We post lots of beautiful photos on here of all the things that go well…but we want this website to be a resource for other people making similar changes in their lives, so it’s only fair to acknowledge some of the things that don’t go well.
This shouldn’t be discouraging to anyone setting out to grow/can/brew/etc; with so many projects going on, many of them first tries, these “learning opportunities” are inevitable, and far outnumbered by the successes.
Some notable failures in 2009:
- two 5-gallon batches of undrinkable beer. The prime suspect is over-hopping with a hops rated at several times the bitterness of what I normally use
- 3 out of 4 bottles of Oregon Grape wine, and 1 bottle of blueberry wine exploded during aging. Likely cause: bottled too soon, before the yeast had eaten all the sugars, and/or reusing corks and hammering them in with a rubber mallet instead of getting a corker
- potato yield this year looks to be only about twice the weight of the seed potatoes I planted in spring; plants grew well for a few months, then started yellowing and dying. A few survive, but are weak. Possibly underwatered out of fear of creating a moldy mess in the straw mounds, possibly a fungus. Next year, all taters will be planted on the other end of the property, just in case.
- About 1/3 of the biggest, healthiest onions have disappeared. Varmints are supposed to stay away from such strong-smelling plants, but not our little moles/gophers/whatever the little @#$%ers are, oh no, they devour the entire onion and you find the onion tops protruding from a hole in the ground
- blueberry bushes: 2 near-dead, 2 totally gone. Moral: if you want to plant small blueberry bushes, don’t do so where your chickens are hanging out; the mounded, mulched earth is apparently irresistible for scratching.
- 3 of the 4 goat babies have scurs (irregular horn growth after unsuccessful removal). We went with the popular wisdom for this first batch, which is to dehorn (“disbud”) them while very young. Basically you sear and cauterize the little bumps that would become horns. It’s a few seconds of pain and then they’re back to bouncing around, so it it worked flawlessly we might continue to do it, but when it doesn’t work you just get small, deformed horns, and we’ll probably let future generations keep their natural headgear. It’s likely that I was too worried about burning the kids’ heads and didn’t do a thorough enough job of it, but I’ve seen plenty of goats disbudded by far more experienced goat keepers that still have scurs.
- 1 baby chick taken by rats. I poured a couple of inches of concrete for the chicken coop floor, but I left enough of a gap in one corner that rats managed to squeeze in and steal a chick.
- You’ll notice we haven’t posted about our honeybees in a while. they’re gone, and it’s still kind of sad. maybe next year
- liquid cheese – I was making a batch of quickie-faux-mozzarella recently. All was going well; it was almost done when I @#$%ed it up. One of the final steps is to soak long pieces of the half-finished cheese in 170 degree brine and stretch it like taffy. It started firming up a little sooner than I wanted, so I grabbed the teapot and splashed in just a little boiling water. The cheese immediately dissolved, and no amount of straining, cooking, etc. could make Humpty Dumpty edible again.
I’m sure I could find plenty of other screw-ups and strokes of bad luck, but this could get depressing…I think I’ll have to go sample one of the wines that DIDN’T explode…