Tuesday, 17 November 2020

Making beer

I got a beer-making kit some time ago during a visit to England.  Carefully chosen among a field of contenders, it had good reviews and looked like a safe bet.   For some reason I haven't used it until now.  Perhaps a nervousness about making beer for the first time, and to be fair I hadn't got all the hardware I needed (although I could have acquired that a long time ago).  But anyway, today was the day.

I had bought second-hand beer bottles from car boot sales, I have a fermentation bin (bought for winemaking) and a plastic dustbin that I bought for storing Dahlia tubers in over Winter.  The dustbin will act as a water bath to keep the brew at a constant temperature using a small aquarium heater.   This heater was the last component I needed and it arrived from Amazon a few days ago, so now was the time to take the plunge.

The heater came with instructions, of course, and a list of advantages, including the claim that the heating element will not explode.  Good to know.   I set the temperature to 19 °C which is the mid-range of the acceptable limits.  I have read that the temperature of the beer is very important while it's brewing, so I wanted to be sure that I can match the requirements.

I followed the instructions, carefully sterilising everything, and now the whole lot is in a cool place, and I'm waiting for the fermentation to start.   I will let you know how I get on.

 

Update, Thursday.    Bubbling well, smells like beer!



Tuesday, 3 November 2020

Protection racket

Before I put the raised bed into place, I have to protect the wooden frame from rot.   I use a bitumen- (tar-) based product that comes in two types - one is a thick paint that goes on the surface and the other is a thinner version of the same stuff that gets absorbed more deeply into the wood.   They both cost the same, so I buy the thick one and thin it with white spirit since that makes it cheaper.  I understand that this might make me an honorary Dutchman.

I put put on two coats, two sides at a time, so it takes a few days to get it all covered.  But it's a lovely sunny day today and it's good to be outside.  The rain is forecast to hold off until next week so I should have it all finished in time.   These four planks do one bed that will replace the old rotten one;  I have another set of four for a new bed to enlarge the veg patch.

The big tin at the back I use to store the paintbrush I use for this stuff, the big tin at the front is the paint I just bought and the little tin contains what's left from last year.   I thin the new paint by pouring it into last year's tin and adding the white spirit, stirring it in with a short length of rebar.

Wednesday, 28 October 2020

Lockdown project

It looks like France is going into another lockdown, as we reap the rewards of our beloved leaders' past underinvestment in intensive care facilities and/or a territorial army of trained volunteer medical personnel.   So I thought I had better go out today and buy the materials I need for my next project, because I might not be able to go and get them tomorrow.

I started the veg patch some ten years ago, by making a raised bed out of some wood I had lying around.   The wood was rotting a bit already, so I didn't take any special anti-rot measures; I just made it into a rectangle and put it on the ground.   The current problem isn't due to the wood rotting, it's because I put the second raised bed too close to it.   I didn't want to waste good agricultural ground on a wider path between them.

This was a mistake.   I could just about walk along the gap, but it wasn't wide enough for the mower, nor even for the strimmer, so I had to use small shears to cut down the inevitable weeds that came up.  So I've decided to do something about it.   

Anita's idea, to minimise the work, was to widen the gap by making the original bed narrower.  I tried to do this, but the wood was so decayed that the whole thing fell apart.  There was nothing for it but to replace it, and move it about 9 extra inches away from its neighbour.   Hence a trip to the garden centre this morning.

I have moved most of the earth to allow the new wooden frame to be placed correctly.  Then I can add the compost as needed, and the bed will be ready for next year's crop that will be, according to the crop rotation plan, potatoes.

Next step will be anti-rot treatment of the wood I bought this morning.




Saturday, 24 October 2020

Adding a radiator

Our little office has no installed heating.  It's not a big room, and it connects to the rest of the house, which allows warm air to flow, so a small electric fan heater serves for when it's really cold.   However, this is an expensive way to heat, and there are heating pipes that pass overhead upstairs, so I have taken on a project to install and connect a small water-filled radiator.

I bought the radiator online, and the bits that go with it I bought at Leroy Merlin, the local DIY shop.  The first job was to get some pipes up and out onto the floor above.  I managed to forget about the mild steel support for the plasterboard ceiling, so I had to go out and get some metal drills to make a big enough hole.

The radiator will be halfway up the wall.  Not ideal I know, but it means that the little desk-side cabinet can sit below it.   Any new owner of the place could easily lower it if he wanted.

I had some trouble soldering the copper pipes.  There were only three joints to make per pipe, to take them from behind the radiator on to the connections.  I thought I would be able to do all three at once since they were close together, but once I had done the first one, the flux had burnt off the other two, and the solder wouldn't flow.  So I had to take them apart and re-do them.

Here is a pic of the radiator on the wall.  It's not connected in yet; I will do that on Monday when the shops are open and I can go and get any emergency necessities in case of problems.  The copper pipes will be painted to match the radiator.


 

 

Sunday, 11 October 2020

Sunday afternoon

Sunday's not the day for physically demanding work in the garden.  I did manage to mow a bit of lawn this morning, but then sitting on a mower isn't hard work.  This afternoon I shelled walnuts.

There are two big old walnut trees in the garden, and although they survived the drought this summer well enough, they have only made very small nuts.  Hardly worth the effort of shelling them.  But there are some young trees about and they have produced lots of nuts of good size.   I spent about five minutes this morning under the young tree in the pic, gathering nuts, and about an hour this afternoon shelling them.  Accompanied by Miles Davis and his quintet, who were Workin' and Steamin'.   That sounds like hard work; rather them than me.



 

Tuesday, 6 October 2020

New wine in old bottles

Our customers get through a fair bit of wine in the gîte so there is no shortage of empty bottles.  Usually.  With a serious lack of foresight I seem to have run out of green bottles for this year's batch of cherry plum wine.  Never mind, the transparent bottle allows one to appreciate the subtle pink colour.   The wine tastes nice too, even though it's new, so after a year or so, should be quite decent.



Monday, 5 October 2020

Useful things

Don't send me into an auto parts shop with a voucher.   Those shops are chock-full of very useful things, and this lot only cost ten euros, taking the voucher into account.   What a bargain.  Vouchers aren't real money, everyone knows that.  And it would have expired soon.


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