Monday, June 13, 2011

My hops are growing!!! Well, some of them anyway.

My rhizomes were planted a little over two months ago and I finally have some results to report  on. The Cascade rhizome has shown the most significant growth of the four different types we planted. We were expecting this to be the case based on research Gary had done before planting and based on what Jerry from the Brew Haus had told me when I bought the rhizomes. As you may recall from my first "Hops" post, after getting them in the ground we covered the sprouts with a bottomless plastic jug to keep rabbits away. Here are a few pictures showing how we did this. When I say "we"... I should specify that this was Gary's great idea and he did it, so there was really nothing "we" about it.

haha, take that you wascally wabbits

After the sprouts got large enough, Gary removed the plastic jugs and put some chicken wire around each plant. We have had one causality though. The Centennial does not appear to have sprouted at all and we are starting to believe we won't see any growth from it. Here are some more pictures of each plant. As you can see, the Cascade plant is well over 4 feet tall now! The Willamette and Nugget are growing, but much slower than the Cascade.

This is the base of the Cascade plant. Note: to the right of the tape measure we actually have another new little sprout started! The Cascade rhizome took off the quickest by far.

Here is a full shot of the Cascade.

So there you have it. Though I wouldn't quite call it a bumper crop, we are making progress. Gary and I are considering digging up one or two of the extra sprouts that have appeared around the base of the Cascade plant and re-planting them where the Centennial was intended to be. I'll let you know how that turns out if we decide to do it. That's all for now, thanks again for reading!  

Monday, June 6, 2011

I'm a Cheapskate

I've made some pretty awesome media changes lately that are saving us a lot of money. Here is a break down of costs before and after the changes. Bottom line, because more services are being offered online and because TV stations now broadcast in digital formats, I'm getting more and paying A LOT less.

Before the changes we had $180 in total monthly media bills:
$86 - cell phones - 2 lines with US Cellular, we never used all our minutes
$30 - internet DSL connection
$24 - land line phone
$30 - basic cable
$10 - netflix

After the changes we now have $65 in total monthly media bills:
$22 - tracfones - these are prepay cell phones, we only pay for what we use 
$30 - internet DSL connection
$3 - ooma Voice Over IP - use your house phone via your internet connection
$0 - FREE digital TV channels over the air (we get 23 channels)
$10 - netflix - tv and movies streaming to our TV
$0 - pandora - online radio stations tailored to our music preferences
$0 - hulu - tv and movies streaming to our TV

So as you can see, we're saving $115 a month and getting tons more media! I should mention a few things;
We did cut back our cell usage. Tracfone gives us each 100 minutes per line per month for $11 per line. We can add more minutes as we need them and pay as we go. No contract, no termination fees, and we got to keep our same numbers. Best of all, the phone itself only cost $10! The phone I have can text and call... that's it. It's nothing fancy but Tracfone dose offer other phones that can browse the web, have built in cameras, etc... I plan on getting an i-pod touch so I can keep up with the ever changing world of apps despite my lack of smart phone.

We haven't got the Ooma voice over IP yet, but we will eventually. Basically we'll buy this box looking gadget that is about the size of a small book that plugs right into our wireless router. Our home phones then plug into the Ooma box and use the internet connection to make calls. No long distance charges, no fees or monthly charges, the only thing we pay is $3 for federal tax. It can even be set up so that we don't have to move any of our current phones. The best part is that all of the features phone service providers currently charge extra for come free with Ooma. Call waiting, Caller ID, Long Distance, its all included for the $3 a month. The Ooma box costs anywhere from $200 to $249 and we can keep our existing number for a $40 "porting fee" The box can be plugged in anywhere there is an internet connection.

So tracfones in conjunction with an Ooma phone allow us to talk as much as we want for MUCH less. The only slight downside is that we just have to be aware of how many minutes we use on our tracfone and there is a little bit of initial cost to get Ooma set up. Tracfone is nice enough to display our remaining minutes front and center on the phones screen so we are always aware of how many minutes we have left.

3.) Broadcast TV- With a digital tuner and a decent antenna, we are getting 23 TV channels. That is more channels than we were paying Mediacom for and its FREE! Again, there was some initial cost in the hardware. Our signal amplifier was about $60 (we already had an antenna, we just bought this little thing that mounts to the antenna mass that boosts the signal so we get more channels) Our digital converter box was also about $60. If we would have gotten a new TV we wouldn't have needed to get a converter box because HDTVs have digital tuners built in. I'm cheap though so I decided to get a $60 converter in stead of spending $400 on a new TV. Here is a cool website I found that helped me determine what channels are available by zip code. 

Also, here is a website of a company that specializes in large antennas like the kind we are using that is in our attic.

I felt fine dropping cable because of whats available through netflix and other internet based tv/movie providers. I can watch shows I want to watch when I want to watch them instead of being at the mercy of what cable providers decide to air. We got a Blu Ray player that has built in WiFi and supports netflix so we can stream our netflix movies and shows right to our TV. The Blu Ray player also supports Pandora, Napster and Cinema Now so we get many additional media options brought right to our TV via our Blu Ray player. 

Pandora gives us free radio stations that play songs based on what we like. 

Hulu provides free TV shows and movies through its website, but charges if you want to stream to your TV via a Blu Ray player or other internet connectible device. So I got an adapter for $40 that lets us hook up our laptop to our TV so we can watch Hulu shows via their website on our TV. Here is a link to the website I bought my adapter from.

So we now have cell phones, home phones, 23 digital TV channels, online radio, netflix and hulu for the low price of $65 per month. Really the only thing we are currently missing is the whole mobile device "app" sensation but as I said, I plan to get an i-pod touch. I've been back and forth a lot on weather or not to get a smart phone. I just can't bring myself to pay $40 or more per line per month just so I can have the internet at my fingertips anywhere I go. I feel an i-touch is an awesome stand in that will allow me to venture into the whole world of apps and other smart phone like technologies without having to pay a monthly bill for the service. It will essential do everything for me that a smart phone can do when I'm in an area with wireless internet. 

Anyway, long story short. I'm saving over $100 a month and actually have much more media at my disposal. There have been some initial hardware costs, but when you consider how much I'm saving, its totally worth it.