Automating a Chicken Coop Heating System

Gardener's Supply Company - Deal of the Week

Being the conscientious folks we are, we like to make sure our chickens stay warm when it’s cold. They supply us with lots of free food, so its the least we can do. There are a few off-the-shelf devices that are able to sense temperature and change the state of a power outlet when things get too warm or cold, but where’s the fun in that? We take a lot more satisfaction from doing things ourselves (although the “we” in this sentence generally turns out to be more of an “I” when it comes to implementation.)

Long before we thought of automating chicken coops, I came across the Hobby Boards website. They seemed to have a lot of neat components that can be used to build or otherwise implement a lot of cool household things like environmental sensing of both interior and exterior conditions, sensing of arbitrary things using digital I/O ports, and control of arbitrary things using circuit relays. Once the prospect of chicken coop automation came along, it gave me a great excuse to buy some gadgetry and try things out!

There are only a few pieces involved with the chicken coop control system that I implemented:

  1. A computer running Linux
  2. One  USB to 1-wire adapter
  3. One 8-channel IO/relay board
  4. Two temperature sensors
  5. One dual-throw relay capable of handling 120VAC at 10A (found at Radio Shack)
  6. One DC power adapter capable of activating the relay listed in #5
  7. Three power outlets and a three-gang outlet box
  8. Lots of wire of various types (exterior grade ethernet, telephone wire, extension cords)
  9. Some custom software scripts

The details of how things come together are long, tedious and boring, but I’ll give the Cliffs Notes version for those interested.

The basic physical setup puts the three outlets and the larger relay in the outlet box, which lives in the chicken coop. The three sets of outlets are wired in such a way that one pair of outlets is always on when connected to power, and the other two are controlled by the state of the relay in the outlet box. If the relay is off, one outlet is on and the other is off. If the relay is activated, the outlet that’s off turns on, and the on outlet turns off. I set things up this way so we could have the idea of a “default on” outlet and a “default off” outlet, which would let the heating lamps fall back to a sane state if the control system died. Heat lamps are plugged into the “default on” plugs in the winter and the “default off” plugs in the summer.

The outlets in the coop. The middle set is always on, and the others are controlled by the automation setup.

The larger relay in the outlet box is controlled via one of the smaller relays on the Hobby Boards relay 8-port relay board. I connected the DC power adapter in such a way that when I activate the smaller relay inside the house, it sends power through a control wire outside to the larger relay in the outlet box, which activates that relay and changes the state of the power outlets (Off to On or On to Off, depending on the outlet).

The relay board controls the state of the outlets in the coop

One of the temperature sensors is placed outside the chicken coop, and the other is inside. The idea behind this was to provide two perspectives on temperature level so my software could better decide whether to turn the heating lamps on or off. The heat lamps come on when either the inside or outside sensors see the temperature as being too cold, and the system turns off the lamps if the temperature inside the coop is too warm for heating.

The coop’s internal temperature sensor on its dusty perch

The temperature sensors and the 8-port relay board connect to the computer via the USB to 1-wire dongle. This allows for the computer to read temperatures from the sensors and control the relays that change the power outlet states.

One of the added benefits of having all of this stuff controlled by a computer is that I can do other things with the temperature data and state of the various relays in the system. Things like graphs!

A graph showing the various inputs and outputs of the automation system. The reddish shading shows when the heat lamps are active.

For those interested, I’ll probably be putting up a more detailed version of how things are built over at my blog – http://engi.neir.org. When that will appear is anybody’s guess.

 

Gaiam.com, Inc
Miscellaneous

Knitting Garage Sale

Free Kefir Recipe eBook from Cultures for Health

Knitting is something I really, really want to love. It speaks to a warm and comfortable place in my soul, beckoning me, calling softly, promising cozy, relaxing rewards.

And then I sit down to do it, and get completely stressed the frick out because I’m just no good at it, and my gimpy left hand makes everything harder and less fun.

I have a significant amount of money tied up in my yarn and needles that we can much better use elsewhere, so I’m having a knitting supplies sale.

Prices are a bit less than what I paid, and shipping will be actual shipping/packaging material costs (no additional handling fee.) Local delivery free of charge. I will price-match if you find an item cheaper.

I’ll update quantities as I can. Please contact me via my gMail account (airynd at gmail dot com) if you are interested in nabbing any of these items, or leave a comment with how to contact you, and thanks!

Equipment

All quantities here are one:

  • Royal ball winder with clamp, no package, used 5 or 6 times. Like new. Retail: $50.00 – Your price: $40.00  Sold
  • Crystal Palace bamboo needles, circular – size 15 (10mm,) 55 inches. New in unopened package. Retail: $15.89 – Your price: $13.00
  • Chiao Goo double-pointed bamboo needles – size 7 (4.5mm,) 8 inches long. New in opened package, used once. Retail: $6.49 – Your price: $5.00
  • Chiao Goo double-pointed bamboo needles – size 9 (5.5mm,) 6 inches long. New in opened package, never used. Retail: $6.75 – Your price: $5.00
  • Chiao Goo double-pointed bamboo needles – size 8 (5mm,) 6 inches long. New in unopened package. Retail: $6.25 – Your price: $5.00
  • Chiao Goo double-pointed bamboo needles – size 3 (3.25mm,) 6 inches long. New in opened package, never used. Retail: $5.29 – Your price: $3.75
  • Boye aluminum circular needles – size 11 (8mm,) 29 inches. New in unopened package. Retail: $4.00 – Your price $3.00
  • Boye aluminum circular needles – size 10 (6mm,) 29 inches. New in unopened package. Retail: $3.56 – Your price: $2.50
  • Addi Turbo Lace brass circular needles – size 8 (5mm,) 32 inches. New in opened package, never used. Retail: $15.99, Your price: $13.00
  • Addi Turbo Lace brass circular needles – size 7 (4.5mm,) 16 inches. New in opened package, never used. Retail: $15.99 – Your price: $13.00
  • Clover bamboo circular needles – size 10 (6mm,) 16 inches. No package, but never used. Retail: $6.85 – Your price: $5.00
  • Clover bamboo circular needles – size 3 (3.25mm,) 48 inches. No package, but never used. Retail: $8.99 – Your price: $6.50
  • Brittany birch double-pointed needles – size 17 (12mm,) 7.5 inches long. New in slightly-abused package, but never used. Retail: $9.00 – Your price: $7.50
  • Clover bamboo straight needles – size 3 (3.25mm,) 9 inches long. No package, never used. Retail: $6.21 – Your price: $5.00
  • Chiao Goo bamboo straight needles – size 6 (4mm,) 9 inches long. No package, used for one project – almost like new. Retail: $5.95 – Your price: $3.50
  • Clover bamboo straight needles – size 9 (5.5mm,) 13 inches long. No package, never used. Retail: $7.28 – Your price: $5.50

 Yarn

Quantity and whether it’s been ball-wound is noted.

Only a couple of items left here! Crossed-out items have been sold.

  • Plymouth Yarn – Baby Alpaca Grande Tweed – Color 2718 – US 10.5 needle = 3 sts./inch – 100 grams (approximately 110 yards.) 1 ball, wound. Retail: $13.49 – Your price: $12.00


  • Alpaca with a Twist – Highlander – Color 0203 (possibly discontinued) – US 9 needle 4 sts./inch – 100 grams (145 yards.) 1 skein, unwound. Retail: $14.99 – Your price: $12.50

  • Alpaca with a Twist – Highlander – Color 1013 North Sea – US 9 needle 4 sts./inch – 100 grams (145 yards.) 1 skein, unwound. Retail: $14.99 – Your price: $12.50

  • Alpaca with a Twist – Highlander – Color 3016 Tartan Red – US 9 needle 4 sts./inch – 100 grams (145 yards.) 1 skein, unwound. Retail: $14.99 – Your price: $12.50

  • Alpaca with a Twist – Highlander – Color 0299 Black Thorn (darker than photo – very black) – US 9 needle 4 sts./inch – 100 grams (145 yards.) 1 skein, unwound. Retail: $14.99 – Your price: $12.50

  • Alpaca with a Twist – Highlander  – Color 0301 (possibly discontinued, bowl not included) – US 9 needle 4 sts./inch – 100 grams (145 yards.) 1 ball, wound. Retail: $14.99 – Your price: $12.50

  • Alpaca with a Twist – Highlander – Color 0096 Birch – US 9 needle 4 sts./inch – 100 grams (145 yards.) 1 ball, wound. Retail: $14.99 – Your price: $12.50

  • Plymouth Yard – Baby Alpaca Ampato – Color 900 Moss – Size 8 4 sts/inch – 100 grams/128 yards. 1 skein, unwound. Retail: $13.99 – Your price: $12.00

  • Shepherd’s Wool – Worsted – Color Sage – Size 8 17 sts./21 rows = 4 inches. 4 ounces/250 yards. 3 skeins, unwound. Same color as below, but the dye lot produced a slightly different color – more blue, slightly darker than pictured. Retail: $11.99 – Your price: $10.00/ea

  • Shepherd’s Wool – Worsted – Color Sage – Size 8 17 sts./21 rows = 4 inches. 4 ounces/250 yards. 2 skeins, unwound. Same color as above, but the dye lot produced a slightly different color – more yellow, about the same as pictured. Retail: $11.99 – Your price: $10.00/ea

  • Lion Brand Fisherman’s Wool – Color 126 – Size 9 16 sts./22 rows = 4 inches. 8 ounces/465 yards. 1 skein, unwound. Retail: $5.99 – Your price: $3.50

  • Lion Brand Nature’s Choice Organic Cotton – Color 152 Espresso – Size 9 16 sts./21 rows = 4 inches. 1 skein, unwound. 3 ounces/103 yards. Retail: $5.50 – Your price: $4.00

  • Lion Brand Homespun – Color 410 Herb Garden – Size 10 14 sts./20 rows = 4 inches. 6 ounces/185 yards. 1 ball, wound. Retail: $5.98 – Your price: $3.50

  • Rowan – Pure Wool DK – Color 020 – Size 6 22 sts./30 rows = 4 inches. 1 ball, unwound. 50 grams/136 yards. Retail: 6.99 – Your price: $5.00

  • Berroco Blackstone Tweed Chunky – Color 6631 – Size 10.5 3.25 sts/inch. 1.75 ounces/60 yards. 1 ball, unwound. Retail: $9.99 – Your price: $7.50

  • Sugar’n Cream cotton – Color 18114 – Size 7 20 sts./26 rows = 4 inches. 4 ounces/200 yards. 1 ball, unwound. Retail: $3.50 – Your price: $2.50

  • Sugar’n Cream cotton – Color 19983 – Size 7 20 sts./26 rows = 4 inches. 4 ounces/200 yards. 1 ball, unwound. Retail: $3.50 – Your price: $2.50

  • Cascade Yarns – Magnum – Color 9338 – Size 15 2 sts./inch. 250 grams/123 yards. 1 ball, wound. Retail: $18.00 – Your price: $15.00

  • Red Heart – Soft Baby Steps – Color “Cherry Cola Print” – Size 8 17 sts/23 rows = 4 inches. 4 ounces/204 yards. 1 ball, wound; 1 skein, unwound. Retail: $3.50 – Your price: $2.50

  • Crystal Palace Yarns – Mochi Plus – Color 613 “Ice Wine” – Size 9-10.5 4-4.5 sts./inch. 1 ball, unwound. 50 grams/95 yards. Retail: $8.60 – Your price: $7.00
Failures, Knitting , , ,

SunWarrior Raw Protein Review

I’ve spent the last couple of weeks using SunWarrior’s Warrior Blend Chocolate Raw Plant-Based Protein Powder (how’s that for a long title?) for my breakfasts and lunches, and feel I’ve got a pretty good handle on it compared to the Vega product.

Overview: I really loved everything about this powder on paper – raw, gluten-free, soy-free, dairy-free, non-GMO, hypo-allergenic, plant-based, et cetera, and their processes are natural, cold extrusion-based, free of solvents, radiation, artificial colors, and preservatives.

It boasts a complete protein profile, is high in antioxidants, and the package says it can “help alleviate candida,” possibly because there is no added sugar.

Cost: There are 47 servings per $39 bag, which breaks down to about $0.83 per serving – that’s really, really cheap; less than half the price of Vega’s powder.

Flavor: Very “meh;” the chocolate flavor (from cocoa powder) is almost unnoticeable. It’s not an unpleasant flavor, per se, but it’s also not incredibly tasty. When prepared in a blender, it is not chalky, gritty, or fibrous. It tastes best with milk, of course, but is palatable with water.  Most days, I add about 1/8 cup of cocoa powder and 10 or so drops of liquid stevia to the shake, and that helps things significantly. Frozen or fresh fruit, frozen one-ounce cubes of whey, raw eggs, and other ingredients sometimes find their way into the blender, too.

Wind Turbine Factor: Significant. It took my innards almost two whole weeks to stop getting all gassy after having a serving of this stuff. I wouldn’t immediately bloat up, either; sometimes, it would take several hours.

Satiety: Mediocre at best. When supplemented with fruits, veggies, or other Stuff in the shake, I felt full for longer; however, the powder in water alone wears off in less than two hours.

Energy Levels: Also mediocre. I felt more energetic on the Vega mix, generally. Since being on the SunWarrior product, I’ve had frequent periods of lethargy and listlessness, despite going to the gym nearly every single day.  Of course, this may have more to do with the insane heat wave and drought currently ravaging my home state of Michigan, but we do have air conditioning in our home.

Overall Thoughts: This seems to be a quality product, but (as with so many things in life,) I suspect how someone reacts to a given protein powder is going to vary from person to person. The friend who recommended this product to me loves it, and it’s working well for her. And it’s not like it’s not working for me, I just like the Vega product better I think.

Next up – an unflavored protein mix I ordered online from True Nutrition. I saved this one for last so I’d have a good baseline for comparison.

I’m very glad there are options for easy-to-make shakes; it makes things much easier for me not to have to choose/plan, prepare, and then eat a small, healthy, low-calorie meal. I’m doing far better at portion control and thinking about food as necessary fuel as opposed to OMG MUST HAVE ALL THE FOOD. It’s only been a very short while, though, and I know I could easily fall back down the rabbit hole without even realizing.

But those are all thoughts for another post. :)

Dietary Choices, Fitness, Food, Gluten-Free, Health, Product Recommendations, Vegetarian , , ,

20 Days In

It’s been nearly 3 weeks since I made a firm commitment to getting my chubby self into better shape. So many friends and acquaintances have come through with great advice and have shared similar stories about their struggles with food and/or weight – it’s been quite inspiring.

The honesty and openness has been humbling, and I’m so grateful to those who have and who continue to share. Seeing my friends at various stages of their own process helps me to really internalize the long-term nature of this project.

Let me share with you a little slice of my own motivation for getting going with this, apart from a general sense of wanting to be thinner and, therefore, healthier. Ok, and wanting to buy clothes at regular, normal-sized-person stores.

(Apologies in advance to The Engineir, who has no idea this has been weighing on my mind, and who really is a wonderful person.)

The last time my husband gave me a compliment was on our wedding day, just over a year ago. “You look beautiful,” he said. At the time, I couldn’t remember the last time he’d given me a compliment like that, and so I made a mental note to pay attention and make sure I wasn’t just taking them for granted.

Some of you who haven’t met me in person won’t realize I’m not someone who pays a lot of attention to fashion, or make-up, or trying to look “put-together” most of the time. Indeed, I’m a t-shirt and jeans/shorts kind of person – I value comfort and utility in clothing most of the time. So, I can understand Mike not coming home every day and saying, “WOW! You look FANTASTIC in those chicken-poop-covered jeans!” or “Boy, you sure do look sexy when you haven’t showered in over 24 hours! I really dig the bits of leaves in your hair.”

Every now and then, though, I’d give it a shot – putting on some make-up, dressing up a bit when we went out, et cetera. But still… nothing. I started feeling even more depressed about the state of my physical self.

A year passed, and then a bit more. And then I decided to get my shit together and change my relationship to food and to my body.

A few days ago, I dyed my hair a reddish-purple color. “I like it,” The Engineir said. I figured that almost counted as a compliment, however small it might be (I was glad he liked it, of course.) That was the first compliment-like thing he’d said, though, since our wedding day. It stings a bit.

It’s not something I felt comfortable approaching him with, either – “Hey, why don’t you compliment me more often?!” I mean… gosh. For someone who’s insecure already, not receiving compliments is pretty much a validation of all of my fears: Of course he’s not giving me compliments… I don’t deserve them. How could anyone find this fat body compliment-worthy? Of course I don’t look “nice” or “pretty,” I look like a fat girl who is either a.) wearing too-loose clothing to cover up the fat rolls, thereby exacerbating the problem, or b.) wearing normal-fitting clothes and has the telltale fat rolls flying in living color.

Worse than not receiving compliments would be receiving fake or pity compliments. <shudder>

 If I complain about not being complimented, he’ll feel like he has to compliment me, even if he doesn’t mean it, and then I’ll just have to shoot myself in the head.

Anyhow. All of that was a long way of saying, “maybe if I lose weight, my husband will think I’m pretty,” which is another reason to keep at the hard work.

It is work, too.

Most days, I have a protein shake for breakfast and lunch, some type of carby pre-workout snack, and a whole food dinner. Most days.

Yesterday, for example, I went on an eight-hour motorcycle ride with a couple of friends, and we stopped at a small-town pizza joint for lunch. They had no healthy or gluten-free options, so I went with the flow and ate 3/4 of a 10-inch pizza. It was what it was (damned tasty!)

If I plan things out carefully, I can eat a pretty decent set of meals, as I did on this day (I also earned about 550 extra calories from exercise here:)

Or, if I don’t think things through, I can blow a bunch of calories in stupid places and have to make up for it with more exercise or less food (no exercise on this day, but some unwise food choices:)

Before today, I had lost 7 pounds, plus 1 inch from my waist and 1.5 inches from my hips – not bad. Not as “insta-progress” as my impatient self might want, but it’s progress. This morning, though, I had gained back nearly 2 pounds. Argh! I know it will come back off again, and probably soon, but it’s still discouraging.

Many will say “don’t weigh yourself every day; do it weekly, heck even monthly!” But it’s hard to walk past the scale without hopping on “just to check.” Maybe I’ll put the scale away someplace out of sight, but the urge to know is pretty powerful.

I haven’t been keeping any self-destructive treats in the house, which surely helps in the discipline department, but there are indeed times when I get Serious Cravings. Sometimes they’re easily put to bed by a stevia-sweetened lemonade, other times they just sit and fester and suck.

I’ve been religiously tracking my food and exercise on My Fitness Pal, which is a tool I really recommend. My daily calorie goal is 1200, to which I can add more by working out. 1200 calories is a pretty fair number if I’m only having shakes for breakfast and lunch, and am careful about dinner portions and content. I did have to drop drinking milk most of the time, though, which is a huge bummer. At 160 calories for 8 ounces, that’s a significant portion of my daily allotment. On the plus side, though, we’re spending a lot less on milk (and actually, other food, too) these days.

Thus far, I’ve only exceeded my calorie goal on one day, and thermodynamics dictates I will have to lose weight if I am diligent in sticking to it.

The goal, however, remains firmly in mind – a body I’m not ashamed of. That’s a powerful motivator.

I spend a fair amount of time being “somewhat hungry,” but I seldom get to the point of Really Uncomfortably Hungry. I seriously do look forward to dinner, though!

The Engineir had a birthday recently, and to celebrate we went up north to Ludington, Michigan. This is a lovely spot, right on Lake Michigan, with beautiful, sandy beaches. Naturally, since it was right around the fourth of July, all of the beaches were jam-packed with sun-bathing, lake-swimming, tanned people, many of whom were just fantastically fit, and didn’t seem to have a care in the world sporting their swimwear. How I envied them.

I think I have always assumed it comes easy to The Randomly Slender Folks, but of course some of them work really hard at staying fit; it just looks like an effortless state of being.

While it’ll probably be a year  (perhaps longer,) before I can be among the number of happy swimsuit people, every day is a part of the journey toward that goal.

It’s been hot as blazes here in Michigan for the last several weeks – temperatures averaging between 90 and 100, and we’re having one hell of a drought to boot. Scary times, climatologically, but we can talk about that later.

When it’s over 85 degrees, I don’t do well exerting myself outside; I become tachycardic and nauseated. Thus, I wasn’t able to ride the bike and get my regular cardio workout. My metabolism needs to be kicked in the ass; dieting alone or exercise alone doesn’t do the trick anymore.

So, after much internal debate, I joined a local 24/7/365 gym. I figure $29.99/month is a pretty fair deal, especially if it helps me to reach my goal faster, and maintain it once I get there. It’s a monthly investment to make sure I’m doing what I need to do. I’m really digging the air-conditioned gym environment, but I do get bored on the equipment more quickly than on the bike.

The gym has nice, new machines which are easy to operate and which allow me to vary what I’m doing when I inevitably get bored. I’ve spent a lot of time on the treadmill (4 mile per hour pace typically, with occasional jogging for a few minutes (ick,)) and I’ve been incorporating some elliptical training, too. The elliptical kicks my ass, incidentally; I’ve only been able to do it for 10 minutes thus far without wanting to puke.

Saturday, I started doing some light weight-lifting, too; leg curls and extensions, bicep curls, hip ab/adduction. My fitness gurus assure me I’ll burn more calories at rest when I have more muscle, and my physiology coursework would seem to agree with them.

I’m finding tools to help me to my goals. I’ve been using Endomondo (a workout tracking site) since I took up bicycling a year and a half ago, and two days ago, my FitBit arrived. This is a handy little clip-on device with an accelerometer and altimeter to help track how active I am during the day, and includes steps taken, calories burned, flights of stairs climbed, and has a sleep quality algorithm built-in.

It’s nearly 3pm, so I should head over to the gym before the post-work crowd makes me feel even more self-conscious and uncomfortable…

…And we’re back – the gym was nearly deserted, thank goodness. I really detest being the obviously out-of-shape newbie, even though everyone there has been very friendly. It’s all my own baggage weighing me down (figuratively and literally, I suppose.)

Now, to figure out some healthy but hopefully tasty thing for dinner, so The Engineir doesn’t have to feel like he’s on the diet with me.

Dietary Choices, Fitness, Health, Lifestyle , , , , ,

Endurance Motorcycling, Endurance Eating

Yesterday morning at 6am, I left home to meet up with two motorcycling friends. We were attempting to do an Iron Butt Association certified Saddle Sore 1000 – meaning we would ride 1000 documented miles on our motorcycles within 24 consecutive hours.

Here is one of the guys I rode with (and his bike,) and we only had 250 miles to go! I was not nearly this bright-eyed and bushy-tailed 1 hour after this photo was taken, but he and I finished – woohoo!

Read more »

Miscellaneous

Being Less Fat – Part Deux

In my last post, I recounted my frustrations with being fat. I’m tired of being this way, of not being able to at myself in the mirror without feeling sad, disgusted, disappointed.

A good (male) friend of mine wrote this to me yesterday: “Interesting what we use for inspiration. My moment of truth was when I sprinted down some steps and realized my boobs were giggling. I can live with a beer belly, but I don’t want tits. “

That made me laugh out loud, but of course I feel his pain. On occasion, I can feel a chin giggle a bit, or (more often) I feel the back of my hips wobbling. Ugh.

The Engineir’s comments about how quickly I apparently eat pushed me over the edge from contemplating taking action (which I’ve been doing for a month now,) into taking it. It’s hard to get motivated to do something having tried really hard previously… and failed. Still, I’m having at it. Applying my stubbornness to my own advantage.

Read more »

Dietary Choices, Fitness, Food, Health , , ,

Food Diary…ing…

Let me be clear: I hate food diaries.

Food diaries, sleep diaries, anything of that ilk just irritates me.

But ok, alright – I have to use the tools available to me to get to my goal. It wouldn’t make much sense trying to cut a straight line without a carpenter’s square and expect to have perfect results. FINE.

Many friends have recommended My Fitness Pal as a great online fitness tool. It’s a free site which allows us to track food consumption, exercise, body measurements, body weight, and more. I’ve only been using it for the afternoon, so I don’t yet have a solid, informed opinion, but here’s what I can tell you: Read more »

Fitness, Health, Product Recommendations , ,

FAT – and not the good kind

Things have been quiet around the ol’ blog lately, and while I’m sure none of you has been pining away wondering “where oh where has Erin gone,” it weighs on me when I go so long without posting. Summer is a busy time, particularly when there are motorcycles involved. The garden is largely in tatters (thanks to deer and groundhogs) or overgrown to hell and gone (thanks to an abundant crop of weeds.)

But rather than homesteady/failure posts today, I want to tell you about something I’ve been very very good at doing for a long time.

The primary thing I have been doing for, oh, about the last five years is getting fat.  While I have struggled with weight previously, I managed to get down to my ideal weight and into pretty good shape in my mid-thirties. Apathy and procrastination led to the weight all coming back – Every Last Damn Pound, and then some.

Read more »

Dietary Choices, Fitness, Food, Health, Product Recommendations , , ,

The Right (Fermentation) Stuff

Lately, there’s been some controversy surrounding at-home fermentation and whether it’s safe. I’m not going to comment on that here, other than to say millennia of fermentation experience by everyday people suggests home fermenting is Just Fine.

While the fancy-schmancy Harsch crocks are wonderful, not everyone can afford to spend $125+ on them, and that’s ok. Unless you’re trying to heal a seriously damaged gut, or unless you have extreme allergies to mold or yeast, fermenting in plastic pails, Mason jars, et cetera, will work great.

I’ve been fermenting various things for a few years, which is by no means a comprehensive experience, but during that time I’ve learned some important lessons.

Two Important Fermentation Lessons

The tidbits which spring most immediately to mind are these:

1.) Temperature is key to effective fermentation.
2.) Metal coming into contact with mother cultures causes damage to them.

The first issue is easily resolved by a.) finding a spot with the appropriate temperature in your house, varying by season, (top of the fridge, in the basement/root cellar, over a heating duct,) or b.) using a device to actively or passively modify the temperature (germination mat, cooler with warm or cold water.)

The second requires the correct equipment. For months, I strained my dairy kefir grains through a metal strainer. The grains created kefir, to be sure, but they did not proliferate. They never grew, never created new, baby grains.

This changed abruptly when I switched to a nylon mesh strainer. Within weeks of switching to a non-metallic strainer, my grains became fat and happy. They got fat and happy, created many new kefir mother grains, and began fermenting quarts of kefir faster than I could consume them. Who knew a few seconds being rubbed against a metal strainer could make such a difference?

Well, now I do.

In the slider below, I share some of the best fermentation equipment I have found thus far. You can work through the slides by clicking on the light blue suede panels.

[SLIDER-ZONE-(4)]

Miscellaneous

Guest Post: How I Became a Homebrewer

My brother-in-law, Jay, is a homebrewing fanatic. He produces some really excellent beer, and a wide variety of it. His website, kruskis.com, is a continual source of mouth-wateringly delicious-sounding reviews of beer and bourbon, tips for the at-home brewmeister, his adventures in smoking and BBQ, and little vignettes of the world he shares with his wife, Stacey (who takes most of the photos on the site.)

Without further ado, here’s my bro-in-law!

~ Erin

How I became a Homebrewer

A photo of Jay in a Beer Ranger cutoutHello Homestead Geek-ers, and thank you Erin for having me as a guest author.  To be honest I am not much of a homesteader but I am an avid homebrewer.  By trade, I am an Acoustic Engineer, focused on developing premium audio systems for cars.   By passion, I am a food-loving beer-geek who loves learning and is always willing to give something new a shot.  I am here today to tell you a little story of how I got my start into the rewarding hobby of homebrewing.
Read more »

Fermented Foods, Guest Post , , ,