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The DIY Guy

I’m a kind of “do it yourself” kind of guy.

A lot of guys don’t like to cook or grocery shop. To me, doing the shopping and/or cooking means I get to eat more of what I like. Call me crazy. If you can’t cook yourself a meal your missing one of the basic skills in life. There is always something new at the grocery store to try.

I’ve had a garden since I bought my first house over 20 years ago. I like going out to the garden and picking some food for dinner, or to make salsa or sauce. Nothing better than fresh. We have had dinners where every veggie on our plates was picked within the last hour. I don’t have much luck with salad, but I’m getting pretty good with tomatoes.

garden, self sufficient,DIY food
Fresh garlic

Fresh garlic is awesome stuff. The flavor is unbelievable. If the stuff in a jar is good for you, the stuff right out of the dirt has got to be even better. Garlic, onions, tomatoes and basil from the garden make a great fresh sauce. Late in the year I have bell peppers.

To me, summer isn’t over until I’ve picked the last tomato. With a few sheets of plastic and a little mulch I can often keep my plants going well into October.

Last year we had potatoes out of the compost pile! They grew all by themselves. All I did was water them when I did the rest of the garden.

For most of us, our ancestors were farmers at one time or another. Having a garden in my back yard is my way of keeping a bit of family tradition going. The smell of the soil and the feel of the dirt under my bare feet is something my father felt and our great-great grandfathers felt. The soil is part of our bond.

I have built up the soil at our current home over the past 10 years. The dirt that came with the house was not garden quality soil. I’ve brought in two loads of composted manure which really helped to build up our garden and flower beds. The traditional way of enhancing the soil is still the best way.

I also like to brew my own beer. I’ve got a long way to go before I can make anything as good as Sam Adams, Harpoon or Smuttynose. But it’s fun trying! There are only four ingredients in beer/ale: water, malt, hops and yeast. The variety of hops and malt, or malted grains, is vast. Even making changes to the water can change the flavor of your brew.

I brew at a basic level and don’t mess around with water chemistry. I do love my hops and like to try different varieties. My last batch had 5 different hop varieties in it. The great thing about brewing is that you rarely mess up so badly that you can’t clean up your mess. And, the more you drink the more often you get to try another batch. It’s a tough job!

IPA, Ale, brewing,diy beer
Active fermentation

Brewing beer can be time-consuming and it does create a distinct odor in the house. Hobbies are supposed to fill your free time with enjoyment. Creating the wort, the boiled malt and hops, can take a few hours. It takes time to get two gallons of water to boil.

You have to pay attention during the boil. Many recipes require you to add hops at different points in the boil. You don’t have to be precise but you can’t be off by 5 or 10 minutes. Then you have a different brew all together.

Many years ago when I first starting brewing my pot boiled over, in a very big way. Not only did the boil-over extinguish my gas burner but it over flowed the stove and poured onto the floor. It was so bad that the wort leaked through the floor into the basement! Fortunately the basement was not finished at the time. I cleaned it up, but the wife was not happy!

One of the many great things about brewing your own beer is that you become familiar with the different flavors in beer. You come to understand where the flavors come from and appreciate the subtleties of different styles. It’s like being a musician or chef, you can discern the individual components of a song or a meal. You can sense the irony or humor in a song or on a plate. You can also just listen, eat or drink and enjoy the sensational experience.

I’m not really a car guy, but over the past few years I’ve started doing more of my own maintenance. Why pay $75 for an oil change when I can do it for half that price. Recently I bought a 1.5 ton jack so that I can do brakes and other more involved work. The jack that came with my car is a widow maker for sure. How can BMW sell a $40,000 car with a $10 jack? The things are freakin treacherous.

Now that I have a semi-pro jack I’ve tackled brakes. I watch the DIY videos on YouTube and other DIY sites. Then I go look at my car and scratch my head. There must by 5 million BMW 325*.* cars on the road. Are they all that different? I guess it’s part of the challenge. My car never looks quite like the car in the video. Or the bolt is a different size. Or they skipped a crucial step.

BMW, maintenance, DIY auto repair
Replacing the e-brake – step 1.

I try not to get too comfortable with when the car is on the jack. It’s not like I know what I’m doing. Caution is the key to safety. I bought the 1.5 ton jack because last year my car fell off of the jack that came with my car. That was a “holy shit” moment. My leg could have been under there. Fortunately I had a wheel under the car to keep it from going all the way down. Still, it was a wake up call. I needed to upgrade my equipment.

I know a lot of people don’t like to do maintenance work on their car. It is dirty, can be dangerous and requires learning something new. I’m still trying to figure out most of the features on my smart phone. For me, it is a great feeling to be able to go back under the hood to do a job the second time and know my way around. Building on my experience and knowledge I can do more complex work.

Hobbies should be fun, challenging and provide learning experiences. Running teaches me a lot of things. My DIY hobbies teach me other lessons and provide a great deal of satisfaction.

Besides running, what types of hobbies do you enjoy?

Live well my friends,


© 2014 anagelin

Home Brewing

Home Brewing Time!

I started this project the Saturday before the Boston Marathon. Everyone was out of the house that day so I took my opportunity to boil a batch of wort. No one in my house likes the smell of hops and malt.

It took a little over a day before the yeast became active. Then it just took off and fermented vigorously. The little cap on the top of the bubbler kept getting blown off and I’d hear it bouncing across the basement tile.

home brewing, hobbies
Active fermentation

This picture was taken as the fermentation was just taking off. Later that day the bubbler was full of wort and the cap to keep air out was bouncing across the floor!

This is a great project to have going while training for a marathon. After I spent a few hours making the wort and setting up the 5 gallon carboy, there wasn’t much to do except watch and take a whiff from the top of the bubbler!

My whole basement smelled like a glass of IPA for almost two weeks. I’d come home from work, sit down at the computer and almost instantly have a craving for an IPA. It was crazy.

Since I was in taper mode and needed my carbs, I did tend to have one IPA per day. When drinking a substantial ale, I usually find that one is enough. There are times when several beers or ales taste great, but for just kicking around the house it’s usually one for me.

IPA, fermentation, home brewing
Fermentation has ceased
Fermentation has ceased

While fermentation looks to be complete, it’s always a good idea to check the specific gravity of the wort. You want to make sure that most of the sugar has been fermented. This keeps your bottles from blowing up during the curing process. The yeast needs some sugar for conditioning, but too much can make a mess and can be dangerous.

In my old house I had a closet where I would put the bottles for conditioning. It was cool in the summer and kept them away from the kids. It’s not that they were interested in the ale, but kids are curious. I didn’t want them picking up a bottle to look at it and then dropping in the cement floor. Or worse, having them near a bottle when it exploded. Sometimes while I was watching TV upstairs I would hear a bottle explode!

When we moved out of our house I found a lot more glass in that closet than I had expected. I thought I had picked things up as they happened, but apparently not. Fortunately, no one was hurt.

For this batch, I’ve placed the bottles in a heavy cardboard box and put them in the garage. The temperature should be fairly constant, around 50-55F. I also put a 10lb bag of salt on top of the box in case something happens.



Run well my friends,


© anagelin 2014