brew masters?

June 26, 2011

because 15 turkeys, 10 chickens, 3 pigs, a large garden, 1 coonhound AND a 3 month old are not enough to keep us busy, the Schmidt’s decided to take on beer brewing.  Yes, we did.  And our goal is to produce  a beer that is actually worthy of the Schmidt name (sorry, current Schmidt beer but you just don’t taste good).  Because we know very little of the art, we decided to order a kit for our first batch.  The lovely thing about a kit is that it contains all the equipment a person would need for future beer-brewing–so while it is an up-front cost (each beer cost a whopping $4…), the next batch we make, having to only purchase the ingredients, will supply us with tasty beer at only $.60 a bottle.  AND, (hope springs eternal) since Andy is currently growing his own hops, our cost will continue to decline until, eventually, our beer will be nearly free.  Bliss! Joy! Penny pinching brilliance! 

removing the grains.

So, as I was saying before, we purchased a kit for an Amber Ale  from Midwest Brewing Co..  It arrived on a very rainy day-the FedEx man hauled the boxes all the way up to our front door, knocked and walked away.  Leaving me, baby in tow, to  pull the boxes in out of the rain.  These were BIG boxes–5 feet long.  And they weren’t light either.  But, I managed and soon, after Andy arrived home, our brewing operation began!  We learned all sorts of new words–carboy, primary fermenter, wort, Hallertau and Fuggle Pellet.  What fun!     A quick run-down of what we did–first, we steeped the grains.  Then we added the malt extract.  Then we cooled the liquid (talk about patience!…this took approximately 6 hours) and added the hops.  This fine concoction then sat in the primary fermenter or Ale Pail for one week at which time my fearless husband siphoned the ale into the glass Carboy or secondary fermenter.  There it sat, getting all yeasty and, as the name implies, fermented.  After another (long) week (his wife was away in Iowa with the baby, leaving him alone to fend for himself, aka lonely nights filled only with macaroni & cheese and the steady snore of  hound dog) Andy bottled the fine brew and capped each bottle with a “snap” and a flourish.  And there it sits, in the spare room which once, before we had the brilliant idea to brew, belonged to baby Sparrow.  (sorry, kiddo–looks like you are hanging out in mom & dad’s room for just a little longer.) In approximately 2 weeks it will be ready to drink.  And hopefully it will be delicious.  If not, well, I hope the pigs like bad beer. 

das bier.

In other news, we are still starting fires in the wood stove.  But its June 23rd, you say!  But, it is officially summer, you say!  But, it was 98 degrees in Minneapolis, you say!  And I say–yes, this is all very true.  But we live in Hovland, MN and, somewhere along the line, our forefathers must have done something to really piss Old Man Winter off because he is determined to over-stay his welcome every year.  Really, he is the guy at the party who keeps the lamp-shade on his head long after it has ceased to be humorous.  He is clueless AND stubborn.  And we don’t like him.

Nevertheless, we still FEEL like its summer in our hearts and are enjoying all the loveliness therein.  We recently let the turkeys out of their coop making them officially, “free range”.  Good for them, not so good for the chickens and hank.  Upon initial release, the chickens all huddled on the front porch, clucking with disapproval at their new yard mates.  Now they just steer clear, hiding in tall patches of grass, ducking under various bits of machinery.   And Hank, poor idiot, just chases the turkeys around the yard.  I’m not sure if he is trying to channel  herding-dog tendencies buried deep in his little dog soul or if he has just lost his mind but, at any rate, the turkeys make him frantic.  Hopefully he will calm to the idea soon, lest we ALL lose our minds. 

“they drive me to fits of insanity!”

Sparrow is exceedingly well.  She turns 3 months tomorrow which I simply cannot believe.  How is this possible?  She and I spent a lovely 2 weeks in Iowa with family.  It was delightful.  Sparrow swam in friend-Dianne’s pool, took many a walk with dog-Molly, had her first camping trip, spent lots of timing wowing grandmas & grandpas with her babbling and, spent the rest of the time sweating.  It was entirely hot & humid, just as Iowa should be.  We had a marvelous time.  Thank you family, for being so wonderful and such a joy to be with. 

bird as duck.



June 8, 2011

remember those homeless turkeys from last week’s post?  i suppose i didn’t fully explain their situation–they weren’t exactly homeless, they were just living in squalor.  What is a turkey’s version of squalor, you might ask?  it is 14 birds, growing faster than the lone whisker on my chin (if any other women have these, you know how fast that is!), crammed into a black plastic container the size of a bathtub.  Over the top of this were window screens–so it looks like they can escape into the wide, wonderful world, only they can’t.  But believe me, they tried.  Over and over and over again.  Walking by the garage (where the den of doom was) you could here these pathetic attempts at gobbling followed by a ‘thwak’–which was, of course, a turkey headbutting the screen for, perhaps, the 200th time that day.  I’ve been told turkeys are quite brilliant so I am forced to believe that this repetitive practice was born, not out of stupidity, but desperation.  They really really needed more space.


SO.  Andy, fearless keeper of the turkeys, answered their plea and spent countless hours building a poultry mansion.  Now, this would be amazing in and of itself, but what is truly amazing is that he did not buy a single piece of lumber for this coop!  Not a one!  As you can see from the pictures, the back wall of the turkey coop is an old highway sign for the Grand Portage Store (gotten perfectly legally, thank you very much).  The roof is tin from an old sawmill down the road from us that was being demolished.  The door is our old picnic table.  The run door is a Gunflint Trail Sign.  And all the other boards he milled HIMSELF from a large spruce tree on our property with the use of his trusty Stihl chainsaw.   And, as if that were not astounding enough, he did all of this during the absolute height of black fly & mosquito season.  He said he practically went stark, raving mad from all the bugs.  And he couldn’t even swat at them, as his hands were constantly busy either manning a chainsaw or a hammer.  That is dedication. 

the sign.

Sparrow & I didn’t help much.  But we did walk down the hill to visit once or twice, always wearing our bug nets (which didn’t help) and always with the intention of quickly leaving.  I have always hated bugs but I have become manic now, convinced that even one mosquito bite might ruin Sparrow’s life forever.  Or at least, might keep me up all at night with her tears.  Which is almost as bad as a ruined life.  So, I spend most of my time swatting bugs & she spends most of her time being oblivious to bugs.  Ignorance is such bliss. 

mother & daughter morons.

holding her first toy.

Even without our help, Andy finished the coop in record time.  He said “i could have finished it in a day instead of a week if i had just bought the stupid lumber…but what fun would that have been?”  Man, he’s a good sport! 

poultry mansion.

And so, the turkeys have arrived.  We carried them upside down by their legs…not exactly the most luxurious means of travel to their new home, and tossed them in on a bed of fresh hay.  They stood right up and looked around and I really do think they were impressed.   Now all they have to do is learn to gobble.


the happy tennants