Got it

Today, I took advantage of a much warmer day (we reached -7C this afternoon) before the temperatures plummet again, and headed to a nearby city to see if we could get a replacement hot water tank.

I’d already phoned and had instructions, but we’d never been to this location before, so my daughter and I took the time to look around. We have been discussing a building project for the summer, that I will blog about later in the year, so we went to see if we could price out stuff like mortar and insulation.

It turns out this is not the hardware store we could go for these materials.

Then I went to customer service with my sticker from off our hot water tank.

In maybe 5 minutes, paperwork in hand, I drove around to the back of the building, to a particular shed, where a new replacement tank was ready and waiting for me.

It now sits in our dining room, waiting to be installed.

It was so fast and easy, I wish I’d thought of going somewhere else, long ago! Not one person I spoke to thought of it, either. It was certainly worth the hour and a half total in driving time!

One of the amazing things about it is how light it is. Compared to the old tank that got replaced shortly after we moved here, which is so heavy I intend to dismantle it and remove it piece by piece, rather than risk damaging the stairs with the weight, or someone getting injured taking it around to the other basement and hauling it out that way. Assuming it could even be moved to the other side of the stairs in the first place.

My daughters and I had wondered about how the old tank was brought down there in the first place. It occurred to me that it was probably installed while the new part of the house was still under construction. The new part basement would have been completely open, except for the support pillars, and there would have been just a wood burning furnace in the old part basement on one side, and the stairs on the other. The tank was probably brought from the new part basement, through the space now filled by the electric furnace.

Getting rid of the damaged tank will be much, much easier!

So now we just have to pay for the installation. I suppose we could install it ourselves, but I want the plumber to look at our well pump, too. Now that we don’t have to come up with the money for a new tank (the price was $419, before taxes), on top of the cost of labour, we’ll be able to get it done at the end of this month!

I am so looking forward to getting that done!

The Re-Farmer

Mead Baby 2.0: boosting fermentation

For those who have recently started to follow this blog (welcome!), here are the previous posts about our second attempt to make mead. All links should open in new tabs, so you won’t lose track of this page. 🙂

Mead Baby, redux (includes links to our first attempt)
Mead Baby 2.0:
active fermentation
it’s a temperature thing
temperature success
overnight temperature status
second fermentation

Since then, we have been monitoring the Baby closely. While there has been virtually no visible activity in the air lock, when we looked at the liquid itself, we could see that it was clearing up, and there was a steady stream of tiny bubbles of carbonation moving upward. If the temperature dropped to 16C, we would turn on the warming pad, which would typically bring it up to about 18-19C.

Recently, its temperature would drop to 16C a lot faster, and we could no longer see the carbonation. It was looking a lot clearer, and we could see a fair bit of sedimentation at the bottom.

However, it was less than 2 weeks since we started the second fermentation. While I’ve read a mead can be ready in that time, most videos and websites I’ve been looking at showed active fermentation for about a month, and gave advice on how to reactivate fermentation if it stopped to early.

Since that was the problem we had with our first attempt, we debated. Is it done and time to bottle it? Should we rack it into another bottle to get it away from the sediment and leave it longer? Do we add something to boost the fermentation?

I’ve read various ways to boost fermentation in mead, including those that recommend adding a chemical that is used in wine making.

Or we could just add some raisins.

So that’s what we decided to do.

With a 1 gallon carboy – and it’s not full – not a lot of raisins would be needed.

We added three.

Here are photos, taken a day apart, showing before and after we added the raisins.

As you can see in the photo on the left, the mead had gotten quite clear, and there’s a pretty thick layer of sediment on the bottom. It’s hard to tell with the reflections, but in the second photo, you can actually see a couple of the raisins floating at the top. The mead is cloudier, but when we shine a light into it, we can once again see that steady stream of bubbles going up to the top.

We’ve been checking its temperature regularly and, aside from an initial warm up after adding the raisins, it’s been keeping its own temperature at 19C.

Right now, the plan is to leave it until we can no longer see those bubbles, rack it into another carboy to get it way from the sediment, then leave it for a while longer before bottling it.

A lot of the information about mead making I’m finding is conflicting, but one thing that all our sources agree on is, the longer the mead sits after bottling, the better it tastes. Most recommend at least a year.

I doubt we’ll wait that long, but with bottles at 750ml, even with having less than a gallon in the carboy (and I expect we’ll lose more after racking it again), we should still be able to get 3 – 4 full bottles out of it, so we can have one right away, then try the others at different ages.

So if we want to start a malomel (mead made with fruit) as we planned, we should pick up another air lock and two, so we can have multiple batches going at once.

You know, for someone who doesn’t actually like alcohol all that much, I find the process of making it quite enjoyable!


The Re-Farmer

Mead Baby 2.0: second fermentation

First, the back ground, for those who are new to this blog. (Welcome!) All links will open in new tabs, so you won’t lose your place. 🙂

Mead Baby, redux
Mead Baby 2.0: active fermentation
Mead Baby 2.0: it’s a temperature thing
Mead Baby 2.0: temperature success

We’ve been keeping a close eye on our baby mead, keeping the temperature at the warm end of the temperature range recommended. If it dropped to 16C, I would turn on the electric heating pad to the “warm” setting, and that would bring it back up to 18C.

We could see bubbles inside the airlock, so there was still active fermentation – something we’re pretty sure had stopped completely well before this point in our first batch. The “burp” had dropped to about 23-27 seconds apart and seemed to be staying there for the past few days, so my daughter and I planned to transfer the must to another 1 gallon glass carboy for a second fermentation today.

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Mead Baby 2.0, overnight temperature status

Mead Baby 2.0 has had its first night in the new set up.

About an hour or so before heading to bed, I checked the temperatures. The ambient temperature had dropped to about 13C, while the ferment dropped to 17C, so I turned the heating pad on for about an hour.

I checked again, first thing in the morning, and it was at 18C!

After I did all my running around this morning, I checked it again, and this time, I could stay to watch the airlock.

The ambient temperature was back at 14C…

While the ferment had dropped to 17C, so I turned the heat pad back on and starting watching the airlock. When I first started, there were bubbles about 8 seconds apart. I remembered that I have a timer on my phone, so tried using that (which is more of a pain than just counting “one thousand 1, one thousand 2…). When I first started, it was already up to about 7 seconds apart, and by the time I was done, it was up to 6 seconds apart.

So this set up is definitely working! I’m really happy that it was able to maintain its temperature overnight.

The Re-Farmer

Mead Baby 2.0: temperature success!


It worked!

Mead Baby 2.0 is now tucked away in a corner of the living room. I cleared off one of the shelves that were in the house when we moved here – it used to be a TV, back when they made the boxes out of real wood – that is next to one of the extension cords coming up through the floor we’ve found throughout the house. It was being used being used more as a catchall space, so this was an excuse for me to do some organizing. 🙂

Though the shelf is wood, I still put the rigid insulation down first. I used a crocheted book mark to hold the electric heating pad in place around the towel, set the heating pad to “warm”, and left it to shut off on its own in 2 hours.

I came back to it 3 or 4 hours later.

This was the ambient temperature of the room.

At 14C, it is just a touch cooler than the dining room we were set up in before.

This is the reading I got from the must.

Woo Hoo! At 18C, it’s now at the higher end of the temperature range it should be at.

The yeast also seems to like the new temperature. The CO2 “burps” in the air lock are now happening every 4 – 6 seconds. More 4 than 6. 🙂

This evening, I’ll probably turn the heating pad on the warm setting again, for when the house temperature drops during the night. We’ll see what the temperature of the must is again, before we do.

I’m feeling much better about this now!

The Re-Farmer

Mead Baby 2.0: it's a temperature thing

It’s been pretty cold lately, which means the house is pretty chilly, despite the thermostat setting (and I’m not about to crank it because bits and pieces of the house don’t get heat). The carboy is set up near an interior wall in the dining room, which has one heat vent across the room, under the window. The only other heat vent in this part of the house is in the living room, also under a window.

Not the idea environment for fermenting Mead Baby 2.0

The must should be in a temperature range of 15C – 20C. We don’t have a temperature strip, but thanks to a gift from a thoughtful friend, I am still able to get a reading.

16.7C This is encouraging. It’s at least in the range is should be, if on the low side.

This was the ambient temperature of the room, taken right after I checked the must.

The room is only 14.6C

This means the must is generating some of its own heat, and the towel wrapped around it as a sweater is helping keep that heat in.

The fermentation activity is slowing down faster than I am comfortable with, though. Watching the airlock, the “burp” of CO2 went from about every 6 seconds (which was already slow for this early in the ferment, based on what I’ve been reading) to about 8 1/2 seconds, at the time I took these temperature readings.

I’ve read a number of suggestions on how to keep things warm enough, and I’ve already implemented one of them. I took a scrap piece of rigid insulation (that stuff is coming in so handy!!!) to put under the carboy. This way, it won’t lose warmth into the table top, and we don’t have to try and keep the towel bunched under it, making it more stable.

I’m also thinking of running a towel through the dryer when we’re doing laundry, and then switching towels while it is still warm. We don’t need to do laundry all that often, though. Another recommendation that is practical for us is to use the little electric heating pad I recently picked up for my daughter, since our two old ones are no longer working. There are actually special versions of these, made specifically to wrap around carboys, but we’re not at a point to invest in anything like that right now. What we have will do. It has a low temperature setting, and turns itself off after two hours. We wouldn’t wrap it directly around the carboy, but around the towel, so as not to warm it too much or too quickly. We’ll have to move the carboy to somewhere we can plug it in.

Ooh. I think I just thought of a place, too!

The Re-Farmer

Clean up: west fence line and maple grove

Today turned out to be too cold and damp to do the mowing between the trees I cleared last year, that I hoped to do today. I thought I might be able to at least use my reciprocating saw to cut some of the smaller stumps of trees I took down last year to ground level, so I could mow over them. In the end, I decided it was just too damp to drag out the extension cords and use electric tools.

Instead, I worked on an area I left partly unfinished last year; a double row of elms leading to the garden gate at the west fence line.

Here is how it looked before I started.

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Clean Up: mowing the big garden

Today started early for me, as I had to drive to my mother’s to take her for an appointment to get her CT scan. She had a requirement to drink a litre of water an hour before her appointment, then restrictions on going to the bathroom shortly before, so I wanted to make sure she got there early enough to not have to worry about the restriction. Given how long it takes to drive from her town to the city where her appointment was, that meant she had to start drinking her water while we were driving.

She also had to fast 4 hours before the scan, but my mother went a bit overboard and, aside from eating some crackers with her morning medications, she had fasted since the supper! So as soon as we were done, I made sure to take her to lunch somewhere fast.

By the time I got home, it was mid afternoon. The weather was holding, so I decided to break out the push mower and get as much done as I could. (I only got rained on a tiny bit! 😀 ) I was going to start working in the trees, but then decided to do the old, overgrown garden, instead.

When my brother brought the mower back, he walked me through what he had done. It started fine when we tested it, but he mentioned that he felt the prime pump wasn’t doing its job. So, just in case it wouldn’t start, he showed me where to open up the side of the engine, where there is a filter and an opening behind it, and told me I could basically just splash some fuel into it, and that should be enough to start it.

I’m very glad he told me that, because it wouldn’t start. I ended up having to do it twice! The second time was after I ran out of gas, but I found that if I filled the tank before it was completely empty, I didn’t have to do it again. Except I didn’t just splash it. I tipped the mower onto its side and poured a tiny bit, using the cap of the jerry can spout to hold the tiny bit of fuel I needed. After that, it started just fine.

Mowing the old garden ended up taking about 4 hours.

It is not a small garden.

It was also incredibly rough. Plus, I had to look out for stuff like this.

Thankfully, it wasn’t sticking too far out of the ground, but that’s something we’re going to have to dig up at some point. Maybe. Depends on how big it is, underground!

Here are the before photos.

Right now, the garden area is split by the section we covered with straw to mulch it, used some RoundUp when things started to grow through the mulch, then covered with tarps, that I worked around. That is where we are hoping to be able to start planting something next year. I also tried to get into those trees my mother left growing when she transplanted her raspberry bushes, as much as I could.

Here is what it looks like now.

Did I mention it was rough in there?

This picture barely begins to show how rough it was! It’s hard to grasp from the photo, just how big that hill in the foreground is. When this area was last plowed, this is where the tractor turned, so there are huge ridges all over.

If the weather continues to hold tomorrow, I want to work on mowing between the trees in the maple grove, plus the area leading from the big garden to the gate. My mother said she planted elms in there, so the area had not been mowed, but I see no signs of them.

And now I have to try and get the burrs out of my pant legs.

The Re-Farmer