Tag Archives: hard lemonade

Battening the Hatches: September/October 2012 Newsletter

September was spent doing a lot of earthen plastering on the strawbale duplex. We managed to finish the 1st coat on the exterior and interior and got the 2nd, much more time consuming coat, on the interior of my(Tao) side of the duplex.

It would have been nice to finish the interior of both sides, and especially nice to get the finish plaster and floor in so that we wouldn’t have to move out to do that next year, but since the 2nd coat of interior plaster is still drying on my side there’s no way that was possible.  It’s been exactly a month and the 2nd coat is almost dry.

Anyway, that’s where we decided to cease major construction for the year and give ourselves a healthy amount of time to prep for winter. Prepping for winter includes taking down all of the tarps, tents, the pop-up camper, cleaning out the garden, spreading compost, and generally cleaning up and battening the hatches to stay warm.

The Common House

Yesterday I built some shelves for the pantry, and it’s actually being used for pantry-like functions for the first time in its existence. Having our food spread out in an easy to see and accessible way is probably more novel than it should be. I feel like I’m standing in front of the refrigerator with the door open.

Moving the kitchen in and out has become one of the dreaded spring/fall tasks. Until we finish the walls and the floor of the common house we have to move everything out to work on it. We were hoping this would be the last year we’d have to move it in and out, but we’ll have to do it all again next year as well.

We’re prioritizing the finish work on the common house for next year. The water system(hot indoor on-demand showers!) is the driving force. It’s also getting old explaining to every visitor that no, the common house isn’t done yet. We want to have at least one nice finished place to show as an example of what can be done using these sustainable techniques as soon as possible.

Rocket Stoves!

We’ve also been working on heating for the winter. I just finished work on the rocket stove in my side of the duplex. Jesse has the first phases of his complete, and John is gathering materials for his slightly more complex design.

The only thing I would do different on mine so far is to use 5″ flue pipe instead of 4″. Still though, it works remarkably well, and since it basically just burns twigs and small branches I can collect enough wood to burn for 4-6 hours in just a few minutes and I don’t even have to chop anything!

The draft created by the chimney effect and the insulated burn chamber are really exceptional. The sound it makes reminds me of the sound the space shuttles made(past-tense boo!) when they were taking off.  I find it very soothing.

I set mine up with a small cooking area as well as a platform to keep things hot.  I’ve cooked a couple batches of ramen(don’t judge me) on it so far, but I see a lot of tea being brewed in the future.

Harvest Festival

The harvest festival went well, although we’re contemplating moving it later in the year and using it as a time to celebrate our accomplishments for the year and to essentially close out the building season. We had a good turnout of friends and neighbors though, and I believe everyone had a good time.  The homemade hard lemonade certainly didn’t hurt!

Adventures in E. Coli

Many of our neighbors are hesitant to eat anything we’ve grown since word is out that we use humanure to grow our food. With that in mind I ran some tests for e.coli(Thanks to Sarah for acquiring the tests!) just to make sure we’re doing things correctly.

I tested our garden soil that I hadn’t added humanure to, some that I added humanure to last year, straight 1 year old humanure, and 1 year old composted alpaca manure. The results are in! The alpaca manure showed 4 e. coli colonies on the 2 tests, which is within safe limits, there was 1 e. coli colony on 1 of the tests that just had plain garden soil and there were no e.coli colonies found on any of the 7 tests that were done on straight humanure or soil amended with humanure.

Let me repeat that, despite doing more tests on the humanure compost and humanure-amended soil than on the other samples, we were unable to find a single cell of e. coli.  In other words, our humanure compost is totally safe!

We believe the alpaca manure didn’t compost as thoroughly because of how compacted it was.  The manure came from cleaning out the alpaca stalls in the spring and had been tromped on all winter.

While that should put everyone’s mind at ease I doubt the fecalphobes, ie most of society, will be too reassured. In order to utilize our humanure while still compromising with the fecalphobes we’re now only applying the humanure to the fruit trees and using alpaca manure on the veggie beds, despite it showing higher levels of e. coli than the humanure, although still within safe levels.

Winter Goals

We’re organizing ourselves for winter projects. Those include working on organizational aspects such as becoming a non-profit organization, restructuring our volunteer program, and getting training as meeting facilitators. I personally plan on doing more introspective work, meditating, reading, taking long walks, etc.  Oh, and I’ll also be working on editing together the video footage we shot this year into something presentable.


Tao’s Hard Lemonade Cider

Out of all the things I brewed last year, this was the most popular.  It was also the easiest, fastest, and cheapest to do.  I’ve tweaked the recipe a little, but here’s the recipe for my hard lemonade cider.  This should give you around 10% alcohol, and cost about $17/5 gallons.  5 gallons is about 50 12oz. bottles and American beer for example is typically ~5%.  This means you’re only paying about $0.17/beer equivalent of alcohol.  This is much tastier than typical American beer.



  • 5 cans 6 cans frozen lemonade concentrate w/o potassium sorbate
  • 5 cans 4 cans frozen apple juice concentrate w/o potassium sorbate
  • 3.5lbs table sugar
  • 1 packet champagne yeast
  • 5 tsps. yeast nutrient
  • 2.5 tsps potassium sorbate
  • 2.5 tsps. pectic enzyme (optional)
  • 1 campden tablet (optional)
  • ~4 gallon pot
  • (2) 5 gallon bucket
  • (1) 5 gallon bucket lid
  • Air lock for bucket lid
  • Large stirring spoon
  • 3-4′ of 1/2″ inner diameter tubing for racking (optional)
  • Specific density meter (optional)



  1. Clean your bucket, lid, spoon, and large pot well with antibacterial soap and/or a little bleach.
  2. Heat up about 2 gallons of water.  It doesn’t have to boil, but it should be steaming at least.
  3. Stir in 2lbs of sugar, or half of a 4lb bag of sugar and make sure it dissolves completely.
  4. Depending on the size of your pot you can add the cans of juice concentrate into that or pour the hot sugar water into your 5 gallon bucket and then mix in the concentrate.  I like to mix it in the pot to melt the concentrate faster, but it doesn’t matter really.
  5. If you haven’t already pour the sugar/juice mix into the 5 gallon bucket and pour in enough water to make it 5 gallons total.  The 5 gallon mark is right about level with where the bucket handle usually attaches.
  6. Wait until the mix has cooled to roughly room temperature or a little warmer and stir in the yeast nutrient as well as the pectic enzyme and crush campden tablet if you’re using them. (The pectic enzyme makes the brew more clear.  The campden tablet is to protect against other bacteria or yeast getting in your mix.)
  7. Put the bucket in a room temperature area out of direct sunlight and wait 24 hours.
  8. If you’re using a specific density meter to measure the final alcohol content, you’ll want to measure now and record it.
  9. Add the champagne yeast by just sprinkling it on top and then make sure lid is tightly sealed and air lock has water in it and makes a good seal on the lid.
  10. Wait about 2 weeks, it can be faster or slower depending on the temperature.  Ideal is around 75F degress.  After a day or two the air lock will start to bubble as the brew ferments and makes the precious alcohol.  When the air lock stops bubbling after a week to 10 days or so you’ll want to let it sit for an additional 2 days to let the yeast settle out.
  11. You now have very dry hard lemonade cider.  The yeast will have eaten just about all of the sugar and turned it into alcohol.  This is the time to measure the specific density again.  By comparing it to the previous measurement you can calculate the percent alcohol accurately.
  12. Now we want to sweeten it, but if we add more sugar the yeast will just eat that too.  Stir in 2.5 tsps of potassium sorbate to force the yeast into dormancy.
  13. Wait a day or two for the yeast to go dormant
  14. Rack(ie siphon) the lemonade/cider into the other freshly cleaned 5-gallon bucket using the also freshly cleaned tubing.  The key is to get the tubing positioned about 1/2″ from the bottom of the bucket with the cider so you don’t siphon out all the yeast and other fermenting biproducts that have settled to the bottom.  (You don’t necessarily have to do this, but you’ll want to carefully pour off the lemonade/cider and leave as much of the dregs behind in the first bucket as you can.)
  15. Stir in sugar to taste.  This will be roughly 1.5 lbs of sugar depending on taste.
  16. Bottle it or just drink it straight from the bucket
  17. Thank your buddy Tao for sharing his wonderful recipe.

That’s it.  It only takes about 2 weeks altogether.  Beer takes a month, 2 weeks to ferment and 2 weeks to carbonate in the bottle.  Because this isn’t carbonated it takes half the time and doesn’t  have to be bottled at all.  Let me know what you think!