Monday 1 February 2021


We've always had in mind that we'd like to try a bit of home brewing. Both our Dads have made wine in the past, and we have an abundance of things like elder trees and bramble bushes nearby that are good for this kind of thing. I'd also heard that beer is fairly easy to make. We'd even got a few bits and pieces (some inherited from my Dad, and a couple of demijohns from a kirk shoppie in New Deer).

As seems to have been the case with many other people, lockdown presented an ideal opportunity to give this a go. So, armed with this classic book, and this much simpler more recent one we got a starter kit from the local brewshop, including a fermenting bucket, a couple of tubes and a hydrometer (to add to the things we had already). Since then we got a bit carried away! A brief tour is below, but on the whole this all seems to have worked out pretty well. It's been good fun, and has resulted in some tasty additions to our cupboard. Well worth a go if you're thinking of it.

Off to pick some elderflowers...

The first shot ended up being a rowan flower wine - this is it going on to brew.

Careful stirring is very important.

Not all of it is alcoholic! This is elder flower cordial. Our girls really like this stuff.

The very first wine beginning to ferment. That was an exciting moment. The chemistry and experimenting parts are one of the most appealing bits of the whole process.

And of course, we can't do home brew without a bubbling airlock. Tremendous.

This was my first go at a beer. A pale ale of sorts. Most of what I've been making has been a variation on this theme, with different kinds of hops.

This view is often visible behind me on the various virtual meetings I'm in. Thanks to the computer (and my own hot air) the office is consistently warm enough to keep the fermentation going.

Bottling time. Who doesn't appreciate a syphon?

My first beer ready to go... just had to stand a few days to fizz up.

Yum. The first one was a bit rough, but quite tolerable.

Rhubarb wine in preparation.

A bottle of elderflower. This (and the fizzy version of it) has been the most successful wine so far. Lovely stuff.

Another batch of ale going on. I'm up to batch 11 at of now (each has been a few bottles, and slightly from the previous ones)

A couple of times I've made two lots at once, to see the difference. This pair were looking at the difference between adding sugar and dry malt extract. (DME is easily the winner)

Bramble wine incoming. 

One chore - cleaning and sterilising a lot of bottles.

I've tried harvesting yeast from previous batches a couple of times, rather than using packets.
Here it is settling out.

I was a bit optimistic with how much one demijohn could take here, so this brew spent the night in the shower.

We've had a go at cider too, but using apple concentrate as that's a good it easier than mashing them.

Using the kit does, however, mean a slightly larger batch. This is 40 pints.

Elderberry wine. A really nice red.

I've had a couple of shots at using grains instead of malt extract for the beers. A bit more fiddly, but interesting seeing it coming out of the raw ingredients.

Here's the bramble wine. Not bad either (I prefer the elderberry though)

More elderflower.

You won't see this on camera, but this is usually the view around my feet in my office.

All jolly good fun!

Sunday 31 January 2021

Miscellaneous catchup

Time to catch up on plenty of things from the past year or so that didn't really fit into a post of their own...

Miriam continues to make excellent creations out of Lego!

This provides some inspiration for her little sisters

A couple of shots of the beautiful place we live. First, this was taken from my office window at the university. I zoomed in a bit to miss out the other buildings, but this is genuinely (normally) the view from my desk.

This is the River Forth, a few minutes' walk from our house. The "River Walk" is currently on our agenda most days. Just occasionally though, extra rain means that the path is blocked (as shown by the debris on the path)

We can go for a longer walk around the loch at the University...

We also get some pretty good sunsets around here.

Some pictures of our girls at play...

(Lydia said she wanted a sword when we were visiting Stirling Castle. So we made some...)

Grandma came to visit in February last year, just before lockdown started. Happier times indeed.

Jay was the last one to have a non-lockdown birthday

The next couple are from the day the parks reopened after the first lockdown.
Some excited girls that day!

This is the "wobbly tree" on the way to the park in Bridge of Allan. The girls really like to play under its branches and have had a lot of fun here.

Some more shots of messy church and Sunday School at home...

Lydia is now getting some big teeth. Here she is proudly sporting a "gap".

In t he summer Naomi and he friend wanted to raise money to help the snow leopards, so the set up a stall in the street selling various wares. They made a decent amount too.

Naomi really likes the band Little Mix. In the summer the had an online concert via YouTube, so Naomi and Miriam got to invite their friends around and enjoy a big night of entertainment.

Lydia can now ride a bike!

We had a little bump in our car a few months back. The major perk was that our insurance was good enough to get us a really shiny hire car while ours was getting fixed. Every trip was a big day out that week!

This swing/climbing frame had been able to absorb a lot of the excess lockdown energy.

Naomi made a portable speaker...

Ice is also fascinating!

Naomi has been doing some painting with the watercolour set she got at Christmas.
As you might expect, she's really good.

Naomi has also volunteered to help make dinner a couple of times...

Finally - the girls said they wanted a pinball machine. I don't know where they got the idea from.
It turns out that all those amazon boxes from the past few months can make a really good one! Hours of fun.