January 29, 2005

A minor problem with dampness in the basement...

Jen and I were driving home from Seattle and spotted this beauty near Mt. Vernon:

Click for full-size Image

Just a minor dampness problem really, I could fix it myself but never seemed to have the time…

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January 26, 2005

New at the Farm

Took delivery of a 40' long cargo container this morning. We are building a new building for our Cidery but with all the permitting processes and such, we will not be ready for occupancy until fairly late this year. I want to start brewing sooner and one way to do this was to build another building. (State and Federal laws prohibit you from running a commercial alcohol operation from your house — it has to be a separate lockable structure)

I could have put up something like this very quickly but the cost with cement foundation is around $12K — I can buy a lot of apples for $12K.


Turns out, I could get a retired sea-box for $2,300 delivery included. Took about ten seconds to make that decision. I was able to visit the lot and pick out the one I wanted. These are 40*8*8 in size and will give me 320 sq. ft. of weather-tight lockable space.

I will be walling off the last 16 feet and insulate it for use as a fermentation room (need to keep the temperature regulated fairly well) and the rest of the place will be product and supply storage, yeast lab and work area.

When the Cidery is finished, everything will be moved out and this will then become our distillery — we cannot have the Cidery and the Distillery in the same building and I will be able to use the insulated space for product storage.

Here are some photos - click on them to see the full-size Image:


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January 25, 2005

Wolf Moon

Interesting bit of folklore from The Farmers Almanac

Tonight’s full moon is called the Wolf Moon.
February’s is the Snow Moon

Here is their description for their page that lists all of the names:

Full Moon names date back to Native Americans, of what is now the northern and eastern United States. The tribes kept track of the seasons by giving distinctive names to each recurring full Moon. Their names were applied to the entire month in which each occurred. There was some variation in the Moon names, but in general, the same ones were current throughout the Algonquin tribes from New England to Lake Superior. European settlers followed that custom and created some of their own names. Since the lunar month is only 29 days long on the average, the full Moon dates shift from year to year. Here is the Farmers Almanac’s list of the full Moon names.

Some nice back-to-the land stuff — it is good to be aware of the cycles of nature as you go about your daily work. We need to remember that we live on a big planet that has a timetable of its own. The long-view and all that…

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January 21, 2005

Goat Cam

I had the camera out taking pictures of some non-Farm related things and our youngest goat Oreo came over to see what I was doing.

Click for full-size image

Oreo is a Cashmere Goat Wether (Wethers have been “fixed” when a few weeks old and do not display the billy traits of aggressiveness and odor).

Very smart and very cute…

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January 18, 2005

Rain Rain Go Away...

Two photos so you can see what we are dealing with here…

This is the nice quiet little creek on our property. It dries up in summer and fall.

click to see full size

We live some miles outside the town of Maple Falls. Here is what the Waterfalls Northwest website has to say about it:

Maple Creek inconspicuously creeps through the woods and takes a small series of tumbles as it heads towards the Nooksack River. This is not an impressive waterfall, I'm actually surprised the town was named after this little thing. I have to wonder how many of the local residents are actually familiar with this little waterfall.

Whomever wrote that hasn't seen it like it was this afternoon. It was roaring!

click to see full size

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January 17, 2005


If you have checked out our weather station, you will see that we are experiencing heavy rains — more than three inches in one day! What makes this especially “interesting” is that the ground is still frozen solid from the deep freezes of a few days ago so rainwater runoff is a lot higher.

The major river in this area — The Nooksack — is reaching flood stage.

Check out the current data here: NOOKSACK—AT DEMING

The highest recorded data was 8.68 ft and 14400 cfs recorded in 1958
(cfs is Cubic Feet per Second - that is a lot of water!)

Current data as of this post is 8.24 ft and 12685 cfs.

Check it out yourself:


Image is a thumbnail - click for full size.

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January 16, 2005

Weather Link updated

You can now jump to our weather station (will open in a new browser window) by clicking on the “Weather in Maple Falls” link in the Site Navigation Links area to the right of your screen.

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We have been having a few weeks of cold weather with temps down to the low teens drooping to single digits at night (very clear skys so this is from radiation cooling).

Yesterday, it started warming and we got a light rain. Temps were about 25 degrees so we woke up to this:



Walking to the road to get the newspaper was fun enough — I don't envy anyone trying to drive in this… Supposed to warm up later today so maybe this will all go away soon. (not holding my breath though). Our propane tank was just filled a few days ago, we have a couple cords of wood left and a full pantry so things are secure here.

Don't forget to check our own weather station here: Maple Falls Weather

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January 13, 2005

The Tax Man

Japan has fairly high tax rates on beer — 78 Yen or about 75 US Cents per can of beer.
The interesting thing is that the Japanese Government does not tax the amount of alcohol, they tax the amount of malt used in the beer. The ¥78 per can for all malt beer drops to ¥25 for a can of alcoholic beverage that contains no malt.

Brewers are rising to the challenge as reported at BeverageDaily.COM:

Asahi joins Japan’s fake beer revolution
Asahi Breweries is to become the second brewer to start production of a malt and wheat free, “beer flavoured”, alcoholic drink.

Asahi Breweries announced yesterday that it plans to have a beer flavored alcoholic drink on the market by the summer. The product will be exempt from Japan’s malt-incremental system of beer taxation.

In Japan, ¥78 of tax is levied on a can of beer. But, beers which contain less than 67 percent malt fall under the category of “happoshu”, taxed at ¥47 yen a can. Containing no malt or wheat they escape classification as either, and are taxed at ¥25 a can.

Sapporo Breweries was the first company to create an entirely malt free drink when they last year launched ‘Draft One’, which has had phenomenal success in the country. It took considerable a market share from happoshu beers, with sales having exceeded 18m cases.

The new “third category beers” are made from yellow peas. Sapporo claimed that they did not originally develop the drink in order to avoid higher taxes but rather to create a “lighter tasting beer”.

In addition to the tax benefit, the yellow pea beer is about 15 per cent cheaper to produce than happoshu. It retails for about ¥100 yen per can, ¥20 less than happoshu. The appeal to consumers is both in the price and innovative concept – a more defined advance in beer style than merely reducing the proportion of malt.

And of course:

A review of alcohol taxes is expected to eventually bring the “type threes” into line with happoshu.

Insert obligatory Yellow Pea joke —>here<—

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Shipping Cider (and Wine)

There is a case before the Supreme Count regarding Wineries being able to ship to customers in the United States. This is governed by the individual states and there are restrictions on who can get Wine (and Cider) shipped to them. The case is looking to remove this from state control and allow anyone in the USA to be able to visit a Winery (or Cidery) home page, place an order for a case and have that case shipped to them legally. Needless to say, this is something I'm following with interest. WA State allows for shipments as does California. The only states with full reciprocity are California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri, New Mexico, Oregon, Washington, Wisconsin, West Virginia — every other state either requires very special situations or flat-out prohibits shipment.

A website that explains this issue (and suggests what you can do to help) is FreeTheGrape

I was reading the excellent Vinography web site today and Alder had an interesting comment and a link to the full nasty story:

Who Wants to Keep You From Ordering Wine?
I've been reluctant to take up the issue of interstate wine shipping because a lot of other people more qualified than I have written about it and because the court is still in deliberations, or whatever they call it. However, to anyone interested in some of the legal battles surrounding this issue, Tom over at Fermentations has highlighted an important and frightening faction that has been at work in the lobbying against opening up direct shipping of alcohol. Take a look at his post “Wine & Hypocrisy…An Ugly Tale.”

Following the link to Tom's story we read:

Wine & Hypocrisy…An Ugly Tale
Since the mid 1990s when the debate over direct shipping began, the Wine & Spirits Wholesalers Association (WSWA) has been the leading advocate to stop any and all direct shipping of wine to consumers. Whether in congress, in the media, in the halls of state legislatures or in the courts, it has been the WSWA that has been trying to stop direct shipping.

It's pretty obvious why they and their membership are against the ability for individuals to purchase wine direct from wineries: They lose money when such transactions occur. Every time I call a winery, bring up an internet site or respond to an offer by a catalog retailer to purchase a bottle of wine, that's a sale that bypasses the wholesaler. WSWA decided to fight early on.

When they decided that this would be the most important fight for the foreseeable future, they had to go out and get a heavy hitter: They got Juanita Duggan.

Tom then follows Ms. Duggan's career and looks at the political contributions her groups have given to various political figures to promote what causes. This article is a real eye-opener and it would be a good idea to visit the FreeTheGrape website to see what can be done. A simple letter to one's representative in Washington can have much greater effect than any online poll…

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Honey Supplier

We are planning several products beyond our initial keg cider. These are Honey mixed with Cider to make Cyser, Mead (Honey by itself) and Melomel (Honey mixed with fruit - berries in our case). These will be a bit more alcohol (more like a wine than the Cider) and will be sold in bottles in 2006.

Yesterday, I was running errands in Bellingham and following up on a roadside sign I had seen, I had the pleasure to meet Jerry Guilmette, owner of Busy Bees.


(Click for full size image)

He runs several hundred hives and follows the seasons, starting with the California Almond crop and moving back home in June and July. I will be getting Nooksack Valley Blackberry and Raspberry honey from him as well as some other local vendors. I bought eight gallons of the Raspberry yesterday when I was visiting his facility and it is gorgeous stuff - I'll be using this batch to test different yeasts and production methods for our Cyser and Mead but several pints will be re-directed to culinary use. This stuff is good!

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January 07, 2005

New Feature

I have connected our weather station to the internet.
Current weather conditions can now be seen by going here Brown Snout Weather

Right now it presents a lot of data. I'll be working with the configuration files to pare that down to a useful amount and clean up the interface.

Additionally, I have 14 months of historical record that will be uploaded when I finish configuring the raw data from the other software.

I'll be updating the main page to include a link at the right.
Couple other things scheduled for development too…

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January 04, 2005

Home again!!!

Arrived home last evening. It was a good trip but it is wonderful to get back home again. Missed our critters…

We managed to come home with some cool toys.

Jen weaves and this store Robin and Russ was having a huge inventory reduction sale so we came home with a few bags of yarn…

(The images in this entry are all thumbnails - click on the image to see them full-sized)


I bought an Apple Coder Grinder and Press.

Here is the Conveyor - it takes a full 40-pound box of apples and moves them up to the grinder:


Here is the Grinder and the Press:


The top end of the Conveyor attaches to the Grinder at the top left of the Press. The Apple bits (called Pommace) fall down and go into a cheese-cloth bag resting on one of the white plastic boards. You fill it up to about 2” depth, fold the bag closed, lay another plastic board over the top and start again. This Press can take up to seven “cheeses” 22” by 22” in size. The previous owner was averaging about 500 gallons per day output.

The company that built this unit is still in business and parts for this are still available. Very cool!

I will be waiting a bit for the winter storms to subside and will take the truck down to California to pick it up. Things are coming together…

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January 01, 2005

Coming to the end of our Christmas Visit

Jen and I have been in Central Valley California visiting with her family this Holiday season. We are planning to drive home tomorrow (January 2nd) and be back on our Farm Jan 4th if the passes cooperate.

Some great news — Jen's father knows a lot of people in this area and one of the people he works with on a regular basis was growing apples and selling sweet cider. Unfortunatly, the Odwalla e-Coli problems caused such a change in regulations and equipment requirements that he dropped out of the business a few years ago. He still had his apple grinder and press though and was looking for a good home for it. It now has one. I will be taking the truck down a bit later in the season to pick it up and we now have the backbone of our cider operation!

Santa was very generous this year!!!

Pictures will follow when we get back…

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