Friday, December 30, 2011

Fantastic Mr. Fox...Cider, Banjos and, Biology

     The other night I watched one of my favorite movies, Wes Anderson's Fantastic Mr. Fox, and I was reminded how the movie almost seems to be made specifically for me.   From the ridiculous, fictionalized cider still that Farmer Bean uses to produce his hard cider that tastes like "melted gold," to the improvisational banjo skills of Petey at his fireside jam, this movie has something for everybody interested in Hard Cider (not quite beer but, close enough), Banjos, or Biology.  There is even a scene that pokes fun at Carl Linneaus' system of binomial nomenclature!  Lastly, Mr. Fox's encounter with the wolf, Canis lupus, is a perfect (though somewhat comedic) example of how mysterious and majestic nature can be.  It is a great family movie, that can be enjoyed by all ages.  I highly recommend it to anybody who likes wild animals and banjos (the banjo plays a prominent role in the musical score along with many other rustic instruments).
Mr. Fox: Alright, let's start planning. Who knows shorthand?
[Linda the otter raises her hand]
Mr. Fox: Great! Linda! Lutra lutra - you got some dry paper?
[Linda provides paper] 
Mr. Fox:  Here we go. Mole! Talpa europea! What do you got?
Mole: I can see in the dark. 
Mr. Fox: That's incredible! We can use that!... Rabbit! Oryctolagus cuniculus
Rabbit: I'm fast. 
Mr. Fox: You bet you are... Beaver! Castor fiber!
Beaver: I can chew through wood.
Mr Fox: Amazing!...Badger! Meles meles
Badger: Demolitions expert. 
Mr. Fox: What? Since when?
      The classic wolf encounter.  I can only hope that when I encounter my first wolf there will be celestial music in the background.


Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Smoking Fish...the Old Way

It all starts with a good hardwood fire!  Once this burns down to coals, the smoking process can begin! (photo by Matt Matechik, used with permission.)
      With all the floundergigged this fall, I have had plenty of fish to experiment with.  Today, I smoked some flounder.  In this post, I'll explain how to smoke fish, not in a commercially constructed monstrosity, but in a built up earthen pit.  This is an old way of preparing fish that I find really enjoyable.  When done, the fish are flavored with the perfect balance of salty, sweet, spicy and smoky flavors and, the texture is amazing.  It is pretty simple, even if you don't have any experience smoking or grilling foods.  Typically I smoke mullet, which taste great but, this time I smoked some flounder.  Why?  Because I had flounder and I didn't have mullet.  It still turned out great however, I did find that the extra oily flesh of the mullet reacts better with the smoke and salt than the flounder does. 

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Merry Christmas!

      I hope everyone has a great Christmas!   I won't be posting for the next few days because I want to spend some time with my family and I hope everyone else has a chance to do the same.  For the holiday, I recorded this tranquil Christmas song.  This arrangement is also from Mike Iverson's book, A Clawhammer Christmas.  I made a few mistakes but, I think my playing is improving.  I hope everyone enjoys it!

Friday, December 23, 2011

Photos from Middle Earth

 "Not all those who wander are lost" -J.R.R. Tolkein

Looking out at this bend in the Green River, it is very easy to imagine Frodo and the Fellowship paddling down the Anduin.
       For those of you who don't already know, the trailer for The Hobbit, was released.  It looks pretty cool.  So what does this mean in relation to all the outdoor topics I typically post about?  Well, first, The Hobbit, is epic and anything epic deserves some attention on this blog.  More importantly, this blog is partially about outdoor adventures, and I'm sure many outdoorsman, like me, have come across some amazing scenery in nature and thought, "I feel like I'm in Middle Earth."  So, in honor of the The Hobbit, and all great adventures, I have posted some pictures of places, and things, that made me feel like I was in Middle Earth.  Enjoy!


Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Dinosaurs in Terra Nova

      I don't watch much TV but, every so often I'll relax with a little mindless television.  This fall, instead of gravitating towards a comedy show like I normally do, I started watching the cheesy sci-fi, Terra Nova.  I'm not going to lie, I enjoy these shows more than I should but, I'm always amused with the lack of science in "science fiction."  Steven Spielberg actually does a good job animating how the dinosaurs probably moved, but they way they behave is probably not very accurate.  I know it is just a TV show, so I shouldn't care but, the dinosaurs in the show just don't seem to behave like very good predators.  I'm no paleontologist but, I just don't think that risking ones life while chasing a convoy of armored, gun-laden trucks, just to attain a meager amount of calories from a bony Homo sapiens sapiens makes any sense from an energetics perspective.  Of course, then I remember that the whole show is based on the idea of traveling through a wormhole to a prehistoric planet earth (in a separate timeline!), to start  a new future.  Not to mention, the people don't even act logically, they make stupid decisions to move the plot along.  So, why do I watch the show?  Well, all these discrepancies make for some inaccurate but, entertaining scenarios.  I just have to suspend my cynicism for a short time.  Plus, dinosaurs are always exciting!


      Thanks to all my readers!  Sometime earlier this week, I reached my one thousandth pageview (by the way, 1,000 is the smallest positive integer with an "A" in its spelling).  I'm glad to see my writing is useful to other people.  I plan on writing a lot more.  To make it easier for you to find what you are looking for I have added some new pages to my blog.  The "Hiking and Paddling Trips" tab will take you to a page that will have links to all my trip reports.   "Other Pages of Interest" will take you to links that you may find useful if you are interested in Beer, Banjos, Boats or, Biology.  In the future, I plan on adding a recipe (beer and food) page too.  If you have any questions, comments, or ideas, I'd love to hear from you.  You can comment below or email me at  Also, thanks to all of you who shared this with a friend or posted a link somewhere.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Skin-on-Frame Kayaks

Here is the skin-on-frame kayak I built from scratch.  Once you build one, you will be hooked.  I'm planning on making a few more this spring.
      My friend has recently moved into a warehouse (it's cozier than you would think), so he has plenty of workspace.  Better yet, he wants me to teach him how to build kayaks!  We are thinking of making some traditional skin-on-frame kayak.  In this ancient style of construction, a waterproof skin is stretched across a wooden frame and sewn together to create a kayak (or other type of boat).  Whale or other hides were traditionally used for the skin and, the frame was typically made with bone, or driftwood.  More modern interpretations of skin-on-fame kayaks use a range of materials for the "skin" including latex painted canvas, polyurethane coated nylon, or PVC sheets.  It may not be true to tradition but, today, most people don't have access to narwhal skin.  The frames are still usually made of wood, but there are two common styles of frames.  Traditionally, wooden gunwales (the part of the boat where the hull and deck meet) were carved and spread apart with wooden crosspieces.  Wood strips were then steam bent into curved shapes, called ribs, and inserted into the bottom of the gunwales (via mortise and tenon joints) to create the hull shape.  Longitudinal stringers were then lashed to the ribs to complete the hull.  This picture should make it a little more clear.  A less traditional way of constructing the frame is the fuselage style.  In this style, gunwales and longitudinal stringers are attached to plywood cross sections to provide the shape of the hull.  As its name suggests, it is similar to the fuselage construction of airplanes.

Here is my fuselage style kayak frame.  Note the plywood cross sections as opposed to steam-bent ribs.

Friday, December 16, 2011

(Sea)Trout in the Rivers

I haven't found the big trout yet but, they should show up soon.  This white trout is a little small but, if you can find decent white trout, they are just as good as speckled trout.
      This time of year, fishing can get a little tricky, especially for fishermen without a boat.  For most of the winter, I just occupy myself with other tasks (usually a building project or brewing).  However, when a day like today comes by, I just have to hit the water.  The air was calm, it was sunny, and probably in the 70's.  With the cooler temperatures, speckled and white (a.k.a. sand) trout move into the lower portions of rivers making them accessible to anybody fishing from a bridge, or drifting in a boat.  I like to keep things simple, so I just get some shrimp and drift down the local river in my canoe.  I don 't have to buy gas, it's stable, and I get a little exercise on the way back.  If you don't like to paddle much, don't worry, you can probably find a bridge to fish off of.  If you are in brackish water, you can find trout.  Just keep in mind, even with the warm air temperatures, the water is still pretty cool.  This means the fish are a little sluggish.  You will want to fish really slow.  I just drift one shrimp on the bottom and one on a popping cork.  If you start hooking fish, you may want to anchor up but, I usually just make multiple passes through an area if it is productive.  That way, I don't have to deal with an anchor.  You may find that there are a lot of white trout mixed in with the specks.  Some people prefer the specks, but I'll take either.  They taste the same to me but, white trout tend to be a little smaller.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen

Oh Tidings of comfort and joy!

      This post is pretty self-explanatory.  It is me attempting to play "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen" in a melodic clawhammer style.  Normally, I learn the chords of a song, and then slowly learn the melody by ear.  However, I refuse to play Christmas music until December, so I don't actually have much time to learn songs before Christmas.  I broke down and bought A Clawhammer Christmas, by Mike Iverson.  It is a great book.  I found it especially challenging to get a serene and quaint feeling out of the banjo for the slower Christmas tunes, but this book really helped.  Anyway, I hope you enjoy it.  (Sorry for the poor audio quality.  I don't know what causes the "cracking noise" but, I tried to reduce it by muting my banjo and covering my microphone.  I'll try to get a better mic.)
      As a side note, I had to post the following video.  Normally, I am not a fan of rock or pop group Christmas carol covers but, I love the sound of this version by the Barenaked Ladies.  Parts of it almost sounds haunting but it maintains that upbeat swing through the entire song.  Plus, the harmony is awesome, and I love harmonies.  Of course, it puts me to shame, but I can handle being outperformed by professional musicians.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Suwannee River Trail for Christmas?

My canoe along the scenic Suwannee.   I'm contemplating a return trip over Christmas.  (Photo by Jonathan Bollhoefer.  Used with permission)
      With Christmas approaching fast, it is time for me to start thinking about my annual Christmas camping trip.  Normally, I lead friends and family down either Blackwater River, or Coldwater Creek.  This year, I am thinking of going a little farther away.  It's not that these two rivers aren't beautiful, it's just that I have done them so many times.  I have racked up a couple hundred river miles on them.  I'm thinking the Suwannee River Trail might be a good choice.  For any interested paddler out there, the Suwannee offers over 170 miles of paddling, on a historic river, through some spectacular ecosystems of north Florida.  I paddled 100 miles of the river this past March with my friend, and trusted bow paddler, Jonathan Bollhoefer.  We passed through hardwood/palmetto forests, pine forests, and beautiful springs.  It was an amazing trip, which is part of the reason I want to return with even more family and friends.  However, not that many people know about the river trail, so I figured I'd post some information.  The state keeps track of how many people use the trail, so if more people go, it is more likely to remain funded.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Pumpkin Ale (Liquid Pumpkin Pie!)

My pumpkin ale, served from my garage keg!  It was actually a deep red, but I have trouble photographing liquids in glasses.
      I finally got some pictures of my pumpkin ale, which can best be described as intoxicating, liquid pumpkin pie.  This was a true pumpkin ale, as opposed to a pumpkin spice ale.  It had actual pumpkin in addition to spices such as cloves, cinnamon, and nutmeg.  The first thing you will notice is the nice head on the beer.  It also had a very thick mouthfeel, almost like an oatmeal stout would have.  I suspect that both of these characteristics were the result of the starches in the pumpkin.  After the foamy, and slightly malty initial flavor, the spices came through.  Some brewers overdo the spices, but these spices balanced perfectly with the dark malt favors.  The beer finished with the bitterness of chinook hops, and to a lesser extent, the spices.  Since it is intended for cooler temperatures, I made the final alcohol content a little higher at 5.5%.  You may be wondering how I made this beer.  Well, I won't give you my exact recipe but, I will give you enough information to get you in the ballpark.  Fine tuning the recipe will be up to you.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Brewing Basics

Before you open a neighborhood brewpub in your house, you need to learn the basics of brewing.

      I went out gigging one last time and didn't get a thing.  The run is over.  In the next few months I'll be doing much less fishing, but I'll be doing much more brewing.  The temperatures are perfect for standing around a boiling brew kettle, and my house is the perfect temperature for the fermentation of ales.  I already have a very heavy stout in mind, which I'll make when my brother is in town for Christmas.  I'll take lots of pictures so I can explain the process.  However, you will get much more out of my future tutorial if you already have a basic idea of the brewing process.  Today, I'll summarize the process so I can go into more detail when I post my tutorial.  I'll be writing about all grain brewing, which I find to be a much more rewarding process than extract brewing.  Still, if this seems too much for you to handle, you can always simplify the process by brewing with malt extract which would eliminate the complicated first two steps, mashing and sparging.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Is it Christmas Time Yet?

I captured this frozen pond on Grand Mesa way back in October.  Going from a winter wonderland to the muggy south has really confused my natural calender.
      For some reason, it doesn't seem like Christmas is right around the corner.  Maybe it's because I no longer have the pre-holiday ritual of studying for exams and writing final papers before finally getting to relax with some hard cider and Christmas carols. I also think that this ridiculously warm weather might be influencing my innate calender.  As a matter of fact, when I was working in Wyoming, it started snowing in October.  Christmas carols kept popping into my head, but part of me knew that it was still too early for Christmas.  When I was leaving Wyoming, I knew the south would still be warm, but I didn't know it would be this warm. One day, I was breaking ice in a desert stream to catch fish underneath it.  On my way home one week later, I was swimming in the Colorado River to cool off after hiking in 80 degree temperatures.  When I got to Florida it was even warmer.  We had one quick cold front but know it has warmed up again.  Today was especially warm and muggy.  (I guess I spoke to soon when I proclaimed it was keg season.)  I'm used to panhandle Christmases, but I wasn't prepared for the weather to stay this warm.  I'm not complaining, I really like warm humid weather.  I just wasn't expecting it to last this long.  I guess when I go get my family's tree, and finally smell the scent of pine in the sawdust, it will feel like Christmas time.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Catch the Tail End of the Flounder Run

      I know I have been writing about gigging a lot lately, but only because it has been so productive.  Once the run ends, I'll post about some other topics.  Anyway, I went out last night and there are still fish out there.  I saw one in the first few minutes, but I didn't notice it until it was swimming away.  Needless to say, it escaped.  It was pretty windy so the surf was a little rough.  My usual walk to the jetty only produced two fish, but one was my neighbors first fish.  It was a 20" fish too!  On the way back, the Destin Christmas Boat Parade started.  A bunch of decrated boats went by and then the fireworks started!  I love fireworks, but I don't think fish do.  We were right next to the barge that launched the projectiles, and it was pretty noisy.  The next two fish we saw looked to be about 18 inches, but they spooked way too easily.  Oh well, at least there was some nice scenery.  Right before we left we did a second pass through a typically productive stretch of the beach and got an 18" flounder.  It was worth the extra 5 minutes.
      Anyway, the flounder are still out there.  They are not as thick as they used to be, but you can still find a few.  I suspect they will hang around until the end of this week, but this cold front coming through will probably drive out the rest of the fish.  So, if you want to get out this year, go in the next three nights.  I know I'll be putting up my gear after Friday.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Gear for Gigging

Do you want to have a great time and catch some fish?  I'll explain how to gig flounder like these in a series of three posts, starting today.
      Hopefully, all my writing about gigging has encouraged some people to go out and give it a try.  It is getting a little late in the year for gigging, but that means I'll be out on the water less and have more time to write.  When I started the blog, we were already in the middle of the flounder run, so I just posted reports.  Now that the run is over, I'll post three more entries about gigging (1) Gear for Gigging, (2) When and Where to go Gigging, and (3) How to make some equipment.  You will have all winter to get your gear assembled because the flounder won't start coming back until spring.  Also, I'll be writing about wadding.  Methods for gigging off a boat might be a little different, but this information may still be useful.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

It's Keg Season! (part 2 of 2)

      Yesterday, I explained how to use the chilly winter temperatures to refrigerate your keg, thus avoiding the utility costs of a kegerator.  Today, I'll explain another way to avoid using a kegerator.  It is actually very simple.  Still, I know a lot of homebrewers who overlook this option, even thought it is a lot of fun!  Basically it requires consuming all of the beer (invite some friends) in one sitting (you might be able to push it to two days).  Most people have probably been to a party or cookout where somebody has brought a keg of beer and left it sitting in a tub of ice to be enjoyed.  However, when I do the same exact thing with my homebrew keg, I get funny looks.  Maybe most brewers are too proud to have their beer treated like a keg of bud at a frat house, but if you have a lot of people, a five gallon keg won't last long even if it is being properly enjoyed (i.e. not being pumped down somebody's throat while they do a handstand).  Even if you don't have a tap, just bring your CO2 tank and regulator.  Guests will be pleased that they don't have to hassle with the annoyance of pumping the tap (or arguing with the know-it-all who is trying to tell them that they pumped it too much/little).

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

It's Keg Season! (part 1 of 2)

A 5 gallon keg can be a convenient way to serve beer but I don't have a kegerator so I typically use mine in winter.  It can also be a great place to collect bumper stickers. 
      Many of you are probably thinking, "Is there really a season for using kegs?"  Technically there isn't. A draft witbier sure would be refreshing in the heat of summer, but I tend to use kegs a lot more in the winter.  Kegging systems are not only cool; they eliminate the tedious bottling process.  It sure is convenient to siphon your beer into one sanitized keg rather than 50+ cleaned, sanitized, and then dried beer bottles.  However, this convenience in brewing can result in a very inconvenient utility bill if you use a kegerator.  There are two easy ways to avoid the hidden costs of a kegerator, but they both boil down to not using a kegerator.  I'll describe one tonight, and then post the other tomorrow.

Monday, November 28, 2011

My Banjo Style

Dance all night and fiddle all day
Dance all night and fiddle all day
Dance all night and fiddle all day
That's the soldiers joy 
-Verse from Soldier's Joy

     Well, I promised some banjo on this blog so here it is.  This is an oldtime classic called Soldier's Joy.  It was a very popular fiddle tune during, and after, the Civil War.  A fiddler I played with in Tallahassee told me that it was popular in England and America, and that almost every oldtime fiddler knows this song.  It is often played as an instrumental, but many verses have also been put to the tune.  This particular piece is my modified version of Mike Iverson's arrangement.
      As you can tell, I need some more practice to get the tune sounding nice and clean.  I didn't want to wait until I'm perfect before I post, because I'll never be perfect.  A good musician doesn't get good before playing for others.  A good musician plays for others to get good.  Also, posting my videos will help keep track of my progress and hopefully inspire others to give music a try too.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Death of a Gator

The remnants of this alligator not only looked cool, but reminded me that in nature, everything is vunerable.
      Nature always finds new ways to impress me.  Sometimes, it’s a majestic landscape that I see from 14,000’.  Sometimes it is a rare and beautiful species that has adapted to survive in a unique environment.  Other times, nature just reminds me about the way life is.  Such is the case with this alligator (Alligator mississippiensis) skull I found at Hickory Mound Wildlife Management Area, while on a multi-day paddling trip along the big bend of Florida.
      At one time, the gator was a force to be reckoned with in the swamp.  It prowled the dark waters and waited for the perfect moment to ambush its prey, but nature reminds us that nothing is invincible.  Who knows what brought the end to this gators life.  In the end, all that matters is that it wasn’t fit enough to survive.  The once proud gator now rests at the bottom of a mucky tidal creek where crabs, whelks and insects now feast on it rotting flesh.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

An Introduction to Mead

The benches were filled with famous men who fell to with relish, round upon round of mead was passed; those powerful kinsmen, Hrothgar and Hrothulf were high in spirits in the raftered hall.  Inside Heorot there was nothing but friendship.
 - Beowulf, Seamus Heaney translation

Blackberry Buzz, one of my meads.  The label was produced by my friend John Dougherty.  Sorry for the picture quality.  I like my point and shoot but it was not really designed for these types of photos.
      I wanted to post this on Thanksgiving but I ended up going gigging instead, so here it is.  After moving out of Tallahassee last May, I realized that I have stockpiled a lot more homemade beer, mead, and wine than I thought.  I need to drink some up before my next move.  So, this year I added a bottle of my blackberry mead to our Thanksgiving feast.  I’ll provide a brief, general description of mead for those of you who are not familiar with this drink of the gods.  Then, I’ll describe my particular mead to the best of my ability.  I’m no connoisseur but I know enough about wine and mead to make them so I should be able to describe them.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Thanksgigging Report

Two of my fish from this year's annual Thanksgigging trip.
      Happy belated Thanksgiving everybody!  I hope everyone was able to enjoy the day with family and friends.  Like most people, I enjoyed the traditional Thanksgiving meal with my family.  Unlike a lot of people, I did not enjoy the tradition of sitting on the couch in an overstuffed stupor watching football.  Instead, I continued one of my personal traditions, Thanksgigging!  For the past five years, some of my siblings, my friends, and I have been going out after Thanksgiving dinner to hunt for flounder.  Last year, we got skunked, but with the run being so good for the past two weeks, I was hopeful that this year it would be a success.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Homebrewing: Healthy Hobby or Crime

      As I said in my introductory post, I am an avid homebrewer.  I have been brewing for almost four years, and in that time, I have developed some pretty delicious (not to mention, affordable beers).  A lot of people start brewing so they can make cheap beer, but I was actually originally drawn to homebrewing for other reasons.  Its historical value and the challenge of combining all my chemistry, biology, and botanical knowledge to create a near perfect (never perfect – any brewer who says he created the perfect beer is limiting himself…more on that below) beverage enticed me.  I had plenty of help from John Palmer’s online book, How to Brew.  It is available online, for free, and is, in my opinion, the best resource for anybody thinking about starting to brew, or hoping to improve their skills and efficiency.
      I brew all grain recipes that I write myself.  I always use my own recipes (except my very first one when I was learning).  It does take some experience, and some trial and error, but the results are always worth the effort.   Sometimes the beers don’t taste exactly as I hope but they are always delicious.  Plus, you can always adjust your recipe and create successive batches to work towards the unattainable flavor of the beer you imagined.  I say unattainable, not because brewing is hard, but because there are so many variables (eg. grain types used, proportions of grain types, mashing temperature, boil time, types of hops used, time hops are added etc.) that there is always some minor adjustment that can be made to make your beer better.  There are technically infinite combinations of all the variables in brewing.  For you math people out there, you can never reach the point of perfection, but you can come asymptotically close.  Still, reaching a point that is acceptable for most people (and better than most commercial beers) is an attainable goal.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

The flounder run is hot this year! Literally.

A 21.5 inch flounder gigged at East Pass.  It's great to be back in Florida.

       I have been working in Wyoming since June and I just recently returned to Florida.  Wyoming was so beautiful, in an almost dangerous way, with its remote mountains and windswept deserts.  At times, however, I did really miss being in the southeast, especially the panhandle of Florida.  When late August arrived I could almost taste the sweet purple muscadines that I used to pick around Tallahassee.  To relieve my homesickness I just drank some homemade muscadine wine, which helped a little, and reminded myself that although I missed the muscadine harvest, I would make it home in time for the fall flounder run.

Give Me the Banjo

Here is an interesting documentary about the history of the banjo in American culture.  It starts with the humble roots of the banjo as a homemade instrument of suppressed slaves and goes all the way up to contemporary banjo players such as Steve Martin and Bela Fleck.  I also really like how the film mentioned the pre-Scruggs, three finger players that are often overlooked.  A guy that I used to work with was an old-time, three-finger player and often faced criticism for not being a frailer.  Apparantly old-time folks often think you have to frail to play old-time and a lot of bluegrass folks think that they are the only ones who can play three finger style.  This documentary just goes to show that the real essence of the banjo is not being completely tied down to any particular tradition, but developing one’s own way of playing based on what one has to work with.  Give Me the Banjo Documentary

What's in (or will be in) this blog?

      I have a lot of hobbies and, like most hobbyists, a lot friends that I share them with.  The problem is, I've got too much going on to keep them all updated on my latest experimental brew, an old-time tune I just learned on the banjo, or the bountiful harvest of wild fruit that happens to be setting.  Plus, I'm at that exciting stage in my life in which a lot my friends have just graduated and we are now dipsersing across the country (and world) making it even more challenging, and important, to keep in contact.  As a result, I have started this blog so my friends and family can keep up with my projects, but also so anybody intrested in Beer, Banjos, Boats and Biology can find some ideas, inspiration or information from what I post.
      Before I go any further, I should make it clear that this blog is not just about Beer, Banjos, Boats and Biology.  These just happen to be some of my favorite hobbies but I'm always doing something different or trying new things so you can expcect a lot more.  In fact, I'll post whatever random, topic comes to my mind but, you can bet that it will probably have some thing to do with nature (especially fish, herps, wild edibles or outdoor recreating), brews or music.
      Now that I have got that out of the way, I'll tell you a bit about myself. I am a graduate of The Florida State University and proud of it.  I studied biology, with an emphasis on ecology and evolution, and also took considerable marine biology coursework.  The marine world around us is fascinating  but I'm currently looking into freshwater ecology.  So far, I have seen some amazing places and organisms while studying and working on ecology.  I hope my work continues to take me to new places and if it does, I'll describe them here.

Working in biology does not pay well monetarily speaking, but the places you go and things you will see are payment enough.  This elk rack was found while working in Wyoming.   As state employees we couldn't keep the rack so it's still out there waiting for somebody to find it.
      I am fascinated by beer.  I'm not referring to just the euphoric feeling one gets while consuming it but also the knowledge, dedication, guts, and biological processes that are involved in crafting a unique beer.  I love to try different beers from microbreweries but my favorite beer is the beer I make with my own two hands using traditional techniques and my own crazy ideas.  I'll be posting about what I brew, and maybe even posting some basic recipies but... I'll be honest, you will not find my oatmeal stout or elder ale recipe on this page.  I work hard to come up with my recipes, and I'm glad to provide guidance but, it is up to you to come up with your own unique creations.  You will enjoy them much more if they are entirely your creations.

Sharing a glass of handcrafted homebrew is one of the many joys associated with homebrewing.  Here, my roomate and I conduct some quality control tests on our winter ale.
             I also love building things.  If something can be built rather than bought, I'll try to build it.  It doesn't always turn out well but that's how I learn. Two years ago I completed a fuselage style, skin-on-frame kayak (inspired by  I ended up giving it to my brother but I want to build another boat.  I think this time I'll try a traditional Greenland kayak.  When I get started, I'll post progress reports here.  Other things I have built incude a grape press, a cigar box guitar, wine racks, etc. (see how all my hobbies are related)
A 15.5 foot skin on frame kayak I constructed from scratch, seen at Rock Island, a resting point on the Florida Big Bend Saltwater paddling trail.
      Finally the banjo.  For the past year and a half I have been trying to learn the banjo.  I never played anything else before the banjo so I thought it would be a good challenge.  I mostly play old-time tunes with a style known as clawhammer (or frailing...I'm not arguing banjo semantics with any fanatics out there).  It is a much older style than the popular three finger or Scruggs style with a very different rythmic drive.  I enjoy all banjo music though so I might try to pick up some Scruggs rolls. 

Frailing some banjo in the back of my friends pick-up truck on the way to a canoe trip.  The green thing above my head is a canoe.
      One last thing.  I am writing this for the benefit of others but I still hope to have fun.  So, sometimes I'll post thoughts or ideas.  I'll try to be knowledgable but I'm not going to go out and do weeks of research for a single post.  I get enough of that as a hopeful scientist.  So, I'm not going to post things that I know are false, but if I do post something, before you bet your life on it, do a little of your own research.

If you have any questions, comments, or ideas contact me at imakemybeer(at)gmail(dot)com.