Letting Go…

I’ve come to terms with the fact that I need to let go of my Knitter’s Guide To Beer book concept. While I feel this book has good potential for success, and would be fun to write, my body’s ability to comfortably process more than a couple of pints of beer per week has declined noticeably in the past few years. Combine this with the fact that when people find out I’m writing a book about beer they want to have a beer with me – which is awesome! – and it becomes even more difficult to reduce my consumption for the sake of my health.

This problem would only escalate if I were to finish the book, and then attempt to promote and sell it. And so…I’m listening to my body and letting go.

Being a believer in cosmic forces, it’s clear to me that my writing efforts were meant for a different purpose. Something a bit deeper than matching knitting projects to beer styles.

Looking at all I’ve learned over the course of my life so far, I’ve found that my pursuit of passionate, hands-on inquiry and research into a variety of self-selected subjects has taught me far more than I ever learned sitting in a chair in a room answering questions posed by a teacher. Finding answers to one’s own questions, and sticking with a subject until one’s curiosity is satiated, is far more satisfying and productive.

While there are many subjects that have caught my attention and interest during my unschooled life, I’ve settled on four as the focus of my redesigned book project…Unschooled Path: Knitting, Medicine, Beer, and Bare Feet. What I’ve learned from each of these subjects goes far beyond what I expected to learn. In addition, I’ve found that when explored on a deeper level, the four subjects are connected and interdependent. The knowledge and skills I gained in one subject, helped to improve my understanding and abilities in all the others.

So what’s the most important thing I’ve learned from each of these four subjects? Well, I’ll tell ya…

  • Knitting The value of process. How we get there and what we learn along the way are far more important and valuable than achieving our preconceived goal. In other words, the books we read, the people we meet, the skills we struggle to improve, the choices we make, and the experiences we have that disrupt our progress…these are what life is all about.
  • MedicineThe health of the soil will determine the health of our bodies. When we deplete and impoverish our soil, we deplete and impoverish ourselves. Soil, terrain, terroir…these are what matter to our health, far more than bacteria, viruses, genetics, or even chemical exposure.
  • Beer Microbes should be respected as colleagues, as equals, rather than being feared. They are an essential part of our life and necessary for health. The more we understand and respect our microbe friends, the more we are able to assist in the maintenance of a balanced, stable, and healthy environment – for our own benefit, as well as for that of our microbe family.
  • Bare FeetHuman innovation cannot improve on nature. Certain tools and other human creations can make our lives easier, more predictable, and more satisfying, but we only create problems when we start to believe that we can improve nature. Or worse, that we are smarter than nature. When problems arise, we should always look first to a human action that needs to be undone, in order to make things better.

Through this book concept transition, writing, research and learning continue to happen. Sometimes an activity I take on or a book I choose to read seems like a distraction from my task at hand, and then I find that it’s absolutely related and helps in my understanding of the picture as a whole. As I learned from knitting, the process is where the value is.

With that in mind, yesterday I made cheese for the first time and then made these awesome No-Bake Cheese Tartlets. Way yum! And far easier than I thought it would be…even though my kitchen was a disaster when I was done.

Enjoy the journey!

-Jenne Hiigel

Prepping for Sock Summit…

On Friday I’ll be getting on the train and heading for Portland. Sock Summit starts next Wednesday. I’ll have five-ish days to visit with my daughter and extended family in Portland, and do some typical tourist stuff (breweries & pubs, yarn shops, book stores… all the must-see kinds of places) before my daughter and I leave the real world for four days and immerse ourselves in knitting heaven.

As I start packing for this trip, I’m having to go through my yarn, needles and UFOs (to find even more needles) to make sure I bring what I’ll need for my four workshops. In addition, I have to decide what I’m going to knit on the train. It’s a 24 hour trip. That’s a good batch of focused knitting time. My options are pretty much  limited by how much luggage I want to carry. A variety of small projects seems to be where I’m leaning.

My book proposal is progressing bit by bit. I’m finding I’m treating this project the same way I would a knitting project. Each knitting project has it’s own timeframe. Some get focused attention from start to finish, while others get a good start, periodic bursts of attention here and there, and eventually a boost of enthusiasm to get it done and the ends woven in. Kind of like the mitered square afghan I’ve currently got wrapped around me while I type. It took me several years to get this afghan done and I am thoroughly pleased with the finished result. I love this blanket!

In spite of the slow-down on my book proposal progress, research for the book continues. Beer & Knitting Classes will continue monthly through the end of the year. I’ve even gotten a request for Beer & Spinning Classes, so I plan to add those to the line up in 2010. Beer & Knitting Nights continue semi-regularly, with our next one taking place tonight at Koberl at Blue (check out their beer list!).

In the tradition of knitters everywhere, I’ve gotten an idea for my second book even though I haven’t finished my first one yet. Fortunately, having a second book concept already underway when I approach a publisher could give me the potential for a two-book contract. So my knitter tendencies may not be such a bad thing in this case. (Or am I just demonstrating my extensive rationalization skills here?) As long as my book projects don’t turn into UFOs, I should be okay!

The working title for my second book is A Knitter’s Guide to Non-Alcoholic Beverages. Beverage choices in restaurants and bars for non-alcohol drinkers are generally limited to coffee, tea, corn-syrup-laden sodas and water. In this book I plan to explore other alcohol-free beverage options, with a focus on businesses that are taking this area more seriously and creatively. Alcohol drinkers shouldn’t have all the fun! And, yes… contrary to what many 20-somethings believe, it is possible to have fun without drinking alcohol.

On the Rosacea front, I’ve made significant progress. As I mentioned in a previous post, Vitamin C has been a big help. Then I read Mark Hyman’s book The UltraMind Solution and put into action his recommendations to fix my digestion and improve my overall health. With each passing day my digestion improves and my Rosacea becomes less of a issue for me. I even had a glass of red wine a week ago, with no major flare up. Now that’s progress!

-Jenne Hiigel

Getting Back On Track…

My writing project and homebrewing efforts have been somewhat derailed during the past two months, due to the holidays and various family activities. Things have settled down quite a bit in the past week and now it’s time to get back on track with both.

In spite of my distractions, Beer & Knitting classes continued in December and January… so I haven’t been a total slacker. Our December class was Christmas Beer & Ornaments. We kicked off the class with Anchor Christmas Ale and then everyone picked an ornament pattern and started knitting. We had a great selection of Christmas beers to taste, the favorites being Delirium Noel, Trader Joe’s 2008 Vintage Ale (brewed by Unibroue), and Santa’s Butt Porter. I had a variety of ornament patterns to choose from, including a Candy Cane Cozy for those who were concerned about the higher alcohol Christmas beers affecting their ability to knit anything too complicated. (Cast on 20 sts, knit 8 rows, cast off, sew it together.)

In January, the topic was Finishing. On the knitting side we focused on the mattress stitch (or weaving) for sewing up seams, one-row buttonholes, grafting, and some extra finishing touches by Nicky Epstein. On the beer side we discussed the beer drinker’s responsibility, from the time the beer is purchased until it’s served, to make the most of the hard work the brewer put into the beer.

We started the class with Red Seal Ale. Each student had two glasses in front of her. One was a typical pint glass and the other a pilsner glass. I had the Red Seal at two different temperatures – refrigerator temp and room temp. I poured the cold beer down the side of the pint glass, creating no head and maximizing the carbonation. The room temperature beer was poured straight down the center of the pilsner glass, allowing it to foam up nicely and release some of the carbonation.

The results were amazing. The students couldn’t believe the two glasses contained the same beer, even though they saw me pour it. Preferences were towards the beer in the pilsner glass with the slightly warmer temperature and nice batch of foam. They clearly learned that how the beer drinker handles and serves the beer makes a difference. We moved on to the other beers that were brought to the class, the favorites being Chimay Blue and Kostritzer Schwartzbier and Allagash White.

For all you Allagash White fans out there, I strongly recommend you try Allagash Fluxus. They refer to it as a double white beer and it is way yummy!

Next up… Fruit Beers & Knitted Hearts. This class will be on Valentine’s Day.

Jenne Hiigel

History Was Made!

The first ever Beer & Knitting Class (as far as I’m aware) took place on Saturday, Nov 8th and a great time was had by all. The subject was American Wheat Beer & Dishcloths and we had a full class of enthusiastic students, a great selection of beers to sample, and five dishcloth patterns to choose from.

We started the class with Lost Coast Great White and a welcoming toast. It’s not often that a knitting class starts with a toast. Since it seemed unnatural to talk about beer with all these knitters sitting there not knitting, everyone picked a dishcloth pattern and started casting on. When all projects were comfortably underway, we continued on with the beer side of the class.

After the Great White, we moved next to the Lost Coast Tangerine Wheat – which is a wheat beer with an different touch. [See Brewmaster Barbara Groom’s clarification about the differences between the two beers in her comment on this post. Thanks for your input, Barbara!] From there we tasted and discussed hefeweizen by Widmer, Einhorn, Santa Cruz Mountain and Carmel Brewing, German hefeweizens by Paulaner and Hacker-Pschorr, Belgian-style white beers by Allaghash, Anheuser-Busch and New Belgium, wheat beers by Sierra Nevada and North Coast, and a blueberry wheat beer by Sea Dog. We also had one bottle of dunkel weizen, which gave everyone a taste of the potential of the dark side of wheat beer.

The clear favorites of the night were Lost Coast Great White and Allagash White. Opinions were strongly split on our new local Einhorn Hefeweizen, and there were a few people who voiced a preference for German wheat beer over the American versions.

Only one of the dishcloth patterns was not chosen. Although everyone liked the look of the Vortex 5 Dishcloth, they decided to save this more challenging pattern for a time when they could focus a bit better. Instead the students chose a simple garter stitch pattern, a lace pattern, a circle cloth pattern, and a garter stitch entrelac pattern. By the end of the class, each person’s dishcloth was progressing nicely.

What a fun class! Everyone left with a greater appreciation of wheat beer, a list of their favorite beers to explore further, and a dishcloth that was well on its way to being completed.

Next up is Christmas Beer & Christmas Ornaments on Sat, Dec 13th. We’ll explore the fun flavors that are only available during the holidays while we knit up little gems to decorate our trees.

-Jenne Hiigel

Beer & Knitting Classes…

People have been baffled by my idea of combining beer and knitting into a book. Well, it’s time to take them to the next level of baffle-dom. I’ve decided to teach Beer & Knitting Classes.They will take place at Yarns…at the Adobe on the 2nd Saturday of each month from 2-5pm beginning in November. Here’s the lineup:

  • Nov 8th… American Wheat Beers & Dishcloths
  • Dec 13th… Christmas Beers & Knitted Ornaments
  • Jan 10th… Finishing (finishing touches on your beer and your knitting)
  • Feb 14th… Fruit Beers & Knitted Hearts
  • Mar 14th… Stout & Mitered Square Afghan
  • Apr 11th… North Coast Brewing Co & Pattern Design

We’ll discuss the beers and start tasting at the start of the class, and then get our knitting going while we finish our beer discussion. I plan to focus primarily on three different beers at each class. The knitting side will be fun projects and/or a couple of key techniques.

The other advantage of the classes is that the research I do for each class will help my book progress a bit faster. These should be fun and are already generating some enthusiasm.

-Jenne Hiigel

Porter, Writers’ Conference and Classes…

Homebrewing continues. I’ve made a second batch of the Fuller’s London Porter clone recipe, which was quite timely as I only have one bottle left of the previous batch. This new batch will be ready to drink in about a month. In the meantime, I’ll continue to enjoy the Alaskan Smoked Porter clone recipe that I brewed. Now that I’m satisified with my Porter brewing, I’ll be moving on to another beer style. I’m thinking either wheat or extra hops. We’ll soon see which recipe grabs my interest next.

I still want to move on from extract/grain brewing into all-grain brewing, but I have to wait until I save enough money to buy a mash tun, lauter tun and sparging equipment. Hopefully I’ll have the funds set aside by early next year. I’m working on scheduling a few Beer & Knitting classes, so that may help with my homebrew equipment goals.

I was chatting with Anne at Yarns…at the Adobe recently and trying to come up with some knitting class ideas. Classes are always challenging, because people regularly ask for them but don’t always sign up when they’re finally scheduled. So I was trying to come up with some ideas that might spark a little more enthusiasm. That’s when I decided on Beer & Knitting classes. In these classes we’ll discuss and sample a specific group of beers, and knit a complementary project and/or learn a specific knitting technique. Here are the classes I’ve come up with so far:

  • American Wheat Beer & Dishcloths
  • Christmas Beers & Knitted Ornaments
  • Finishing (proper presentation of the beer and finishing techniques in knitting)
  • Fruit Beers & Knitted Hearts (this class is on Valentine’s Day)
  • Stout & Mitered Square Afghan
  • North Coast Brewing Company & Pattern Design

The first class will take place in November and they’ll continue monthly through April. We’ll soon see how people like the Beer & Knitting class idea.

We recently wrapped up this year’s Cuesta College Writers’ Conference. It went very well and, once again, got me inspired to work on my writing more diligently. Last year the message I got from the conference presenters was to make time to write and that the early morning hours tend to be the most productive. I gave it a try and found out that they were absolutely right. If I can get myself out of bed an hour earlier I can make significant progress with my writing. It’s the getting out of bed that is the hard part, though!

The message I got this year from the conference was to write what I know AND write what I’m passionate about. That seemed to confirm to me that I am on the right track with my book about beer and knitting. Enthusiasm for the combination of crafts continues to grow, which is pretty cool. Anne (at Yarns…at the Adobe) says she now gets people in her shop wanting to find out more about the Beer & Knitting group.

At our last Beer & Knitting gathering at Woodstone Market in Avila Beach we had a reporter from the New Times come out and interview our group. There were about 16 of us in attendance that day and it was a beautiful day on their patio overlooking the creek while we knitted and enjoyed our beer and lunch. In the not-too-distant future there should be an article about us appearing in that newspaper. I’ll keep you posted!

-Jenne Hiigel

Beer, Surfboards, Knitting, Writing…

My time and energy of late has been taken up by the move of the store where I work, Central Coast Surfboards. We only moved three blocks, but a move is still a move… and not something I care to do very often. Our new shop is awesome and things are settling down a bit now that the move is behind us.

I’m looking forward to having more energy outside of work, so I can get back on track with my knitting, brewing, and writing. I have a smoked porter in the secondary fermentor and will be bottling that batch in a week. Next up on my brewing schedule is a repeat of batch #2, which is a clone recipe for Fuller’s London Porter. After that, I’m considering branching off to another beer style.

Beer & Knitting research is continuing. We had a good turnout for Beer & Knitting night at Yarns… at the Adobe on July 12th. My husband, Chuck, brought a wonderful selection of beers, along with his extensive knowledge of beer and industry history. I brought my homebrewed porter and Carrie brought her homebrewed meads. We even managed to fit in a little knitting!

Preparations have begun for the Cuesta College Writer’s Conference, which is always a wonderful motivator for me to get serious about writing. I’m the lead volunteer for the conference, so I always start focusing on the event a couple of months in advance.

My knitting projects have been leaning on the simple side… the kind where you can chat, watch a movie, or get interrupted without losing track of where you are. As soon as I can handle it again, I’ll add a project or two that require a bit of brain function.

My walking to work activity has switched from reading to spinning with a drop spindle. I love working directly with the fiber, especially the wool I got at a farmer’s market in Madison, Wisconsin. If only it were legal to drink a beer on the way home from work!

-Jenne Hiigel