“The World Has Enough of Us”- Why Not Everything You Love Needs To Be Monetized

I started making mead 9 years ago with a single jug, a beer fridge, and a jar of honey. It looked like a simple, fun, low-effort way to do science and get “free” booze out of it. It was a single gallon batch that I got ratio for from The Art of Fermentation. After about two weeks, I took a sip of my first mead- wildflower honey infused with some cinnamon sticks and a single split vanilla bean. It was cloyingly sweet but obviously had fermented slightly, so it was a win in my book.

The success of making a fizzy, slightly-alcoholic-but-drinkable beverage led to a years-long hobby. I’ve shared with friends, experimented, collected more books and (slightly) better equipment, and even won an award at the Oregon State Fair.

(To be clear, that award was a silver medal in a single subcategory. I came in second out of two entries in the “experimental” mead subgroup.)

A few weeks ago, I bottled my latest mead.

It was a version of one of my first metheglins (a.k.a. Mead with spices), but this time I wanted to Do It Properly. It wasn’t a “shake and pray” wild ferment. I’d made a 4 gallon batch using locally sourced honeys. I wrote down my sources, my water temperatures, the sources and amounts of the spices I used, and I used campden tablets and real cultured mead yeast to Make It Right. I didn’t know what “gravity” was for that first jug way back when. For this one, I factored time and temperature into recording the changes in gravity over five months.

The result was a spicy, warming mead that drank like a dry white wine. By any measure, it is my best mead yet- and I will never sell it to anyone. That’s because unlike baking and now writing, home brewing is something I want to keep mine.

“The Besamim Box”- A 12.7% ABV spice mead that drinks like a dry white wine. Made by me over five months, and absolutely NOT for sale.

The drive to Capitalize and Monetize everything we enjoy or may do well is thee double-edged sword of Damocles hanging over everyone’s head today. As soon as we realize we enjoy or have a knack for something, one of the first questions we are asked (or ask ourselves) is “how can I make money off of this?”

Why? Why is simply enjoying ourselves from the start not reason enough?

I remember the first time I realized I enjoyed making origami paper figures and that they made others happy. Within a day, I had set up a little table and chair on my nearly-empty sidewalk with a stack of square paper, trying to sell origami figures.

It wasn’t enough to just make me happy. Something told me I had to make it worthwhile- and that meant it had to make money. I dare anyone to tell me that my goofy 10 year old ass could have made a career out of selling origami figures on the sidewalk in Margate. At least the hobos selling wire-wrapped stones and pendants in Portland buy their own materials.

Baking and writing also make me happy, but I long ago decided I was willing to try making careers out of them. It’s either the best or worst thing you can do with a hobby you love. Often it’s both. I still love baking and creating in the kitchen, but when shit hits the fan and I need to stare down the barrel of a 60 hour week because all these pies need to be made, baking stops being a fun activity really damned quick.

It’s the same thing with writing. As much as I love writing, telling stories, and introducing people to worlds and ideas they may never have considered otherwise, when I’m not feeling it it is 1000% work.

For sources, look at roughly a third of this blog.

Meadmaking, though, is one hobby I insist on keeping a hobby. I may barter a bottle or two, but I will never sell it. I will never start a meadery (except as a joke. I’m on Untappd as “Le Chapeau Noir Meadery”) or go into the brewing business. No matter how good I might be or awards I might get.

Why? Because it’s mine.

We all need things at only have meaning to us that no one else cares about. The little things, activities, and moments that make us happy. We are absolutely inextricably connected and intertwined with each other, but we also need opportunities to explore and be ourselves. To understand ourselves a s a community of one.

For me, that means connecting with local beekeepers and honey vendors, finding new varieties, and bringing them mead made from their honey. It means giving bottles to friends as a gift, or just chilling down a bottle for my wife and I to enjoy on a summer night.

Mead is a thing I make that’s just for me to enjoy with those I love. No one and nothing else need interfere. There is no sin or failing in this- no “loss of potential” or waste simply because I’m not attaching a price tag to the result. The world has enough of us for so much of our waking lives- we can have some of ourselves TO ourselves.

What’s something you do that you refuse to monetize or share beyond yourself and choice others? Tell us about it in the comments!

Stay Classy,

The BHB's Top Hat Logo Signature

Break Time

Good evening, friends and neighbors.

It never feels like there’s enough hours in the day.

The days when I could feel content crashing out on my bed till late afternoon, gaming or watching cartoons are long over. Since getting my body into a shape that, to be blunt, I WANT to do things with, I’ve had way more energy and interest in life than I ever had before.
That can sometimes be a curse, though. When my interests are pulled between homebrewing, writing, playing guitar, gaming (still kept that up a bit), reading, and exercise, I find myself unable to be satisfied with a day where I feel I didn’t accomplish something. Simply put, I’ve lost the ability to enjoy a lazy day- much to the frustration of my wife.


Well, it beats just spending all day in the kitchen, right?
A cook rubbing his eyes in a kitchen stressed

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Do What You Love

Good evening, friends and neighbors!

Now that The Black Hat Baker has launched, I want to get back to making this a weekly- or even a semi-weekly- blog. I’ve had a lot on my plate, and quite a bit fell by the wayside, but that’s no excuse.

People are passionate, and they have passions. Besides your day job, you probably have at least a few things that you love doing in you’re spare time, right? Things that take your mind off your work and troubles. Crafts and hobbies that give you the creative outlet you might not get at work. They might even earn you a little side money (hey- have you checked out my sister’s writing business Say it Simply? She’s pretty awesome.) or it might be something you keep to yourself, or just trot out for competitions in your spare time. (I’ve got two meads ready for entry in the next Oregon State Fair!)


Bigfoot here is waiting for his turn…
Even though people have these passions- the ones that fill them with light and happiness- so many people find reasons NOT to work on them. Why?
Sometimes there are financial constraints, sure- I can’t let myself go and get more honey for mead if I’m concerned about getting groceries for the week. Other times there are constraints on resources- it might be difficult to get the materials you need.
For the most part, though, the reasons people choose not to pursue their passions are almost tragically mundane:
“I don’t have the time.”
“I have too many obligations- it’s not the right time.”
“I’m just an amateur- it’s not going to go anywhere. It’s a waste of time.”
Let’s take a look at these one at a time, and maybe we give you the license you need/want to do what you love- something you should never need a reason to do.

1. “I don’t have the time.”

Everyone’s busy. You, me, the whole world- if we all ran around as much as we feel like we do, there would be no obesity in this country, and the energy crises would be solved by installing treadmills everywhere.

I want to see someone do the Tour de France on one of these.
If you’ve used this as a reason to not do what makes you happy, don’t be embarrassed- you’re not alone. In fact, I’m more used to hearing it from people who don’t do something they NEED to do- exercise.

In response, I’ll say the same thing here that I say to any/everyone else-


Really, that’s what it comes down to. Every time you put off on doing something you love to do something else, you are making a value judgement. You are watching TV instead of learning a new language like you’ve wanted to? In practical terms, you are saying “Watching this tv show is more important to me than learning a new language.”
What makes it worse is when you PROMISE yourself you’ll do it. You promise yourself you’ll make time for practicing, for exercising, for whatever- and then you don’t. Have you ever had someone break a promise they made to you? Doesn’t it suck? It sucks when you do it to yourself too- so you stop trusting yourself, and you don’t make yourself anymore promises… and you do nothing.

In Terry Pratchett’s “Discworld” books, one of his characters- Sam Vimes- would remind himself every time he was tempted to let reading to his infant son at 6 pm every night slide- “If you break a promise for a good reason, you’ll break it for a bad one.”
Get your priorities right, and put what’s important to you first- or it’s not important.

​You might bluster at that, but facts are facts. If you want to do something that you love, start making the time to do it. Game of Thrones can wait.

2. “I have too many obligations- it’s not the right time.”

     This one I admit to being guilty of. It’s kind of the inverse of the last excuse- you simply have too much on your plate, and all of it is (or seems) important. People who use this excuse might dream of an escape- a utopian world where you can have all the time and space you need to finally create something wonderful. The writer and poet Charles Bukowski had a couple thoughts on this:

”– you know, I’ve either had a family, a job,
something has always been in the
but now
I’ve sold my house, I’ve found this
place, a large studio, you should see the space and
the light.
for the first time in my life I’m going to have
a place and the time to
no baby, if you’re going to create
you’re going to create whether you work
16 hours a day in a coal mine
you’re going to create in a small room with 3 children
while you’re on
you’re going to create with part of your mind and your body blown
you’re going to create blind
you’re going to create with a cat crawling up your
back while
the whole city trembles in earthquake, bombardment,
flood and fire.
baby, air and light and time and space
have nothing to do with it
and don’t create anything
except maybe a longer life to find
new excuses

In the end, Bukowski is right. If you really want to create something, you feel find ANY time, ANY reason, ANY excuse to at least do SOMETHING towards it. Time and space and freedom make creating more CONVENIENT, but they certainly don’t guarantee it. The timing will NEVER be perfect- so why not start now?

3.“I’m just an amateur- it’s not going to go anywhere. It’s a waste of time.”

 This one KILLS me when I hear it. People like doing something, but then some jackass comes along and tells them (or they tell themselves) they’re no good, so they should just quit.


Let me tell you something about being an amateur. People love using that as an insult, or as a disclaimer to their passion and talent. Fun fact: “amateur” is derived from Middle French and Latin, and means “lover,” or “devotee.” A person who does something for the love of it, not for money or glory.
     You will never find a more pure-spirited, undiluted artist or creator than an amateur- and real professionals KNOW this. They may offer critique, or even brutally honesty. They may encourage more training, or more experience before attempting something particularly if it’s dangerous,but they will NEVER- EVER- dismiss an amateurs efforts or tell them to give up.

​    All artists and craftsmen know that more people, more work, more effort, raises everyone’s boat. It’s how a craft advances and improves. New blood and new ideas fuels the evolution of an industry- anyone who says different is a liar, or was beaten down too often in their own lives- or they’re actually nice people but know that douchebaggery sells on TV.

The last bit is the bit that REALLY gets me. “It’s a waste of time.”

This is self-condemnation in the extreme. Whenever I hear someone put down what they love and grumble “it’s a waste of time,”  I just want to grab them and shake them. “Oh really? A waste of time? What OTHER plans did you have, might I ask? You already work like a dog, you already devote so much of your life to the things you feel like you NEED to do- please tell me, of the fraction of your life that you have left, WHAT is more important than doing the things that fill that tiny little corner of your world with light and joy? What great plans did you have for those moment, besides breathing and slipping slowly closer to the grave and calling it ‘living?‘”

Maybe it sounds a bit preachy and dark, but it’s the truth. We all have so much to do, and you have no reason not to take that little piece of your life and fill it with what will actually satisfy you and make you happy.

It doesn’t need to make you money- though it can.
It doesn’t need to win you glory- though it can if you work on it and share it.

It just needs to be something you love.

Be an amateur. Keep working on what you love.

Start now.

Stay Classy,