Started the All-grain beer using a brew in the bag method.

September 29, 2012

This is going to be a step by step of how I’m doing and what I’m using this first time. I’m making a ale as they seem a little more forgiving compared to Lagers. But I have a wheat beer recipe that I think may work out well once I get the process down.

I have a five Gallon stock pot I’m using so I just measured out grains for 1/2 of the average 5-6 gallons of beer.  I put in a metal insert for jars from the canner to keep the bag from direct contact of the bottom of the pot. I’m using 4 of the big Binder clips to hold the edge of the bag over the edge or the stock pot.  I’m doing half batches as the grain bag is heavy on a normal batch size so it will be easier for me to move with my handicap.

Heating up 3 gallons of water to 154 degrees F.  This method is very temp. sensitive so you need to check it often because if it get’s to high it will stop the process.  On my electric stove I can hold that temp  a couple of lines below Medium heat. Having an instant read thermometer is great for making sure you stay at the correct temp.   Add your grains slowly a couple of cups at a time and stir it so you don’t end up with a dough ball. After about a half hour of checking the temp every five minutes and you are sure you are maintaining it. Let it work it’s magic, I think of it as kinda like a giant teabag and it’s slowly steeping to get all those sugars you will feed your yeast, and getting the max. flavor out of the grain. You will need a 90 minute soak of the grains using the Bag method because you don’t sparge the grains, so this method does take a bit more time on average.  But let’s face it,  if you are in a hurry you are  probably not making your own beer.

I laid down an old bath towel and have the fermenting bucket standing by to drain the bag because  after this process is done you need to let the bag drain and I found my jar lifter from my canner fit’s on top of my fermenting bucket and I think it will be strong enough to hold the grain bag and let it drain.  The towel  should keep the floor clean from drips moving the bag. You will be adding this bucket back into the pot when you boil your wort.  So make sure you have sanitized everything.  Moving the grain bag was a breeze and it’s draining into the bucket the jar lifter is almost perfect for the bag,  I love multi-taskers!  Moving the bag and getting the wort boiling went much better than I anticipated. Doing the smaller batch of grains really helped.  Good time to rinse the bag while you wait for the wort to boil.

After the bag has drained you just boil up up the wort and add your hops  just like you do using LME or DME you just don’t have to add water to your fermenting bucket as this isn’t an extract. Use your Hydrometer and get your OG (Original Gravity) reading and then add your yeast when cooled to about 70 degrees and let it bubble away.  I have a little journal I’m starting for all grain beers to keep track of the readings and my own little notes.

Using the leftover grains: I’m got the dehydrator out and I will take a shot at drying the used grains out. Put the trays over the sink before adding the grains as some will slip through and it can be a little messy. I put about 2 cups of grains per tray and have 8 trays worth drying/dehydrating.  I hope this process works but if it doesn’t I’ll freeze it in one pound bags for animal feed.

I was a little concerned doing this method  but the wort is starting to smell like beer!  It will take a week or two at the min.  to see if it works as well as I hope. But so far so good! After watching a couple of videos of folks doing full batches and  struggling with the grain bag compared to how easy doing a 3 gallon batch was for me even with my handicap. I would recommend the smaller batches of all grain bag method. Three gallons will still give you over a case of beer at bottling time.  I think brewing beer should be fun and not a struggle or chore!

There you have it, about 5 hours invested in time and about 30 minutes total of physical labor, about $6.00 invested in ingredients for (I hope) a good all grain beer that you know what’s in it. The used grains can be as feed for chicken, pigs and cattle love. Though sheep and goats don’t seem to like it much  from what I’ve been reading. Plus there are recipes for bread and doggie treats that can be made from the used grain. You could do other kitchen and cooking projects at the same time from canning to baking bread. Or go read a book watch an old movie do some sewing or knitting or even paint whatever floats your boat.

No, it’s not fast but I look at that as a feature not a bug. I know I need to slow down sometimes and possess myself with patience and look around and see the beauty the world, of taking time to  smell the BBQ, canning or bread baking.  I really have come along way baby.

Goals and using 1800’s tech

September 27, 2012

Looking back on what I have done  so far this year and what I need to do to meet all of my goals. I think it’s always good to look back and see just how far you have come and what you are going to do next.  I also think you should set goals that seem a little hard to get done.  I don’t know about you but setting goals that are right at the edge of possible works better for me.  I have to kind of push myself  I’ll only do the easy stuff.  That doesn’t mean you can’t change or adjust  your goals as you learn more, life happens and you must change to suit new circumstances.  These are goals you want to accomplish not set in stone that you stress yourself out trying to do the impossible. I was working towards a wood stove this year. But propane made more sense for me and what I can do physically in the short term.  It doesn’t mean I’ll never install a wood stove.  I just move that goal out on a longer timeline.

I know doing my water test back in April educated me and changed my goals for water on hand.  I also would like to get a propane camp shower heater/pump. I found out that a gallon a day was to little water if I wanted to keep my life somewhat normal if the water gets turned off in a disaster.  I found that I want to have 500 gallons of water stored and I want to have some water that is some what easy to move to a family members home if they need it. My soda jugs can be handed out without putting me at to much risk to folks that need a bit of water to get to where they are going. I want to harvest rain, run it through filters and a bit of bleach to make it safe for drinking right here at home.  I don’t want to have to try and fight the “Zombies” at the local creek or pond.  We have an outbreak of cryptosporidiosis which is caused by a parasite that lives in feces and water source has become contaminated by human or animal waste. The combination of a good water filter, boiling the water for a minute/using a WAPI indicator for a solar oven and some bleach or iodine will take care of almost every waterborne contamination.

I have all of the above to make safe water but I want 1 more big 60 gallon barrel in the house and I ‘d like to “daisy chain” several rain barrels to take advantage of all that rain water that falls on my roof.  It the barrels freeze over the winter and I have insulating materials that ice could work like the old “Ice Houses” before folks had fridges and used ice boxes.  If the mass of ice could last even into June or July  you could have a great barter item for very little cost. Not even counting you would have ice for yourself !

Thinking outside of the box and using older 1800’s tech can make your life better and give yourself more options.  Will it work? I have no idea, at the very worst I will  have a plenty of water from my rain barrels.  But if I can make a sort of “Ice House” and chop up blocks for a fridge or freezer.  How awesome would that be for preserving foods safely and as a barter item.

For myself I almost have to force myself to look back in history for solutions.  I love tech and what solar can provide on a small scale.  But those darned batteries are expensive and the sun does not shine every day so you need backups. I find looking into the past can provide a lot of solutions to the average prepper/survivalist.  Folks could live darn good lives back in the 1800’s. Now we can harness both hi-tech and old tech via history and make a good life if we can change our mindset and use what works and not the latest gadget.

I never will know the future, I can make educated guesses based on history but I’m just  guessing. I find what works for me is to use a logic, common sense and even if I’m totally wrong, everything I do makes my life better no matter what happens in the world.  When you have the knowledge that you have six-twelve months of everything you need from a teething baby to food, water, health and sanitation and security.  I have done my best to protect myself if the worst happens.  If I’m wrong and the PTBs make the whole world wonderful and perfect.  I will still make my beer, bake my bread and grow my garden and know when Mama Nature gets peeved and throws storms, earthquakes, volcanoes  I’m ready and learning and that won’t change.

So far so good…..

September 26, 2012

Getting my next big food shopping list done up for the first of October. Thankfully I only have one item I have to get the first and I can do the rest of the shopping on the 2nd or later that week. Paul’s will be having a big case lot sale so I’ll be adding some cases of canned goods.  Cash & Carry is a a little on the high side for my average shopping budget,  but I really want to add another 50 pounds of sugar to the pantry.  I don’t use a lot of sugar but adding the ability for candies cakes and pastry’s to my menu is going to be nice.  C&C also has tri-tip for $2.88 a pound about a 15 pound average that will give me a nice cut of meat to stash in the freezer for about the same price per I see hamburger at the store.

You may have seen stories about the great bacon shortage that is coming out of  England. So if you want to have bacon at a  good price, it’s time to get it and freeze or can it.  I know I have seen bacon in bulk for $2.50-$3.00 a pound and spending $30.00 on bacon seems absurd but I have mine and will be getting some more and if you don’t have time or equipment for canning bacon it will do fine in the freezer for several months.

The PTBs are only talking about bacon but it’s really all products from all critters. From eggs and chickens to butter, cheese and milk that will go up in price after herds are killed because the farmers and ranchers can’t afford to feed.  But you can oil eggs, can butter, freeze milk and wax cheese so buying now while it is cheap and preserving it for next year will free up money for your rising electrical and gas costs.  If you are middle or lower class inflation is not your friend.  If inflation is such a great deal every country would print extra money all the time. But courting inflation is always a desperation move and I’ve never read in history of it ending well.

I ‘m pushing the food and fuel because I think those items will go up the quickest in the next 2 or 3 months. So buying now will save you a lot of money in the future.  I hope the PTBs won’t do anything idiotic like price controls that Nixon trotted out in the 70’s but I wouldn’t say it can’t happen! Or gas rationing,  so think about having those things on hand. The EPA shutting down of so many Coal plants may result in brown outs or rolling blackouts. That’s why you need a backup system for lights, heat and your fridge and freezer to preserve that food. Or at least give you a little time to smoke, can or use other methods to safely preserve it without power.

At Paul’s I’ll get a case of tuna fish (48 cans) a case of canned tomatoes and a case of veggies(24 cans) a case of V8 type juice(12 cans) and some quick and easy  meals of TV dinners and chow mien noodles will give me a lot of flexibility and some nice calories as well as variety for 6 months + of meals.  If I have a weak point  in storage it’s fruits but I’m working on that  and I think getting good on canned veggies first is good from a vitamin stand point. I have fruit trees and a grapes growing on the fence line so I do have access to fruits in season.

This will be a huge shopping list for me in regards to food over $150.00. But it’s also huge in value from the standpoint of have canned  meats and veggies that will give a couple of serving of each, every day  for over 6 months. I doubt in May 2013 I will be able to get so much food for $150. 00 and when I count my long term stuff I already have on hand, this bit of shopping is incredibly valuable  in the long run.

This one of the biggest pluses to being a prepper as how you shop only sale items once you have your pantry stocked for 3-6 months.  Now I only shop for 1 person and what I need to buy. For a family of 4 if you buy what I buy it might only last for a month or a month and a half.  But even at that $150.00 is a lot lower than what I read about most families spending on food per month.  Heck that $150.00 is about your average EBT/foodstamp allotment per person. I’m not knocking food stamps if you get them use them to prep and buy food in bulk. You can prep if you are on food stamps. Just don’t go crazy buying stuff when your card is reloaded, buy in bulk when you can, on sales and learn to cook with basic ingredients.

I will still watch the sales for a good price on fresh meat and buy up  more cheese to wax. I think I have my basics covered for over 6 months to a year. After this shopping list is done I won’t need to go shopping for food for a few months.  Think about that statement you don’t need to go shopping for food for several months. Think about what you spend food shopping for a week or a month and you could totally blow it off for a month or two!  What could you do with that money you have saved?

Random thoughts and observations

September 24, 2012

I got a bag of grits for the neighbors along with some beans and rice.  In less than 3 weeks the grits increased  $3.00 for the 25 pound bag. That’s a big jump in price so on the bulk corn products inflation is already happening.  Nice to know I got to help them get a few hundred meals they can make and I don’t have to worry about them going “Zombie” on me! Get your popcorn for the Apocalypse it’s going to be a hell of a show!

A bit of a scare going around of Arsenic showing up in rice.  I find it oddly convenient that this is happening just before we start seeing shortages/rising prices in grains because of the drought and QE – infinity. You should  rinse your rice before cooking!  Rinsing  gives you a better finished product.  Funny, no warnings on buying seafood for radiation from Fukashima on the West coast despite raised radioactive particles. Also didn’t the alphabet Gov. agencies give approval for all the chemicals being sold and used on crops?  Now they suddenly discover arsenic in rice?  I guess I need to calibrate my tinfoil hat again.

The EPA is planning the shut down of 200 coal-fired electric power plants.  Do you have any back up  power sources?  Kerosene lamps  are a fair light source and 10-15  gallons  of fuel could give you about 3-4 months of light for a couple of lamps. Don’t forget to add extra wicks.  A used Kerosene stove or Mr. Buddy propane heater can give you great backup for heat and the fuel is relatively safe to store.  A small gas generator can be bought for under $200.00 and if you run it in a couple of 2-4 hour blocks every 24 hours you can maintain a fridge/ freezer. Don’t forget to store the proper oil and parts along with gas to keep your generator happy.  Some heavy duty ext. cords are a great item to have for powering stuff.  It is a lot easier to move a cord rather than the generator.

Adding a small 200-400 watt inverter you can turn you car into a generator for keeping phones/laptops charged.  You can also get a little mini-fridge/warming ovens that plug into the cigarette lighter outlet.  Add a small solar panel to keep the battery charged and you can save a little on gas.  You probably won’t be able to power everything in the house this way but you might be surprised just having a few comforts may make if the lights go out for whatever reason.

If you are going to store gas try and buy non-ethanol gas. Yes,  some gas stations do sell gas without ethanol and make sure you rotate it every 3-6 months. It does cost a bit more but it won’t attract water like ethanol and is more efficient so you get more miles per gallon.  Have a pump or keep some old fashioned cans and funnels if  you buy the new “safety” cans.  Trust me they are impossible to pour into a tank without spilling, though they are okay for storage. will show gas stations that sell non-ethanol gas.

As we move into fall and winter don’t forget to update your BOB and your emergency kits for the car.  If you have food or snacks it’s time to get new food in the bag and use up the older food before it expires.  Change out from summer to winter clothes. I use  big 2 gallon ziplock  type freezer bags and mark them summer and winter.  Super easy to change out, water resistant, and the bags make great multi-taskers for containing everything from dirty laundry and trash to making a small solar still that captures dew from a tree branch.

Get new batteries and the smoke and carbon monoxide detector tested.  If you get snow and cold, winterize everything  now.  Check anti-freeze, tires, salt and or sand on hand and if you put up plastic on the windows buy now and avoid the rush.  If you use a wood stove get that chimney clean and new filters for central heating. If you have a self-cleaning oven on a cool night toss your BBQ grills and run it.  The best and laziest way I have found to get grills clean and get all that ash out of the BBQ as it will cause rust if you have humidity.

The Holiday season is coming up fast, if you celebrate start looking for sales and get that candy stored.  Start looking for your main holiday meal things on sale.  Turkey, ham, roast beast of any sort that you want to cook.  If you do gifts start looking for sales if you haven’t shopped for everyone yet and put a few FRNs  to good use.


Two years blogging and bit over three years prepping.

September 22, 2012

Wow what a ride!  I know when I started out prepping I did a lot of stuff assbackwards.  Luckily I had time to learn and get things in the proper order.  Like any well programed American consumer, I was most concerned about how much I could buy as quickly as possible. But the most of big steps are about you becoming a prepper cost no money. But they do cost a lot of time and energy.

The mental, physical and spiritual aspects of prepping are really the most important things.  Not the stuff you buy or store Food, water, fuel are just things that can make the survival easier.  The top ten of Kellene’s preping can really help you to prioritize. With my handicap I walk about 4-5 miles 5 days a week. Yes I have to use a walker to do it but I know on fairly level terrain I can do at least 5 miles a day. How many people know they can do that?

I also know that physically moving all the water I used was exhausting. I thought my five day water test would be a walk in the park. I had to quit on day four because I just started to shut down physically and mentally.  Okay I know this will happen so how can I avoid that in the future.  Using some little battery powered water pumps, heat one 5 gallon batch of hot water rather than a smaller batches. Don’t be afraid to use a smaller pitcher to move water rather than trying to manhandle a five gallon jug.  Plan your water use the night before and get it in place before going to bed.  Your body can use that sleep time to recover. Works a lot better for me than moving and heating water as I go through the day.  Practice and see what works best for you. Trust me even doing a day or two without using tap water, washer and dishwasher is a very good learning experience.

Another big item for me was learning to bake bread. Oh sure it sounds easy but it takes a few bad loves to get a feel for making a good loaf of bread.  Growing a garden or a little kitchen herb garden. All of these things are simple. That does not mean they are easy!  You have to practice them so they become second nature.

I think my last big skill I learned was brewing beer. Yes if you can boil water you too can brew beer.  A few basic steps practiced and it becomes simple over time. It’s going to be really cool doing an all-grain because there is no waste and I can give my Mom the leftover grains for her chickens after I have done the basics of getting the sugars out of the grain.

Outside of suffering massive head trauma I will always have these 3 simple skills.  I only need a few tools and basic ingredients and I can always make those little things like a loaf of bread, a bottle of beer and a salad from the garden.  These things/skills become multi-taskers.  I have a pasta machine if I have  a few basics I have fresh noodles.

I think the best lesson I have learned is I will never stop learning since becoming a prepper! I think I found a way to knit using a loom type setup and not needles. I have to cheat a bit because my hands are not good for fine muscle control.  You can whine and piss and moan about how life is unfair or things are hard. Or you can make the best of what you got to work with and spit in the eye of fate and make the very best life you are capable of living!

Feeling darned pleased with how the shopping turned out

September 20, 2012

As you know I’m skipping silver this month to get some additional things like the grinder and the rototiller. I’m happy to say both should be here next week.  I know going electric power is not a perfect solution,  but it’s something that I can work at producing my on my own energy.  So that takes care of the big purchase for prepping this month.

I was out about for my grocery shopping and Albertson’s is doing one day sales and it was coffee on the 19th. Limit 1 big can but it was only $3.99 each. Thankfully I live really close to the store and I stopped by 3 different times for a can.  So that helped me to restock the coffee a lot faster than I had anticipated.  I got all of the pork chops wrapped up and in the freezer and the additional boxes of saran wrap in the pantry.

Talked it over with Mom and she’s going to focus on bulk dry goods and I’ll focus on meat. I got a five pound bag of lentils for her, but C&C was out of the split peas but they have some coming in so I’ll grab the peas when I gas up the Kia.  We each have our favorite stores to shop at based mostly on location so we try and pickup whatever is on sale for each other and then deliver when we go for a walk.

I got the big Binder clips for holding the bag for the all grain beer. It seems it’s important to keep the bag off the bottom of the kettle.  With the clips and an insert I think I have everything I need for the first batch.  Picked up the last of the 15 gallon water storage barrels from the beer lady.  These will be additional water for me or a for the “idiot children” to cover water needs for a week or two.  At 120 pounds per barrel  full, they are heavy but I know we could get them into a vehicle and take them to a house without to much trouble.  I was going to store them in my shop but it’s not insulated and I have no idea how long it would take for a 120 pound chunk of ice to thaw at room temp. So I’ll be storing it in the house and stacking a few item on top of them.  These barrels are a great size for stashing in a closet!

Added another full propane tank for my heater and stove so good for over a month of fuel for cooking and heating.  October I will focus on fuel as the PTBs are trying to hold down the cost on oil.  Yes,  I know it’s probably for the election but I don’t care why they do something  as long as it gives me a better price.

Bills are all paid, quite a bit of prepping hardware is either here at my little house or is on the way.  I got a much better price on all I bought along with some pleasant surprises and a little cash leftover to stuff in the piggy bank.  A new project to try out on all grain brewing, that’s saves money and the grain leftovers can be used productively as animal feed.  All in All a pretty good month!

Huzzah going to save some money shopping Wed.!

September 18, 2012

The Paul’s grocery flyer came and several of the items I wanted are even cheaper than at Cash & Carry!  Clear food wrap is a big one, only $12.50 for 5, 200 foot boxes compared to $16.98 for 1, 1000 foot roll.  They have a great buy on Ibuprofen 24 tablet bottles for .88 cents,  Tuna is .58 cents a can and some great bone in Pork chops for $1.48 a pound.  Paul’s has a great butcher shop and I get those chops cut about a 1/2 inch thick and I can almost use them as roasts.  I’m going to get about 15 pounds and wrap them up for the freezer.

I’m still trying to decide if I want to focus on meat or beans for shopping.  As far as prepping it could be argued both ways for me.  A full freezer is a happy freezer, but you don’t need power to store dried beans.  Perhaps I’ll focus on meats and let Mom focus on beans as the bulk goods is to give us a back up for the “idiot children” and we have plenty of heat and eat foods already stored in bins.

Mom is happy about storing rice now that she knows how to cook it properly. She could not believe how much difference just rinsing the rice before cooking made in taste and texture.  It shows how just a little knowledge and practice can make a huge difference in something as simple as a bowl of rice.  So make sure you practice cooking with your bulk goods and different ways to cook with them.  Just rinsing is probably something that everyone that cooks rice knows but forgets to tell anyone, because everyone knows it!

Having someone that shares your adventures is a very big thing and a huge help overall. I know of many folks that have one  person prepping and no support via partners or family members! No it’s not just men or just women, it seems to me it it’s pretty even break down between the two sexes.  But having someone local to you is a huge help for emotional support. I have my Mom and we are both working hard to try and have enough on hand for all the idiot children. But I also have some very good neighbors that are helpful and I’d classify more into self-reliance rather than preppers.  I think our little block will do pretty good overall!

Remember you are not alone and you are not crazy, fearful or paranoid.  If all preppers/survivalists are wrong and the world becomes a utopia, the worse thing that happens to you is you save money and don’t have to shop for awhile. You got an awesome camping and tailgating setup. You are ready for storms and power outages. You have new skills and knowledge to use, practice and teach.

I don’t know about you but I’m not seeing a big break out of utopia happening anywhere in the world right now!