Garden

Drying and storing hops

I’m using the hops that I didn’t send to the local brewery to practice the drying process. Once picked, hops need to be dried so they don’t mold while also kept from exposure to light. The latter needs to be observed all the way until the finished beer is consumed. Light exposure activates the photosynthetic tissue in residual hop matter that flavors or bitters beer resulting in the distinct “skunk” flavor that has actually become a characteristic flavor of some European beers packaged in green bottles then shipped to the US.

So I use discarded beverage trays lined with discarded screen in combination with time to dry my hops. Mild heat or airflow can be used to speed the process but I avoid mechanical processing and strong airflows that might dislodge the pollen looking resins that contain the desired acids/flavor/aroma compounds. This is only mentioned because some people use tumble driers or even clothing driers!

I start by weighting a specific amount of hops that will be kept together through the entire process. The process is to fill a tray loosely with a layer of wet (aka fresh) hops. Then repeat by stacking the next tray atop the previous tray:

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When the test sample of hops loses 80% of it weight, I store them in ziplock bags, squeeze the air out then freeze. If I’m feeling less lazy, I’ll vacuum pack the hops in a food saver. When I am feeling conditionally lazy like with this batch, I’ll spend 5 hours brewing a batch of beer just to avoid the 20 seconds it takes to toss the hops into a freezer.

Note: this is just my casual process for harvesting poor quality first year hops. Usually hops are mostly green, but my centennial hops were overripe thus overdried on the vine while the cascade hops were underripe with the first frost bearing down that weekend. So I harvested and processed them together!

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Welcome and Introduction

Independent. If I could choose one word to describe myself, that would be it. Naturally I have accumulated intense dissatisfaction with the corporate world and the lifestyle it commands. Looking back on my life, I’m surprised no one saw this coming. As I aged, my literary tastes all but spelled out my future:

The Lorax, Jack London, Hatchet, My Side of the Mountain, the rest of the works by Gary Paulsen, The Hobbit, Robert Frost and Walt Whitman, Into the Wild, Walden, Ernest Hemingway (The Old Man and the Sea specifically), Steinbeck, McCarthy and so on.

So here I am, writing from my employment abroad in the Middle East dreaming about being home in the Appalachian Mountains. Self-sufficiency and homesteading have always been a bit of a fantasy of mine. However, the difficulty of diving in debt-free has been intimidating enough to keep me out.

Luckily a plot of land, including a barn and pasture, has been in my family for some time. It has been unused except as a hunting ground. With the blessing of the landowners within my family, I have a chance to realize some of the concepts in my head without taking on substantial debt. My financial aspirations are somewhere in the middle: use what is available to me not to get rich but not to operate at a loss.

As for the agricultural operations, I hope to build soil and quality grazing pasture by using only biological means and earn income by harvesting byproducts of my land management practices. I will be adapting Managed Intensive Rotational Grazing (MIRG) and methods of Joel Salatin at Polyface Farms as well as multi species grazing to suit my needs. In addition to farming, Other side projects like bee keeping, soap making and brewing beer will be included.

These projects are steps to self-sufficiency. It is unfortunate that I missed living in an era where most goods were procured locally. Via my farm project, I hope to contribute to making this a reality once again so any excess goods I produce may eventually find its way to local markets. Providing beer at a local scale would be very satisfying!

So here is my blog. Hopefully when I get to the point of selling grass fed meat, pastured eggs and other products, this can serve to provide complete transparency for my customers. I will include all of the planning and analysis I have conducted to assure that this is a worthwhile endeavour and to gain the confidence of the landowners.

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