Sunday, June 3, 2018

Using the LT10 Sawmill Again

Well I'll be jiggered!  But let me explain - I only used the sawmill a handful of times last summer, culminating in the time Kenny dropped a 6x6 birch beam on his finger and I felt so bad that if someone had offered to just take my sawmill away I likely would have just let them.

Fast forward to a couple days ago when I realized it was a nice day, and I had time, but that I had done nothing to winterize the mill.  I poured a couple of glugs (it's a real unit of measurement - honest!) of seafoam into the tank, then topped it off with petrol.  I was actually thinking I should be stingy with the petrol, on the assumption that I would have to remove the engine and have it serviced at KC Auto before I would be able to get it to start.

Stunningly, it started on the SECOND PULL!  I almost fell off the catwalk!  Kohler engines - I am sold!

In any case, I cut up a few logs into a small pile of true two by fours to likely put towards the new sauna.  One really great side effect was the sawdust that was produced - We had actually paid a bit to the local firewood guy to purchase some of his excess sawdust and chips in the spring!
A few two by fours to get warmed up!
A nice big bucket of clean, dry, natural sawdust for the composting toilets!
Today is grey and drizzling, I'll likely skip the mill and just go under the cabin to open up the vents instead.  Then follow it up with a sauna.

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

A Woodpecker Visits

This morning I realized the tapping I was hearing was NOT just from my foot or the fan on the stove - a quick glance out the window revealed this guy looking for breakfast...

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Storing Acrylic Storm Windows

So now that we are ALMOST to the point where nighttime temperatures are reliable around the freezing mark or above, and daytime temperatures can get up to low twenties, it's been tempting to open up the windows.

As such though, it became crunch time to come up with a place to store the acrylic.  I had a few different visions of nooks behind the chesterfield or under the beds, but felt that also finding a place that could accept the screens made sense too.

In the end, here's the scheme I came up with.  We'll see how it plays out over the next year or two.

(N.B. One picture reveals the dedicated photographer! Ed.)

First, a 48"x96" sheet of 1/2" plywood.

And choosing a spot to locate it.  Here, in front of the bedroom patio doors, up on that 2x6.

Four heavy duty hinges.

Set up some sawhorses to work comfortably at.

Another angle.

Measure out spots for the hinges at equal intervals.

Wanted to use 3/4" screws, so I had to slide washers under the hinges to make sure the tips of the screws didn't poke out on the far side and scratch my acrylic.

Nice perspective shot!

Now adding a 2x3 rail on the far edge for the sheets to butt up against.

Setting up a ladder to try to put this up by myself.

I mounted a single screw at one end, then carefully hoisted the other end into position.

Added a few more screws.

And a few more yet.

Getting ready to move the ladder.

I put the ladder underneath to prop out the shelf on an angle - to ensure the acrylic didn't fall off!

Now laying a cotton sheet down so the acrylic wasn't directly on the wood.  Note the ratchet straps now employed to hold up the shelf.

Working my way from right to left.

Time to switch to the far end. 
My photographer felt the composition here was of interest.

Now at the left edge, with the right edge falling off.  Sigh.

Trying to lift the right edge of the sheet.

And the left edge of the sheet falls off.

Tucking in the top much more carefully as I work right to left again.


Laying the first sheet down.

Looks good, crumpling up some painters tape that I removed from the acrylic as I was storing it.  Next year, I think I'll try magnetic tape on the exterior.

Adding some of the larger sheets.

Now we're getting there.

A good view of the ratchet straps.  Opened the patio doors as I felt there were no bugs.  Boy, was I wrong that evening as mosquitoes were EVERYWHERE in the cabin!

Got them all to fit!  Yeah so far!

Ratcheted it up.  It was good to have two straps so I could alternate them.

Lots of room underneath, and I can confirm that it doesn't block any of the view from the bedroom.  I can use it for screens over the winter as well - I hope!

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Some Mallards Visit

They didn't stick around long, but it sure was exciting to see a couple of ducks hanging around the pond a couple of days ago!

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Solar Power's Back Baby!

Yes indeed, this morning marks that momentous time of year when I can get up in the middle of the night and our batteries have enough charge to make me a litre of tea to drink, and then another half litre of boiling water for my ramen.

Life is good!

Mmmm, ramen!

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Canning Pancakes

Whelp, here's a crazy experiment that may be of interest to my reader as I descend down the rabbit hole into gastronomic madness...

Canned pancakes, and no, not that Batter Blaster type of canning either.

First, I mixed up the batter as normal.

Totally normal batter.
Then greased a baker's dozen of 250mL canning jars with butter.

I poured a quarter cup of batter into each jar, set them on a baking sheet, and into the oven they went for maybe twenty or twenty-five minutes.  I checked them at least once, didn't see the harm in it.

That's all of them full!
If it wasn't for the flash, you'd see 350F here.
They don't brown up the way they would if they were fried, they become more like a steamed pudding...  Anyway, once they were set, I pulled them out, poured a tablespoon of chocolate chips on top, and then put on the canning lid and ring and tightened it down.
Adding the chocolate chips.  They'll melt a little in the jars as they cool down.
As they cooled, the lids suctioned down tight.

These are NOT preserved, but the presentation is fun.  I'm sure they'd last at room temperature for a couple of days or so - at least as long as something baked would do.

I'll serve them up tomorrow to the homeschoolers coming to visit and hopefully they'll be decently received.
I didn't have a lid for the last one, and figured Kenny or Donna would eat it right away anyway.

Surprise!  I gave them some other pancakes I made at the same time, and they didn't need the thirteenth, so when it cooled, I put on this plastic lid to store it for tomorrow.

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Canning Potatoes the Lazy Way

We've been excessively blessed with sunlight the past couple of weeks.  I haven't had to run the generator for at least a week, and everyone just feels a bit more peppy.

After canning the chicken last week, I was enthused to replenish our pantry with meals in jars, so I set to work doing up our potatoes.  I have mixed and matched a few techniques for doing potatoes that I think make mine easy, safe and still tasty and useful.

First off, it's widely accepted that peeling them is important and they really aren't safe otherwise.  I happen to see some logic to this, and besides, I'm really retentive about ensuring only the best of the best stuff gets canned, so I like to peel them to see what's going on under the skins.

Peeled, and ready to slice and dice for soaking.
I also do dice them into odd shaped chunks.  I would like to slice them uniformly for scalloped potatoes, but I believe that you have to have good circulation of water around them to ensure proper processing, and if they were all stacked up, the interior of the stack may not get up to a good temperature.

These were soaked overnight, and now I'm dicing them a bit smaller before putting them into the jars.
It seems that many people briefly boil (parboil?  blanch?) their potatoes before canning them.  A year or two ago when I was having kidney problems, I was told to lay off potatoes due to potassium, or to soak them overnight to help reduce it a bit.  This also has the function of removing much of the starch in the potatoes that caused them to go cloudy and slimy when canned.  I find the overnight soak is just as effective as boiling them before canning them.

With non-sealing lids, ready to soak overnight in the jars themselves.
Normally I have been soaking them in some large bowls, but that is very disruptive in the fridge, so now I raw pack them in jars, top up the jars with clean water and let them sit in the fridge overnight like that.  Then I drain off the water, pour in new water (cold, warm, hot - it doesn't matter - it just affects how long the steamer takes to come up to pressure) and put on the lids and rings.

Ready to go into the canner.  Fresh water up to the threads, just enough to cover the potatoes.
Nota bene I don't bother sterilizing the jars or lids or rings.  It's clear that I'm basically autoclaving everything that goes in the canner, so that's a silly extra step.  As long as my jars are clean enough to eat and drink directly out of them (and we do), they will be totally fine for the canner.  In case you don't believe me, a brief google search will back up my opinion.

Otherwise, my canning process is nothing remarkable.  I ensure that the chunks are completely covered in water - we've found that if they are exposed, they tend to turn grey.

Just prewarming the water and canner on the corner of the stove while preparing the jars.  This saves a bit of time and energy.
I turn up the heat with the vent closed until the canner locks from the pressure.  Then I open the vent and let steam hiss out for close to ten minutes.

I close the vent to fifteen pounds of pressure and if I have the energy, I crank the heat up to get it steaming again more quickly, but it's not required if I'm patient.

As soon as it starts steaming again, I turn the temperature gauge down to 120 degrees (Celsius) and set the timer for whatever is required.  In the case of half litre jars of potatoes, it would be 35 minutes.

Steaming away.  I put paper towels between the cooker and the canner to catch the steamy drops of water that drip down while it's coming up to pressure.  You can't do that on anything other than an induction cooker!
The timer shuts it off, I wait until I see the lock indicator on the canner click off, then I remove the lid and take out the jars and set them on a cutting board to cool off.

That's it!  Fun, and flavourful!  And it means no more worrying about potatoes doing weird things in the back corner of the pantry. :)