Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Confucius say,

"In a country well governed, poverty is something to be ashamed of. In a country badly governed, wealth is something to be ashamed of."

New Advertiser

Lately I've been talking about homebrewing and home winemaking a lot. I plan to keep touching on it now and then so I've decided to take on a homebrewing sponsor. I'd like to welcome Do Your Brew to the website. I know this guy personally. If you're interested in homebrewing or you're an old salt I encourage you to give him a call or check out his website for any equipment or ingredient needs. He's very knowledgeable and is always happy to help with troubleshooting a brew or to answer any questions. He's also got great prices. Be sure and let him know that I sent you.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Cheap booze ftw

I just finished the last of my hard cider. It turned out really good. It tasted like sour apple juice. There was very little alcohol smell and little to no alcohol flavor. The second batch was slightly better than the first batch. The only thing that I did differently to the second batch was added a cup of dissolved sugar and champagne yeast rather than white wine yeast. I'll be this again. I really like those 1 gallon jugs, too. They're great for making small batches of wild wine. They're also nice to have around just in case the batch of whatever you're making ends up being too big for your fermenter.

I also kegged my beer. This was my first attempt at kegging. I've had a cornelius keg in the garage for the last year or so. I finally decided to clean it out and try using it. When I went to put the fittings on, though, they didn't match up. Apparently there are two types of cornelius kegs. The ball lock keg is much more popular and easier to work with. That's probably why I ended up with ball lock fittings. I just walked into a homebrew store (not Do Your Brew) and told them that I needed to fit a cornelius keg. They sold me the ball lock fittings no questions asked. Naturally, the keg I had turned out to be a pin lock keg. So off to Do Your Brew I went to rectify the situation. I picked up what I needed and then stopped by my brother's to jack the 20 pound CO2 bottle and regulator that he's had sitting in his basement for years. This was the expensive part that kept me from kegging for so long. He finally decided that he wasn't going to use it again so he let me borrow it indefinitely. So now I have a 5 gallon keg of beer cooking in the basement. I'll report on the results in a few days when it's done carbonating.

A few days ago I also managed to score a 6 gallon bucket of wine juice for free. Apparently, it had been lost in a warehouse for 6 months. I offered to take it since it was "probably bad". The wild yeasts did their job on that bucket I must say. It already tasted like wine as soon as I popped the lid. Just for good measure I went ahead and pitched some dry red wine yeast and transferred it to a carboy. There was still another gallon or so which I transferred to one of my one gallon jugs. I have tasted it and it is good. It's just a little cloudy. Once the big batch clarifies it will be really really good. I'll probably wait a few months to bottle it.

In a few weeks I'll finally be able to try brewing my first batch of all grain beer. I've got 100 pounds of malted barley on the way. I've also got most of the equipment needed. I'll probably have to use two kettles, though. I won't have a kettle big enough to do 10 gallons at a time ready to go by then. Oh well. By this time next year I should be setup to do 10 gallon batches all day long, have the grain needed to keep them running and the hops for them growing in the back yard. We'll see how it all works out. At least I'll have good beer to drink if TSHTF. I just need to get a lot more propane....

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Growing hops

What homebrewer's garden is complete without some hops vines? I stopped by my local homebrew store today and picked up some hops rhizomes. At $5.25 these things are a bargain. Once they get established they should produce about 5 pounds or so of hoppy goodness per plant. I'll have to wait to plant them until it warms up a little bit but they survive just fine if you keep them moist in the refrigerator. Once you get them in the ground they take a year or two to get established but once they start producing they produce a lot. Now is the time of year to buy them if you've been thinking about growing your own. I'll post about my experience putting them in the ground once I get them in there.

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Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Brewing Beer Equipment Basics

Lately, I've been getting a lot of inquiries via email with homebrewing questions. I've also seen it mentioned a lot on other blogs. As far as I'm concerned this is one of the best hobbies that a preparedness minded individual can get into. Benjamin Franklin said it best; "Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy". Before you do anything else go read How to Brew. This is easily the most comprehensive free resource that I'm aware of. If you want to drop a few bucks then I highly recommend The Complete Joy of Homebrewing. Between these two books you'll learn just about everything that you need to know.

So, anyway, once you decide that getting into brewing isn't such a bad idea you need to start thinking about the equipment you'll need. You could always just go the lazy route and pick up a mr beer kit
. Just follow the directions and you'll end up with decent beer. But if you want to keep using it you'll have to keep buying their kits. Once you move on to real home brewing you'll probably end up replacing everything. Mr Beer is cheap and easy but you don't learn much about the brewing process or how the ingredients work together. If all you want is drinkable beer then find the kit or kits that you like and stock up when you see them on sale.

There are better kits out there. They range from "kits in a can" that aren't much different than mr beer kits to more advanced kits that use liquid or dry malt extract and hops or hop pellets. Some of them also use a partial grain mash. That's how I usually brew. It takes a lot less time and work than all grain and you get almost as much control. If the world ends then it won't be long before all grain is your only option, though. If you're going to get into brewing then you might as well be able to make it from scratch. The yeast is reusable, grain is cheap and hops grow like weeds in most places.

To start you'll need a big pot and a place to cook it on. You can just do it in the kitchen but things get crowded fast if your kitchen isn't huge. If you're doing extract brewing then you need to be able to boil at least 3 gallons of wort at a time. Your wort should take up less than half of the space in the pot because it will begin boiling violently and will probably boil over and make a mess. If you're doing all grain then it's best to have a capacity of at least 15 gallons in your kettle so that you can eventually move up to 10 gallon batches. For now I use a turkey fryer. Around Thanksgiving these things are everywhere and they're cheap. You can find a deal online anytime, though. Turkey fryer kits come with at least a 5 gallon pot, a thermometer and a propane burner with a stand. When you do move up to a bigger kettle you can still use the turkey fryer to hold your sparge water. The propane burner will also continue to come in handy. Make sure that you have a metal or wooden spoon that's big enough to stir with. You'll also want a grain bag (a big, mesh bag that can hold a few pounds of grain) if you want to do a partial mash. When you get into all grain you'll need a mash tun.

You'll also want a fermenter. This can be a 5-6.5 gallon carboy with an airlock or it can be a bucket with a grommet and air lock in the lid. Glass is the easiest option to keep clean but glass breaks and it's a lot heavier. You shouldn't have to move your fementers around much but if you do a bucket is a lot easier and a plastic carboy won't be as dangerous if it does break. You need a big funnel with a filter to strain your wort when you transfer it to the fermenter if you're brewing with hops. Before you pour your wort into your fermenter you'll also want to let it cool. If you're doing extract then you can just pour cold water into your fermenter and then pour your wort in. If you're doing all grain then you'll need a wort chiller to cool your wort. Once you have your wort in your fermenter and it's cooled to room temperature then you just pitch your yeast and attach an airlock. This can be a blowoff tube, a baloon with pinholes in it or an airlock designed for homebrewing. Let it sit for a couple of weeks.

You know the primary fermentation is finished when it only bubbles once a minute or so. That could take a few days or a few weeks depending on the recipe and other factors. At that point you can either transfer it to a secondary fermenter, a keg or a bottling bucket. To transfer the beer you'll need some way to siphon it off. Don't pour it. First of all you'll disturb the sediment at the bottom of the fermenter. Secondly, oxygen can produce off flavors. A racking cane is the easiest way to transfer. You can use any type of siphon, though. You can even just use a vinyl tube and suck it to start the transfer. That's a great way to introduce bacteria to ruin your beer, though. If you transferred to a secondary fermenter then attach an airlock and let it sit again.

If you want to bottle it then you'll transfer it to your ale pail. Boil a cup of water and 3/4-1 cup of corn sugar and add that to your beer before bottling. That will carbonate it. The easiest way to bottle is to use a length of tubing and a bottle filler
. You'll need bottle caps and bottles as well. You can use screw top bottles, grolsh bottles or regular beer bottles with bottle caps. You just fill your bottle and cap it. If you're using bottles and bottle caps you'll need a bottle capper, some bottle caps and some non twist off bottles. Let the bottles sit for a couple of weeks so that they can carbonate. Even if you start kegging it's still nice to have the means to bottle.

Kegging is much more convenient than bottling. Just get a cornelius keg, a CO2 tank, a CO2 regulator, a tap, gas hose, dispensing hose and your quick release connections. Here's a great article on kegging.

There are a few other things that you'll need. First of all you need to sanitize everything properly. If it touches your beer it needs to be sanitized. Otherwise, bacteria and other nasties can get into your beer and create off flavors or completely ruin your batch. For plastics and glass I just use bleach. Some people decry bleach. I've never had a problem with it. Don't use bleach when sanitizing steel, though. Bleach reacts to steel. Don't worry about sanitizing anything that you boil with. Most hardcore brewers use starsan. You also want to get a hydrometer
. It will help you keep track of the progress of your beer. You can also use it to calculate alcohol content. So, basically, this is what you're going to need:

A big pot and something to cook on - I recommend a turkey fryer
A big funnel with a filter
A grain bag
A big spoon that won't melt in your boiling wort - Plastics are cheapest but even if they don't melt they get flimsy in the boil.
A fermenter - A 5 gallon bucket with a grommeted lid or a carboy (a big glass or plastic jug)
An airlock
A racking cane or some type of siphon
Lengths of food grade tubing that will fit on your siphon and that you can use as a blowoff tube
A hydrometer
Some type of sanitizer

If you want to bottle:

An ale pail
A bottle filler
Non twist off glass Bottles w/ caps and a bottle capper, grolsh bottles or plastic bottles with screw on caps

If you want to keg:

Cornelius keg
CO2 tank
CO2 regulator
Gas hose
Dispenser Hose
Appropriate quick release connections

More Climate Change Shananigans

It looks like they've discovered more inconsistencies with global warming data. Remember the report that was released by the UN a few years back that claimed that livestock was responsible for 18% of greenhouse gas emissions? The one that said that livestock accounts for more greenhouse gases than transportation. Apparently, they compared the total emissions produced from growing the feed grain to getting it to your plate with how much a car produces while driving. How much of this bullcrap "science" do we have to put up with before we can finally stop taking their word for anything? Climate scientists need to start rebuilding their credibility before we can take them seriously enough to enact sweeping legislation that will wreck our economy even more.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

79% of Americans fear economic collapse

That's what a recent Fox News poll says, anyway. Now if they'd just get off their asses and start prepping. I wonder how long it'll be before we start seeing Mountain House commercials on TV.

Confucius say:

"The superior man, when resting in safety, does not forget that danger may come. When in a state of security he does not forget the possibility of ruin. When all is orderly, he does not forget that disorder may come. Thus his person is not endangered, and his States and all their clans are preserved."

Monday, March 22, 2010

Uses for spent grain

One thing that I hate about homebrewing beer is that you're stuck with a bunch of spent grains when you're done. They're the grains that are left over after you're done mashing. Basically you heat up some water to a certain temp and let your crushed grain sit in it for a while. The resulting liquid is the base for your beer. If you've got livestock then it makes great animal feed. It also composts very well. If I don't throw it in the compost bin then I just cook it up with some leftover vegetables and old or freezer burnt meat and feed it to my dogs. They love it. This time I decided to break out my cheapo cast iron grinder and make some bread with it.

First and foremost I had to dry the grain out. It's a wet, sticky mess after you're done mashing. I just threw it in the oven at 200 degrees for a few hours until it was mostly dry. Then I roasted it for another 30 minutes or so at 350. That got it nice and dry and it tasted awesome.

From there I ground up about 2 cups of it. My process for making flour with my cheapo grinder is as follows. I run about a bowl's worth of grain through the grinder. Then I pour it into a very, very fine mesh bag and shake for a few minutes. Then I pour whatever didn't get filtered out back into the hopper on my grinder. I just wash, rinse and repeat until I have enough flour. It took about an hour to get the two cups that I needed for this recipe. Keep in mind that you need 6-8 cups of flour to make a typical batch of bread. Using a cast iron grinder with my method is very labor intensive and a huge waste of time but you end up with very fine flour that works wonderfully. If you don't filter it then you won't get fine enough flour to bake with. Every time I use this cast iron grinder it makes me want to go buy a quality one. Making bread with it every day just isn't feasible.

Spent, malted barley doesn't have much gluten content so you have to cut it with flour. Otherwise, your bread won't rise much and you'll end up with a brick. Here's the recipe that I used.

2 cups malted barley flour
5-6 cups all purpose flour
2 tablespoons yeast
2 cups water
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon vegetable oil

Other than the 2 cups of malted barley flour I used my normal recipe and procedure for simple white bread. I just pour 2 cups of water into my Kitchenaid mixer bowl and add the yeast and sugar. Let that sit for 5 minutes or so and once the yeast starts to bubble add the salt, vegetable oil and 2 cups of barley flour. Start mixing and keep adding all purpose flour until the dough starts climbing up your dough hook. Then just dump your dough out onto a floured surface and kneed it until it's dry and a bit stiff. Form it into a ball and let it sit for 20 or 30 minutes. Once it starts to rise punch it down, roll it out, cut it in half and form two loaves. Let them rise for an hour or so. Put a bowl of water on the bottom rack of your oven, preheat it to 400 degrees and then bake for 25-30 minutes. I ended up with some pretty nice bread.

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See? Simple. If you store wheat then you should plan on bread being a staple. If you plan on making bread a lot then you will definitely want a quality grinder. The Country Living Mill is probably your best option for a hand mill. If you're on a budget then I'd recommend that you get a Back to Basics Mill at the very least. If you've got some form of backup power then any number of electric mills will serve you very well. The best part about having an electric mill is that your wheat stash suddenly becomes a source of fresh flour...so you'll actually use it even if the shit doesn't hit the fan. Eat what you store and store what you eat. That's my first rule of food storage. A Nutrimill is very high on my list of high dollar preparedness items. I might go cheap and just get a Vitamill, though. If you're serious about getting a mill then get in touch with David over at Our Happy Homestead. He's very knowledgeable and can help you figure out what would be best for your needs.

How to take out the US power grid

Apparently some academics over in China published a paper that describes how to take out the US power grid. According to them they published the paper so that American scientists and engineers would pay more attention to this threat so that we can find ways to protect against it happening. There were no specifics on how to actually do anything in the paper. They're just trying to help us. How nice.

Between nuclear EMP, solar flares and now the constant barrage of cyber attacks originating from China I put power grid failure as a solid number two for likely TEOTWAWKI scenarios right behind economic collapse. One Second After and Lights Out by Halffast are both good reads on the subject. At least if the grid gets hacked everything would still work if you could power it. You could also still drive your car unless you have one of the new anti theft devices that can disable it remotely. If they're smart enough to hack the grid they'll probably be able to hack your car, too. It makes you wonder if they can cause them to accelerate uncontrollably, as well.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

They're multiplying

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I picked up another gallon of that cider since the first batch was doing so well. With the latest batch I started the yeast with a cup of cider and a few tablespoons of sugar. As recommended I used champagne yeast this time. We'll see how it does. I've also had the ingredients for a good batch of beer lying around for a few months that I never did get around to brewing. They've been sitting around long enough and it was beautiful outside tonight. I took lots of pics of the process so I'll put up a guide to brewing from liquid malt extract within the next couple of days. Meanwhile, I found a use for that weight bench that I bought a while back. I think I can fit a few more gallons of home brew on it.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Fun with Buckets: The Homemade Water Purifier

A while back I picked up a couple of Black Berkey purification elements. The plan was to build a simple five gallon water purification unit out of plastic buckets. I saw this link a couple of years ago on a preparedness site. Then Creekmore posted it on his blog at the beginning of the week. Thanks for reminding me to get off my butt and get this done M.D.

This was the easiest project that I've undertaken in a long time. You could literally build one of these with a sharp pocket knife as long as you have the rest of the materials. The Berkey filters come with a gasket and everything else that you need to screw them down. They cost $99 a pair at Our Happy Homestead which is pretty cheap insurance if you ask me. They're the same price everywhere so take advantage of Our Happy Homestead's free shipping on orders over $99. For the bottom bucket with the spigot I used an ale pale. It's a five gallon bucket with a spigot installed on the front that you can get at most homebrew supply stores for around $10 or $15. The above link explains how to make one yourself, though. Just get a spigot with a rubber gasket, drill a hole in the front of a bucket near the bottom and install. For the top bucket I used a six gallon bucket since the charcoal filters displace some water. Drill two half inch holes in the lid of your ale pale and two half inch holes in the bottom of the top bucket. Make sure that they line up properly and screw down the filters. Put everything together, add water and wait for gravity to do it's thing.

I filled it up yesterday morning. By last night about half of the water from the top bucket had filtered through. Keep the top bucket full if you want it to filter faster. I haven't tasted the filtered water yet but I've heard that it tastes like distilled water. If you're using dirty water make sure you filter it through a tshirt or something so that the filter elements don't clog up too quickly. Just take everything apart and give the filters a good scrub if the flow slows down too much. I plan on taking it camping this summer. I'll definitely share my results with natural water sources.

This thing takes up a lot of space. Because it's so easy to make my advice would be to keep everything on hand but don't bother building it until you need it. Just keep the filters stashed somewhere. If you don't need the "ale pale" then keep your spigot with the filters. Use the buckets for other things until you really need to put everything together. To speed up the filtration process there's plenty of room for at least two more filters. If filtering a lot of water is important to you then going with four filters would be a good idea. Obviously, having spares is a good idea, too. You never know when unexpected guests that you decide wouldn't be so bad to have around might show up during a disaster.

If you don't want to go through the hassle of building your own water purifier or you want something that's more durable and easier to keep clean then you could always go with a metal Berkey purifier. They range in size from the Go Berkey kit which uses one filter and filters a couple of cups of water at a time to the Crown Berkey which is almost as big as the five gallon bucket purifier that I just built. They also make the Berkey Light. No matter what solution you settle on having a means to purify water is a must. The Hiker Pro in your BOB may be a great short term solution but it won't cut it if you need to use it for an extended amount of time.


I decided to take some pictures and measurements of the full unit. It's 12" in diameter (WOAH the diameter of a standard bucket!) and 35" tall. The water tastes like clean water. I didn't think that it tastes like distilled water at all. There is still some water at the bottom of the top bucket as expected. It won't filter all the way to the bottom of the top bucket because of the bases on the purification elements. I'd say that it took a full day to filter the entire top bucket. I'll pay closer attention next time I try it. Here are a couple of pics.

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Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Making Hard Cider

It's been a while but I finally decided to brew up some alcoholic beverages. I was at the local grocery store and noticed that they had gallons of cheap, organic apple cider in glass jugs. I just couldn't help myself. On the way home I stopped by the local homebrew store to pick up a rubber stopper that would fit the jug and a packet of wine yeast. You can use bread yeast but the flavors that will result will be much stronger. Different strains of brewers yeast will impart different flavors to the finished product.

Calling it brewing is a bit of a stretch. I just dropped the blowoff tube and rubber stopper in some boiling water to sanitize them, popped the cap off of the jug and pitched about 1/2 a teaspoon of yeast. Then I installed the stopper with the blowoff tube and put the other end of the tube in a jar with some water. This allows air to leave the jug without allowing any air in. You would usually sanitize everything but since the jug is already sanitized from the factory I just didn't feel it was necessary. The blowoff tube is there because I expect some violent yeasty action. A simple airlock just doesn't quite cut it when the yeast really goes nuts and wants to cause an overflow. After a few days when (hopefully) everything calms down I'll transfer it to another gallon jug and install an airlock.

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Even if the cider ends up tasting like crap I can always just use it as vinegar and reuse the jug for small batch wine making. I only used about 1/3 of the yeast packet so if I make a starter with what's left it should be enough for a full batch. If it turns out good then I can only hope that my local grocery store has some more of that cider left.

No more Amazon links

I won't be selling through affiliate links anymore. Colorado apparently just passed a law that will affect the way that Amazon is taxed through affiliates. I'm not sure how it works. A few days ago was the first time that I'd heard of it. All I know is that they canceled my account effective yesterday and have stopped paying referral fees to Colorado affiliates. Once I find a way to get around it I'll start selling things again.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

The Week in News

I can't wait for universal health care. But if you have the money you can always come here for health care...till the government gets their way.

Al Gore still refuses to shut up. At least people are finally starting to call him on his financial interests in the whole thing.

Some JBTs cracked down on a Philly bar for selling "unlicensed" beer. Apparently in Philadelphia a brewer has to register the names of their beer with the state. If it's not properly registered then the cops can raid the bars that have paid for and are selling the beer and confiscate their inventory. But if the beer's legal they'll get it back.....in 6 to 7 months after it's most likely already turned skunky. I wonder who this tavern owner pissed off. Laws like this are bullshit. If a law is so convoluted that you can't help but break it at some point then it can be used as a weapon. This is supposed to be why we have juries and appeals.

If you're into cheese making this chef has a pretty interesting recipe. He started making cheese out of his wife's breast milk...and people actually want to try it. Other people are using it as a weapon.

This guy deserves some time in the spotlight. Its too bad that we don't hear more of these stories. I guess that's because they don't tell these stories when it's our troops doing the heroics. No I'm not saying that our troops are more heroic than the troops of other countries. We just have a LOT more troops over there than anyone else does so I have a hard time believing that this type of stuff isn't happening on a regular basis. Patrick Kennedy agrees.

Nancy Pelousy seems to be losing her political clout in the House pretty quickly. Seriously...comments like this don't scare you?

“You’ve heard about the controversies within the bill, the process about the bill, one or the other." "Prevention, prevention, prevention—it’s about diet, not diabetes. It’s going to be very, very exciting.

“But we have to pass the bill so that you can find out what is in it, away from the fog of the controversy. "

/shudder. The whole healthcare fiasco is just melting my brain. One day they're ready to pass it. The next day they don't have enough votes. Personally, I think that it will be a nightmare. We need to do something but what they're proposing isn't the answer. How about presenting us with something that we can understand? Yeah yeah yeah...healthcare is complicated. We can still do things one step at a time. Educate people. Let them know how much things are going to cost. Allow for more competition.

Crazy stuff is still going on along the border.

It looks like Google is going to officially pull out of China. I can't say that I blame them. Then again, they're working with the NSA. That bugs me as much as the NSA/AT&T alliance from a few years ago. Maybe more. Einstein 3 doesn't do anything to ease my worries. Oh yeah....and the government also wants a national broadband plan. Why fight it? Let's just keep making it easier for them. Privacy is overrated, anyway. If you're not doing anything wrong then you have nothing to worry about. Please move along.

Getting started on the garden

So I finally got some seed started a couple of days ago. I decided to go the lazy route this year and buy a seed starter tray. It's the type with the compact, netted soil discs that you add water to. All of the tomatoes that I'm doing this year are heirloom varieties that I'm carrying over from last year. I'm also starting some peppers from seed that I got from last year. Last year I harvested a perfect zucchini that I had planned to get the seeds from for this year's garden. It was about a foot and a half long and 3-4 inches in diameter. It mysteriously disappeared after I came home from a weekend camping trip while I was letting it dry out. The wife likes to throw away anything that's not nailed down when she goes on her little cleaning sprees. Apparently she thought that it had gone bad because it had been sitting out for a week. Gotta love having a wife that normally tolerates everything but isn't on board.

Anyway, the plan is to fill my planters with the normal fare. I have four 4x4 planters that I've been using for the last few years. One gets filled with peppers. Another gets filled with radishes, turnips, carrots, etc. Another gets filled with lettuce and the last one with summer squash. I usually try to fit a couple of bush bean plants in each box. I rotate what goes in which box every year. I've tried tomatoes but they usually do horribly in the planters with the exception of a yellow pear tomato plant that I did one year. That's one of the tomato varieties that I'm going to try to carry over this year. My peppers don't usually do very well in the planters, either. Of course last year my shi-tzu decided that he liked the taste of young pepper plants and ripped into them. That only happened once. This year I might try planting them in another spot.

On the other side of the yard, where I usually plant my tomatoes, I'll be attempting a couple of three sisters garden plots. I really don't want to grow sweet corn. It's just not worth the effort to me for a few ears. I'd rather do some type of popcorn or something that I can use for corn meal. Unfortunately, it's damn near impossible to find a retailer that sells anything but sweet corn. I'd also like to use an heirloom variety but, once again, anything but hybrid corn is impossible to find. I haven't been able to find any runner beans, either. Once again, I'd really like to use an heirloom variety but I can't find anything but bush beans. Fortunately, I've got plenty of squash varieties to play with. I've got a weird italian heirloom variety called cucuzzi that I'll be trying. I'll fill the rest out with delicata, acorn, butternut and buttercup. I'm tempted to try sprouting some store bought popcorn. If it sprouts then I'll just plant that. If any seed retailers want to send me some samples then I'll happily take them off of your hands and give you a plug. Email me at artyboy at gmail dot com.

I've also been doing some reading about sunchokes. Apparently, this is an edible weed that grows well in northern climates. It grows in any type of soil. It doesn't need very much water. It does a very good job of easily taking over other types of weeds. It does well in full sun or partial shade. Once it's established you don't have to pay much attention to it at all. Basically, it's a low maintenance edible that you'll have a heck of a time getting rid of if you ever decide to plant it. The plant itself is a type of sunflower. They grow to be 6-10 feet high. It isn't pretty. The flowers are small compared to the rest of the plant so you definitely want to plant them in a low traffic, out of the way corner of the yard. If you've got livestock the plants make excellent animal feed. The edible part for humans is the root. It's a tuber that's kind of like a cross between a water chestnut and a potato. It can be eaten raw or cooked in any way that you'd eat a potato. Some say that it's a natural cure for diabetes because of the types of sugars it contains. Do your own research on all of that if it interests you. Plant the bulbs a few weeks before the last frost of spring and harvest them after the first frost of fall after the plants die off. Only harvest what you're going to use. They stay good for a couple of weeks in the fridge but you can harvest them all winter if you leave them in the ground. Anyway, I've got the perfect spot for them. If you're going to grow them make sure that you can keep them contained. It's a weed so it will spread and you'll have a hard time getting rid of them once they've become established. They also cause gas with some people. They seem like a very good SHTF crop or even a guerilla garden plant. I'll report back with my results.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Some interesting news articles

A lot has been going on this week. Tempers are flaring. Countries are failing. Health care is going to pass one day and not pass the next. It's getting really nutty out there.

Apparently the pentagon shooter was a heavily armed, pot smoking conspiracy theorist. Am I the only one who thinks that they're trying to tie this whole incident to his "marijuana addiction"? I'd be willing to bet that if the government had just left him alone to smoke his pot in peace he probably wouldn't have snapped. No I don't smoke pot. I just don't care if other people do it. Considering that he couldn't hit crap he was probably stoned when he showed up to do the deed.

Speaking of conspiracy theorists, Ahmadinejad is officially a truther. This guy reminds me of some stupid little kid who likes to go throw rocks and poke sticks at tigers at the zoo. He really seems to want us to flatten his country.

Meanwhile students across the country have been protesting tuition hikes and budget cuts. I don't remember the tea parties being this violent and they're protesting things that are going to cost a HELL of a lot more than an education. The "necessity" of an education is way too overblown these days. If the public education system would focus more on education and less on indoctrination then I'd probably care more. Everyone should have a basic education. Once you have a foundation then you can learn as much as you want to whether you stay in school or not.

A 6 year old in Grand Rapids, Michigan was suspended for making a gun with his hand. Talk about over the top, out of control political correctness. Can we please stop with this nonsense?

We've finally learned a few things about Einstein 3, the system that the government is using to monitor the internet. Who needs privacy, anyway?

As for Eric Massa, the dem who's basically being pushed out of office, it's becoming pretty obvious that the dems were just looking for a reason to throw him under the bus because he's a no vote on health care. Sorry but an offcolor comment, no matter how stupid, isn't a good enough reason to push anyone out of office.

The MSM seems to be taking more and more shots at The Drudge Report lately. I'm in front of a computer quite a bit. Drudge and Google News is where I get most of my news. I find it funny that Drudge made his bones by reporting on an under reported story that the MSM tried to dismiss. Now they're still trying to convince people that he's not relevant.