallon containers

Lettuce in 1 gallon container
A general rule of thumb for container gardening is to use the biggest size container possible to grow. Back when I started gardening, I made the mistake of buying a bunch of 1 gallon nursery pots. However, I had to make use of them; I learned to grow smaller plants in these pots. Now the beauty of the 1 gallon pot is that the container can be improvised from old beverage containers, like water jugs. Anyone who can find an empty container, seeds, and soil can start growing vegetables. Plus the small size takes up little room in the garden. Here are a few of my favorite plants that you can successfully grow in 1 gallon containers.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Drill Organizer

I found this drill gauge at a garage sale, I thought it was pretty useless because you can just check the size of a drill with calipers or a micrometer.  I decided it would make better use as a drill holder to organize my fractional sized drills.

Things to do with Vanilla Beans: Vanilla Extract

I decided to order a bunch of vanilla beans to use for various cooking and brewing related projects. My first project with the beans was to make some vanilla extract.
Vanilla Beans in vodka
Vanilla beans soaking in a closed container.

Early Golden Acre Cabbage

Early Golden Acre is a pretty standard variety for cabbages. This plant takes a while to grow a head, especially in low light conditions. I grew this one in a 4 gallon container and it worked out. I was delinquent by not watering the plant for about 3 weeks while on vacation, so the plant looked pretty dead when I came back. Regardless, the head still weighed in just above 1/2 lb. I think a bigger container and more fertilizer/light would result in a larger head. The first one I harvested was size of a baseball.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Apple Cherry Juice Wine has been bottled

A follow up to my winemaking event last month, I have gone ahead and bottled my wine. It was very clear so I decided that aging in bottles was a better option than bulk aging.

Friday, January 3, 2014

Germination Tray -- Seed Sprouting/Microgreens Growing Tray Part 2

I need to start some new seeds for my hydroponic garden. I think I'll be filling the system with bok choy exclusively. I received some rockwool cubes as a gift, so I decided to give them a try. Using the same trays as I used before, I got to work.