Monday, December 31, 2018

2018: An Interesting Year

This post rambles through topics that don't warrant dedicated blog entries. Many subjects like sprouting seed, growing them to transplant size in the greenhouse, then planting in outdoor gardens have been covered earlier and methods haven't evolved much. Tomatoes this year were outstanding, though the rows proved too close together (36 inches) and hard to get through later in the season. Next year we'll try four foot spacing between rows.
Clacker Toys for Toddlers
The Showcase Entry Clacker Toy
I often spend time in winter working on wood projects to get ready for the spring Northeast Woodworkers Showcase where our organization displays articles made during the year. I entered one of four "clacker" toys that make a lot of noise when rolled across the floor. It only won second place in the toy category because someone created a perfect scale model of a bulldozer in which everything worked! Each of the hundreds of treads actually move when pushed along, an incredible amount of beautiful craftsmanship. 

Bulldozer that Won a Blue Ribbon
 Every winter two nieces and their parents visit us on their way back from a week skiing. They usually want to work on a project and this time chose to help make two animal figures: a cheetah and a French Bulldog. These are mounted on pedestals with springs hidden inside so strings attached enable each to wag a tail, bow, lie down or assume other motions. I sent them home unpainted, hoping their owners would make them look like the animals they chose.
Cheetah and French Bulldog Toy Action Figures
 Every spring we shave most of the hair off our dog to make her more comfortable (she withers in heat). She loves looking like a lion, or at least, being much cooler (and rolling in cool grass).
Belle in Her Lion Cut
Fully Developed Monarch Caterpillar
Newly Emerged Monarch Butterfly
 We love butterflies and I've been collecting and identifying them my whole life. Monarchs are our favorites because they are large, beautiful and migrate such long distances. Last year I saw only three. This year was different: we saw many all summer, including their caterpillars on milkweed. After monitoring many caterpillars that did not survive to make chrysalises, we collected new ones and placed them in a large jar with sprigs of milkweed. We successfully raised nine through their becoming butterflies! And we let them go: hopefully to fly to Mexico where they overwinter. 
Some of Many Millions of Monarch Butterflies Overwintering in Mexico, 2018-19
Our daughter, Zoe, is in Mexico as I write this, and just sent me the photo above. She went there specifically to see these butterflies and was encouraged that guides at the site noted that there are more this year than many prior years. Ever more folk are conserving patches of milkweed that promote these butterflies in their migration north.
Zoe with Her Catfish
We have a farm pond that we stocked with fish many years ago. The species that flourish are crappie, bass and channel catfish, though sunfish and bullheads also thrive. Our daughter, Zoe, wanted to catch one of the large catfish for a long time and finally she caught one, and we ate it. The downside was that this lady was full of roe, even though it was September. We had no idea fish could be laden with eggs at this time of year. As with all of the animal parts we don't serve as dinner, we pressure cook them and grind them into paste for our animals so none goes to waste.

 Our Guinea fowl have always been problematic: they like to lay their eggs in hidden thickets around the property instead of in the egg boxes we carefully prepare for chickens. This year we had three females establish nests in remote hedges and luckily we found each one. Two of the three fowl did not survive incubating their nest overnight, one disappeared leaving only feathers and the other we found lifeless but in perfect condition a few hundred feet from her nest but her eggs had been eaten. The male and those females that were not laying eggs roosted in their protected enclosure indoors every night that had safe nesting boxes but these ladies refused to use them. We did routinely snitch eggs from their nests, hoping that they would not start incubating their eggs until they had around 30 (a persistent rumor). Eventually each started sitting overnight even though they had fewer than 20 eggs. We placed some of their eggs under two broody hens (chickens) and five hatched, with four now almost grown up (thinking they are chickens).
One of the Guinea Fowl Nests
A Second Guinea Fowl Nest
Shiitake Mushroom Harvest
Some of the Chestnuts We harvested
One Batch of Onions Packed for the Shelter We Supply
One Picking of Ripening Peppers
Except for our Brussel sprouts, our gardens produces plenty of food for us, friends and the shelter we supply. We planted many types of squash and they did very well, hundreds of pounds more than in other years.
Some of the Winter Squash Maturing 
Another View of Winter Squash Drying on Tables So that Rodents Don't Nibble Them Before They Get Distributed

Sunday, December 30, 2018

2018: Making Pear and Apple Cider

Last year we used a pedal-powered grape crusher to process fruit before pressing juice out but the coarse pulp did not release all the liquid. A few YouTube videos demonstrated how well an under sink garbage disposal unit pulverizes fruit and documented that over 85% of the liquid can be readily drained from the apple sauce consistency pulp. We purchased a 3/4 horsepower all stainless steel unit for under $100 and will use it exclusively for making cider. It makes the process much faster and 15 or 20 gallons can be readily done in an afternoon by one or two people.

The Gray Box Holds the Garbage Disposal Unit and Fruit, Pushed Through the Bowl, Comes Out as Applesauce into the Bowl on the Ground

View Showing the Hole in the Bowl Bottom
The Outdoor Cider Making Setup Showing Fruit Washing Station to the Press 
Filling the First Layer of Apple Pulp in the Press
Pressing the Five Layers of Pulp So the Juice Fills the White Tray and Out through a Hole and into the Blue Funnel and 5-Gallon Glass Carboy Below
Second Layer of Pulp Being Loaded into the Press with a Chicken Waiting for "Apple Cardboard", the Almost Dry Product Layers from the Press
Another Day with the Fifth Layer of Pear Pulp Being Loaded into the Press
The Umbrella Shields the Pulping Operation from the Sun
Another View of the Pressing Operation: Various Blocks Are Used to Extend the Stroke of the Hydraulic Press
Pear Crushing Operation with Chickens Gleaning Seeds Dropped
Four Carboys of Pear Cider for Fermenting with an Additional Pot for Fresh Juice

Fruit "Cardboard" Unwrapped from its Filter Cloth

Fruit Pulp "Cardboard"
Applesauce Consistency Pulp Is Contained in Fabric to Filter the Juice into the Tray Below. This Fabric Proved too Weak to Withstand the Pressure.

Saturday, December 29, 2018

Making Salad Tongs

A friend has a set of salad tongs that are simple, never get separated and use very little wood. The two piece hinged wood pieces fold flat or open into a tweezer-style salad grabber that easily picks up lettuce. It's difficult, though, to pick up tomatoes, carrots, olives and other more solid items that tend to pop out.
Bottom: Original Design; Top: Maple Blanks
First Set of Tongs Out of Cherry with Scoops Carved at the Ends
Each half of the tongs is split into three parts and are hinged together with a slender brass rod through the outer parts of one side through the center part of the other. The features that spring the salad tongs open are the two warped outer slivers on the left in the photo above and the warped center part on the right. 

Four Halves of the Salad Tongs Fit in a Half Gallon Mason Jar: A Wood Sliver Is Inserted Between Each of the Three Parts And Boiling Water Poured to the Top to  Warp Them. After an Hour they are Dried Using the Microwave.
Another method to warp the springy parts also works: boiling them in a pan on the wood stove but it takes much longer to dry them than the ones done in a mason jar.

A Batch of Salad Tong Halves in a Pan Showing the Wood Slivers that Warp the Three Ends
The first batch of salad tongs I made using cherry and milled blocks to make "bowls" for the ends. These functioned okay but required more work than the second set of ten that I made out of maple. Salad tongs don't really need bowls to pick up stuff when shallower scoops also work. Simply adding short pieces of wood with the grain running across the tong handles function well. One inch holes down a similar piece of maple made five pair of scoop ends after sawing them apart.
Layout of the Scoop End

The Scoop Pieces Are Glued on the End of the Tongs After the Hinge Pin Is Inserted to Insure Proper Alignment for Gluing, Forming and Finishing

This Figure Shows the Different Stages From Blanks to Finished Salad Tongs

A Back Saw Was Used to Split Each Half into Three Parts

A Small Camping Saw Was Used to Complete the Cut
Ten Completed Salad Tongs: Maple and Cherry

One daughter requested that her set have a hole for hanging them so I added that feature to the maple set.
A Photo that Shows Different Amounts of "Springiness" Between the Handles

By the End: Once the Patterns Are Made, It Takes About Two Hours to Make a Set, Including Three Coats of Tung Oil

Sunday, September 30, 2018

Adding a Roof to a Shipping Container

We have been storing supplies from our solar manufacturing operation in shipping containers left over from a cancelled contract. Over thirty years one of their flat tops deteriorated and leaked badly and needed a properly pitched roof. 

View of the side of the shipping container before starting construction

View inside the container with the righthand door open

View showing warped longitudinal upper corner beneath the straight aluminum support member
The upper 20 foot long corner members were no longer strong enough to support a roof with snow loads so two aluminum 3x4 inch "I" beams were fastened above them to the substantial cast steel corners that were used to pick up the container.
The two longitudinal members that support the roof trusses: Each has 11 pairs of 2x2x1/8 inch aluminum angles to sandwich each truss
Four 1/2 inch thick plates each tapped for four 3/8 x 2.5 inch bolts that together capture the corners of the shipping container
Eleven simple trusses were fabricated using 2x4's for rafters and a 2x6 by 8 feet for the horizontal member. The pitch is 45 degrees so that the metal roofing readily sheds snow and the south facing side can one day support photovoltaic panels.
Eleven trusses each with three pairs of 1/2 inch plywood gussets, glued and screwed to the members
On each side, five 2x4 horizontal purlins were screwed to the trusses to support the seven sheets of corrugated steel 38x80 inch 29 gauge roofing.
North side of roofing complete, with two sheets on the south side: The ridge cap was fastened as each sheet was installed so no ladders were needed
Roof complete
The triangular open ends were then protected with corrugated clear polycarbonate roofing to keep out the weather but let in light.
View showing end triangle covered with corrugated polycarbonate roofing with center vertical 2x4 added for support and blue aluminum flashing to cover the gap between the truss and short end of the container
 Waiting for delivery of supplies took longer than the six days it took to put it all together. Maybe next summer we'll paint the container barn red like of other outbuildings.