Celebrate the culture of agriculture & share skills (Growing! Cooking! Eating!)

GOLDEN STATE DIY WARRIOR: This week HOMEGROWN chatted with newish member Bill, a Renaissance-man version of that old butcher/baker/candlestick maker nursery rhyme: He’s a brewer, a diver, a jammer, and a MacGyver with an indefatigable can-do spirit. Get to know him below then post a comment and say hello!

What is Meet Your Neighbors? We can spend a fair amount of time tending our online gardens, but it’s easy to forget there’s a real person behind every quiche recipe, chicken inquiry, and hoophouse design here on HOMEGROWN. Well, nuts to that! MYN gives us a chance to meet over the back fence and shake hands.

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Comment by HOMEGROWN.org on May 8, 2014 at 2:39pm

Ahoy, Bill! You're chatting with us from sunny Southern California, right? What’s the weather like where you are today? On second thought, don’t tell us. We’ll be overcome with jealousy. Here’s a replacement question: Are you a native Californian? And a bonus question: Where are you in the photo above?

Comment by Bill Graney on May 8, 2014 at 3:03pm

I'm not a native Californian but I've lived in Southern California since 1980. I grew up in Massachusetts (Springfield).  The photo is from a dive boat at one of  the Channel Islands, I think the island in the photo is Anacapa.  The Channel Islands are my most frequent scuba excursions.  

Comment by HOMEGROWN.org on May 8, 2014 at 3:05pm

Woohoo for Massachusetts, HOMEGROWN's HQ! And your scuba trips sound amazing. Speaking of adventures, you just had your first experience with jam making, using loquats from a gorgeous tree in your yard. Since you’ve lived in your current place for several years, what made this year different? What inspired you to make jam?

Comment by Bill Graney on May 8, 2014 at 3:09pm

I'm not sure what made this year different.  Some years there isn't any fruit but this year this a massive amount. I suspect I may have finally gotten the pruning schedule right.  As for the jam; I had to think of something to do with all the loquats so I decided to make some jam and I'm going to a brew a beer using some. That still leaves quite a bit so I'll probably make more jam and I was thinking I might make some pies. I haven't made pies before so that will be another new experience.

Comment by HOMEGROWN.org on May 8, 2014 at 3:12pm

Loquat beer with a slice of loquat pie sounds like heaven. And since you mentioned home brewing, how did you first get into that? And what's your favorite beer you've brewed so far? And (last question for this round), is there one basic piece of advice you'd offer to first-time home brewers?

Comment by Bill Graney on May 8, 2014 at 3:20pm

Once the craft beer revolution started to really kick in (maybe around 2006) I became enthused about the wide range of styles that were readily available and the option of buying beer brewed by local brewers.  That led to an initial interest in home brewing.  There are a lot of options for new brewers based on cost and how much time one wants to put into it. It can be a kitchen stovetop operation or it can take over your garage so for people who want to start brewing I would recommend doing some research and deciding how much time and effort you want to put into it before you start buying equipment.  My favorite beer I've done so far is a Belgian Dubbel I did last year. It achieved my highest score that I've gotten so far in a homebrew contest. I like the Belgian styles a lot so they are a go-to for me as well as IPAs and something German for Oktoberfest every year. This year it will be a Munich Dunkel. 

Comment by HOMEGROWN.org on May 8, 2014 at 3:23pm

We'll raise a stein to you remotely! (Which gives me an idea: We should pick a day to say a HOMEGROWN cheers, along the lines of the Great Guinness Toast. Let's discuss!) So, we've talked about scuba diving, jam making, and beer brewing, but you're also an experienced bread baker (croissants, no less—no easy feat!), a backyard-wood-oven pizza maker, and a gardener. Two questions: Did you build your own pizza oven and what are you planting in your garden this year?

Comment by Bill Graney on May 8, 2014 at 3:28pm

I bought my wood fire oven (rather than building it).  I read a book on building one and it seemed the learning curve on building and the time it would take was more than I wanted to take on.  That's not a skill that comes naturally to me and I don't know anyone who could have overseen the project. I do think that when I retire I am going to give it a try because I'd like a bigger one.  I do love the wood fire oven, I'm very happy I decided to take the plunge.  My garden has hops, tomatoes, cucumbers,various peppers, corn, and herbs.  I just planted some pumpkins so we'll see how those come along. I haven't planted them before. 

Comment by HOMEGROWN.org on May 8, 2014 at 3:32pm

You're fearless. How cool that you're game to try so many things for the first time, from pumpkins to jam. That's the HOMEGROWN spirit! OK, last question, and then we'll let you get back to your lunch: What ties all of these activities together for you? What's the through-line? And before I sign off, thanks so much for taking the time to chat. It's so good to know you and have you here among the HOMEGROWN flock!

Comment by Bill Graney on May 8, 2014 at 3:39pm

Well one tie-in is yeast chemistry. With both bread and beer the role that yeast plays is fascinating to me. My sourdough starter is a member of the family and I seem to be able to gaze endlessly at beer fermenting. I also like to be outside so I brew outside and now that I can make pizza & breads outside I'm out in the back a lot, hanging out by the garden, obsessing over minute details, listening to music.  Cooking in general is something I enjoy quite a bit too, so anything that involves adding ingredients together to make something more remarkable than the sum of it's part will get me enthused.  The life cycle of plants is another source of endless wonder.  Thanks for having me (I hope there aren't too many typos).  Homegrown is a great website!


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