So this priest walks into a hardware store…

So as you may recall my wife and I have gotten really into bourbon.  On our tour of the Bourbon Trail we tasted a lot of different bourbons and ryes and we saw a lot of different bottles.  The coolest bottle by far was from Willett.  Their flagship bourbon comes in a bottle shaped like their still.

My lovely wife and I at Willett

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But what do you do with that very cool bottle once it’s empty?  Turns out they can be made into lamps.  While I’m not a very crafty person I figured it was worth a try.

So here’s how it’s done.

I started with a trip to the local hardware store,  You can get a basic lamp kit most anywhere but I did have to order the bit for drilling the glass.  Once that arrived I assembled all the parts and got to work.

Drilling a hole in the bottom of the bottle seemed tricky.  I practiced on an empty Four Roses bottle just to get the hang of it.  Turns out it’s fairly time consuming.  You have to constantly drip water where you’re drilling to keep things running smoothly.  But eventually the bit went through and the bottle was intact.

This meant it was time to try the Willett bottle.  The long, narrow neck made keeping things steady and level somewhat challenging but just ten minutes later it was all done.

Next came wiring the lamp.  I had spent some time trying to figure out what to do with the wire that would run up the middle of the lamp.  While a nice cloth covered cord wasn’t too unattractive if left exposed I really wanted something nicer.

Here’s a bare bones one I found online. Note the exposed cord- definitely not the effect I wanted!

Thankfully, there’s a whole lot of these lamps on Etsy and Pinterest.   After scrolling through the options I finally found a solution.  I could run the wire inside a slender copper pipe.

So, after drilling through the stopper I threaded the pipe and then the wire.  Wiring up the socket is very straight forward.  Once everything was made snug came the moment of truth.  Sure enough it lit up right away.

With lamp assembled and working, all I had to find a shade.  This was no simple matter.  After a lot of searching  I settled on a smaller shade made of copper colored silk.  A final tweak had to be made because the 10 inch harp that came with the kit was too tall .  One last quick trip to the hardware store and I had an 8 inch harp that worked perfectly.

While it took more than a month to go from the impetus to the final product, all in all it wasn’t that much work.  So next time the crafty urge strikes me I might just find myself walking into a hardware store again.

The Joy of the Harvest

Making your own beer is one of the great joys in life.  Even if it never approaches the stuff you can buy, one’s own homebrew somehow always takes just a little better. Even a mediocre batch of homemade beer  with its slight funk still possesses that certain je ne sais qua that cannot be found anywhere else.

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Yet  over the years I have found that this appreciation is magnified when you grow some of the ingredients yourself.  Now since most of us cannot grow, let alone malt the necessary amount of barely. nor do we keep and culture our own yeasts, the easiest way to do this is to grow your own hops.

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For four years I have cultivated both Cascade and Centennial hops growing them on DSC_3220lines strung up the back of our church parish hall.  Although the first year yielded very little I am now getting two full harvests each year.  Of course while the vines are beautiful the only real use for them is brewing.  So when late August rolls around we have gotten into the habit of brewing a wet-hop or “harvest” beer.  One year we went so far as to collect and brew with  rain water from Hurricane Irene.

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DSC_3225This year we decided to wait until we were actually brewing to go out and pick them.  So while the grains were steeping we went out to the garden to pick the flowers of aromatic, oily goodness.  It takes a surprising amount of hops to make the necessary weight  for the aroma stage and to have enough extra to dry hop the carboys.

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DSC_3227While this beer has been consistently good I am under no illusions.  There are a lot of great wet-hopped beers out there.  Yet knowing that part of the beer came not from the supply store but as the fruit of my own labor makes our own beer taste that much better.

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So what about you?  Do you grow your own hops?  If so, what variety?  How much use do you get out them?  Please let us know.