Originally uploaded by mikeysklar
Wendy was working in the living room when this bird met it's fate with our glass doors.
My friend Zingaro decided to have a little brew class since his son-in-law was in town for the holidays and some neighbors had expressed a interest in learning. Zingaro has 35 years of beer making experience. He showed us one of the simplest ways to get started. We made a mexican style bear from $17 can kit + dextrose / yeast. We also sampled his other cheeses and jerky. A wealth of knowledge.
Wendy made Sesame a baby blue doggie vest this morning. Our temperatures are dropping with a significant snow accumulation projected over the next 48 hours. Hopefully Sesame will appreciate the new garment. She certainly did not enjoy the fitting.
Wendy and I are celebrating our 4 year anniversary in TorC by leaving this town more frequently to explore New Mexico. This week we drove to our nearby radio telescope array. The same VLA (Very Large Array) was featured in the book / movie "Contact" by Carl Sagan. It's hard to spend over 30 minutes there as there is only a 1/4 mile walk, small gallery and store. If you are fortunate enough to go on the correct weekends in the Spring/Fall which overlap the Trinity site opening you can get a full guided tour of the facility. Sesame came along for the ride - she goes everywhere as she is now a official therapy dog.
Our cold frames were loaded with freeze damaged tomatoes. Wendy and I set aside a few hours earlier this week to clear out the summer crops and rotate in the winter crops. We did the usual turning of soil with our compost and camel poop. We planted the following in the cold frames:
Cold Frame #1 - spinach, kale, dill
Cold Frame #3 - bok choy, speckled lettuce, chinese cabbage
Cold Frame #4 - arugula, mustard greens, broccoli raab, watercress, cilantro
Moving WVO and biodiesel between containers and fuel tanks can be tricky. It is not always necessary to drag out a big pump/filter system. I've taken to filling up my stock tank with biodiesel with a simple siphon pump. It costs about $4 and has no trouble moving room temperate WVO and biodiesel quickly. This took about three minutes to empty. The best thing about this little guy is I do not need to put my mouth on the hose to start the siphon.
I've been really into buying produce by the case. We just picked up one case of oranges, avocados and pomegranates all organic. Wendy and I can easily take care of the oranges and pomegranates this week, but the avocados represent a bit of a challenge. We only have a few recipes for the avocados. We eat them straight with salt and pepper, guacamole, and chocolate pudding. Any thoughts on how to eat 60 avocados in a month?
Now I have two types of cider. One batch that didn't ferment all that well and another that is really bubbling. The first batch I should have made a yeast starter at a temperature of 105F and let it sit for a few hours. Instead I used a significantly lower temperature and only let the starter go for one hour. My second 1 gallon batch of apple cider received the appropriate yeast starting temp/time and is bubbling away. I also used a different brand of cider this powerful bubbler is "Tree Top". I'm drinking the first batch now after nearly a week and it is a cloudy white with low alcohol content. The second batch will be bottled and shelved until March.
We filled two beds with pre-sprouted potatoes. Last year we just tossed potatoes in 3" deep holes, this year we took the time to let them sprout (about a month). Sprouts go in the hole facing up.
Wendy has a thing about beans. Until now it has not been a positive thing. She usually freaks out when someone says "there are beans in it". Something about her last trip has changed all that. Last night Wendy made a lovely bean and potato dish with a side spinach salad that included mandarin orange slices and pecans.
A little disaster cost us a good 10 gallons of rainwater today. I had just finished filling a 5 gallon bucket from one of our water catchment tanks when things went bad. I turned the valve to shut off the flow and the water kept coming. The plastic ball valve had cracked and I had to run around the yard naked to find a 2" PVC connector to close it. Here is my temporary solution. It's better than losing a 300 gallons of rain water.
Last week I lost my wallet. While waiting for my replacement identification and bank cards to arrive I had time to deliberate on my new wallet. At brunch this morning Wendy and I discussed a DIY money clip. I came across this clever key/clip over at lifehacker. Hmm, maybe I can do this with magnets and old circuit boards? I took apart a dead hard drive that I had dumpster dived last year initially for the magnets, but I could not take my eyes off of the platters. The magnet would just be trouble with my ATM card magnetic strips as well as sticking to everything else around. Using a rivet gun I was able to quickly adhere two car keys and my AAA card to the platters. I use a additional rivet so that the platters can slide open and a picture frame hook to clip them together. It is still a little awkward, but I dig the weight to strength ratio of the aluminum plates. It also makes for a decent mirror in a pinch. It's tempting to use a coin cell battery and sneak a little LED in.
I know our blog readers do not need a lecture in using good salt in their cooking. We decided to step up our salt quality at home from sea salt we had been buying in bulk over to some more exotic options. Now we have "Black Lava Salt", "Himalayan Pink Salt" and kelp powder as our alkaline friendly salt alternative.
Some friends of ours have taken a interest in making biodiesel. They were initially turned off to the idea of making their own fuel thinking that they needed a elaborate setup. This is hardly the case. I make 2.5 gallons at a time and it only takes a few minutes to mix the ingredients.
1. weigh out 70g of lye (NaOH) - (do not let this contact you)
2. measure out 1/2 gallon of methanol (do not breath fumes)
3. mix methanol and lye to make sodium hydroxide (do not breath fumes)
4. mix sodium hydroxide with 2.5 gallons of warm waste vegetable oil (warm = 90F - 130F)
5. shake well ... wait one day for glycerin to settle
6. pour off top
I should point out that measuring pH and doing titration testing is normally recommended, but I have not been doing either. Methanol can be obtained from car racing stores and lye from any hardware store.
Denim or paper filters can be used to further clean particulates from the fuel before using in your diesel vehicle.
My neighbor Scotty is building a glass bottle wall around his property. He tells me that his wife requires him to seal it up and make it look like a proper cinder block wall. Too bad, I like seeing at least a little hint of the reuse in the final product. Maybe he will get to leave a truth window in place.
There is something about winter that makes fermenting so much more appealing. I picked up a 1 gallon jug of apple cider from "Wally World" for $4 and decided to try and ferment it. I've had good luck with ciders in the past, but on this version I noticed a potential problem. There is a ingredient called "potassium sorbate" in the list which even says "to preserve flavor". The truth is that potassium sorbate prevents yeast colonies from multiplying. A clever work around was pointed out to me by this instructable. The solution is to start with a packet of champagne yeast in sugar water and get the yeast multiplying before adding it into the store bought apple cider. This just takes a few hours.
This cider has a few things going for it that my previous fermentation experiment did not. I am using a temperature strip, proper air lock, and documented the starting values for specific gravity/balling/potential alcohol.
Somewhere on my journey home from Florida I lost my wallet. It might have been stolen as there is a strange gas station purchase that was attempted after I had lost it. I ended up having to go to the DMV and contacting both my banks for new cards. I snapped this photo while waiting for my temporary drivers license at the DMV. I'm sure glad that I do not need to sit in that chair.
I spent last weekend riding in cars, planes, and boats to attend my Uncles 90th B-day. While the event was helpful for me to reconnect with family, it was also a painful reminder of how ridiculous American culture is. I can't really pin it down to one thing that bothered me, but it was some combination of fast food, make up, excessive consumption, long work weeks, lamborghinis, $2000 minibars, hair relaxer and a plethora of disposable crap. It's nice to be back in southern New Mexico and walking the dog in a less offensive setting.
Now that my grease car Chance is back on the road I'm finally going through my 400 gallons of veggie oil reserves. I'm concentrating on getting all the extra "cubies" emptied into the dumpster at this time, but it is tricky with the cold weather. My latest approach is to hang a large piece of denim off the end of the cubie. In the past I had made small denim filters, but they would clog up before the container would empty out. Now that I've increased the size of the denim filter to be 10x as much surface area I am able to empty a 5 gallon container of WVO in less than one hour. I still filter with a 2 micron paper filter before pumping the oil into gas tanks. This is a convenient way get the dirt out of the oil and make my paper filters last longer.
Now that Wendy is out of town for a few days it is up to me to feed myself. Our sun oven does a great job of making rice in less than a hour. I put it to work again today making jasmine rice for Sesame and I to enjoy. When the rice finished cooking I brought it in and sprinkled some harissa (redish sauce made from peppers), tamari, and hot sauce on it. Then I add in cashews and raisins that I had pre-soaked in water for a few hours. Stir and enjoy.
We have had two hard freezes this year. Both of which have spanned a few nights and caught us when we were too busy to deal with the garden. Now I have a bunch of tomatoes on dead vines which have swelled and feel as though they are full of liquid. Are these all trash now or is there something we can use them for besides compost?
Our little robot mopping unit has been performing poorly. The battery dies in less than 15 minutes. This is no surprise because I find that all the iRobot products have a 1 - 2 year battery life. I'm trying to repair my Scooba battery by using a R/C car charger. This charger has features for draining and recharging and very slow rates. The Scooba has Ni-MH cells which this charger supports. I'm doing a multiple test/refresh run so we shall see how much improvement we get. I already see a significant capacity jump from using my R/C car charger instead of the standard Scooba charger. I'll let you know how much this battery improves this week.
I've complained before about how my little electric popcorn maker slows down to half speed when the ambient air temperature gets cold. Today I decided to try placing a small cardboard box over the popcorn roaster and the results were impressive. I went from a roast time of 8 minutes in cold weather down to 3 minutes. Obviously there is a fire hazard here, but I watch the process closely so I can get a ideal bean color.