I moved again! This time with my German Shepherd, Viking, 1 gallon of trad mead, and three gallons of blackberry wine in a Jeep.

This is the first town I’ve lived in that has over 3,500 people in eight years. There’s a wee bit of culture shock to adjust to, now that traffic is more than three cars at a stop sign. I’m still blown away by the fact that I drive by not one, not two, but THREE markets on my way home from work.

Let’s be fair, compared with the Denver area, the Western Slope is still kinda small. For me, it’s big though. The best part though, is there’s a homebrew club here. I can start getting honest opinions on my mead so I can continue to improve. Local honey is easy to find too.

And hiking? Hiking!

As far as the state of the mead goes: the T’ej I wrote about last year turned out to be fairly drinkable. I need to run another batch with stems, because I don’t think the leaves will do the trick on their own. The blackberry wine from a few years ago has aged into a very pleasant port-style wine. Hopefully the three gallons that bounced around in my Jeep from Washington to Colorado will turn out the same way.

But moving wine in the front seat of a Jeep is not the best way to get good results, so we’ll see.

I have three new batches in secondary. All traditional, with three different honeys and two different yeasts. Once it stops hitting over 100 degrees, I’ll get a five gallon batch started. In bottles, there’s two left of the hibiscus, since most of those batches went to friends. I have one left of my spiced cyser and one left of blackberry wine.

Here’s a shout out to the American Mead Maker’s Association. Join for a year and you get some great monthly deals on honey to feed all your mead making needs.

Stay cool this summer and drink more mead!

Favorite Books

There’s a challenge going on in social media for the ten books that are your favorites. Post covers, no comments.

Ten covers would take up a lot of space on a blog post, so I’ll do a few and then list the rest.  Feel free to post your top 10 in the comments.






The Stand, by Stephen King

Watership Down, by Richard Adams

Hyperbole and a Half, Allie Brosh

1491, by Charles Mann

The Iron Druid, Kevin Hearne

Best Served Cold, Joe Abercrombie



T’ej: Ethiopian Honey Wine

A couple years ago, I had some t’ej as part of a mead flight and I was hooked.  My blackberry wine is still in primary, but I just moved the traditional to secondary this morning.  Which, of course, left me with an empty fermenting bucket.  I had some gesho leaves I bought a few months ago when I wanted to try making t’ej, and figured there’s no time like the present.

First off, the recipe, based off Harry Kloman’s T’ej recipe:

1 gallon batch:
3 lbs honey
3 tablespoons gesho kitel (gesho leaves)
No yeast
SG 1.120


T’ej is traditionally made by relying on the yeasts on the gesho stems or leaves to start fermenting.  You can certainly use commercial yeast if you want, and Kloman’s mead log recommends Lalvin D47.  It’s a workhorse and a very reliable yeast if you want to go the commercial route.  For my first batch, I chose to go with wild yeasts.  We’ll see what happens and if it doesn’t ferment, I’ll add D47 later.  This is the first brew I’ve made without commercial yeast.

Gesho is the key ingredient in making T’ej, and comes from the shiny-leaf buckthorn tree (Rhamnus prinoides).  The dried stems (inchet) and leaves (kitel) of this plant are what gives t’ej its distinct flavor.  Gesho acts similarly to hops and adds a bittering flavor to the t’ej.

I bought leaves originally, and chose to use them today because- let’s be honest- they were here and I was impatient to get this batch started.  Most recommendations are to use stems, so I’m planning a second batch when my order gets here at the end of April.  I’ll compare the two and see how they differ.

Dried Gesho Leaves

As far as honey goes, I wanted to get a sweeter t’ej, and went for a higher SG.  You could drop the honey to 2.5 lbs if you want less sweetness.

I’m following the guide laid out on Kloman’s log. I strongly recommend reading his blog, because it’s got a step by step guide and lots of excellent info.  At 11 days, I’ll strain out the gesho leaves, and continue fermenting out to the four week mark.

After that, it should be ready to drink.  I’ll probably bottle some, to see how it ages out.  But since t’ej can be enjoyed as soon as it’s done fermenting, I plan on doing just that with some of this batch.

Links and resources:

Ethiopian T’ej:  the t’ej recipe that I’m following.  This blog has an extensive list of t’ej brewing tips, and the history and culture behind the drink.

T’ej in Ethiopia Today:  Excellent article and photos about t’ej.

History of Ethiopia:  the birthplace of humankind.

The Seattle bar where I first tried T’ej, Capitol Hill cider, has flights and a tap/bottle list of over 200 ciders and meads.  Their kitchen is entirely gluten free, so if you have Celiac’s or a gluten intolerance, it’s safe.

Ambrosia Honey–  I found this at a co-op on my road trip, but they also sell on Amazon.

Leap Year and Craft Beer

I’ve been on the road for most of January and February, thanks to an annual furlough from work that left me with a lot of time on my hands.  The U.S. southwest is magical.  I went on some good hikes, drank some good mead, met some good people, and had a chance to hit the reset button.  Heading into this summer, I’m very glad I got the chance to do that.

I have a ton of photos that I need to go through, and will be posting some of them up here with a few trip reports soon.

But for now, if you’re in the boozy state of Washington, today is officially Craft Beer Day.  In the glass here is Oak Barrel Mead from Oppegaard meadery, because I was in a mead mood and not a beer one today.  I do have a bottle of Dogfish Head worldwide stout, which will absolutely knock you on your ass at 15%, and is not the thing I want to drink the night before I go back to work.  That bottle is being saved for later.

Go hoist a cold one, and don’t worry.  Nobody’s going to judge you if it’s craft mead instead of beer.

If they do judge, we can sic Gritty on them.




Happy 2020!

Just like the roaring ’20s, but without prohibition.  Everything else looks remarkably the same as it did 100 years ago.

But still….

Here’s to more reading, more writing, more mead, more rum, more everything this year.  Especially writing.  I’ve seen a few posts rolling around on social media talking about choosing a word for the new year, and I’d rather go with the theme of getting off my ass, especially when it comes to writing.

Since my annual furlough from work is about to start, and I have eight weeks to fuck around and not be beholden to an alarm clock, I’ve got plans.  Viking and I are hitting the road with my Chromebook, and heading to the southwest for a road trip of camping, writing, and consuming as much coffee, tea, and rum as I can get my hands on.

Sometimes you need to hit the road to get out of your own head, and that’s how I’m feeling right now about life in general.  I need to get comfortable with writing on a regular basis, and also become more comfortable with the characters I’m trying to write.  To be honest, I need a break from ye olde daily grind, and I haven’t taken a proper road trip in three years.  There’s a distinct feeling of needing to shake off the cobwebs, and since I have the free time and the dinero saved up, the only thing stopping me is getting off my ass.

Go figure, getting off my ass is turning out to be a good theme for me.  Or at least a motivation to get stuff done.

I’m going to indulge in a rare moment of optimism, in saying that I hope 2020 is a good year for everyone.

And go find something new or something not so new this year that makes you happy.  It doesn’t have to be anything major.  Shit, if it’s just being able to get out of bed on a particularly hard morning, that’s enough.  Let it be enough.

May your entire year be a critical hit.

20 sided dice


And may all of my fellow rum fans be thankful prohibition is a thing of the past.

NaNoWriMo 2019

After taking last year off, I’m going to give it a go this year.  My username is RumHounds (naturally) and I’ve been doing NaNo on and off since 2004.  If anyone would like a buddy, send me a message.  It’s absolutely true that if you have writing friends, you tend to be more productive.

NaNoWriMo revamped the site this year with stats at the top, right when you log in. I was a bit shocked to find out I’ve written almost 450,000 words.  That gives me a little more motivation to get started and actually stick with it this time.

My other motivation is this:  Viable Paradise.  I want to apply this year, for the 2020 class.  I figure, the big 4-0 is coming next year, so why not celebrate with getting serious about writing?  Even the process of applying will be valuable, because putting yourself out there is hard.

So!  What’s on tap for the big 50,000 words in one month?  Hopefully my peach mead, which has been bulk aging for 3 years now.  I’m honestly not sure about this one.  I backsweetened it, hoping that would rescue it from dry, peachy hell.  Wednesday, I’m going to check it and see what’s happened.  There she is, in the carboy next to my hibiscus Viking blod mead creation.

Mead in the closet
101 Uses for a Coat Closet

I’ve also got cider from Locust, a few beers from Dogfish Head, including their WorldWide Stout, and mead incoming from Opegaard Meadery.  I scored a spot in the mead club, and get surprise deliveries four times a year.  Assuming your state isn’t reliving its Prohibition hell days by banning alcohol shipments from other states, joining a mead or wine club is a great way to get a box of magic on your doorstep a few times a year.

Time to get started on naming characters and outlining a basic plot.  Good luck!



2019 Reading Challenge

Happy New Year, folks.  Let’s get things started with a challenge.  The rules are simple:  pick a number and read that many books in 2019.  Last year, I hit 67 out of 108.  This year, my goal is 109 books.

Any book counts.  Fiction, non fiction, romance, urban fantasy.  Length doesn’t matter.  If it’s research for work or school, it counts.  If you’re reading Goodnight Moon for the 10,000th time to your kids, or re-reading your favorite book for the billionth time, count it if you want.

Read whatever the fuck you want, just get out there and read.  Aside from the health benefits of reading, there’s also a part of the world’s population that sees being educated as a negative thing, and it’d be rather nice to flip them the bird by opening a book.

If you get stuck, or don’t know what to read, here’s some challenges to mix things up a bit:

  • Read one non fiction book from an author with an opposing viewpoint.
  • Read one book from a genre that you’ve said “Never will I ever read a book from this genre.”
  • Read a book from high school that you hated at the time.  See if your opinions have changed now.  I’ll tell you right now, mine is the Great Gatsby.
  • Read the book that the movie you just watched is based on.
  • If you live in an area with a sidewalk library, pick a book from the first one you walk by, and read it.
  • Go to your library, ask your librarian for a recommendation, the last book they read that they liked, and read it.
  • Pick someone you admire, or someone you want to learn more about, and read their biography.
  • Read a religious text from a faith that’s not your own.
  • Bonus challenge: read a religious text from a faith that scares you.
  • Go to a used bookstore, find the cheapest book on the shelf, buy it, and read it.

Don’t sweat meeting your goal, just try for it.  I’ve got Goodreads linked on this blog.  If you want to track your progress, they have a handy Challenge section on your Goodreads page.  It’s free to sign up.

And give yourself a reward for doing all that reading, regardless of whether or not you meet your personal goals.  It’ll give you something to look forward to for New Year’s Day in 2020 (holy shit, 2020!).  Booze, a dinner out, chocolate, whatever the hell you want.  For me, it’s going to be either rum or some really good honey for a batch of mead.  But whatever you do:

Go forth, and…

Text of Read a fucking book with a rainbow in the background

Let’s Talk Cider

It’s fall!  Tis the season for apple cider, Halloween, the end to cutting the grass, and did I mention apple cider?

Nothing better than a mug of fresh cider with a cinnamon stick and a shot of Kraken rum in it.  Kraken is my main go-to for a dark rum, because it’s got good flavor and won’t break the bank.   But if I want a post work ‘beer’- and I usually do- my go to is almost always hard cider.  I prefer it to most beers, and there’s dozens of ciders being produced now.  Thank you, 21st amendment, for fixing a big mistake.  Thank you also One Tree, Spire Mountain, Blackthorn, Finn River, Two Towns, Incline, and the list goes on…. for making my life a bit tastier.

Lemon Basil Hard Cider
My Favorite

Hard apple cider dates back roughly 1300 years or so.  If humans can grow it, and find a way to ferment it, we will.  Back in the day, fermented drinks were sometimes safer to drink than your local water source, something I take to heart whenever I have problems with the well on my property.   1300 years ago, apples weren’t nearly as tasty as all the varieties we have today.  So instead of eating them, people back then turned them into booze.

I live in the biggest apple producing state in the U.S., so finding fresh cider’s pretty easy in my area.  The Pacific northwest in general is a huge cider and beer brewing area, and cider is taking off again in popularity.  My local dive bar has one of its eight taps dedicated to ciders, which was a very nice surprise.  It doesn’t have to be just apples either.  Just like with meads, you can add fruits, herbs, and spices to hard cider for unique combinations.  Two favorite ciders of mine use lemon, blackberries, basil, and hops as ingredients.

And just like mead, it’s possible to make your own hard cider.  I haven’t tried it myself yet due to a lack of space.  Someday.  I’ve had some very tasty homebrew ciders though, and that’s more than enough to convince me to put it on my project list for the future.  Preferably while I’m living in Washington, because foraging is easy here and plenty of folks are happy to let you pick apples in trade for some of the finished product.

Happy fall to everyone!  If you have a favorite brand of hard cider, toss it in the comments.

Links and articles:

The Ancient Origins of Apple Cider– Smithsonian
The 21st Amendment
One Tree Cider
Spire Mountain Cider
Finn River Farm and Cider
The Cider Journal–  articles about cider and reviews of different ciders.

Remember last year….

When I said no more plants?  Well, since I decided to build a DIY raised bed out of a pile of scrap lumber I found under a tree, I’m going to ignore that this year.  It’s 6 x 2 feet, and has room for plants.

I still have all of my old containers too and they will also be full of plants.  Plants everywhere!  Peppers, tomatoes, squash, snap peas, garlic, potatoes, and whatever else looks cool.  The garlic is already growing and doing well.  A friend from garden club gave us all cloves to try out, and I put it in when I planted my bulbs last fall.  That is future Cincinnati chili garlic, amigos.

It was a long winter, and we had a couple decent days of snow.  We got our usual amount of rain and grey days in true western Washington style.  All of the snow melted at my elevation in a day or two, of course, and then it went back to rain.  But the mountains, which can get 70+ inches of snow from just a single storm, all have decent snowpacks this year.  It’s May 3rd, and snowpacks are around 9-10 feet at 5200′ elevation.

So now that it’s spring, the gardening bug is back again.

My goal is to grow enough veggies for myself and enough extra to donate to the food bank in town this summer.  Now that I have an idea of what it’s like to garden in this area of the country, I should have more luck with plants this year than last.  The other thing that’s helped is joining a few regional homesteading and canning groups on Facebook.

We’re running about two weeks behind on planting, despite one 80 degree day that broke a temperature record set about 80 years ago.  Next Wednesday is G-Day!

And next Thursday is mead day.  Bottling a few, racking the 101 Mead and blackberry wine, and throwing together some berries for a gallon or two of mixed berry wine. That’s an experiment, but I’m very sure that unless it comes out tasting like vinegar, I will find people to help me drink it.

Hoh River in the sunshine
Happy Spring!