Tuesday, 22 May 2012

Diving in a little deeper...

Well I still haven't actually tasted any of the stuff I'm brewing, but it all seems to be going according to plan, so I thought I'd try something a little bit more adventurous than the very basic marmite and sugar thing I've done so far.

So I went out and bought yet another demijohn. Up to 4 now. I think that should be enough for the present. Also a sachet of yeast, a sachet of yeast nutrient, and this time, a packet of dark brown mollasses sugar.

The bottom shelf of our freezer is full of plastic boxes full of raspberries and blackberries that came from our allotment. Bren was going to make jam out of them, but they've been there now for about 18 months, so I decided to use them to make a wine.

Firstly, I got the frozen raspberries and stuffed them through the neck of the demijohn. I could have defrosted them and squeezed the juice out, but they go off very quickly, and I really don't want any mouldy fruit in the mix.

Ditto the blackberries. The raspberries outnumber the blackberries about 2-1 by both weight and volume.

Added the molasses sugar. I went for this, and in much smaller quantity than in the previous brews, because, a) the fruit lready contains natural sugars, and b) the marmite brews are starting to smell a little bit sickly sweet. Using unrefined sugar might help to compensate.

Add the yeast and nutrient and put the lid on and off it goes.

The point of this is not just to make alcohol, but to make something that tastes nice. So it's not going to be a fortnight job. When it stops fizzing, I will strain out the fruit remnants, bottle it, and leave it for a few months.

Raspberry and blackberry wine on christmas day? Mmmmmm!


Ah. The best laid plans of mice and men go aft astray....

It just wasn't happening. The now defrosted fruit floated to the top of the liquid, but there didn't appear to be any fermentation taking place. I was worried that with air in the top of the demijohn, the fruit might start to go mouldy, so I removed the airlock, and added some ordinary white sugar.

Went out for a bit and came back to find that the red liquid in the demijohn had pushed it's way up into and through the airlock. I moved it to the bathroom, and emptied some out, and Bren cleaned up the mess.

This started to happen again, although I caught it before it spilled over and emptied yet more liquid out.

I'm going to have to keep a close eye on this one.

driving lessons in Wallasey?

Sunday, 20 May 2012

Brewing up with Bugger all

I now have 3 demijohns of gloopy stuff bubbling away.

The first one started on 11th of May. It took a day to get going and has been bubbling steadily and constantly ever since.

The contents of the demijohn became somewhat stratified. The top layer was a pale orange-yellow colour. Beneath that was a darker band, presumably containing the dissolved marmite. As time has gone by, this bottom band got narrower and narrower until it pretty much disappeared a day or so ago. There is now a thin white layer on the base of the demijohn, presumably of dead yeast. I'm expecting the process to slow then stop over the next few days, as the yeast uses up the last of it's sugar fuel, and dies off.

But I was encouraged by the sheer simplicity of the operation, and also by the lovely smell eminating from the top of the airlock, and so I decided to get some more on the go.

This time, I tried to simplify things even further, as if the original recipe wasn't straightforward enough.

The original recipe had me heating water in a saucepan, and adding the sugar and marmite and stirring it until it had all dissolved before decanting it into the demijohn, adding the yeast, and topping up with water.

This time I did things as follows:


1 big dollop of marmite.
2Kg of granulated sugar
1 packet of yeast
1 packet of yeast nutrient


Pour 2kg sugar into dry demijohn
Add big dollop of marmite (about 100g)
Add about 3 pints of hot water - we have a medway boiler, which heats water from a rising main, so I just used that. It was hot, but not so hot that I couldn't hold my hand in it.
Put lid of demijohn on without the airlock, cover hole with thumb, and shake the bugger vigorously.
Add yeast and nutrient
Top up with more hand hot water.
Cap off demijohn with lid and airlock.

And that's it. No messy decanting. No waiting for optimal temperatures. And I forgot to add the lemon juice this time.

As I mentioned, I now have 3 demijohns instead of 1. I totally topped up the first one, and then added the yeast. The thing was over full, and half of the yeast ended up in the airlock which made it slow to start. I scraped it out and added it to the brew, and it started properly after that. Hence adding the yeast half way though is a better way of doing things. Also, best to leave an inch at the top of the demijohn.

In both of these new ones, I've been left with a layer of undissolved sugar at the bottom. I wonder if more of it will dissolve as existing sugar is turned into alcohol? If not, the solution will be to use a bit less next time. They're both fizzing away like the billy-oh at the moment. Far more vigorously than the first one has ever done.

driving lessons in Wallasey?

Friday, 18 May 2012

where I go...

today is massively busy. I am working from 8 this morning until 8 this evening with little time for a break. In total, over those 12 hours I will be teaching for 8.5 of them.

I intend to record the whole day on my gps logger thing.

Off I go then.

Bye bye. 

driving lessons in Wallasey?

Thursday, 17 May 2012

RIP Donna Summer

I was never much of a dancer but if I had to pick a disco song I'd want to hear, it would probably be this one.

 driving lessons in Wallasey?

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

It Ment a Lot.

With one thing and another, we made up our minds that we were not going to have the time to keep the allotment.

And so off we went to pick up a few bits and bobs.

And I found, being there, I really didn't want to give up on it. It can be hard work getting down there on a cold afternoon in October. It can be physically very intensive. My legs and back generally feel it after a session digging over a bed. The yields have sometimes been disappointing.

But when it comes down to it, we've put in a lot of hard work to get it to where it is now, and it's what we've made it.

Turns out Bren didn't want to give it up either, but didn't feel she could keep it on the way things were, with little help from me.

So we're keeping it.

driving lessons in Hoylake?

Monday, 14 May 2012

Update on the salty bloke

Well here he is:

I'd envisioned an ever thickening anthropomorphic form as the salt crystallised around the wire and string figure, rather like if you dip something repeatedly into molten wax.. What I actually got was the salt crystalisting around the top of the figure's head, and then crystalisting on itself to form a sort of salt disc, borne aloft upon the shoulders of the man. The rest of the salt just crystalised against the sides of the jar.

driving lessons in Birkenhead?

Saturday, 12 May 2012

No such thing as a free beer.

Long term readers of this blog may have noticed something.

I flit from one brief obsession to another. Whether it's kite photography, or google earth flight simming or bike rides or what ever.

Long term readers of this blog may have noticed something else.

I keep on plugging away at certain things, sometimes for months or years. Like finding geoglyphs, or messing about with computer games.

So who knows where this latest thing will take me?

Thanks to someone posting on facebook, I got a book called "Booze for Free", and it's all about home brewing. Not generally from kits. Some things have to be bought of course, especially when you've just started, but things like demijohns and airlocks and swing top bottles can be used over and over. Many of the ingredients in the recipes in this book can be foraged, or harvested from the allotment. I'd still have to buy things like yeast so the booze for free title is a little misleading.

Still, it should be interesting to try it. I've started with almost the simplest recipe in the book - basically just sugar, water and yeast (with a dollop of marmite for a bit of flavour. It's intended to produce a pretty tasteless alcoholic beverage in about a fortnight. I can then either drink it neat, or if it's particularly disgusting, I can add it to something else, like orange juice or dandelion and burdock or something.

So here's how it went:

I went out and bought a demijohn, an airlock, a bung, some general wine yeast, some yeast nutrient and later on, a jif lemon - I should have got some citric acid but forgot about it, and the supermarket didn't sell citric acid, so I thought a jif lemon might work just as well.

I put 4 pints of water into a saucepan, and brought to just under boiling, then I added a big teaspoonful of marmite, and 2 Kg of sugar.

This is according to the recipe, but the recipe was inconsistent. It called for 4kg/2lb of sugar. I assumed it was the wrong way round, but tge 4lbs I put in somehow seems an awful lot. I think it might have been 1kg/2lb

This does matter. If I remember correctly, the yeast will multiply and eat the sugar - it then excretes CO2 and alcohol - but if the alcohol content gets too high, it kills off the yeast.

Anyway, I added the (cane) sugar and marmite, and dissolved it all, minly in the saucepan, but also on the hob, and the work surface, and kitchen floor. Decanted the syrup into the demijohn, allowed it to cool down a bit, then added the yeast, yeast nutrient, and a squirt of fake lemon juice.

It's been bubbling away slowly ever since. I now have to wait for a couple of weeks for it to finish fermenting, assuming I've done it right.

We'll see.

driving lessons in Wallasey?

Update: It's now fizzing along nicely. The must is hissing gently and producing millions of tiny bubbles, which are pushing their way through the airlock every few seconds. The gas escaping from the airlock smells distinctly boozy.

Roll on June. It seems to be going well so far.

Friday, 11 May 2012

Living social

Last December, I featured in a Groupon style daily deal with a company called Living social.

Coming just before Chrismas, this turned out to be very popular. Over 30 people bought vouchers. Although I ended up doing quite a lot of work on the cheap, it's definately helped to grow my business. Part of the spin off is that with a lot more satisfied customers, I've been getting a lot of new pupils through recommendations.

I've just been running another one now, and it's been moderately successful for me. Last time around the offer was  3 hours for £19. This time it's been either that or 5 hours for £30. I've currently sold 15 vouchers, which translate as about 75 hours work for me to do in exchange for about £250

Before overheads that comes to about £3.33 per hour. I've also ended up giving the same deal outside of Living social to people who called us on the phone. Same deal, but  without LS taking a cut.

So a lot of work for little return in the short term, but this has to be put against other forms of generating business. I could give £100 to Google and get absolutely nothing from it. Or I could give £130 a week to a franchise that takes as much as it can and gives as little in return as possible, just like any other boss.

It's also driven quite a lot of traffic to my website.

I have tomorrow off. I suppose I should treasure it.

driving lessons in Wallasey?


The promotion has just finished. I've sold 22 vouchers officially, plus another 2 on the side thanks to Bren, who spoke to a couple of people on the phone after they enquired about the offer. This is good because I will get the full £6/hour for my time instead of Living social taking a cut.

I do feel that the 5 hour offer is a little bit too much, and I will do things differently next time.

Still, busy times ahead. I hope I can make a few bob from it.

Thursday, 3 May 2012

Local Election day today

I voted.

A leaflet got dropped through the letterbox from the conservatives. It featured a picture of the town hall, with a hammer and sickle emblem overlaid on it. Their angle was that the Labour Candidate was a hard left Trotskyist militant tendency eater of babies that wanted the royal family dead.

So that was my choice sorted then.

driving lessons in Wallasey?

Tuesday, 1 May 2012

old stuff looking for

On a bit of a nostalgia trip, I downloaded a bit of software that effectively turned my PC into a Commodore Amiga. http://www.winuae.net/ (you also have to get hold of the operating system ROMs,which are copyrighted and not included in the package)

I'm having a whale of a time playing some of the games I used to play.

Cannon Fodder, The Settlers, etc. All good fun, but there's one I'm trying to find, and I'm hampered because I can't remember what it's called.

It's a football (soccer) management game, and it was the first in a series. What made it different to the other footy manager games out at the time was that it had a sort of board game as part of the gameplay. Each turn, a die would roll and pieces would move around the board, onto squares that might increase a players ability at a particular skill, or take money from me, or injure a player.

Anyone know what it was?

And while I'm on the subject, at about the same time, I watched an animated film very late at night. Once again, if I knew anything about it's name or who it was by it would probably be very easy to source, but all I can remember of it is that the story behind the animation was a contest between good and evil.

The story was being written as the film progressed by an author who was trying very hard to write a bright and happy tale. The good, happy stuff was represented by a cheerful, colourful character. But evil, who was portrayed as a black clothed, hooded, skeletal character, kept getting into the story and attempting to kill happiness. One bit I remember is that evil drops a big rock onto happy guy and squashes him. The author then makes his happy character turn the rock into brightly coloured flowers, thereby freeing himself.

In the end, evil somehow gets to the author, and with a pair of scissors, somehow cuts the author off from the skein of his story.

So ultimately a dark tale, but what was it? Anyone know? 

driving lessons in Wallasey?