Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Using Sour Milk to Make Quick and Easy Cheese in our Rice Cooker

We were down to our last bag of milk.  Luckily I had starred milk on our Wunderlist and made sure to purchase some more just as we started the bag.

Unfortunately, as I went to pour Kenny a glass from that final bag, he remarked something like "I don't know if that's a different kind of milk from usual, but I really don't like it."  Immediately I  sampled it and could taste the distinct acidity of milk starting to turn.  I set the bag aside in the fridge and poured him a glass of new milk, and decided to take another spin at making cheese the next day.

I don't know if I'm unique, but I still torment myself with embarrassment even over things that happened years and years and years ago.  Often to such a degree that recalling those events causes me to cry out loud now, at my age.  Fortunately Kenny has learned a bit about this quirk of his father's, and when he hears me make these whimpers, if I reply that I'm just remembering something embarrassing to his queries, he soon lets the issue drop.

The title of this blog post is one of those embarrassing memories.  Then again, as I start really embracing the dad joke, perhaps it isn't so bad.

On the plus side, it was pretty much exactly the recipe I used for making cheese this time around.  Cost of cheese - about $1.50, using milk that was going in the thunderbox anyway, so that's not bad.  It tasted like some sort of fancy gourmet cheese that would have been much more than $1.50 for 100gm, so I guess I came out ahead there.  Thinking I should save some brine from feta, and put this in the brine to give it that same flavour. I may end up making my own cheese on a more regular basis?

Much easier to heat the milk in a rice cooker!  Just set on cook and wait for the bubbles.

Maybe an ounce of vinegar.

Cheesecloth and colander assembled.

Right on queue, here's the bubbles!

Things happen real fast when the vinegar goes in.  Stir for a minute, switch to warm, and let this just curdle for maybe a quarter hour.

Pouring through the cheesecloth.

Still pouring.

Pouring complete.  There's the curd in the colander.

Wrapped up the cloth, set between two dinner plates, and put on a full jug of vinegar to press it for another half hour or so. 
Looks cheesy.  Very bland.  Needs lots of kosher salt!

And packaged for salads or just eating straight up.

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

A Rack for Milled Lumber

As you probably remember from the post about me starting up the sawmill again, I've just been throwing the 2x4's willy-nilly all over the ground in an effort to make a big dent in the skidway.

Ugh, what a mess.
Doesn't really look any better from this angle.
Me thinking, "I'll deal with you later!"
After the pile started to get really unruly looking though, I decided it was time to put that stuff on a rack neatly for aesthetic, quality, safety and space reasons.

I planned out a complicated rack that I could build using gas pipe and gas pipe fittings and headed in to Home Depot.

Unfortunately, when I arrived, they had only a fraction of the types of fittings I would have needed, and even less of the pipe in the sizes I wanted.  On top of that, a mental calculation of cost made it less and less attractive.

I headed down to storage solutions and then figured that, while sub-optimal, a heavy duty storage rack should still be able to be pressed into service.  As such, I purchased the largest, heaviest duty one they had and headed home.

While Donna and Kenny pursued their chores at the cabin, I assembled the racking on a level area really close to the mill, and began to load up the product I had already cut.  I was able to fit five boards across, then a sticker, and then repeat this process for three layers.  This times four shelves gave me space for theoretically 60 boards at a time.  Realistically, I lost a number of slots where the diagonal braces spanned the ends, but I also made up a number of slots on the top shelf which I could pile higher.  I also found that I could even pile a couple boards outside the shelving on the protruding ends of the stickers.

Nice, level area close to the mill.
Sliding them in from the end is just the way of things.
Looks nice and neat though!
All in all, it sure has cleaned up the mill area, and I trust that it will help keep the boards I cut straighter than they would be just piled on the ground.  I'll report back if there are any issues.

Sunday, August 5, 2018

Kenny's Garden Harvest

Be it ever so humble, there are no veggies quite like "grown on your own..."

Showing off the bounty from our raised beds.  Made for amazing fresh salad!

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Yet Another Clothes Line

When you live off-grid and don't have easy access to gas or electric services, you start to really miss some things, and others, not so much.

One thing I've not really missed - especially since even when we had one, we didn't use it terribly much, was our dryer.

Even back in the city, I had installed a clothes line in the rafters over our back porch, very similar to what I installed on the sauna here in the bush.

Now that we've moved washing operations into the main cabin though, it makes sense to keep the drying operations closer.

In addition to the very popular indoor drying rack, we also owned a pop up drying rack that I would set out on the deck as much as possible during the summer, and continue to use throughout the winter indoors just for extra space.  Unfortunately that rack met its' untimely end after being overloaded and then subjected to a large gust of wind last week.  Go in peace our good friend.

So sad, those rods aren't suppose to be on the ground!
I remembered that in the bush were the remains of a previous clothes line that had been abandoned when the line under the porch roof of the sauna was installed.  Kenny and I grabbed my larger ladder and headed out to retrieve any useful parts.  It didn't take long to disassemble and bring it back to the main cabin.

I didn't want anything that would in any way interfere with our ability to move around on the porch.  It's somewhat cluttered enough already.  Also, the porch rafters on the cabin are at least a foot higher than the sauna, so I didn't think anyone other than myself would be able to reach them comfortably.

With those points in mind, I decided to install a single line just along the outside edge of the rafters that Donna and I could access while not blocking any traffic.

Assembling my parts.  Don't freak out by the dismembered rack in the background.
First some open cup hooks were installed at each end of the beam.

Open ended hook.
Then at each support post, I also installed an eye hook to help keep the line from sagging.

Eye hook.  Hopefully far enough under the edge that in light rain, clothes could still stay up?
I ran the remaining clothes line through the eye hooks and tied it off at each end.

I also installed a tension device to allow me to tighten the clothes line right away, and any time in the future that it may sag.

Easy adjustment down the line.
I loaded it up, and so far it's worked great!  It only gets afternoon sun, but anything is better than nothing in life!  I wonder how long into the cold season we will be able to use it.  Time will tell.

Enjoy my unmentionables!

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!