Pseudonyms and Hiatuses

For the few that actually follow me, I’ve taken a hiatus to prep for NaNoWriMo, our holiday fundraisers, and winter in general (even a small hobby farm needs lots of prep).  So my current absence will be the norm for now.

And if you’re thinking “Who the hell is Eliza?!”–I’ve also changed my name–I do go under a pseudonym here, which used to be the generic Anna Smith.  But I’m not generic, and a recent visit to my family and being shown a family tree I constructed decades ago, I decided to use my great-great grandmother’s name.  Appears she had a part in settling Salt Lake City (if only as a relocated resident) and may have been a polygamist’s wife.  While I’m non-religious and no longer in Utah, the name seemed to fit.

Originally using a pseudonym was to keep my partner from finding my blog and getting upset for me sharing about our relationship (I have a lot of things to get off my chest and nowhere to go with it) and to ensure I don’t get bitched out for “wasting” time  on the computer and not getting anything important done because an unspoken theme in our relationship is that I should be doing what she expects me to.  Having my own friends with the same unique interests that I have but my partner does not share is a waste of time in her eyes.  Hell, doesn’t take much for her to hate the friends she makes and it’s usually no time at all before she’s constantly bitching about how she hates so and so.  Usually for not either recognizing my partner knows everything or not dropping everything in their life to come to my partner’s beck and call.

Truthfully, I have not come across many people in “real” life that shares many of my interests and I’m pretty socially awkward, so online friendships (and before the internet, pen pal friendships) had been my strongest.  In years past I would be part of online communities and actually socialize with online friends a few hours a week, which would alway leads to me getting bitched out about spending too much time online and ignoring my partner (even when I tried, to no avail, share with her what I was writing and what my interests were).  So, I just gave up.  Facebook and Instragram are largely ignored (and I’m no longer a Facebook fan anyway), and I deleted all the other social media and blogging outlets I had for the “real” me (which is just me using my real name, but I had to censor every word I wrote to ensure my partner wouldn’t somehow get offended even though I do not write offensive material).  So, using a pseudonym and writing privately means I can write without censor and without being told I am wasting my time.  My partner has suggested I attend a writing group recently, as she thought I should do something I enjoy and she knew that 20 years ago when we meet I really wanted to be a writer, which she passively discouraged by making sure I was much to busy with other “important” tasks that she cared about or though were worthwhile.  So, I know better than to go to the writing group because it will mean that I’ll leave something else undone, and she may also ask me to share my writing–which will either 1.  offend her because a flawed character is obviously me mocking her and/or 2.  why am I writing about what I’m writing and why don’t I instead write about X, Y, and Z stories and characters that she thinks is cool.  Instead, I’ll just write when she isn’t around–and if I’m lucky maybe I can get myself out of bed early to get my words in . . . they are in my head already.

So, I’m still at an stand-still when it comes to blogging.  I’ve been tossing back and forth if I should continue this blog.  For the time being, I’m expecting to focus on both fiction and creative non-fiction that doesn’t fit in with my Existential Farmgrrrl theme, so I’ll be posting elsewhere for a bit when I do post.

Since life is a never ending journey and I don’t know what path my writing will take me to, I can’t say I won’t be back.  To be honest, a lot of what I had planned to share is found on a multitude of sites (such as sharing recipes and how to make many things from scratch), so this particular blog could continue if I change what I write about.

But we shall see.  TTFN.

I May Be Going Off The Deep End, But I’m Still Not a Crazy Cat Lady

I held her lifeless body, telling myself that she was still alive and just wasn’t awake yet.  But she wouldn’t wake, she was gone.  A week earlier, I would not have wanted her in my life, but now life without her is harder.  My heart still hurts.  I didn’t think I could feel grief anymore, but I do for her.  I did not choose to have her in my life, but she still touched me.  I tried so hard to give her life, and somehow that melted my heart, because I found that I actually cared.

This morning marked the 2 week anniversary of my kitten Cali’s passing.  Through tears that afternoon, I started the above passage.  Later, I partially blacked out after only 3 glasses of wine.  Feeling true grief over anything and blacking out are both firsts for me.  I pretty much lost it and am having trouble bouncing back emotionally.  I can still function, as many critters depend on me, but I still have that cliche’d hole in my heart.

Even with my decades of animal care-giving for more animals (namely cats) than I ever wanted, I had never created a strong bond with an animal.  Sure, I care for animals, and the puppy mill dogs see me as a “mom” figure, but I’m not overly sentimental nor am I the bonding type.  Especially since I resent having to take care of so many many animals because my disabled partner wants them all but won’t/can’t care for them.

I do seem to have a gift for nurturing, though.

Animals come and go, whether it be through adoption or otherwise.  That’s rescue life.  I’m fine, even relieved, when they go to new homes.  If they pass away, it’s sad, but I get over it.  At most, a quick sob and then on with life, even for those we’ve had for years and years.

For me, sentimentality has nothing to do with nurturing.  Being able to nurture doesn’t mean going to pieces when someone is sick or even passes away.

Cali was different, though.  She was the first pet I genuinely loved enough to cry for.  A lot.  I did not want her to go, even though I had my time back, which is a precious commodity.  I was more than willing to sacrifice anything to care for her.  This was more than just nurturing.

I thought I had gotten over her passing by now, since I was only feeling sadness when I occasionally thought of her.

But I saw her body again the past 2 mornings (the bodies are in the freezer until we can take them to the pet crematorium), and I couldn’t hold back the tears.  Writing this was almost impossible at times.

I have never had such an emotional time writing.  And I never thought my hardest post would be about a kitten.

Cali was a dark calico with a white belly.  She survived 6 days, and we bonded.  She was the sole kitten for the last day of her life, leaving her without siblings to cuddle with, so after her feedings she would curl up into my hand and fall asleep.  I even thought I heard a tiny purr here and there.  I was momma, and she loved me.  The first night she was alone, I would keep my hand in her warmed kennel so she would have something living to sleep by.  The second night, before she passed, I kept my had in her kennel less because my partner was paranoid that I would somehow hurt Cali after I fell asleep.  I can’t help but wonder if she would have made it had I had stayed awake and let her sleep in my hand, kept next to my body like I wanted to keep her, for the extra warmth and attention.  Would the cuddling have made a difference?

The momma cat’s owner had brought Cali and 3 of her siblings to us less than 24 hours after their birth.  My partner received the call and agreed to take them in without consulting me, even though I would be the one to care for the newborns.  I did resent, as I always do, her agreeing to give me more responsibilities, but the resentment lessened when I cared for the newborns.

This outside momma cat had no maternal instincts.  Cali had 4 other siblings, and the biggest baby passed away before the kittens were brought to us, and the 2nd biggest passed away within hours of them being in our care. With each passing, I was a little sad and then just proceeded to take care of the other babies like I always do.  After all, they are just babies that didn’t have a chance, so while I tried my best, I knew the odds were against them.  Newborn kittens are nearly impossible to save, especially if they hadn’t nursed at all from their momma.  We do have an emergency supply of all-species colostrum for the first day we had them, to help supplement since they received no momma’s milk, then on to the Kitten Milk Replacer, using eyedroppers at first, but eventually Cali got the hang of nursing from a bottle.  Babies can’t go potty without help, so I did the momma’s job of making them go potty before and after feedings, and burping them after their feedings. Then they would go into their make-shift bed full of blankets and fuzzy material, with a heating pad underneath to keep them warm.

Cali hang on the longest.  She was 6 days old, and I had cared for her 5 of those 6 days.

I had hope that she would live and was rooting for her, and I just thought it was my normal positive outlook.  I didn’t know it was because I fell in love with her and was starting to think that the odds turned to be in her favor, that my positive outlook was more wishing that she would not die on me.  I didn’t know that I would feel real grief after she passed, and that I would still be feeling it two weeks later.

That never happened before.

Perhaps she was filling a void.  All she asked for was to help give her life, and she would be my baby in return.  She would love the care I gave her and wouldn’t ever yell at me for caring for her the wrong way or doing the wrong thing.  If she needed something I wasn’t giving her, she would just meow.  And anything she asked for was vital for her to live and she was happy to receive anything I gave her.  And while I cared for her, I could forget about all the frustrations and disappointments of my regular life.

Sure, I was losing sleep and time, and figuring out how to care for her while working my day job and performing all my other necessary duties wasn’t easy.  But that was OK.  She was taking to the bottle nicely, and while she wasn’t gaining weight, she still seemed strong and full of as much life as a baby kitten can have.

I honestly don’t know if I would have kept her as my personal pet after she grew up, or if I would have allowed her to be adopted and provide another person/family with joy.  I may not have felt that same bond after Cali grew up and would be able to take care of herself.  I tend to be a person that nurtures until they are strong enough to go on their way and then I let go.

Regardless, I wish Cali was still here with me.  Should would have been stronger and starting to play by now, and by next week would learn to drink milk from a bowl.

But she’s gone.  I will have her cremated separately so I can have her with me always.  A reminder that I actually do have feelings and can care deeply for something.

I don’t wish to have any more kittens.  That will not fill the void, and I don’t know that I will feel this again for another animal.

I just know that I loved my Cali, and I miss her more that I have missed anything.

Excuses Are Lies Wrapped up in Reasons – Howard Wright

The title of this post from the Seeds 4 Life caught my eye, as I have been learning about the deception of excuses. (Link to the post is at the bottom of this post)I’ve been able to take a great course from Selfhelpworks.com that has helped me change my thinking for eating healthier, which in turn is helping me achieve my initial goal of losing weight. These programs actually teach that rationalizations and excuses are LIES and that we are never without a choice. While the subjects of these courses and the post from The Seeds For Life are different, they both say the same thing. Excuses keep people in their comfort zone and hinder sucess.

To succeed at anything, you need to expand your possibilities and take steps out of that comfort zone. You need to look at your excuses and examine them against what outcomes you want and then make your choice. For example, I kept saying to myself that I’ll start eating better later because it’s a pain to make different food for my partner and myself. I would also tell myself that I need to eat those donuts in the cupboard because I was hungry, they were getting stale so my partner wouldn’t eat them, and they couldn’t go to waste. I don’t like donuts either, but that’s why I’ve gained more than 20 lbs in less than 9 years and is probably responsible for my lack of energy and fatigue (along with low iron and vitamin D, which I’m taking vitamins for). Every time I weighed myself, found my waistband too tight, or lamented on my increasing bust line, I would think “I need to lose weight.” The most I would do was track how many steps I took in a day, but did nothing about my diet. I once again let my partner dictate how I lived, even though it wasn’t how I wanted to live. I’m not a big sweets or fat-loaded food eater, but I became one over the years, and it was a hard habit to break. I knew that I didn’t “want” the stuff I was eating, but it was a habit. I wanted to eat, sometimes because I was hungry and sometimes because I wanted to “feel better” and so I’d grab ready-made convenience food. Afterward, I would feel tired and sick to my stomach after I ate way too many sweets or chips & dip. I satisfied my mental hunger/craving but my body didn’t feel better. My true choice was between eating something full of sugar or fat, feel like crap afterward and gain more weight OR chose to eat healthier foods so my body would feel better and I would lose weight.

Basically, it’s a normal human habit to make a goal or have a desire, but then make excuses to stay in our habitual comfort zone. I realized this and started to make more healthy eating choices more often than not. Now that my doctor has officially told me I have to lower my cholesterol, I didn’t have a hard time replacing butter on my baked potato with garlic infused olive oil, or choosing something other than a hamburger at the fast food joint (which sometimes means waiting until I get home to eat). In all honesty, I was never a big hamburger fan, but if we were out and passing a burger joint, I would feel hungry and want one.

I know a lot of you out there are bloggers that want to do more writing–and the Seeds 4 Life post hits on the “I don’t have time” excuse we pretty much all use. We don’t have time for a half hour of exercise (or writing, etc), but can spend an hour a night watching TV. What’s more important–doing what we say we want to do or watching that TV program? Do you want to live in the shoulda/coulda/woulda world of excuses? Or would you rather be a willing participant in life by choosing to do what you want to do?

Remember, the choice is ALWAYS up to you! I do recommend the Selfhelpworks courses if you need help losing weight, stoping smoking, dealing with stress. They are common sense courses that, more than anything, give you the responsibility and choice to change. It’s not about depriving oneself, it’s about making the choice that will improve your life. The courses are $199 each but could be free to you if your employer or health insurance rewards program has partnered with them. For example, I have the HumanaVitality rewards program, and due to my weight and BMI, I had a goal in the program to lose weight and look the LivingLean course (for FREE) as part of the goal. I’m also going through the smoking cessation course so I can help my partner when she is finally ready to quit.

Source: Excuses Are Lies Wrapped up in Reasons – Howard Wright

So, How Many People Are Sucked Into a Jet Engine?

Apparently enough people to warrant a medical diagnosis code.

If you remember (or not), I had a recent post recounting a few disturbing diagnosis codes that I’ve seen due to my line of work.  Well, a new billing code standard is coming later this year, and my employer has taken notice and announced a very interesting one that gave me a much needed Monday laugh.

There is now a code for both the INITIAL and SUBSEQUENT encounters for getting sucked into a jet engine.

If you don’t believe me, just google “ICD 10 sucked into jet engine”.

The website Lowering the Bar did beat my employer’s blog writers to the punch–they published this post almost a year ago.  I stumbled across this post while searching to see if I could find actual statistics.  No statistics, but this is just as good IMO.  They do point out that subsequent “encounter” actually means subsequent doctor’s visits/services, so all the jet engine codes are still assuming it only happened once, but you’ll have multiple doctor visits.

All I can say is “ouch” and please don’t show me the video.

photo credit: Jet Power via photopin (license)
photo credit: Jet Power via photopin (license)

What My Cat’s Vet Taught Me Before the Probiotic Craze

Several years ago, our veterinarian recommended giving yogurt with live, active cultures to our cats with digestive issues.  He had read some research that said it helps with IBS.

I had no idea.  At that time, I wasn’t a big yogurt person.  All I knew was that I preferred Yoplait’s thick and creamy on the rare occasions I ate yogurt.  (Today I wouldn’t touch it due to the additives, plus it does NOT have live AND active cultures.)

A year or so after our vet suggested yogurt came the Activia commercials with Jamie Lee Curtis.  And then the probiotic pill commercials.  “Buy this to keep your digestion ‘regular,'” the commercials tell us.  Later, my partner’s gastroenterologist actually confirmed that probiotics are necessary.

So, our vet’s knowledge carries over to humans.  Who knew?

What are Probiotics?

Probiotics are the live good bacteria that your gut needs to function properly.  Gastroenterologists will actually prescribe a probiotic if you have stomach issues and can’t find any other underlying cause.  Or if they find you do not have any of the necessary good bacteria in your stomach.  That’s what happened to my partner.  She had NO bacteria whatsoever.  While no bad bacteria is a good thing, having no good bacteria is bad.  That can still lead to digestive and other stomach issues.

There is also research that suggests there is a link to gut health and your brain.  While there isn’t a lot of concrete probiotic research yet, there is enough to show this is more than just commercial hype and a new health fad.

If you don’t have digestive issues, you may not need a pill, but eating probiotic rich foods is still a good thing.  Non alcoholic fermented foods (like yogurt) and beverages supply probiotics.  I’m experimenting with fermented foods myself, but for now I’ll focus on yogurt.

What yogurts are the best?

My yogurt
My yogurt

As I said, CHECK THE LABEL.  The probiotics are the live AND active cultures.   My personal preference is to have at least L. acidophilus and B. lactis on the culture listas these are two of the three probiotics in my partner’s doctor prescribed Florajen3.  There are many other cultures, as well, that may be just as beneficial since which probiotics are the best still seems to be a guessing game.  So, if you see live and active cultures, at this point you don’t need to stress over what they are.  Unless you really want to stress over it.

I also recommend that you know everything that’s in your yogurt.  I now make my own yogurt (including strawberry yoplait-style for my partner).  The best yogurt is too expensive, and I want control over what’s in my yogurt and how it tastes.  If you still want to buy your yogurt, just read the label.  There are yogurts (like Siggi’s, a thick Icelandic style yogurt) that use just milk and cultures for their plain yogurt.

And for the record, Dannon’s Activia has their own patented culture.  But I’m not aware of any independent research that actually says their probiotic is better than any others.  If you check their ingredient list, Activia only says it has active cultures, and also has one of the rare ingredients that I recommend you stay away from . . .

http://activia.us.com/probiotic-yogurt/products/activia-black-cherry
http://activia.us.com/probiotic-yogurt/products/activia-black-cherry

Carrageenan!  That’s a known cancer causing ingredient that’s used as a thickener in quite a few dairy (and non-dairy milk) products.  Research also indicates it can promote glucose intolerance than can lead to diabetes, and exacerbate the condition if you already have it.  The Food Babe and her followers have put pressure on organic companies to remove it, and several are now phasing out their use of carrageenan.  I don’t like to be a food alarmist, but this is one additive I will not knowingly ingest.

In a later post, I will share my yogurt making recipes and tips.  If you want to start now, feel free to do a google search.  There are tons of how-to pages.

Yogurt is super easy to make, so if you have any cooking skills at all, you can do it!

Medical Misadventure?!

I work for a health insurance company, so I see all sorts of diagnosis codes.  For those that are uninitiated, almost all medical conditions or reason for seeing a doctor have a diagnosis code that is used on health insurance claims.

Most seem normal enough, and self explanatory, like diabetes without complications, preventative exam, alchohol withdrawal, or closed femur fracture.  Even if it’s a broad category (like back pain), you still have idea of what the issue is.

However, some are puzzling and even alarming.

Like . . .

Medical Misadventure?!

Photo credit: CarbonNYC [in SF!] / Foter / CC BY
Photo credit: CarbonNYC [in SF!] / Foter / CC BY
Yes, that’s a real medical diagnosis.  I saw it.

It really bugged me because it sounds so arbitrary.  What does misadventure mean, exactly?

I pictured something akin to a screwball episode of I Love Lucy.

But medical diagnoses are rarely humerus humorous.

So, then, is it one big medical screw up that can’t be classified as anything else?

Did a medical instrument get left inside during surgery?

Did the patient wake up during surgery? (A friends father did this and yelled at the surgeon “your damn saw blade is dull!”  True story.).

Did they do the wrong procedure?

Pretty much.

Definition from the Free Dictionary:

“misadventure:  An unintended result of an action, as in an occupation-related “homicide by misadventure”. In medicine, the term has become a euphemism for a therapeutic error, as in a surgical misadventure in which the wrong leg was amputated.”

SCARY.

Medicare has specific codes for surgeries performed on the wrong body part and the wrong patient, so does that mean it’s done to medicare patients more often than the rest of us so they actually figured they needed a separate code for it?

I know mistakes happen.  We are all human.

It’s just pretty scary when it’s in the medical realm.

While my partner gets irritated when she is repeatedly asked for her name, date of birth, and the procedure she’s in for, I am glad they now triple check prior to surgery.  They even mark the body part to be operated on.

She may be annoyed with all the questions, but I’m sure annoyed wouldn’t describe her feelings if they operated on the wrong body part or performed the wrong operation.

She should feel lucky that’s not on her list of medical diagnoses.

Have any Medical Misadventure stories?  Please share!  I am definitely interested.

Got a headache? Eat a baked potato!

photo credit: Potato via photopin (license)
photo credit: Potato via photopin (license)

I’ve always been a food nerd and love it when I find healthy properties in foods I love.

This especially holds true for baked potatoes, which I actually forgot about for a while.

As a young adult, I found that after I ate a baked potato, it helped my PMS headaches and the weakness I’d experience on the first day of my cycle.

And I have always eaten the skins.  My grandma always said that the skins have the most nutrition.

While I haven’t located the medical source yet, several websites (including Self magazine) says that the extra potassium, especially when you eat the skin, is what helps the headache.

So, there you go.

Have a baked potato, and put some healthy ingredients like garlic infused olive oil and sauerkraut or plain yogurt topped with spicy seasonings.

After meds didn’t work, I conquered today’s headache with a baked potato, topping it with the sauerkraut I’ve been craving.  I have borderline high cholesterol, so I’m laying off the butter, sour cream, and cheese.  Fortunately, I never top mine with bacon or chili.

I’ll be writing more about food and health, and the benefits of making your own foods!

Do you have any favorite food cures?  Please share!

Living Dreams and Where Do I Go Next?

Last month I put all my writing energy into Camp NaNoWriMo, which is a mini-version of the November event and more flexible.  I’ve wanted to do NaNoWriMo for over a decade, but 50,000 words in one month, and fiction no less, has always daunted me so I only kept it in the back of my mind all these years.

However, this year I found out about Camp, and you set your own limit to be a winner (can start as low as 10,000 words) and it wasn’t necessary to write fiction.  Busy or not, it’s time to write.  April’s camp I attempted fiction, which I hadn’t tried for almost 20 years, and got as far as 2100 words. Not bad, I suppose, but not great either.

So, I decided I needed to be a winner during July’s Camp, especially since I could purchase Scrivener for 50% off and stop using the trial version.

I ditched the fiction since it’s still a struggle, and started two different topics that I quickly hit roadblocks on.  One was rhubarb of all things, which I was temporarily obsessed with a month ago since I had it coming out of my ears and was looking up recipe after recipe.

I quickly tired of rhubarb, and found there is competition in the rhubarb e-book world anyway, but I needed something I could write 10K words in a month.  Once again, writing about my life came up.

My boring life?  Really?

I’ve tossed this idea about for a number of years.  I’m a former Mormon lesbian/bisexual living with (and caregiver for) a disabled but bullying partner.  And we live with way too many cats in our house.  Maybe I can get an interesting spin on that.

I deal a lot with feelings and frustrations, and determined that what I need to work on most is storytelling, especially since I’m doing the official NaNoWriMo this year.  If I can’t be a storyteller, then I can’t write fiction, right?

Right.

Only, I let myself ramble and rant since I both needed the word count and had immediate thoughts to get out, but I still kept that in check.  I kind of did an outline as I went and shared memories here and there.  When I revise, I’ll add more stories as I remember tCamp-Winner-2015-Square-Buttonhem as well.

So, July is over and I made my 10K words on July 31 with several hours to spare.

A winner!

It also reinforced the fact that I want a different life.  And every time I convince myself to stay, words are said or things are done where I hear that voice in my head scream “PACK UP AND LEAVE.  NOW!”

I don’t want to be with my partner.  I want to be able to share my hopes and dreams without getting a lecture.  I want to express my opinions without setting my partner on a rant before I get a full sentence out.  I want some solitude without my partner going to pieces because she can’t spent a minute without me.  I want a partner that can do things without needing me , especially things I hate doing/and or totally suck at when she can call a friend that’s an expert in the task.  I want a partner that doesn’t go into either hysterics or an uncontrollable fit of rage when something bad happens (which is a common occurrence).  Most of all, I want to be able to share good things and accomplishments, and to have my partner actually be happy for me and share in the joy.  I know my partner struggles with self worth, but I’ve been her enabler year after year after year while she’s cut me down at every turn.  I have tried as hard as I could to help her in the past, but I can’t help her.  It has to come from her.

I don’t want to be in the animal rescue “business”.  I actually never wanted it–I’m really not that selfless and don’t like a lot of animals in my house.  My animal saving started out in a totally different path, but my partner likes to collect animals.  She wants to bring home every stray and abused animal and then demand I take care of them (supposedly she took care of animals she took in before I was in the picture).  I even started a blog about starting and running an animal rescue since I’m very experience at it now, but after writing the first 2 intense posts, I lost interest.  I may know a lot about the functions of an animal rescue, but I am way too burned out.  I’m still passionate about animals, but not the rescue work.  I’ll be sharing my dreams for that at a later point.

I also want to chuck 99% of the stuff in our house in the trash.  My partner loves objects, I don’t.  I don’t need a lot of physical things.  She does.  And she’s disappointed in the way I don’t spend enough time taking care of all the objects we own.  Once an object is purchased, it’s my responsibility.

I actually dreamed last night that I was no longer with my partner, which meant I was automatically out of our rescue.  It felt good.

However, I was already with someone, right after the breakup.  It was a man, which wasn’t the surprising part.

I don’t imagine myself with anyone right after the breakup.  I want to be alone.

But that wasn’t the dream.  I even woke up briefly and fell asleep with the same dream continuing on.

It was weird.

I don’t like confrontation, though, and I hate leaving a mess, so for now I’m still in avoidance mode and convincing myself to stay.

Wine after work helps.

So, onward to National November Writing Month, so maybe I can get at least one dream accomplished.

How NOT To Brew Beer

My first brewing experience was a disaster learning experience.  The first bottle of beer I tried over the weekend was flat and had a hint of yeast, so it didn’t fully ferment.  I do have a second bottle in the fridge being “conditioned” that I put in a couple days later, so we’ll see if the extra fermentation/carbonation time helps at all.  Since I hate waste, I’ve been doctoring it up Michelada style so that I can tolerate it.  From what I’ve read, it’s not going to kill me, and I’ve downed one bottle with no adverse effects.

I did start with a clearanced Mr. Beer kit, too, with a beer style I don’t drink myself and with a best by date of a year ago (noticed that after I got home), so I didn’t start with the best of ingredients.  I did have the foresight at least to figure my first go would be a learning experience no matter what, and I didn’t want to shell out more than $50 for my first batch, and the Mr. Beer kit gave me a way I could do it for even less than $50.

IMG_20150713_122251
How do you get your Mr. Beer keg to look so funky?! Read on . . .

Now, I had the pre-fermentation process down pretty well, if I do say so myself, and sterilized everything as directed.  I had started making my own yogurt a few months ago, which is simply a different fermented food, and only had one mishap which I was able to correct by just re-doing the incubation process, so I started brewing with some fermenting experience under my belt.  I still have a perfect yogurt record, knock on wood.  Fermenting things that start with BEE are still taking work (I had a less than perfect fermented beet issue last week), but I’ll be posting on my various fermenting projects during the summer.  I still take issue that beer isn’t considered a healthful fermented product like yogurt, kombucha (fermented tea that can have alcoholic traces), and other fermented foods, but whatever.

Anyhow–here’s what I need to work on for a better beer:

  1. Be careful of your ingredients’ ages.  The mix was a year past the “best by” date.  The wort was probably OK to use, but yeast can get finicky.  For those of you that bake yeast breads, you know what I’m talking about.
  2. Be obsessively mindful of the temperature.  Even though I started the first week in June, the nightly temps here were not warm enough to keep our old farmhouse in the optimal 68-78 degree yeast fermentation stage, and I wasn’t diligent about checking the room temperature for the first few days, and even longer before I figure out where I could put it to regulate the temperature.  Even old yeast may still give it a go if the conditions are right.  After my yogurt mishap, I realized how to solve the “too cold at night” temp problem, but I’m sure my yeast was already dead by then (and when I finally did try my method, I didn’t quite do it right, which you’ll see in # 4).  Even though nights were cool, my elderly yeast did give a good try the first week–there was minimal bubbly yeast activity at least, but it never reached the level described.
  3. Try a type of beer you actually like.  You may actually know if your beer tastes like the real thing or not.  Granted, I got what was on clearance, and they were all American Light style.  I don’t drink big-name American beers, much less light/lite styles, so this really could be how the beer should taste, just with more carbonation.  I do have some MIlwaukee’s Best on hand for when we cook up brats (that’s bratwurst, folks, not bratty kids).  I may have to do a reluctant taste test for comparison.
  4. Never, EVER, turn on the oven with a Mr. Beer Keg IN IT.  The keg is plastic and doesn’t do heat well (plus, the brew should NOT get over 78 F anyway, regardless of what it’s in).  Even if you say “I’ll just turn in on for a few minutes and then turn it off when it’s at the right 70 degree temp.”  Only takes me a few minutes to get busy with something else and remember to check it AFTER I smell melting plastic.  My photo is the result.  The keg used to look like a smooth barrel and the lid used to fit.  Fortunately, my beer was already “done” with it’s keg time at that point, and the yeast was already dead prior to this debacle, so I was able to still bottle it.  I’ve heard of keeping the oven light on to keep a nice temp, so guess I should finally replace my oven light.

So, all in all, not a bad first attempt.  There are tons of things that can give beer an “off” flavor during brewing, so I’m satisfied with my end result considering it could have been worse.

Thanks to learning the hard way I’ll be OBSESSIVE with temperature control next time–and remember to NOT turn on the oven with a brew fermenting inside.

Anyone have any good beer or fermenting stories?  Please share!

Stories, ramblings, rants with a little farm life thrown in