Not Quite Normal

Wort Pump August 3

Bought a nice new Totton pump from ebay the other day to pump wort around when home brewing. Made a stand for it and wired it up yesterday.

Wort pump

The 'S' in the cable is a simple cable strain relief so pulling on the wire won't pull on the wiring inside the switch.

It's magnetically coupled and food safe. Should help with stuck sparges and save me having to lift full buckets of near boiling liquid.

First all grain brew July 21

Finally got round to doing my first all grain home brew - Old Yella from Barley Bottom.

It went pretty well - the mash tun was the main problem as I'd not cut enough slits in the filter so the runoff stuck, but the boiler and chiller worked very well :)

Things I've learnt:

  • Start early - possibly prepare the water the night before
  • Write down quantities with the instructions on the checklist
  • Spending a little more time on your equipment saves you a lot of hassle later on - see mash tun filter problems
  • You lose a surprising amount to evaporation, trub and deadspace - I lost almost 30%
  • It's better to ferment for longer at slightly cooler temperatures than too quickly at too high a temperature
  • Not everyone loves the smell of mashing grain or boiling hops ;)

I've done a write up of the brew day with photos and added it to the home brewing section.

First things from the vegetable garden July 12

We've recently been harvesting the first vegetables from our vegetable garden. The potatoes have gone a bit mad in the recent mixed sunny and wet weather and are a lot bigger than just a couple of weeks ago.

We dug up one of our second early plants yesterday evening to make a potato gratin and a spanish omelette - here is what we found :)

second early potatoes

These were very tasty and more than enough for what we needed them for.  I've been told to grow Pink Fir Apple next year which are apparently even tastier. 

The beetroot has also started growing well recently so we've pulled a few up already to make pickled beetroot.  Following a simple recipe we boiled the beetroot until soft before skinning them and slicing them, after which we poured over boiling vinegar that had been infused with peppercorns, coriander seed, bay leaf and cloves. 

Here is final result next to another vegetable thats doing well, a big radish from the garden.

Pickled beetroot and a radish

We'll leave it for a few weeks to mature then it's beetroot and cheese sandwiches galore.

Working Lunch June 29

When I first started working for SUSE as a student intern back in 2003, then a 21 year old with a full head of hair, I remember having KFC for lunch 21 (work) days in a row. 

Fast forward to 2006, when I lived with a foodie and started cooking from scratch.  Since then whenever I eat at home I cook from raw ingredients -  no ready meals, no crap but I found my work lunches were still lagging behind my other meals.  Lack of cooking facilities or just the amount of sandwich bars offering adjective laden items for just under a fiver, meant I bought lunch every day - and was usually hungry again come 4pm.

These days, with no trendy sandwich shops near by, I bring leftovers from home.  These started reasonably small - a pot of homemade soup, chilli or Jambalaya - getting gradually larger with the addition of bread or rice, until recently when, with the discovery of the awesome Sainsburys salad bar, they've become something of a feast.

Todays lunch.
Working lunch

Home made chilli, bread, and potato salad using our second early potatoes from our vegetable garden with a small salad from the Sainsburys salad bar.

Total cost - around £2.50 - a lot less than the cost of a KFC, something I wouldn't touch with a barge pole these days, and infinitely tastier.

Adding access control to CATaLOG June 24

In the past few weeks we've been having problems with another cat coming into the house. Rather than invest in a magnetic catflap for £30, I bought a standard RC servo from Heliguy (excellent service btw - free delivery and arrived the next day) for £7 and added it to CATaLOG.

The video below shows it in operation.

The servo is connected to pin 9 of the Arduino, one of two pins which are capable of PWM output without affecting other code, and uses the basic servo library to turn the servo 180 degrees, wait a few seconds, and then turn it back

In the video I push Tuffin's manual in/out button to trigger the servo - in the live code the servo only operates when it detects Bobbin or Tuffin via the RFID reader. The lights you see flashing are the ethernet interface activity lights attempting to send a tweet and update the status :)

It needs a few tweaks to make it completely reliable (don't want the cats getting locked out!), but once it is I'll add a section to the project pages with more details.

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