Buy your brewing supplies here

We now have a range of base and specialty malts for sale. A catalog and new website is coming soon. Let us know what you need and we will sell it to you or special order it for you. Please bear with us during this initial stage and we will have the full service shop available in no time.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Need to Plan: Planning to Need

We are all getting a little bit antsy about what we will do and when to do it.  I know we will grow a fair amount of hops, but we will probably start small with a couple of desirable varieties to see what performs well.  I have made some good contacts and found various examples of others starting hopyards.  This is encouraging and may be a source of information along the way.  I am also learning, via this blog, of local people that are doings things in the local food movement or in the craft beer movement.  This is encouraging and it is nice to see that others are actually looking at this blog and are interested.
I received a comment and communication from a group in Carbondale called Food Works that is promoting "local food systems development for southern Illinois".  They are working on a community food assessment (CFA) for the region.  Even more exciting for us is their intent to develop a New Farmer Training Program.  This is modeled on the Central Illinois Farm Beginings program, which I believe has connection in some way with the training system at Angelic Farms in Northern Illinois.  There is a very interesting and inspiring (to us at least) movie about the development of this CSA farm.  If you haven't seen it I encourage you to check it out.  It is also available on Netflicks.  Seeing the film makes me wonder a little what our neighbors think about us?  And while I am making film recommendations, another excellent film that I recommend seeing is Food Inc.  This film is available on iTunes, netflix and Amazon.  [Warning:  It will make you want to eat vegetarian organic food (though it is not anti-carnivore).] 

In any case, I am excited that these food developments are occurring in my neighborhood, so to speak, and I hope we are able to benefit from and contribute to these efforts.

The blogosphere is such a great way to learn about others with similar interest.  I actually can't remember how we used to do things before the internet and Google.  A blog I have begun to follow with interest is a new hop yard in Rhode Island, Ocean State Hops.  They started a small operation about three years ago with 3 plants and will have 350 this year.  Their situation seems close enough to ours to be inspiring. 

I'll also report that I have been reading a couple of books that are very helpful.  There are actually not that many books about growing hops and for Christmas the wife bought me a copy of "The Home Brewers Garden".  I wish I would have had this book a long time ago.  It not only has an extensive section on growing and utilizing homegrown hops, but also talks about homegrown grains and malting.  That is something that I have always thought about but assumed you would need tens of acres to produce enough barley to be worth it.  It turns out that a garden size plot is enough to be useful to the home brewer.  Wouldn't it be cool to brew beer from ingredients grown on your own land?  But wait, isn't that what Jefferson and many of the founding fathers did?

In closing, I'll share an image taken today on Windy Hill in full winter mode.  We actually got a decent covering of snow and the kids and I worked on a snowperson.  We got a little carried away and the middle section was actually too heavy for us to pick up.  Then I remembered the words of the Kubota salesman, "people swear they can't live without a front end loader once they have can't even imagine the uses".  Three minutes later we have the 3' diameter snowball strapped to the bucket and mounted on the other snowball. 

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Thoughts for Haiti!

Today not much seems important other that the welfare of the People of Haiti.  I made a donation this morning through the Clinton Foundation.
You may also give easily by texting "HAITI” to "20222".  $10 will be given to the Clinton Foundation's Haiti Relief Fund,  charged to your cell phone bill.  

Monday, January 11, 2010

Cold Day on Windy Hill

It was cold and snowy day on Windy Hill.  We got several inches of snow and a cold wind.  I was able to use the tractor to plow the driveway clear.  Might not have been necessary, but what the heck!  Have tractor will plow.  I was thinking about last year when I literally spend most of a day with shovel trying to get our cars out.  The sheep farmer across the road finally came to my assistance and plowed it.  In any case I can report that the Kabota moves snow quite nicely. 

I don't have much additional to report at this point, except that I made a good contact through a yahoo hops group.  There is a relatively new hops farm that has started up in Colorado, Rising Sun Organic Farms.    I think they are in something like their 3rd year and they currently have about 9 acres in hops.  It appears they are selling to and working with the New Belgium Brewing company, which is an inspiring company that seems to have done things right.
This is their current sustainability report.  This is inspiring and encourages us to produce our hops and food not only organically, but in a sustainable, low impact manner. 

I already have visions of solar dryers and bio-diesel.  Thank you Professors Dennis Scanlin and Jeff Boyer of Appalachian State University's Sustainable Development Program for teaching me the basics of solar technology back in the early 90s.

More to report soon.....but I will leave with an interesting image of Wind Hill showing our wind and weather recently.  I don't recall ever seeing such gravity defying icicles.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

The Catalyst for Change

The catalyst for change here on Windy Hill came in the form of hurricane force winds in a May 2008 storm.  We were out of town at the time and only experienced the aftermath.  There were apparently 80-110 mph winds sustained for nearly an hour.  They were straight line winds, not to be confused with a tornado.  The type of storm is called a derecho, which apparently means straight in Spanish.

Fortunately the damage to our house was comparatively minimal and only the top of a tree hit our house.  We did loose a solar panel,
the roof to my shop and a bunch of trees.  Basically, the place looked like a wreck for a while as we decided how to repair and whether to upgrade the shop, etc.  It also took a long while to process and move all the downed trees.  Still have a lot to do, in fact.  Here is a photo of the log and brush pile we have going.

It is hard to tell the scale, but the loges at the end are hard maple that is about 18-20 inch in diameter.  These are beautiful and we hope to get them milled for making some furniture.  They are curly maple that has a nice spalt to it at this point.

In any case, it was the process of crawling out of storm damage that lead to our current plans.  Maybe something of hitting rock-bottom as a property owner.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Plans for the New Year

This new years period is even more contemplative than most.  We must decide what to plant and where.  We are pretty sure we will do a small plot of some type of hops....but where to locate it.  And what else to plant?   Jen will establish her vermicultural beginnings and grow some veggies.  Ada has plans to sell herbs at the coop and the farmers markets.  We worked out a deal where she can earn some starting capital by cleaning the inside of the cars each week.  She worked out the math and has big plans.

We have to figure where to put what as well.  A schematic of our property is shown above.  The Northwestern and southwestern areas have been mowed as lawn for the past 10+ years.  We let the southwest plot go wild for a couple of years and the central plots have not been touched by anything but the coyotes and deer for 10 years and fed a few cattle before that with previous owners.  George has taken the planning phase very seriously.

In the latter part of the 2009 we bought a 26 HP Kabota to begin taming the fields.  Aside from satisfying some deep-seated need/desire, it has been immensely useful, especially with the front end loader.

We also bought a bush hog and I have now cut all of the fields that hadn't been mowed in years.  Looks very nice now...almost agricultural!  More to come soon......

ps  I read in my hop book that an established plant in decent soil can grow 30' in one season!!!!  Talk about literally watching something grow.