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Flat Creek Farm

Walkabouts – Capturing the Simple Beauty Around Us

A photo from Flat Creek FarmWe have lived on this farm about 30 years. Although I have a deep and true appreciation for all that we have and all that is around us, there is nothing that has made me actually see my surroundings like a Walkabout. For me, the walkabout is walking (sometimes driving) around the yard and farm with camera in hand. Occasionally, I veer off the path slightly by taking in and capturing the view on the way to work. Or sometimes the Mr. and I go for a drive somewhat off the beaten path, but still in our neck of the woods. The entire purpose is to view and share our surroundings. By doing this, it also helps us to fully embrace the simple beauty in our everyday life.

Here is a Walkabout from January. The snow was beautiful, but we were already growing weary of winter at this point. I traveled about the snowy yard and captured random images which caught my eye that day.

A snowy hay field; a promise of Spring in buds on a tree; barn kitty Hazel in said tree; our neighbors’ corn field; sparkling “diamonds” in the snow; icicles on our old farmhouse; snow “dunes” created by the strong north winds.

Walkabout from January, photos of snowy landscape

Somehow while peering through the lens and capturing these shots, I forgot about the cold winter winds. Winter seemed beautiful – at least for a little while.

One of my favorite walkabouts occurred recently, during the last week of February. Mr. W and I ventured out to view the Bald Eagles which have now become a regular seasonal fixture at and around our farm. Oh, how majestic they are, and truly breathtaking to view up close and personal!

Bald eagle in flight

I’ve shared many walkabouts on our Flat Creek Farm blog over the course of the past year. From just the everyday simple beauty, to our majestic national bird, it’s been fun to share our little corner of the world in pictures. As an added bonus, I’ve been blessed with a renewed “attitude of gratitude” for all that is our life and farm. Simple though it may be, it is a good life.

I recommend that you too go out there and experience your very own walkabout in your very own corner of the world. Who knows? You may also reap unexpected rewards!

Roasting Coffee Beans in the Blacksmith Shop: Sweet Success

A photo from Flat Creek FarmIf you would like the whole scoop of our initial attempt at roasting coffee beans and the things we’ve learned thus far, please see our previous GRIT Blog post: “Roasting Coffee Beans in the Blacksmith Shop: Take 1.”

Before we proceed any further, would you like to see what green coffee beans look like? As for smell, don’t expect much at this point.

Green Colombian Supremo Coffee Beans prior to roasting.

I was the only brave soul who would taste the results of our first roasting attempt. Let me just say it was a very quick taste, followed by my spitting the burnt offering sip out the back door. Not pleasant! The first batch was a definite …

Our first roast resulted in a burnt offering.

We were not discouraged, and promptly returned to the Blacksmith Shop, armed with our main supply list from the first roast.

Flat Creek Forge Blacksmith Shop

The key modification for Roast #2: Mr. W placed a steel plate over the fish cooker burner for the purpose of diffusing the heat and therefore roasting the beans slower. Just a plate of 3/16” steel.  Excellent idea! I’m told you can also use a cast iron pan for that purpose. We roasted two batches – again using the Colombian Supremo green coffee beans from Coffee Bean Direct (via Amazon). And again we used our Whirley Pop. There was a little smoking involved, but it wasn’t unpleasant (like before). We’ve learned that we may have to ignore the thermometer a bit as “first crack” seemed to arrive at 250 degrees F or so (if we wanted to believe that thermometer).  Also, by the end of the roast, we had barely reached 400 degrees F.  We can now understand that it’s probably best to learn to judge the beans on smell and appearance, as well as listening for those 1st & 2nd cracks.

The best part this time was that we were able to actually see the beans while they were roasting. With our maiden roast, the beans were smoking too badly and we couldn’t see them when we opened the lid.  All we could do was cough and gag! This time we could actually check every 3-4 minutes (or more often toward the end) and see that the beans were progressing from green, to the various stages of brown. Amazing! The smell wasn’t nearly as bad this time. Let me emphasize this – we could actually breathe in the Roasting Room (aka Blacksmith Shop).

We did two roasts this time. Each one took approximately 15 minutes. We kept the heat on high, but with the diffusion from the steel plate, the roasting process was slow and nice.  And, I assure you, these roasted beans smell yummy! Definitely not burnt offerings. Here are the successfully roasted beans, in all their glory:

Delectable-smelling fresh roasted coffee beans

After the beans had a chance to de-gas a few hours, I placed a few scoops in our Melitta Mill and Brew pot. The time was set for 5:10 a.m. the following morning, and we were awakened with ...

... the wonderful aroma of fresh ground, fresh roasted coffee. The taste? Delicious. I think at this point we’re hooked.

If you’d like a synopsis of why people roast their own coffee beans, check out Wikipedia’s home roasting coffee explanation.

Once you smell and taste your first successful coffee bean roast, I am confident that you will need no explanation. Simply divine!

Roasting Coffee Beans in the Blacksmith Shop: Take 1

Inspired by Jayme (at Tales from the Coop Keeper Blog), Mr W, and I set out to turn green coffee beans into beautiful roasted coffee beans today. Friend Daniel just happened to be visiting here at the right(?) time so he was drafted to help in this process. I think we may just have smoked and stunk him out! Poor guy… he may ne’er return again.

Mr W and I are major coffee fans. We’ve purchased coffee beans for fresh-ground weekend coffee for years (our weekend splurge). The next step seemed logical – to start roasting our own beans (it’s a little less expensive that way also).

Jayme gave me just enough information to get me really interested in this venture. She also recommended the Whirley Pop popcorn method. I purchased a separate Whirley Pop to use exclusively for coffee bean roasting (didn’t want to taint the taste of our buttery popcorn!). Also, it was recommended to do the entire process outside because of the stink/smoke involved. Wow, was she ever correct! One would think that roasting coffee beans would be ahhh ... aromatic … delectable-smelling. Nope! So, out to the blacksmith shop we went, and we kept the door wide open.

I ordered green coffee beans from Coffee Bean Direct (tip: search for “Coffee Bean Direct green coffee beans” on Amazon to get free shipping with a $25 order), and Sweet Maria’s. Sweet Maria’s also had the thermometer that reads to 550 degrees and fits nicely into the Whirley Pop popcorn popper. A thermometer is a great thing to have, especially for novices like us. Mr W drilled a tiny hole in the top of the Whirley Pop to insert the thermometer. He set up the fish cooker burner in the blacksmith shop. I also gathered a metal colander to cool the roasted beans in, a metal cake pan to put the cooled beans into, an oven mitt, a measure that holds exactly 8 ounces of beans at a time. And of course my instructions printed from my various trusty Internet sources. We had the air compressor next to the cooker so we could immediately begin to cool the beans after roasting (very important to cool them quickly, so I’m told). You can also use a hair dryer set on cold or a fan for this purpose.

We poured our 8 ounces of Coffee Bean Direct’s Columbian green beans into the Whirley Pop, turned on the heat, and started cranking.

popper with coffee beans

Keeping close watch on the thermometer on top. We’re waiting for “first crack,” which may happen at about 6 minutes into the process. You will start to hear pops and cracks, and the beans should start to turn brown. Some sources suggest the ideal temperature for roasting will be around 450-500 degrees Fahrenheit.

Popper with thermometer

Our “first crack” happened much sooner than 6 minutes, which told us we had the heat too high. From here on out, major smoke and stink warning.

Popper smoking

“Second crack” should happen between minutes 9 and 12 according to one source. We went to “second crack” much too soon also, and quickly removed the popper, poured the beans into the metal colander to cool. We helped the cooling process along by using the air compressor, forcing cold air onto the beans. Also much of the chaff from the beans was blown off during this step.

Beans in colander

We went on to batches 2 and 3, trying to regulate the heat. I think we almost got it, but unfortunately our beans from today’s roasting are very very VERY dark. Could they be classified as espresso? I hope they’re drinkable! We’ll see …

Dark brown beans

Let me just say, while our first efforts were valiant, I think we’re going to need more practice. Best tip from today: SLOW DOWN – lower heat. Yes, we’ll try it again. Soon I hope. And after we allow our beans to “degas” for 12-24 hours, we’ll try a pot of fresh-ground home-roasted and I’ll post our review.

If you have an interest in becoming a home coffee bean roaster, there are many sites which are quite helpful. My favorite so far is Sweet Maria’s ( They really do have a wealth of information and tutorials on roasting your own beans. Join us – we’ll learn together!

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