Thursday, March 10, 2011

Score! Brewery Mod..

Went to the dump the other day and found a set of kegs off to the side, that apparently had been owned by a homebrewer before me, because they had the tops cut out already and one of them even had a ball valve and, get this, a stainless steel false bottom installed in it. What the! I grabbed that thing in about 3 seconds flat and it was in my car, paid for, and we were out of there in no time. When I got home, this is what I had:

After that, it was a matter of taking apart my existing mash/lauter tun and reconfiguring mine to essentially be just like this one, but with this SS false bottom installed in my kettle. Why not just use this kettle? This one has a weldless ball valve installed and it was a 3/8ths size, whereas I use 1/2 stuff throughout. The conversion was easy enough though.. here's a pictorial of the conversion:

Parts needed. Total $2.45
Gut the old setup..
Dip tube construction..

Add a collar to stop the false bottom from floating up.. 
Stopper demonstrated
Finished install!
Now, I just need to brew with the thing.. direct fire RIMS system achieved!

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Quick update.. big change!

Made a big change to the operation today. My Jalapeno's are coming up all leggy, stretching for the lamps.. knew I had to get 'em higher up to the lamps quick, but with the other big plants under there, something had to go. So, with that in mind.. I went out and found the ol' chicken heat lamp setup in the garage and figured I'd give that a whirl. I hooked up this lamp to the same timer as the T5's so they'll all go on and off at the same time, and now I've got this:

The whole propagator got moved up to the lamps again like its supposed to be, and the big jalapeno's and basil got moved off to the left side there, under the chicken lamp, which now has a 23w florescent light bulb in it. Like this:

Once I had the propagator up there, I left it alone for a while to see how things would go.. I just went to check on it a sec ago after a couple hours in its new location and saw the leaves of the peppers starting to curl back, so I figured I'm too close.. so I just dropped 'em back down a couple inches and we'll see how that goes now.

In other news, here's the back yard as it stands.. still thawing:

Monday, March 7, 2011

Garden update: trouble with transplants!

So here's the overall view of the stuff so far. Still all peppers so far.. hot peppers, that is. I'll be putting some bell peppers in a propagator later today, but they're not in here yet.  You can maybe see I still didn't have the heart to toss those Jalapenos, and in fact potted them up into HUGE pots (well, comparably..) they're like, 5 inch diameter pots, I think they call 'em 1 gallons.. not sure though. I had to prop up the whole propagator setup on a few 2x4's to get 'em even close to the lamps. No sign still from the Habaneros, and the Fatalii's are still sleeping as well. I have had mucho success with the new batch of Jalapenos so far with 17 of the 18 planted seeds germinating just fine, and I think 80% of the Hot Cherries have also popped up as well.

Overall of the curent setup..
Here's a closeup of the Hot Cherry peppers that I pulled out of the paper towel germination cup setup that i had going on. I was using that method that I'd heard good things about to test germination rates and just get a feel for how that operation worked. I learned a couple of things. One, it's super easy to set that whole thing up and running, literally wet a small piece of paper town and put some seeds on it, then cover it up so the stuff doesn't dry out and you're done. Like yeah, that fast and easy. I also learned that stuff germinates super fast when you can see the rootlet popping from the seed casing after just a few days.. I would say, if you don't have a fancy self watering propagation setup like mine, or the APS units I've seen on the 'net in various places that are so popular, I'd say the paper towel idea is a good bet, because it keeps the seeds evenly moist and then you can tell for sure which ones are going to pop out and then you can transplant some known good seedlings. The downside that I found was that pulling the tiny little delicate buggers off the paper towel was a bit of a pain in the neck, and then getting them situated in the new seed starting media in the six-pack style containers was also a chore. I did it with these five plants just fine, but there was a bit of swearing and carrying on involved. I'll say it was a *lot* easier just pricking out the other seedlings from my dirt propagator setup from the Super 7 and transplanting those guys. That was seriously no brainer work. I also have some to the conclusion that if they won't pop up in the Super 7, they're just not going to pop at all. I thought maybe the original Hab's in there were unhappy in the machine there, so I tried the paper towel method with 10 seeds.. I have yet to have one open up. Clearly, my Habanero seeds are shot this year.. which, come to think of it, are really last years seeds. So, yeah.. I lucked out with one good one, but that looks like all the habanero's I'm gonna get this time unless I go buy some started plants. Then again, who really needs more than one habanero plant.. sheesh!

Hot Cherry transplants

And finally, here's a glimpse of the huge (heh.. yeah) pots I put the Jalapeno's into in the back left corner here, and you can just catch a view of the little Habanero in the lower right corner. Still looking good right there! There's actually pods forming on the Jalapenos now.. and I'm not sure that's a good thing for them to be doing at this early stage of the game. I think they got stressed out along the way and they're making a break for it with seeds now. I guess I screwed those guys up a bit.. well, that was the whole point of this experiment in January anyway, right? To learn a thing or two for the real event..

Big Jalapeno's back there.. tiny Habanero up front on the left.