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Home Brew

Beer 2

Brewing my own beer is something I’ve wanted to do for a long time, but I’ve always been really daunted by it. (I guess I’ve heard one too many stories about bottles exploding in the garage!) It wasn’t until a friend lent me his brewing kit a couple of weeks ago that I finally plucked up the courage to give it a go.

Beer Ingredients

Reuben Making Beer

I wanted to keep the process as simple as possible for my first attempt at home brew, so I used a can of malt extract (rather than whole grains) to make the base of the beer. After sterilising everything, I added the water and yeast to the extract and wrapped it all up in a towel to keep it warm. I was pretty lucky that the temperature was pretty ideal for brewing, but I borrowed a heat lamp from Katie’s mum just in case it got a bit chilly. Every afternoon when I got home from work I’d check on my beer and see the fermenter happily bubbling away. Then, after almost a week, it was time to bottle it up. I borrowed a bottle capper from a friend and filled all the bottles I had on hand, but I had made so much I ended up filling 12 mason jars as well. Then I just had to let the beer condition. I was so excited to try my brew, waiting for the beer to be ready was the longest 2 weeks of my life!

Beer 1

Reuben with Beer

Finally, on the weekend I was able to try the beer! I had one of my favourite store bought beers and then one of my own, and I actually preferred the home brew. So I’d call that a success! I was a little worried about how the beer in the mason jars would turn out but we cracked one open and it was great. Each one holds almost a litre so they’re a bit big to drink in one go, but they’ll be perfect for sharing.

I’ve loved learning how to brew beer. We’ve shared a lot of this batch with friends so I’m already planning my next brew and this time I plan to do the whole thing from scratch. For now though, I’m really enjoying being able to kick back with a beer I made with my own two hands!

Have any you ever attempted making beer? I’d love to hear some home brew stories.

Reuben

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Simple Living Our Own Way

Chooks

When Reubs and I were living in Sydney and began daydreaming of a “simpler life” we had hazy ideas of a veggie patch and keeping chickens and escaping the daily grind. In my fantasies I saw myself self-employed with a little creative business, growing and preparing all our own food, sewing our clothes and op-shopping for everything else we needed. Our cute little house in the country would be decorated with crochet blankets and vintage trinkets. We’d have a wood stove that I’d bake all of our bread in, and a pantry full of home grown and preserved food and homemade soap… It was a lovely, albeit romanticised and idealised, dream.

Homegrown and Homemade

A few years on we have achieved some of the things I dreamt of, but other things are a long way off and some will likely never come to fruition. Sometimes I feel disheartened by the fact we haven’t made all the changes we’d like, and often I feel like we aren’t doing enough. I’ve been reading blogs and books about simple living since the topic first piqued my interest in Sydney, and as much as they inspire me, sometimes they leave me feeling inadequate and overwhelmed. I think a lot of people entertaining the idea of simplifying probably feel that way at times. Like you have to embrace “the good life” completely and make all your own clothes, grow all of your own food, make all of your own cleaning products, knit all of your own dishcloths, make all of your own soap, raise chickens for eggs and a cow for milk and sheep for yarn for all the knitting you must do… Or else you aren’t doing it right. But I have come to realise simplifying is not all or nothing. You can embrace a simple life in a million different ways and it’s ok to take it slow. There is no magic formula for doing this right. There is just doing what is right for you right now, and making an effort to continue making things better for the future.

Homemade Laundry Detergent

At this point in time we are working on growing our own veggies. We have two chooks and plans for more. We have the house in the country and it is full of crochet blankets (though at this point it’s not particularly cute!) We have completely changed our spending habits, paid off our debts (aside from our mortgage) and started saving. We do buy lots of stuff from op-shops. I have started that small home business. We do prepare most of our meals from scratch. We have dabbled with cheese making, home brewing beer and making cleaning products, and though we still buy cheese, beer and cleaning products at this time, we plan to continue practicing those things and over time using less and less of the store bought stuff.

Reuben and Veggie Patch

I’m nowhere near mastering dressmaking, though I hope that one day that will change. I’m still a hopeless knitter and have come to accept that maybe knitting just isn’t for me, so I might have to relinquish that little part of the simple living dream. We haven’t yet had a go at preserving but I know eventually we will, maybe when our fruit trees are bigger and have started producing. Though I’d love to bake all our own bread, 99% of the time we still buy it from the bakery and I’d like that to change. I still buy all of my toiletries and cosmetics and probably always will. I doubt I will ever make soap because, truth be told, I’m just not all that keen on hard soap (it makes my skin dry and leaves soapy bits all over the shower!) I have been meaning to crochet dishcloths for about 2 years and still haven’t.

Butterfly Cakes

And all of that is ok! It doesn’t mean we aren’t doing simple living “right”, it means we are doing what we can and what works for us right now. I tend to be a very “all or nothing” kind of person and either give something 110% or give it up, but I have to remember choosing this lifestyle wasn’t about becoming a shining example of simple living. It was about escaping the cycle of accumulating material stuff for sake of keeping up with the Joneses. It was about living within our means and without debt. It was about having more time. It was about growing and cooking and creating things with our own hands. It was about living a more sustainable, slower, happier life and doing things that brought us joy. And we’re doing that! While our life is a million miles from my fantasy version, it’s also a million times closer to it than my more pessimistic side ever would have allowed me to imagine. Our life is so much simpler, more balanced and happier than it once was. It’s not perfect, but it’s a work in progress.

We’re just simple living our own way.

Katie x

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Summer Abundance

Garden Haul

Zucchinis

Semi Dried Tomatoes

Tomatoes and Basil

Pumpkin

Over the last few weeks our tiny garden has been going crazy! We’ve been eating cherry tomatoes around the clock and have had enough larger tomatoes to semi dry and make a big batch of pasta sauce (both of which we devoured in record time!) I’ve made lots of pesto and have managed to put a few bottles aside in the freezer for the approaching cold months. We’ve eaten a bunch of zucchinis and there are plenty more to come, including a couple that have grown to gigantic proportions. The rainbow chard is still doing well and we’ve had a few lovely cucumbers. Tonight we made veggie enchiladas using our first homegrown capsicums, and we’ve just picked the first of our little pumpkins. Silly Clover pup actually helped with that. This morning I discovered a small half chewed pumpkin in her bed! It was too cute and funny to be cranky with her about it.

All in all, our first summer season has been quite successful! Especially considering we’ve only had two little beds and we’ve taken a rather lazy approach to the whole thing.

I’ve never been much of a summer girl (I don’t like the heat and I’m very partial to cardigans, fireplaces and bowls of soup) but this season, perhaps for the first time, I have been able to really appreciate the garden goodness the warmer months hold. The 40°C days are awful but the homegrown produce is so wonderful!

Over the last week we’ve felt a gentle shift in the weather. It’s still very warm but the early mornings are crisp and some nights there is a real chill in the air. Soon autumn will be here, and though I will embrace the cold weather with open arms, I really will miss the abundance of summer.

Wishing you all a lovely, lovely week ahead!

Katie x

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A Proud Moment

Homegrown and Homemade

I’m interrupting our new once a week posting schedule, just to share a little something that meant a great deal to Reuben and I. Last night we ate our most home produced meal to date. It consisted of homemade pesto made from homegrown basil, homemade feta and homegrown tomatoes on sourdough toast and homemade lemon cordial, made with lemons from my mum’s lemon tree, followed by homemade chocolate slice for dessert. It wasn’t fancy or elaborate but it made us very proud. And I do believe it was the one of the absolute best meals I have ever eaten! In moments like this I feel so grateful for the path we have chosen and so excited for all that lies ahead of us as we continue on this journey.

Today I am making semi dried tomatoes and feeling very content. Life is good.

Katie x

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In Our Kitchen (and a Giveaway!)

Banana Ricotta and Honey on Toast

Making Cheese 2

Ricotta

Making Cordial

Pearl Oyster Mushrooms

Feta

Salads

Cooking

Scones

Thanks to some annoying oven issues, the last couple of months have been a bit quiet in our kitchen. When we moved into this old house we discovered the stove that was here needed to be replaced, as the hotplates worked but the oven did not. Unfortunately we couldn’t afford to replace it right away, so for most of last year we made do with the existing hotplates and a little bench top oven. Then we bought a new stove and we were so excited to get back to normal with cooking, until the gas plumber came to install it and we discovered the new stove was 7mm too wide to fit in the spot where the old one had been, and there wasn’t anywhere else it could go! We didn’t want to pay a fortune to have major structural work done on our kitchen as we hope to replace the whole thing sometime in the next few years, so for a while after we discovered our new stove wouldn’t fit (and we’d already had the old one removed) we had no stove at all while we tried to figure out what to do next. Eventually Reubs just took an electric planer to the cupboard next to the oven space and a hammer to the tiles on the wall beside it, and we jammed the stove in. It’s not pretty but it works, and we are finally back to preparing the nourishing, yummy food we love!

This weekend was particularly productive in our kitchen. Reubs had been talking about making cheese for months and yesterday he finally took the plunge. Using the Deluxe DIY Cheese Kit from Urban Cheesecraft (which was a birthday gift from a lovely friend) and the recipes in the Gourmet Farmer Deli Book he made a great big batch of feta and then used the leftover whey to make ricotta. Both cheeses turned out beautifully! Reubs had the first of his ricotta on toast with banana and honey. The feta is currently soaking in brine in the fridge, but we can’t wait to try it in few days time. While Reuben was working on his cheese, I made some amazing salads, scones and lemon cordial. I used the lemon cordial recipe from What Katie Ate for the first time, and turned it out particularly nicely. So perfect for a warm day.

We’ve also recently had a go at growing gourmet mushrooms! The lovely people at Fungi Culture sent us a Grow Your Own Pearl Oyster Mushroom Kit and it was so much fun to watch the mushrooms grow, then pick and cook them straight from the box. We really had no idea growing such lovely mushies could be so easy. Our mushrooms grew incredibly fast with very little effort and they were ridiculously good on sourdough toast with goats cheese. The really good news is we were also given a second mushroom kit to giveaway! We’ll be using the random number generator to choose the winner from the comments on this post, so if you’d like to have a go at growing your own gorgeous gourmet mushies, just leave us a little something in the comment section.

Grow Your OwnPeal Oyster Mushrooms

What’s been happening in your kitchen lately? Anyone out there had success with making cheese or growing mushrooms? We are thinking that now we’ve gotten started, we need to start experimenting with making some different types of cheese and growing some different varieties of mushrooms, so we’d love to hear your stories!

Katie x

PS Unfortunately, due to customs restrictions, we can only offer this giveaway to Australian readers. Sincere apologies to all our international friends!

Update: This competition is now closed.

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