Wednesday, 22 June 2011

The Duty-Free Denormalised.

Beer and wine are extremely easy things to make. Stuff the 'units', just brew it to extinction and then freeze-distil it and you can produce something in your kitchen that will make your eyes melt.

You can even start with a bread yeast, if the Controllers ever ban the sale of beer yeast. The first batch will be crap but it'll adapt. Just keep using the sedimented yeast for successive batches. It's the same species of yeast, all you'll be doing is selecting the individual cells that grow best in a beer/wine situation rather than a flour/water one.

So all this concern over Government plans to tell us we can't drink when we're old is misplaced. When I get old, assuming I get that far, I plan to spend the last years of my time permanently and entirely pissed. If I die at home, nobody will notice because this corpse won't start to decay for months. If that means brewing my own, so be it. Just think of the duty and VAT I'll save. In fact, sod it, I'll start now. Rose left a recipe for mead somewhere back in the comments. I have plenty of fruit growing and all of it can be fermented.

I'll also insure myself against being sent to Hell. They won't let me in because I'll be an explosion hazard. Hell is bound to be stuffed full of health and safety inspectors and risk assessors. As for the other place, well I'll never make it up all those steps. I'll just have to find myself a Puritan to haunt.

Picture the scene. There I am, older and wrinklier and utterly guttered when the caped skeleton with a scythe shows up.

"Mr. Leg-iron. It Is Time."

"Aye, time for another drink, ya bas."

"No, it is Time to Go."

"Whit? Ah went ten minutes ago. Ma bladder's barely trickling."

Death's shoulders will slump at this point. "No, you don't understand. It Is Time. You must leave this body and come with me."

"Where to? The pub? They winnae let me smoke in there so ye can go alone, loon. And ye cannae have ma body. I have a few more bottles to pour in here yet."

"You can drink no more. It is over for you."

"Aye? I'll drink you under the bloody table any time you like, bone boy. Sit you down and we'll have a little wager. My soul, such as it is, against your stick with a sword on the end of it. First to fall off their chair loses."

"It's a scythe. I do not wager. I collect."

"Oh, a bloody taxman, aye? So whit's in it fae me?"

"Eternity and peace."





"Not much of a deal then, is it? You want my soul, you'll drink for it or you'll feck off before I ram that stick right up your pelvic bone, sharp end first."

In the years following, I will tell the tale of the scythe hanging on the wall...

Tobacco plants are coming along nicely. I have some to post if I can move my body clock around to being awake when the post office is open. Those lazy buggers don't work at night.

Some of those plants are now in twenty litres of compost in buckets. The garden ones are slow because the weather is, once more, cold and horrible. A few years back I'd be sitting in the garden now because it would have been too hot in the house. Now I have the heating on at midsummer, when it used to be entirely off between May and September. If someone were to beat Chris Huhne to a bloody pulp using a large potato masher, I will be first to provide them with an alibi. Bring photos.

The slugs managed to mince one garden plant by chewing through the stem. I rewarded them with some nice blue sweeties. The slug named Blair tried to tell the others it would take me 45 minutes to mobilise chemical weapons and they'd all be yards away by then. He was wrong. I did it in five. The Brown slug tried to take 50% of the pellets because it was the right thing to do for hard-sliming molluscs. I generously provided extra. Mandelslug insisted they provide a levy of pellets to the garden next door, which has promised him access to lettuce, but that's no problem. I have plenty. If only I could stop that Milislug waving a pellet like a banana.

The Health Slugs are warning of the dangers of salt. I have a lot of that. If the rain stops, I'll provide them with some. Next I think I'll set up a pub for them, but they won't be allowed in if they've been chewing tobacco.

There are those who said there was no point growing tobacco because it'll be at least a year before it produces anything smokeable. Well, by that logic, there's no point buying a house because it'll be 25 years before it's yours, right? I have fourteen years to go on this mortgage and I have paid extra into it to bring the monthly payments right down. I'm almost halfway to owning this house in time and well over halfway in cost.

I'm also, now, halfway to having home-made tobacco. The first batch won't produce much and might not work at all. In which case I will apply the lessons from this year's batch to next year's. Even if this crop fails completely, I'll be one year closer to getting it right. Waste of time? It's my time, and if I can get it right, the return on that invested time is incalculable because the rate of increase of tobacco prices is insane. If I only make enough for say, five two-ounce packs of baccy, what's that at shop prices now? It was over a tenner a pack last time I looked. What will it be by the time that baccy is ready? Man with a Van is not a charity. He pitches his prices below shop prices but as shop prices rise, so do his. I might well find I've saved myself a hundred quid or more just by letting some plants grow.

A tip on the slug problem - they can't swim. The buckets I'm using are cheap, a quid each. Drill a few holes in the bottom, get down to the pound shop and buy cat litter trays for a pound each. Drill a couple of holes in the sides of those, a couple of inches up from the bottom. They're too deep otherwise and too much water will swamp the plant.

Stand the bucket in the litter tray, fill the litter tray with water and keep it topped up. You now have a continuous supply of water for the plant and it's surrounded by a slugproof moat. It has cost two quid per plant, and you can use it all again next year. A circle of copper tape around the bucket also works but the moat approach is cheaper.

Booze and tobacco aren't my biggest expense. Heating wins that by a long way, but in a house with no chimney it will take a big initial investment to install a wood-burning heating system. I'm working on it because I live near tradesmen who are always throwing away wooden pallettes and just down the back is a wooded area where fallen branches are left alone. Nobody around here has a chimney.

However, I can seriously cut my costs on booze and tobacco, and hence the amount of money the government steal from me, without very much effort and with trivial initial investment. The reality of both these things is that they are cheap, and the high price is due to tax. Plus, of course, tax on the tax. As the prices of booze and tobacco escalate - and they will keep escalating - so the savings grow.

Every penny saved is a penny I don't have to replace by earning. Every penny not earned is a penny not taxed. Tax is generated by the transfer of money so the less I rely on money, the less tax I pay.

I cannot eradicate cash completely from my life. Not until the council accepts their taxes in plums, the electricity and gas companies accept payment in gooseberries and the butcher is willing to trade meat for rhubarb. There are wild rabbits nearby, so that's always a possibility. What I can do for now is minimise my use of tax-heavy transactions.

Of course, the minimalist approach could be buggered up if someone turns one of my stories into a film, but I'll worry about that if it ever looks like happening. So far, no danger. Anyway, the point is to stop paying the tobacco and booze lobbies to torment me and that looks like it can be done without much effort.

With cheap buckets and dirt. Next, I'll need a big plastic bin for fermenting purposes. Those are cheap too. Insulation? Ha, the local charity shops are full of tatty clothes. Come to think of it, so is my wardrobe.

For every penny I don't pay to the government, an antismoker gets cancer. Well, I like to think that's true and it has as much scientific backing as anything the health loonies come out with. Every penny of duty I keep gives me a warm glow. It doesn't matter which party is in government, they have all stated they hate smokers so sod them all. Now they are working on drink in the same way. I am not paying for my own denormalisation.

Are you?


Anonymous said...

Interesting post on the self sufficiency stuff. My wife is "not from these parts" and her parents used to grow their own baccy down in the Tropics. We have a bit of plantation there and I'm thinking about growing coffee when I retire - I'm sure that will also be on the "to be banned" list.

Good luck with the stove - we have a Dunsley Yorkshire. Expensive to buy, but an efficient burner that is exempt from our local "smokeless zone" rules. Although I find that pallets tend to be too much hassle to smash up into stove sized bits - a good quality jig-saw helps though.


Anonymous said...

Where I live, in the frozen North, wood burning stoves are the norm. A cheaper solution than building a stone chimney is to install a stove with a steel pipe as a chimney, it is simply inserted through an appropriately sized hole in the roof. The pipe then contributes heat to the house along its entire length.

Sorry the sites are in Norwegian, but the pictures are self explanatory. Nordpeis have distributors in the UK so you might be able to find this info in English.


Avenger said...

If it's the Discworld version of Death, he'll probably end up crashed out on the floor, saying YOU'RE RIGHT - WHT'S IT ALL ABOUT WHEN YOU GET DOWN TO IT?

Then he'd probably have a fag.

Anonymous said...

I amagine that scythe would be useful for cutting down the baccy, too.

Health and safety regs might actually come in useful here, unless of course there happen to be any inspectors within swinging distance...heh!

Anonymous said...


If you want to start soon may I suggest that as a side experiment you also try half a cup of unwashed wild heather flowers, ground to a fine flour, with the 3 to 1 honey mixture in a large mixing bowl covered in cling film,you may be very pleasantly surprised.


Anonymous said...

Top tip for slug megadeath - old coffee grounds, round the base of the plants. Kills slugs but - unlike the blue pellets - doesn't kill birdies, slow-worms, Mrs Tiggywinkle etc when they eat poisoned slugs.

George Speller said...

My plants doing well, also. A lot of variabilty depending on when they were put outside. Left in the crowded greenhouse too long they get a bit spindly and need a bit of support. Some are plnted directly in the ground in a hastily prepared plot - slow progress. I've just learnt to remove side shoots - but "not the ones on the meristem" whatever that is. So - a great learning exprience all round.

Next I'll have to dry them out. I won't call it curing because that might turn them into smokeable tobacco and that would never do! (like during the prohibition when dried fruit was labelled DO NOT ADD SUGAR OR YEAST, DO NOT LEAVE IN A DARKENED ROOM! etc)

nisakiman said...

As Heretic says, a stove is the answer. You can get pot-belly stoves in UK (I know because I bought one about 15 years ago - can't remember where, but it wasn't terribly expensive) and you just run the chimney pipe (It's normally 120 mm here - I always use wood in winter) through the wall, or easier still, if you have multi-paned windows, take one of the top panes out temporarily and replace it with something suitably heatproof with a 120mm hole in it. As Maaarrghk! points out, pallet timber isn't the best - burns too fast really, but fallen branches are ok. I usually burn olive wood here, most of which I buy at €100 per tonne cut and delivered. 1.5 - 2 tonnes usually does the winter.

hms slugger prescott said...

i woz an able seaman me - oi'll navigate that tha moat of yourn an get the baccy, boy. come to think o' it, i don't need no boat does i? i jus' needs ta jump inta tha drink an' tha' drink'll all jump oot like i woz mozes in tha red sea - i thinks 'e likely woz a commie too. ha. shiver me 'ol timbers - me draft's so big nahdays, the queen majesty's gonna rent i as 'er ocean-goin' vessel, baht mosta tha time i is empty.

shandy shagpile (shop assistant) said...

little tip if you're a busy working-mum like myself - just go down to lidl, buy a few cartons of full-sugar fruit-juice, and leave them to ferment in the back of the cupboard for a couple of years. come to think of it, i've got a vintage 2007 solevita grape-juice which, by granny's calculations, should just about have reached its prime - so i'm off to test it...i may not be back...

shandy shagpile (old bird strike narrative) said...


update...actually, no - mum says the solevita's too good to get wasted on a weekday, and i should keep it for my daughter's wedding. apparently over christmas 1999 granny cracked-open a 1989 vitafit multi-vitamin and didn't come 'round 'til christmas 2000, due mainly to the comatose state she'd suddenly slipped into, but she told us kids that she just "had a little nap". mum says they found her wig in the engine of a jumbo-jet which had to make an unscheduled crash-landing at stanstead, but i think she's just exaggerating to try and get some inducements out of vitafit for promoting their gear.

Leg-iron said...

Rose - by a remarkable coincidence, I have a flowering heather just at the back door. Do I need to dry the flowers first?

Leg-iron said...

sandy shagpile - full sugar fruit juice will work but it's too acidic straight off. Speed things up by adding a little bicarbonate of soda to neutralise the acidity and then add yeast and yeast nutrient.

Maybe a little extra sugar...

Leg-iron said...

Maaarrghk! - I use pallets in the chimenea outside. Finally worked out that, rather than pulling out all those nails, just saw them up and burn them.

The nails are easily raked out of the ashes afterwards.

Leg-iron said...

Oh, and ashes are great for crappy clay soils.

Leg-iron said...

Anon- I'll definitely try those coffee grounds since I met a hedgehog in the garden tonight.

I like hedgehogs. Grumpy, antisocial and covered in spikes.

The espresso machine generates plenty of grounds. Then again, if I didn't have that thing I might be able to sleep like real people. Then again again, I don't actually like real people very much anyway. Comes from being grumpy, antisocial and spiky, I suppose.

Leg-iron said...

George - the ones I put outside a few weeks ago are nowhere near as big as those in the greenhouse, but I suspect they are hardier. The slugs mashed a greenhouse one planted out but the first three, despite having a few holes, are still there.

Now they go out in buckets with moats around them. There are some seriously big ones in the greenhouse that will go in the ground once the slugs have been dealt with.

One is planted straight in the ground insiode the greenhouse, as an experiment. If it works, I'll need a bigger greenhouse.

Maybe a plexiglass dome over the whole garden...

Leg-iron said...

hms slugger prescott - you must be a snail. One of those little swines crossed the moat tonight.

He won't do it again.

Anonymous said...


I'm not sure a cultivated heather would do it, it's not so much the heather but the wild yeast and something that grows on it.

I used fresh heather flowers from the local moor in a pestle and mortar.

I wanted to see what this tasted like -

"However, traces of a fermented beverage made with heather flowers have been found by archaeologists dating back to 2,000 BC on the Isle of Rhum. Archaeologists there discovered a Neolithic shard containing traces of a fermented beverage made with heather flowers"

But on further investigation I found this.

"The moss, or fogg, from the heather plant would also likely be a component of mead, not only from its unavoidable presence in the hive but also from the additional heather tops used in mead production. The result would be a remarkable fermented beverage possessing tremendous food properties as well as medicinal and narcotic aspects -- truly a mead of inspiration. Extremely ancient accounts indicate that the Picts and Celts brewed a fermented beverage from heather only, without any barley at all. It is likely that this was a combination heather/heather honey mead.

The fact that fermented heather beverages are considered to be the first "beers" brewed in the British Isles, that their brewing can be traced back some 4,000 years, and that they were brewed by a wandering indigenous culture (the Picts) indicates that barley probably wasn't part of the original heather "beers," that in fact it was produced from heather honey. Some sources note that as early as A.D. 100 the Celts made a heather and heather honey mead that was known to be highly intoxicating."

Well naturally I wanted to do the job right.

I suggested the bowl because it is a very vigorous fermentation and quite fascinating to watch.


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