Monday, September 30, 2013

Our Brews

Now that we have a couple of varieties bubbling away we decided to keep a digital brew log. One where you can also comment on the taste of our brews (much appreciated unless they turn out to be vinegar), To cut the story short, here’s the link to our brew log, and you can also find it permanently on the ‘our brews’ tab on every page of my blog.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

The Mead update

Today we finally bottled the Forest Fruit Mead, alcohol was still at 5 %, and the lingering taste of the yeast had completely disappeared. So the taste was great and it had cleared out almost completely. Definitely a recipe we’re trying again.

Champs des Alouettes: Forest Fruit Mead

We also re-racked the  Apple Pie Cyser. The hydrometer dropped into our measuring flask and disappeared completely; no alcohol, no sugar. The taste was pretty dry. So in order to bring the alcohol up and to sweeten it a little more we added two tablespoons of normal sugar. In a couple of days we’ll measure again. But for now this cyser is a complete disaster.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Chicken Eggs

It looks like a brown chicken is also starting to produce eggs, or should I say egg? I hope this is a try-out size, and not a permanent thing. On the right is an egg produced by the white chicken (aka. Katrien).
Champs des Alouettes: Chicken Eggs 1
By the way, the chickens are doing fine. They love walking about and teasing the cat and cows. In the mornings they are already waiting for the hatch to open! Such a huge difference with the first weeks, when they hardly even dared to come outside. Now they’re even breaking into our house!
Champs des Alouettes: Chicken Eggs 2
Champs des Alouettes: Chicken Eggs 2

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

The Bathroom Surprise (part two)

After uncovering a very pretty floor the last time around, we now turned to the ceiling. It was not a pretty sight! The ceiling was a clear cover up. Plasticised wooden boards on a wooden frame, not the best thing to put in a bathroom. The boards came off easy enough with old mice nests and their dead inhabitants in its wake.

Champs des Alouettes: The Bathroom Surprise part two - 1

Champs des Alouettes: The Bathroom Surprise part two - 2

The frame was a different story, although even that one came off eventually. And it revealed… This! The old vaulted ceiling! Why would anyone be dumb/crazy enough to hide this beauty?? With a little bit of work it could look just like the ceiling in the hall or kitchen.

Champs des Alouettes: The Bathroom Surprise part two - 3

Sunday, September 15, 2013

The Animals

So far, it looks like the animals are settling into their new environment. For some it has been a rather traumatic experience, but they’re coping pretty well and have adjusted to the rural way of life.

Champs des Alouettes: The Animals - 1

The fish are getting used to the new local cuisine..

Champs des Alouettes: The Animals - 2

Amat is sleeping after bringing in a dead mouse/rat again..

Champs des Alouettes: The Animals - 3

The Chickens are getting used to the great outdoors, and are enjoying themselves with having sandbaths. Furthermore they are developing the art of braking and entering into the human-house.

Last but not least, the cows are getting used to the very interesting stuff the humans are bringing into their meadow. I think everyone is pretty content with their new way of life.

Forest Fruit Mead (part two)

After starting the forest fruit mead on the 29th of August, it was now time to put it into a new carboy and add the herbs. While we were transferring the mead (not the sediment and fruit) we passed a little of it through the hydrometer. It read 5%, not bad after two weeks! We used a fine cheese cloth to secure the clove and the 3 cm vanilla stick. Now we just have to wait again for a couple of weeks (and taste the mead frequently) to make sure the herbs do not become too strong. By the way, it already tastes like a great mead!

P.S. Keep emptying those beer bottles, we’re going to need them soon!

Champs des Alouettes: Forest fruit mead - part two

Forest Fruit Mead (part two)

After starting the forest fruit mead on the 29th of August, it was now time to put it into a new carboy and add the herbs. While we were transferring the mead (not the sediment and fruit) we passed a little of it through the hydrometer. It read 5%, not bad after two weeks! We used a fine cheese cloth to secure the clove and the 3 cm vanilla stick. Now we just have to wait again for a couple of weeks (and taste the mead frequently) to make sure the herbs do not become too strong. By the way, it already tastes like a great mead!

P.S. Keep emptying those beer bottles, we’re going to need them soon!

Champs des Alouettes: Forest fruit mead - part two

Friday, September 13, 2013

Sometimes I just love living in the country

Have a look at what our neighbours brought by a minute ago! They’re simply gorgeous. I should probably start taking tomato-lessons from them. Mine are still ginormous and very very green.

Champs des Alouettes: tomatoes

Time for a little change

Today, the name Uni Therapy, has officially become redundant. I have finished University!!! I’m now officially a Master of Science in Politics and International Relations. Yaaaaay!

So, now that I have finished studying, I’ve enlisted in a three year course on fashion design… yeah, me.

With all the changed going on around here, I decided to rename my blog to something more permanent. The Champs des Alouettes is the name of the meadow surrounding our new house. It seemed fitting for the little place I call internet-home. And, because Tom is way too sweet, he got me the accompanying web page!

So, without further ado I would like to introduce you to Champs des Alouettes!

logo groot plus web

The Electrician (part one)

Finally, he came! And he was gone again.. In the few hours he was here he placed little black boxes in all the holes we cut out. Now we just have to sit tight and wait for him to show again.

Champs des Alouettes: The Electrician Part One - 1

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

The Floor Story (part three)

Once the floor and 20 cm of sand were out, Toms dad pounded down the sand, and we started putting in the insulation.

Champs des Alouettes: The Floor Story Part Three - 1

First part of insulation was fitting in a layer of thick plastic sheeting. On top of that came the puzzle that is insulation. On top of that came yet again a layer of plastic sheeting. Now we just have to wait for the electrician to finish, and we’re back to flooring.

Champs des Alouettes: The Floor Story Part Three - 2

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

The Floor Story (part two)

Champs des Alouettes: The floor story part two - 2

Big shock, no floor! In order to get a new floor in we had to get rid of the old one (neatly stacked in the barn) and do some more work. To have space for insulation and for a firm underground (that not being sand) we had to dig out 20 cm. Just to give you an idea of the amount of work: the room is 40 m2, we had to dig out a minimum of 20 cm, that equals about 8 m3 of sand we had to displace. We managed to do it in two days! Oh, and we got rid of the fire place, it was a couple of centimetres too small for the Stove.

Champs des Alouettes: The floor story part two - 1

Just for laughs, this is the 11 m3 container we hired after two days of digging. This would never have been possible without the enormous efforts from Tom’s dad!

Champs des Alouettes: The floor story part two - 3

Sunday, September 08, 2013

The Floor Story (part one of many)

Champs des Alouettes: Floor part one - 1

When we bought our new place the living room floor was in a pretty bad state, and we made it so much worse. Because of its bad state we decided to open it up in order to place our new electricity lines underneath. So wee started out taking out the tiles one by one… I just hope that eventually we’ll have a floor again.

Champs des Alouettes: Floor part one - 2

Friday, September 06, 2013

Apple Pie Cyser

Champs des Alouettes: Apple Pie Cyser

That bottle of mead we made a couple of weeks ago is still bubbling away. However, we thought it was a little lonely and would love the company of a bottle of Apple Pie Cyser. Cyser is very much like mead, and I just love apple pie. We found the recipe here.

INGREDIENTS
3 — gal­lons apple juice (use only 100%, pas­teur­ized juice with no preser­v­a­tive other than Vit­a­min C-ascorbic acid)
2–1/2 — pounds honey
2  — pounds dark brown sugar
1 — Table­spoon McCormick Apple Pie Spice
3 — cin­na­mon sticks
2 — cans apple juice concentrate
1 — 5 gram pack­age Lalvin 71B-1122 Wine Yeast

HOW TO MAKE THE CYSER
Make sure you have san­i­tized your con­tain­ers! You don’t want wild yeast or bac­te­ria get­ting in to your mix and ruin­ing your mix.  You can do this by: wash­ing them in a dish­washer at high-temp, heated dry, and NO SOAP or soak­ing them in a  light bleach solu­tion (2 Tbs per gal­lon of water) for 20 min­utes and then rins­ing well with cold water.  This is essen­tial to get­ting good results.

Put the first half of the juice in your pri­mary fer­men­ta­tion vessel. Acti­vate your yeast.

Start 1 quart of juice warm­ing on the stove. Stir in the spices and add the cin­na­mon sticks. All it to sim­mer but do not boil! This will cause the pectins in the juice to react and it will make the cyser taste bad.
Whilst the juice is warm­ing and sim­mer­ing, aer­ate the juice in the jugs/carboy/pail.  Put your hand over the top and shake the heck out of it. The impor­tant thing is to get it bub­bly, which shows you’ve stirred air through the juice. This is impor­tant for later, because the yeast will need it to con­sume the sug­ars and make alcohol.

Once the juice reaches sim­mer­ing tem­per­a­ture, take it off the heat and stir in the honey and sugar. Mix the sugar/spice mix into the juice well.
Add the acti­vated yeast. Top off your container(s) with the remain­der of the juice.
Don’t for­get to get the cin­na­mon sticks into the mix!
At this point, you’re ready to go. Install the fer­men­ta­tion locks on the ves­sels, and put every­thing a fairly cool place where the tem­per­a­ture doesn’t vary much.

Now, you wait. Within 24 hours, you should have some lively bub­bling going on as the mix starts fer­ment­ing.  Let it bub­ble away. In 2 to 3 weeks, the yeast will have fer­mented itself out; when the bub­bling in your fer­men­ta­tion lock is at less than 1 bub­ble per minute, you’re ready for the next step: racking/bottling.

Pour the two cans of apple juice con­cen­trate into your sec­ondary container.
Dis­solve the remain­ing 1/2 pound of honey in 2 cups of warm water, and then stir into the apple juice concentrate
Siphon the cyser from the pri­mary into the sec­ondary, leav­ing the sed­i­ment behind.
At this point, you have two options:

Let the cyser clar­ify — leave it in the sec­ondary for a week or  so and the remain­ing sed­i­ment will set­tle to the bot­tom. Then, bottle.
Bot­tle the cyser. It might be a lit­tle cloudy, but this is not a prob­lem. Once bot­tled, let set for another 1–2 weeks, and the cyser is ready to drink.

We decided to make only a third of the quantity mentioned in the original recipe, and we translated it into a more metric system, with more rounded numbers. The ingredients then became the following:

  • 4 litre apple juice
  • 450 grams of honey
  • 300 grams dark brown sugar
  • 1/3 tablespoon speculooskruiden
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 200 millilitres apple juice concentrate
  • 1 package of champagne yeast from Vinoferm

Thursday, September 05, 2013

The house update

After four very long days of sawing and hammering we (Tom, his parents, and me) managed to get all the appropriate holes and trenches in the right walls. Now we just have to wait for the electrician to show up and bless us with electricity.

Funny story, one only ‘strong’ power outlet in the living room turned out to be attached to a cable that originated in an outlet in the attic. From there the cable did the grand tour of the attic, left through the roof, went down behind the gutter pipe, and finally became the socket in the wall of the living room.

Uni Therapy © 2013

Uni Therapy © 2013

Because of the bad state of the floor tiles, and the fact that they were placed into the dirt directly, we decided to go for a new floor. Either tomorrow or this weekend we’ll be going floor-shopping. Still, the remainder of the tiles still have to be taken out, and the rooms have to be dug out in order to poor in a new under floor.

Furthermore, while we were cutting into the walls, we found out that on top of the bricks was a thick (1-3 cm) layer of clay mixed with straw and animal hair. For now we’re still not sure what to do about it. By now two plasterers have come by to give their opinion. One sais to leave it on and fix a layer of woven wallpaper (they have a smooth version of that too) on top. The other sais to take it off and plaster the walls again. Since all the fixtures that are custom made for the room, the new layer of plaster will have to have the same thickness as they layer of clay. Besides, the latter option will probably be a lot more costly than the former.  We’ll just have to wait and see I guess.

Monday, September 02, 2013

The Bathroom Surprise

Uni Therapy: The Bathroom Surprise 1

This house is full of both pleasant and unpleasant surprises. One of the more pleasant ones is the bathroom. When I was scrubbing like an obsessive maniac t get it cleaned up I wondered what was under that atrocious and icky linoleum. So I started picking at a corner..

Uni Therapy: The Bathroom Surprise 2

Under the first layer there was a second dirty and fungus infested layer. And under that layer was…

Uni Therapy: The Bathroom Surprise 3

The original tile floor. Although a little fungy and severely stained by years of humidity it still is in great shape. Especially if you clean it up a little. Surprise!!

Uni Therapy: The Bathroom Surprise 4