Keeping Myself Busy

I’m currently a little over 75% of the way through my summer fortnight break.  The house move earlier in the year and a few other factors meant we (I) failed to book anything to go anywhere and the last minute options weren’t tempting enough.  The very last minute option disappeared when the brother-in-law and his Girlfriend did decide on a whim to head down to Devon to see my in-laws and dropped off one of their dogs – the one that is house trained – so we’ve been keeping an eye on this little one:

Tired from a good walk

Tilly – tired after a good walk


One of the extenuating factors for not going last minute has been a few recent trips to the doctors.  Seems I might have broken out with an extreme case of Hives.  I’ve been tested for just about everything else so that’s all that left.  But both legs and now parts of the upper body are covered in sores and rashes and apparently it might take a couple of months before it will calm down.  It’s probably an allergic reaction to a bite, but I’ve never had such a reaction before so all very weird, and for a short time worrying that it might be something much more sinister.  I’m not feeling sick, but it is very irritating and can be sore.  Next trip to doctors tomorrow am.  Anyway, not dwelling on that, am sure one of the ointments or many pills will eventually kick in.

I had planned… well planned is not the right word – ‘considered’, in the weeks leading into the break the notion of getting the fishing gear out a few days and getting some value from this year’s fees, but just haven’t felt comfortable to go down there with the Hives, plus a different pill is needed in intervals of just a few hours.

This all meant in a roundabout way I was left considering what to do with myself, and happily, it was the prompt needed to kick a couple of projects into gear.  First, having watched 100’s of YouTube videos on the subject a few months back and having had the I’d really like to do this (but probably won’t) conversation with the wife I got the credit card out and put some orders in and ordered a whole bunch of home brew equipment and kits.

The initial plan was formed when a thought occurred many months back.  Next door has a crab apple tree just the other side of the fence from us, and so our garden has lots of falling crab apples.  I thought to myself:

“what a waste, somebody could make some cider out of them…”

… and so that’s part of the plan.  I’ve got an apple picker on the way (yet to be received a week after the order) and will go liberate the apples with the intent of making them a key part of the first cider batch.  Will probably get the wife to post on Facebook and see if anyone locally has a tree they don’t mind me robbing of a few unwanted apples too.  Apparently, Apple Juice from the shop is fine to use too and the Crab Apples will probably be bitter on their own so will need cutting with sweeter apples and/or some juice.  The thought prevails though that maybe the mind will wander how the first batch would have differed if only freshly gather apples were used, and there’s time for a second, juice only batch should time and circumstances permit.

I ordered a juicer too.  Instead of buying or innovating an apple press, a juicer which separates the juice from the pulp can be utilized.  The box arrived and looked fine.  I opened it to find a suitable air cushioned barrier.  Within that was clearly a very battled and bruised box.  I recalled in that moment it being a bit of a bargain price and reasoned that it must have said something about damaged packaging… right?

Two big cracks in the plastic

Visible damage on outside of the box

Visible damage on outside of the box

Hole in the Juicer box (seen from inside)

Hole in the Juicer box (seen from inside)

Wrong.   I delved a little deeper to find the contents had been clearly opened and repackaged, poorly.  I took the juicer out and a couple of cracks were evident in the plastic casing.  I re-read the Amazon page and no mention of damage to juicer or package.  Felt very ripped off, especially as the outer box was clearly immaculate.  The buggers clearly packaged a pile of shit and hoped I’d simply take it.

I fired off the obligatory (and my first) 1 star amazon rating.  I was a bit surprised it went in for review because I thought this stuff went through unfiltered.  Anyway, surprise surprise, the review was rejected.

The gits!

The gits!

Anyway, it’s packed up and will be returned to send tomorrow, with a claim made under the refund policy.  Glad to see I can expect a refund for the postage too which wasn’t clear initially.  A replacement will be needed soon to get the cider going.

That hasn’t deterred and it was two kits that I ordered so the first wort of an American IPA was started Saturday and is bubbling away nicely in a newly designated fermentation cupboard in the kitchen.

With an initial SPG of 1.046, so will likely be between 4.5-4.8% ABV.

With an initial SPG of 1.046, will likely be between 4.5-4.8% ABV when finished

There’s two lager kits in house, ready to be started too plus a large box of PET plastic bottles.  I made the executive decision that I should really consider buying and drinking bottled beers in the coming weeks (versus my usual cans) and keeping the glass bottles for my own use.  I am happy to report good initial progress has been made on operation:

“It’s ’cause I need the bottles… honest love!”

The credit card came out again and a worktop bottle capper and 100 crown caps have subsequently arrived are is ready to go into use.

We gained when we moved [AGAIN!] in February an enclosed pass through (not sure what else to call it) which is a covered space between the front and back of the house, with a bit of shelving and approximately 26 metric tonnes of dried leaves and old cobwebs.  It shall be cleared in the coming days and become my brew workshop.  Well WTF not, I didn’t ask for it but it’s all part of the rent and being paid for.

Anyway, hopefully, the apple grabbing tool will arrive soon and a suitable juicer can be obtained for a reasonable price then I can get the cider under way.  The primary fermentation should take about 15 days on the IPA so that will go into the bottling process for secondary fermentation to begin, probably a week Sunday.  It could be a little sooner with the modest weather.  I want to get the cider started soon too, as I plan to get that bottled and leave it through the winter for sampling next Spring.  Whereas the IPA has a shelf life, the Cider should improve with a few months to sit.  I haven’t had cider in years but I will gladly give it a go… the brother-in-law has never been known to turn one down so there’s no chance it won’t go appreciated.

Two batches of lager should follow in Autumn, and at least one of those will go into the 5 gallon pressure barrel, depending on the timings and demand (from me) the follow on batch may go into bottles or if the barrel is freed up promptly will go in there.

It’s been interesting to have a good look around and that buzz of excitement of trying something new is making it enjoyable and also doing a great job of helping me keep my mind off of work.  It’s one of those things lots of blokes will have proclaimed a desire to have a go at, at some point or other in time.  It’s one more topic I can be a pub bore on.  I’m starting with pretty basic set ups and availing of the kits which package everything that is needed to keep things simple, but there’s a whole other layer of craft there, going beyond the beginner kits and getting past the pre-prepared stuff that could potentially keep things interesting for a good while.  All of this is good, but should I ever utter the below phrase you have my permission to kill me.

“I couldn’t possibly drink that! I only drink fine ale which I brew myself, in my micro-brewery, don’t ya know? scoff scoff”

Well maybe not kill me, but slapping should be administered promptly and regularly until usual order is resumed.

I had also told myself to commit to doing some writing in the time off.  I say it every time and seldom follow through.  I haven’t really committed too much time or energy since AEDSOB.  Work has been a big factor there.  There’s another two-week trip coming up in September and the weekend could be utilized there, but I need to write a quiz night for soon after I return so again it’s unlikely I’ll get further than that.  I have a second novel and a much shorter Novella started but frankly, if there was no stampede for AEDSOB there’s no compulsion from me to get cracking.  The Novella is firmly in the Sci-fi arena, whereas the Novel straddles from Sci-fi explores a more religious and theological rooted story of fiction.

Anyway, with the wort done and not feeling it with the writing, I decided to give myself a push on another project.  I’m going to stay a bit coy on this for now because it would probably come across as pure fantasy talk but the crux of it is I’ve had a good idea for something (I have several more percolating away in the noggin) and I spend a couple of days fleshing it out and have a good 14 pages of structured planning committed to paper [Word Doc].  The wife read through it and concurred, in a pub-talk kind of way we think it’s something people will like that could also make a tonne of money.

The next step is research.  I’ve absolutely no experience in this arena beyond being a fan and I expect the companies that can take this forward get dozens of ideas every day and some even say they don’t want to hear unsolicited ideas anyway.  So, I need to try and find the right people who will be open to a pitch, but who may have the resources and motivation to help take it forward.  For my part, if it gets up and running and is more or less as scoped I’d be happy to take a step back and simply enjoy the fact it’s up and running, perhaps with a line of feedback in terms of ideas and direction, but ultimately that would be enough.  Conversely, it’s got my name on it (the proposal at least) and maybe the people getting the pitch will think that’s a good or better idea.  I happen to think it better to be open to the idea they get the room to mould it, I can see how that may enhance the marketing plan and the overall chances of getting it off the ground.

Problem is, this one’s going to be an uphill battle that will probably take a long time and need constant refinement and evolution.  There’s a tiny slither of a chance this is going to be wildly successful, but the stars need to align and it all really hinges on getting lucky in the next phase and find people in the right place with the appropriate skills to get on board and run with it.

If this comes off it will be the opening line of the, hopefully far off in the future obituary.

If not, I may need to order some more homebrew kits so I have plenty of stock in which to drown my sorrows.

Bottoms up!


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