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

Concept Statement #6…

My last attempt at a concept statement for my book was two years ago (Concept Statement #5). Amazing how fast time can go by! Well, quite a bit of progress has been made in my research and learning since then. It’s time to take another crack at it. Here is Concept Statement #6…

A Knitter’s Guide to Beer is a look at the craft of beer from a knitter’s perspective. Both beer and knitting are fundamental in their usefulness, their essential simplicity, and their ability to improve our understanding of the natural world. In our efforts to solve the many challenges our world is facing, it will be our attitude, our self-control, the crafts we embrace, and the skills we acquire that end up making the most difference.

Beer and brewing run deep in human history. Beer connects the genders, builds community, improves health, enhances respect for nature, and wakes up the senses. Author Jenne Hiigel will show how beer can help us see the world differently.

This concept statement is quite a change from #5. “Yikes, Jenne, ” I can hear you thinking, “maybe you’re taking this all a bit too seriously! Time to take a research break and have a beer. Are you saying that beer and knitting can save the world?” Well…yes, I am. And my goal with the book is to make you believe it, too.

Progress on the book is happening. I’m actually getting up at 5am-ish every morning to write for an hour or two before I begin my day’s activities. Who would have ever thought I would actually enjoy getting up while it’s still dark outside. Not me! But I’ve learned that it’s the absolute best time for me to write.

I taught a Beer & Knitting class a couple of weeks ago and told everyone it was the last class I would teach until my book is done. Everyone was very supportive and told me to hurry up and finish it.

So… back to work!

-Jenne Hiigel

This Book Is For Knitters…

I’ve been stuck for several months on a specific section of my Book Proposal. I was humming along quite nicely until I got to the section where I needed to define my market.

My book combines two topics that have never been combined before. I still get an entertaining response from people when I tell them the name of my book. “Knitting and beer?” they’ll say, repeating the words carefully to confirm that they understood me correctly. “I don’t get it.”

In order to complete the About The Market section of my proposal I had to answer several questions. Who am I writing this book for? Who will want to buy this book? Is it for knitters who want to know more about beer, beer lovers who want to know more about knitting, couples who enjoy both crafts, the general public who has a casual interest in knitting and/or beer? I also needed to determine where my book would be sold. Would my potential customer be interested in my book at a knitting shop, a homebrew shop, a brewpub, a bookstore? Who should publish my book? A beer publisher, a knitting publisher, a general interest publisher? I was baffled and didn’t know where to turn for an answer.

And so I’ve been allowing myself to get distracted from working on my book proposal. Kind of like a sweater project where you run into a glitch in the pattern and need a couple of hours and solid brain function in order to figure out how to resolve the problem. The project gets put on a shelf and you tell yourself you’ll get to it when you have a couple of free hours of peace and quiet. Years later, it still sits there waiting for some love and attention from you. Some day, you keep saying, some day.

Fortunately my shelving of this project only lasted a few months. With our local Writer’s Conference approaching, I’ve been feeling more motivated to get serious about my writing… again. I got up early this morning, got my various distractions out of the way and opened up the About The Market section of my proposal. With a bit more research, I finally found the answers to all of my market questions. A big thank you to knitting humorist Stephanie Pearl-McPhee for helping me to see the light.

My book is for knitters. For knitters who like beer and want a greater understanding of the craft of brewing, for knitting homebrewers, for knitters who think they don’t like beer, for knitters who still don’t understand what knitting has to do with beer, for knitters who appreciate all crafts, for knitters who want to understand the process of brewing, for knitters who don’t really want to know more about beer but think the book would be a great conversation starter if they put it on their coffee table, for knitters who want to help dispel the “sweet little old lady drinking tea” stereotype, for knitters who need reassurance that it’s okay to have a knitting group meet at a bar and drink beer while they knit. If non-knitters want to buy and read my book, they will be warmly welcomed, but this book about beer and homebrewing will be written by a knitter for knitters.

My book will inspire knitters to look at the craft of brewing in a new light. Knitters will be able to go to the liquor store (the one with a good beer selection, of course) and know the difference between a black lager and a porter. They will know which beers are more hop oriented and which ones have a stronger malt presence. They will understand the importance of drinking a beer out of a glass and the benefits of using the appropriate glass for each beer. They will learn what’s involved in homebrewing and possibly be inspired make their own beer or mead, as had been a female tradition for thousands of years.

This book will be for knitters. Thanks, Stephanie, for helping me overcome my glitch and get my project going again!

-Jenne Hiigel

Porter #2 is in the fermentor…

My first batch of Porter is done, but not gone. After I found a few people who actually liked the beer far more than I did, I tasted my Porter again with a different perspective. Clearly nothing has gone wrong with the beer. It was a successful homebrew with no off-flavors. The aroma, which I can only attribute to the dry yeast I used, is something I just don’t care for. So I shall continue to work to improve my beer.

My second batch of Porter has been in the fermentor for two days now and the yeast is bubbling away. It’s such a beautiful sight to see the yeast doing its job so well! This beer is an extract/grain clone recipe of Fuller’s London Porter, a very yummy English Porter. This beer used a liquid yeast and steeped more grain for a longer period at a specific temperature, with a brief sparging at the end of the steeping.

My second attempt at brewing went much smoother than my first one. The ball valve on my brew kettle still leaked slightly in the beginning, but it was slow enough to just slip a heat-proof bowl under and move on to the brewing. The wort was smelling really good as I brewed and I just love smelling and adding the hops, this time it was Kent Golding hops.

The only glitch came when I was trying to chill my wort from boiling temperature down to about 75 degrees. I have a wort chiller that works great, but when the outside temperature is 94 degrees and inside our house is 80 degrees, it’s hard to get anything down to 75. I got close enough though, pitched my yeast, aerated my wort (shook it up real hard with the yeast in it), and put my faith in the yeast’s ability to do it’s job. By the next morning the fermentor was bubbling beautifully.

I’ve got real good vibes about this batch of beer. It’s smelling good and feeling good. I think I’ll be a bit more anxious to try a finished bottle of this Porter.

We have another Beer & Knitting night planned for this Wednesday. This time my fellow knitting/beer drinkers were nudging me to hurry up and set another date for a gathering. It’s great to see so much enthusiasm!

-Jenne Hiigel