Monday, August 28, 2017

Barnhart Cider Werks

I'd say I've been experimenting with cider making but it sounds so much better to call it a micro cider brewery, if that's the right word. So, Barnhart Cider Werks it shall be. Yes, Werks, because my last name is Prussian and it's as good an excuse as any and I think it'll make a nice label and home brew sounds weird to my sous chef ears. ...but yes, it's home brew cider. 

I've payed with cider making a few times over the years, it's interesting but I never took it too seriously. I also didn't bother to read enough and lay hands on the appropriate things to make a respectable batch but a few(5 or 6) months ago I worked with a cideridt turned EMT and pestered him for most of an ambulance shift about how to make cider at home. He was frustrated at my relentless questioning. Now I think that was mainly because it's easy. Very easy if you observe lab cleanliness standards. 

The total cost for the first run was well under $20 to make a gallon of cider, roughly 5 750ml bottles. When you consider airlocks, the glass jug, and flip tops bottles can all be reused the investment drops below $1 per 750ml bottle. That's tough to beat. 

I ordered my Saison yeast from Amazon. It calls for 1g per gallon. I sucessfully used a half teaspoon of dry yeast for a gallon batch. Didn't even mix it with water or wake it up. I'm sure that's a good idea but I've got repeat batches that demonstrate all you need to do is sterilize the bottle before opening, wash your hands and prep area before you touch anything and just add the dry yeast to the juice with a measuring spoon. Afterward go ahead and cap the bottle with your airlock and wait. 

It's that easy. 

Within an hour or so it'll be bubbling away.

Your next step is to wait until the cider stops bubbling and clears. That'll take about two weeks but varies with temperature, yeast and sugar content of your juice. 

I've got new flip top bottles coming in the mail. That bumps the equipment budget up $10 but it's six bottles that can be used over and over. I'll save the bottling for another post. 

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Assembling the smithy 

I say assemble because it's early, very early in the process but I'm determined to resurrect the family tradition again in a more formal way than I've kept it alive since moving to San Francisco. There's something appropriate about rebuilding in PA both with respect to history and circumstance. 

So far I've got my anvil, hammers and several small torches. Channel locks will have to do for tongs right now and I still need to scrounge some logs. There's a nice little space out back under an eve on our very neglected garage/cottage. I have to start somewhere and it seems like there's a blacksmiths cooking photo essay or cookbook in there somewhere. 

I'm mostly making a point to put this out in the world so it's harder for me to not do it but im committed to making some version of Butler Forge emerge anew. 

Friday, August 4, 2017

Sous chef redux 

When we arrived in Philadelphia I wasn't sure what I was going to do. Just that I wasn't going to work in EMS as a full time first responder anymore. I don't think I'll ever give up my role as a Coast Guard Auxiliary officer but EMS life is brutal and not exactly family friendly. It's times like these that have historically taken me back to the restaurant world. 

So I asked around, knocked on some doors and found myself in chef Owen Lee's kitchen in the Philadelphia suburbs. I'm learning things, remembering things and getting to explore meditaranian food, something familiar but not an area of expertise for me. Luckily, I love the food! 

I'm not sure where this will go but it's a great place to land while I sort out our new home base. 

I'll try to post a few recipes here and there to share some of what I'm learning and why I keep going back to chef work. 

Thursday, June 29, 2017

The fleet moves to Philadelphia 

...and lessons about moving with too many bicycles. 
I recently relocated to Philadelphia with, and to be closer to, family. Admittedly attached to my velo fleet, I gave thought to, but ultimately moved with all but a couple of them.
I had some intention of letting this vintage Schwinn go but a certain little girl has grown up since our ride to China camp and has fallen for the old machine. It's outlasted so many of its peers, it may just be pedaling around for decades to come.

While the movers were afraid to damage expensive looking carbon fiber parts with Italian names, they weren't afraid to push, move and otherwise maladjust the group on nearly every bike. I suspect it was out of frustration with packing a dozen bicycles.

My beloved CAAD 8 Campignolo/Shimano "bike you can't build" was the first back in order. I haven't gotten it out on the questionable Philadelphia streets yet but I can tell it's lonely up there on the wall looking like art...

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Asmat trophy skull project 

What's that, you ask? It's an Asmat trophy skull in the De Young museum Pacific island collection. There are several tribes in the Pacific Rim that keep trophy skulls. Ancestor skulls to be exact. What's the project? Funny you should ask. 

As an anthropology student and field archaeologist this sort of thing fascinates me. Having seen these in museums from Hawaii to D.C. I've been keen to know about them and quietly thought it'd be cool to own one. That poses a problem here and there. Things like, "How did you convince your family to let you keep a human skull in the house?" Or "Wow that thing must have cost a fortune!" and the perennial, "Is that even legal?" are all valid concerns. 

So I decided I should just build one myself from a realistic skull replica, turkey feathers, raffia and other things similar to what Asmat skulls are adorned with. I mean, if the zoo wouldn't keep their cassowaries under such close watch, I'd surely use those feathers but ultimately I'm one of maybe half a dozen people I know globally (surely there are others?) who even know what one of these things is let alone what feathers it should have or even be able to tell the difference between cassowary and turkey feathers. 

So, with this cache of feathers gathered from our place in California, the project begins. Updates to follow. ...maybe there's an Asmat skull cottage industry waiting to emerge. 

Sunday, August 7, 2016


Just recently I scored a project Triumph! So excited. My first bike, too many years ago, was a Triumph Bonneville. It was a trial. Always breaking down, reliably unreliable but I loved that bike and have lamented selling it since the day I let it go. 

My new project is a 2005 Daytona 955i. A great bike with only 5000 miles on the clock. It's in need of a lot of love but mechanically whole. It'll be a great project that'll change the shape and goals of my VFR.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Updating a VFR 700

I laid hands on a project VFR700 about a year ago. It wasn't and still isn't quite all there but it's mechanically sound and the obvious issues at this point are cosmetic. 

These iconic V4s were great bikes in the late 80s, the 700 winning bike of the year in spite of being 50cc's smaller than its Canadian and European cousins. Even pushing 80K miles mine has plenty of snap in the throttle. 

OEM fairings are both rare and costly for these machines with new manufacture after market fairings being affordable  but still on the costly side. As irony would have it fairings for the venerable race version, the much sought after RC30, are not only readily available but fall in the inexspensive cataegory. 

With effort it's possible to turn something like my VFR into something like Geof Infield's VFR. 

I've already done some small things, making mechanical repairs, changing mirrors, and updating turn signals. It'll be no simple task but I'm looking forward to putting some new life in this old machine. A V4 just has soul, a sound and feel inline engines don't have and grace at higher RPMs where V-twins rattle things apart.