Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Response to a comment... Don't trash that grinder!

If only it stuffed sausage...

Today I got a comment from Sophia.  It didn't seem like it was in response to my article, but more like fishing for traffic to her blog (I reserve the right to be wrong for myself!)... well I took the bait and read a few of her articles and couldn't help but comment on something she said.

"1 year or so for a moderately well-used grinder is more than sufficient. Or, easily purchase some replacement blades. They can generally be had for several bucks."

Having tried sharpening my blades in the past (the last time was the most successful, thanks to a tool maker I know) and met with mixed results.  But I did learn a few things that are worth noting here...

You should keep in mind when buying new blades and grinder plate, or die as you called it, is that over time, as the these parts wear, they will wear into each other.  It's the same as changing the brakes on your car... if the rotors are worn, your brakes won't work as well if you only replace the pads.  As you you use your grinder, if you are wanting to buy a new grinder plate and use it with an old cutter, you may need to have all your cutters and plates trued (made to have the same flatness so they will all worth together more effectively).  A good blade sharpening service should be able to do this, but a local machine shop may be willing to tackle this for you too!  So if you are getting mush coming out of your grinder, don't throw it out... sharpen it!

The grinder knife, prior to the grinder plate installation.

The grinder plate installed.  (Make sure you line up the notch in the plate with the pin in the grinder!)
At the end of the day, take care of your tools and they will take care of you!  Periodic maintenance is required though, just like changing the brakes on your car.  Keep things clean, keep things lubed and whatever you do, don't throw your grinder in the trash because it's not working right! 

(I'll gladly help to find it a new home.)


Tuesday, December 22, 2015

America, a nation of freedoms and liberties!

Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness...

I was taught at an early age, although I can't remember how, that we as Americans are special.  Why, might you ask?  Because we live in a land of freedom and liberty, for all!  (Maybe it was the pledge of allegiance?)  Well anyway, these days there are lot of things to love about our country, a lot of freedoms and liberties still exist.  Some people like them, some don't... one of those liberties is the freedom of travel and the freedom to move.  I kinda wish the people who don't like all those liberties would go to one state of the fifty (surely one of the fifty to choose from would work) and set up their own little utopia of rules and regulations that would strip the people of those freedoms and liberties and see how long the people would be happy... but I digress.

At the end of the day, it is what it is.  There are laws and regulations I don't like, but I have to live with them... why do I have to live with them?  Well if I don't, a man (I'm sure he's normally a very nice man) will come and threaten me with violence.  You don't believe me?  Refuse to file a tax return and see what happens... if you wait long enough, a man with a gun will come take you to jail.

In short, I'd like to put together a list of liberties we don't have in America... a list of things we can't do!  Citizens of other countries have these liberties, but not us!  If you can think of any that I missed, please share it in the comments section.

Liberties and freedoms American's don't have... and things we don't have the freedom not to do!

1) Purchase raw milk 

(Without jumping through hoops)

2) Purchase meat

From a facility that is not USDA/FDA/State inspected and approved (your own quality inspection is not sufficient)

3) Freedom of speech?  

Even if you don't believe it, stand up on a crowded street corner and say that it's wrong to be gay...

4) The right to bear arms

(1)To do something that does not obey or follow (a rule, law, etc.) ( chiefly US )
(2) To encroach or trespass (usually followed by on or upon)
I wouldn't recommend you travel through Illinois with a firearm... but you can try it if you want to...

5) File a tax return

Skip that one and see how it works out for you!

6) Go to school

Tell me a place where children have the freedom to not get an education.  I'm not even talking about homeschooling here!

7) Freedom of religion

I'm glad it's illegal for Muslims to go Jihadi on us infidels... but those Christians had better keep their views and opinions to themselves!  In fact, that there Bible is probably hate speech... 

8) Property taxes

I'm all about paying back the debt I have on my house... but you don't own the land if the mafia, er, government can take it away from you for not paying your taxes!

9) You, little girl, must have a business license to sell cupcakes!

Goodness, I did not expect to get so many results on this search, but do a quick one for the following:
girl +told+to+stop+selling+cupcakes
Yea, tell me all those little girls are free... and that's just one example!  Here's another example...

10) Health insurance!
Well this one almost slipped by... you don't have a choice, now you are required by law to obtain medical insurance... OR PAY THE FINE!

Well that's all I have time for... hey, chime in and I'll add to the list!

Coming soon, Lacto-fermenting Pickles!

Monday, December 21, 2015

All quiet...

Well with the coming of colder weather things have slowed down, allowing for some time to relax... too bad I'm not good at that!  Instead I've been in full gear hunting mode since the first couple weeks of October.  This year has gone particularly bad for me, as I had some issues with a bow not correctly sighted in mixed with "Hey, where did all the deer go?"  It's been taking a toll on the family as well, as 3 kids under the age of 5 can be a lot of work for one mom!  Especially on a weird diet...

(I started writing this a few weeks back, so if it seems out of place, keep that in mind!)

A Weird Diet


I have written a decent amount on our efforts to make sauerkraut in the past, with some explanation as to why.  But let's go a little deeper this time...

In the spring, one my children started to swell up, almost to the point that he couldn't see.  My wife took him in the doctor who did a blood test on him... I got a phone call shortly after telling me to come home so we could take our little one to the hospital, an hour away if I sped... his blood count was way low on white cells and all sorts of other issues; cancer?  We got admitted and spent the night.  The next morning we had to hold our little one down as they tried repeatedly to put an IV into his body, doing the only thing we knew to do to comfort him as he screamed in an effort to rid himself of the stabbing pain... we sang Amazing Grace. Oh boy, I'm going to need to get a tissue...

The procedure was a bone marrow sampling.  This is a procedure I am quite familiar with, as I had it done to myself when I was only in 2nd grade.  The difference this time is that they were trying to give him some type of anasthesia, something they didn't do when I was in his condition... thank God he didn't have to experience that pain.  The result from the bone marrow biopsy was that his bone marrow was not producing the blood cells like it should be... it was effectively shut down.  The next day we got more results from the doctor, bracing ourselves for the worst.

It's not cancer.


As the words hit me, I slowly felt myself relax, letting down my guard... it was a fraction of a second of peace and calm before "HEY, SNAP OUT OF IT!  WHAT'S WRONG WITH MY BOY!" came crashing into my moment of peace.  It was wonderful while it lasted, but that voice in my head was right, what was causing all of these problems?

Kidneys?  The Nephrologist (Kidney doctor) came in and talked to us at one point... the did some tests, but that wasn't it.

Digestive tract?  The Gastrointerologist (GI) doctor said there were some issues with his stool, enzymes, other words... eh, okay... so his liver is bad?

That's when things kicked into high gear...

Now, nearly 9 months later, neither the primary care physician, the GI doc, the Nephrologist nor the osteopathic physician can tell us why our son swelled up like a state puff marshmallow.  They couldn't tell us what caused it.  They can't tell us what to do to prevent it!  All they can do is send us bills, and boy-howdy haven't they done that!

At this point, I need to take a moment and praise God!  Last I checked, I'm still allowed to do that on my blog... if you don't like talking about God, just skip over this part.  So apparently there is a program in Ohio, paid for by our property tax, that covers everything your insurance won't cover* until it is determined what is wrong with your child.  *There are some limitations on this program, but I won't bore you with them.  Anyway, with our son in the hospital for three days and all the tests that were done, we blew through our deductible like lightning!  We would have been financially brought to our knees if it were not for this program.  God provided in an amazing way and we are grateful for it!  That said, there was a large number of individuals who also blessed us during this time with gift cards and other forms of support.  If that description fits you, thank you so much!

Now what do we do?

One of the interesting things what has been happening in our lives is the discovery of food sensitivities.  I currently am not a huge fan of what I discovered, as it means there are a lot of happy foods that I can no longer eat*, which is a not so happy thought!  *Let me explain for a moment... when you have a healthy digestive tract, there is a balance of bacteria, yeast and fungus that keeps you healthy.  When this is out of balance, you will not be as healthy as you could be.  There are lots of things that can cause this to be out of whack too, like stress and antibiotics... in the case of my family, there has been too much of both!  Anyway, when things are out of whack, holes develop in the walls of your digestive tract.  Depending on various factors, proteins from these foods start passing through those holes into your blood stream... proteins that normally wouldn't be there!  This causes a problem, as your immune system responds, thinking that these new proteins in your body represent an invading force, and the troops mobilize...

The simple story - When I eat things that came back with positive results on the blood work, I get a nasty painful blister in my nose... and I can get grouchy too!

Here's where we have ended up...

I've always trusted the doctors to take care of me and my children.  If they get hit with a rock and need stitches, I'll gladly take them to the ER.  But with all the things that my son has been through, with the doctors only shrugging and telling me what it could have been, we've begun to look elsewhere... we have begun to take a holistic approach here.  First it was essential oils and some books on herbal remedies.  One of my books helped my wife solve a nasty bout of mastitis, not antibiotics required!  (you can try it it you'd like... take a cabbage leaf, bruise it up - maybe roll it with a rolling pin? - and stick it inside your bra, up against your skin... change it out every 4-8 hours as needed)

As you may have noticed, we are now fermenting fools as well.  We've made nearly 100lbs of sauerkraut this fall along with 25lbs of dill pickles (they came out too salty, but still good)... and according to some research I've done, it's illegal to sell it in the good ole "Land of the brave and home of the free."  The founding fathers would have so many regrets if they could see our country today... but I digress.

But at the end of the day, we have now learned to appreciate a local holistic doctor... and at this point, she has seen all of us.  We're now eating pineapple and papaya for enzymes and learning about how to de-sensitize our bodies to our sensitivities...  Anyway, after we have all seen the doc the verdict came out to be...

Intestinal Parasites, Yay! (Heavy on the sarcasm)

Okay, at this point I've been writing this up for too long... maybe I'll come back and hit up the topic of parasites another time if there is any interest.  Our life right now is an exhausting cycle of buying groceries, cooking all of our meals at home, trying to get young'ns to eat with utensils vs their fingers... "No, don't wipe the squash in your hair, I just gave you a bath!" and cleaning up the disaster zone that is inevitably left behind after we put them to bed... wash, rinse, repeat..

I can't believe I'm thinking about putting in a garden or raising chickens (and possibly sheep) again this year!  On that note, anybody want to sign up to buy some pastured chickens raised on organic, GMO free feed?  I'm thinking about selling it for roughly $5/lb... which is less profit for me than you might think! 

I need more sleep...

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Sauerkraut 2015, Take Three

Well we ran out again... so we made some more again!  I wrote in my post Take Heed! Watch those fingers... about slicing the end of my thumb off, well we did finish up that batch, before my Stone Creek Trading Cabbage Slicer came in.  So after the half failure I wrote about in my post Sauerkraut 2015 Part II - A Lesson in Fermentation, we have learned from our mistakes and I've been checking it every day or two since it's conception.  It has been in the basement for about a week now and I thought I'd share some pic's.

CO2 bubbles coming up between the fermenting stones.

You can see above that there is a decent about of foam forming on the surface, as well as a decent amount of cabbage that has floated up to the top.  Previously we have put large cabbage leaves between the cabbage and the weights, which may have contribute to our partial past failure, as they might have trapped the bubbles... just a theory.

Fresh cabbage and sauerkraut soup, just what the doctor ordered!

Okay, I'll admit... for the first week or so, this stuff does stink.  Each time I go down to skim off the surface, I smell it.  It's not overpowering, but I smell it.  It's nowhere as bad as changing a diaper blowout, believe me!

Anyway, this is how I cover the crock while I'm fermenting... it's a kitchen towel and a shoe string with a prusak knot and a bowline so I can tighten it up when I'm not inspecting it.  Talk about fermenting on a shoestring budget!  (Sorry,  I couldn't help it)

My kitchen towel and shoestring lid...

Okay, I guess I don't have as many pics as I thought.  Hope this was informative for somebody!

Speedy delivery... speedy delivery! (A Stone Creek Trading Cabbage Slicer Unboxing, Size Large)

Well that was a pleasant surprise!  Last night I walked in the door of my home and was greeted by my beautiful wife and children.  I am a wealthy man!  Then I walked in a little further and found a large box with my name on it.  I had mentioned previously (Take Heed, Watch those fingers...) that I ordered a cabbage slicer after I skillfully sliced the end of my thumb off.  Amazon told me it was going to be another week before it might be delivered... but nope, there it was.

Unopened, my first cabbage slicer.

At first glance... "Wow, that's big!"  Now I know that the description in gave the exact dimensions, but I didn't really pay attention to it.

After pulling it out of the bag, it looked decent.  It used some chintzy nails to hold it together (I was taught from a young age that fine woodworking doesn't use nails, especially from a nail gun!), so I question how long that will work (I'm tempted to drill through it and glue in dowel rods, before it breaks).  I think I may have been taught some obsessive compulsiveness at the same time...

"Hi, my name is Clinton and I think  I'm OCD..."

The blades on this thing are certainly sharp enough to slice the remaining skin off my thumb!  But it also looks like this thing may be big enough that I won't have to do anything short of sliding the box up and down, keeping my fingers far from the blades!  (That will be nice, if it is in fact the case.)  There are three blades in this unit (the extra large has four) and they are removeable, should they need to be sharpened.  I don't know if you can get replacements if need be... not to self, check on that.


The box uses a standard box joint at the corners (versus the dove tail join that my dad would have encouraged me to use, would I have built one), which is probably good enough...

Yep, the box will slide right off...

The description off Amazon says "This is a natural unfinished wood product. This means it does not have a varnish or paint coating on top of the natural wood. However, it is sanded smooth and ready for use."  I take that to mean that it has been cleaned up with sand paper.  While that may be true on the flat pieces, the edges could still use some sandpaper to knock off some loose ends.  Again, not necessary... but I wouldn't put my name on it till I had done that!


So it is untreated poplar wood, made in Poland... interesting.  They say you don't need to treat the wood... I'm not sure about you, but I have alarms going off in the back of my head when I read that.  I've read some suggestions to coat wood with mineral oil (too much consumed can have a cleansing effect), let dry and wipe off excess.  The method I plan on going with, however, is walnut oil.  It was used extensively in France during somebody's reign (probably some Louis the umpteenth) as a wood coating and it's food, so what more could you ask for?  Oh, I've also read that olive oil can go rancid... no thanks, not in my food!

Now I'd like to go back to something in the picture above real quick... at the bottom of that little card with instructions and care, the retailer was kind enough to also put their website.  Now this might seem insignificant, but it's not!  Being the curious person I am, I ventured over there to take a look at the other things they sell... and happened to see this very product for sale with a price tag of $25 less than I paid off Amazon!  Now I don't know about you guys, but that's significant in my book!  But what about the shipping cost?  Ok, yep... got that one too!  The shipping to my house is estimated @ $9 from these guys, so the real price delta is 16$, still significant!

Well I have yet to use this thing, but it appears as though it will significantly speed up the process of shredding the cabbage the next time we need to ferment some foods.  I'll be sure to post an update when we use it!

Till next time, God bless!

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Take Heed! Watch those fingers...

A few times I have written about using my Borner mandolin slicer... well last night I was using it and I got bit!  I won't show you a picture, but needless to say, my thumb ain pretty!  Recently I had been discussing with my wonderful wife if we should invest in a quality cabbage slicer... well, I think I answered that question! 

Now on order with Amazon is this little wonder of food science creation...

Wood Cabbage Shredder - Slaw Board - Large

Now one issue with this thing is that I don't see a board that goes inside the "sled" to push down on the cabbage.  I'll have to make one of my own, so be on the lookout for that, along with a review. 

On another note, we recently purchased another 5 gallon Ohio Stoneware crock.  I looked all over the internet and found the best price of roughly $70... then I called the local Ace Hardware... they had one in stock for only $56.  Whoohoo!  While Ace may not be a "local" store, its sure a step in the right direction compared to Lowes or Menards!  While I was there I saw a manual meat grinder (looked decent actually), a food strainer and a few other cool things for a homesteader.... I'm gonna recommend you guys check them out!

So all that to say, we are turning into fermenting fools!  I recently checked out a book from the library titled In The Charcuterie: The Fatted Calf's Guide to Making Sausage, Salumi, Pates, Roasts, Confits, and Other Meaty Goods.  That's a cool book!  It covers broth's, fat's, butchering and processing of meats.  Hopefully sometime in the future I'll be able to acquire a sausage press and start making some fermented meats... bu that's a road I'll have to wait to travel until a later stage right now...

To close, keep your fingers away from your blades!  They don't play well together...

Monday, November 2, 2015

Repairing Tools: Power Cords

A quick chat about electricity and repairing tools...


DON'T BE STUPID!  I'm not responsible if you can't follow those guidelines, or even if you can! 

Depending on your mechanical aptitude, your tool kit may consist of one of those 10in-one screw drivers and a pliers.  On the other end of the spectrum, you may have a full machine shop, wood shop, welding booth and paint booth.  Me, I fall in the middle.  Like most Americans, I have limited funds, which means I have to do with what I have, save until I can afford that next tool or borrow one!  Recently I have been borrowing a table saw, which has been awesome.  But Tuesday night I decided the circular saw I got over 8 years ago for a wedding gift (I have an awesome aunt who picked it out for me) would be faster and easier... unfortunately this allowed me to be careless as well.  About 0.05 seconds in to cutting a board, I felt a quick jerk, similar to a fish grabbing your hook, before my saw stopped working...

Whoopsie!  My saw with the handle taken apart...
As you may have guessed, I cut the power cord about 18" from where it terminates inside the saw.  Being a handy fellow ("Hey, if the women don't find you handsome, at least they'll find you handy!"), I quickly got out my duct tape and... eh, no.  I didn't do that...

As you can see above, I took off part of the handle so I could get to the guts of the saw.  Below is a better picture.

Holding the switch in my hand.
These saws use a trigger switch in the handle to control the flow of electrons to the motor.  The eyelet terminals on the ends of the wires would have to be replicated on the plug end of the power cord if I was going to use this saw again!

Here's what I would have to re-create

In this case, I was very fortunate to have just the supplies on hand!  I originally bought this kit because I wanted to make a Steven Harris battery backup system, but unfortunately never have, due to the cost of the batteries.  But the tool kit that I bought for this is pictured below.  It's a
Neiko® 50413A Wire Terminal and Connection Kit with Crimpers/Wire Stripper | 175 Piece Set.

The wire terminal and connection kit, with crimpers!

At roughly $13 (current price), this thing is a must for anyone who repairs anything!  I've used this to repair a laundry dryer for somebody, numerous things around the house and now my circular saw.  I highly recommend you get two of them!

Okay, back to fixing things...

Trimming the remaining cable to square off the ends
You can see in the background of the pictures above that eyelets were installed on the ends of the wire and attached to the switch via screws.  This means I needed to put new eyelets on the remaining power cable.  To do that, I first trimmed the cable flush and peeled back the liner a few inches, matching the length of the white and black wires sticking out to the original. 

Strip the wires...

Slip the eyelet on...

Crimp the eyelet in place...

Slip the cable protector back over the cord...

Screw the power cable back down on the switch...
Let's take a moment here... looking at the above picture, I should have made the black wire a little bit shorter.  I could have cut the eyelet off, trimmed the cord to the right length and put a new eyelet back on, but instead I just decided to fold the wire into the handle frame.  If this saw a lot of movement, I'd be more inclined to do the just described fix, but this should stay in place and I doubt I'll have any problems.  If I do, well I guess I can fix it again!

Everything tucked back in place...

The final picture...

Electricity- If this had been a DC current tool, it would have been extremely important that I put the wires back exactly as I had found them.  In this case, my saw runs on your typical power grid 60hertz alternating current power supply.  It doesn't matter if you swap the white and black wires, it would still work. 

So there you have it, I could have forked out a lot of money to buy a new saw, but instead I burned through a couple cents worth of electrical connectors and an hour of my time.  Learn to fix your own tools, one day you might have no other choice!

Stay safe out there and God Bless!

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Sauerkraut 2015 Part II - A Lesson in Fermentation

Recently I did a post on making sauerkraut, titled Sauerkraut 2015I obviously had high hopes for this super food and put a lot of work into it!  But let this be a lesson for you all, as it takes too much work to repeat this one!

This is NOT what you want your ferment to look like!

We made this stuff on a Saturday, covered it with a towel and put it in the basement.  It crossed my mine a time or two to go check on it, but I never did until a week had passed.  This was, as you can see, A MISTAKE!  When I finally got around to checking it, the picture above is what I saw, and it smelled just plain awful!  I didn't have much hope, but I started digging anyway.

After digging a little deeper...

You can see a small bucket off to the side of the crock that I have begun to fill with the rotten remains of what was supposed to turn into wonderful sauerkraut.  I eventually emptied about half of all the kraut out of the crock before I removed, as best I could, any remaining nasty brownish-green nastiness... I probably shouldn't have put it in the compost, but I did anyway (there are good and bad organisms for the garden too). 

Let's give it a shot and see what happens!

This last picture is what it looked like after I scrubbed the weights, wiped out the upper walls of the crock and dug out all the bad ferment.  We put it back in the basement and just yesterday tried some out, after 3 weeks of fermenting. 

I thought it tasted a little "off", but my wife and kids didn't notice anything wrong with it.  All I can do now it eat it and hope it is good to go... or I guess I could throw it all out and not risk it... hmm.  Well, almost 24hrs now and I feel fine.  We'll see how the kids and the wife feel later on and make a final decision! 

What happened?  Well all I can figure is that the fermentation process created CO2 bubbles, which, having trouble rising to the top, lifted the entire ferment out of the cabbage juice, causing it to spoil.  I could be wrong, but that's my best guess!  Next time I'll be sure to add some extra brine and keep a closer eye on it!

LESSON: Check your fermenting food often!  

Also, we've been diffusing some essential oils recently and I'm not sure if it negatively impacted the bacteria in the crock... but just to be safe, keep your fermenting foods away from your essential oils, as they can kill bacteria too!

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Apple Crates: An Update

The original?

Some History

Since I last posted about these Apple Crates here, I've been building one for myself and doing some research about where they came from.  Well the picture above is from Ebay and it a picture of the same crate I'm working on... with a few differences.  But it was that auction listing that brought me this picture as well:

So I looked these guys up and found them here.  It looks like they are still making crates, and they might even still sell the one I have been working on.  I've called and left a message, but no word as of yet...

My Progress:

Monday night around 11pm I wrapped up the first copy of this crate... it was a little more complicated than I had first thought!  I'm not in the process of making detailed drawings of this thing so I can determine if it is something I want to make more of and, if so, how I can do so the most efficiently.

Another view from Ebay

I'm also thinking about staining these things... but we'll have to wait and see.  Who knows, maybe I'll put some up for sale or give some out as gifts?  Maybe it will be enough to fund the purchase of a table saw so I don't have to borrow one anymore!  That'd be nice...