Category Archives: Making Stuff

Bone Broth Attempt #2

IMG_0241Looking to improve on my interrupted Bone Broth Attempt #1, I cooked another batch recently. This time I did two things differently. First, I made sure that nobody would be around to steal ladles full of it to make their own soup! and Second, I pulled the meat away from the bones to let the boiling water hit the bones directly. By exposing the bones more directly to the hot water, I was able to get more of the bone gelatin into the broth. This increased gelatin makes the product, once refrigerated, blumpy and odd to pour out. It takes a little getting used to and is not for the faint-of-heart. However, that is where the goods are, and if your broth becomes gelatinous in the fridge then you did something right. I am not talking about the fat on the top, that is different. You can scrape that off or mix it in. I like a little fat in there but not too much.IMG_0238

I drink a cup of broth in the morning as the first part of my breakfast, and it really warms my belly and feels great to my body. I am always on the lookout for store-bought broths/stocks that are a quick substitute for the home-made kind. Recently I found this one, Kitchen Basics brand Original Chicken stock. It tastes pretty good and has much more protein than the other products available in my local grocery stores. The price was similar in price to the other stocks on the shelf. IMG_0261

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Filed under bone broth, Cooking, Making Stuff

Hard Cider Update

IMG_1223After a few days my cider started bubbling– I was surprised because I didn’t expect that from my preserved cider. I let it bubble for about a week, then it stopped. I racked the cider and put the stoppers and airlocks back in. There are no more bubbles, so the yeast is now completely spent. We sampled it and tastes just fine, but there wasn’t much of a “hard” bite to the cider. On to more fermentation!

I found this website and followed their suggestion of making a nice hearty starter with more champagne yeast, some apples and some un-preserved cider. I found the unpreserved cider at a local grocery store, Donelans.

Can you see the bubble in the airlock below? It is hard to take a picture of a moving bubble. The other picture is the starter I made yesterday. I will add all of the cider and starter together into the large 5 gallon container after the starter starts for two days.

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Here is the starter and the cider from before ready to be mixed together. The preserved stuff was definitely still fermenting! Yay! It was all carbonated and delicious. Maybe I had over-yeasted it enough to get it going when I first started. The bucket I am using is from my beekeeping days. I hope to have bees again in the future, but I just don’t have a space right now. Plus they take some time. You can just buy the gate and drill into your bucket. The smaller spigots are better for beer and cider, but this is interesting, too.

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I just want to point out that the beautiful rustic sofa table behind some of my pictures was made by Eugene Albright, a master Adirondack Rustic artist from Glens Falls, NY. He makes pieces like this, ready to buy, and also does a lot of custom work. His website currently sucks, but check him out at the juried Rustic Furniture Fair at the Adirondack Museum this and every fall.

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Filed under adirondack, apples, beer, beer spigot, champagne yeast, hard cider, honey gate, Making Stuff, rustic furniture

First hard cider attempt

We have an avid hard cider drinker in the house, so of course I’ve been thinking it is time to make some cider. Long ago I made beer, and even had some hops growing on the house. And I’ve been fermenting a lot of kombucha recently so I’ve refamiliarized myself with the process.

I found so much information online that it started getting confusing, so I decided to just throw myself into it. A quick visit to Beer and Wine Hobby got me champagne yeast and some new airlocks and stoppers. I started with 3 gallons of local pasteurized cider and put half a gallon in a small glass container with a little yeast, and I put the rest in 5 gallon food-grade pail with the rest of the yeast. I am hoping for a dry cider, so I didn’t add any honey or sugar.

Everything seemed to be going well until I read the fine print on the cider ingredients where it states:

Ingredients: Freshly squeezed apple cider, potassium sorbate (as a preservative).

I’m pretty sure this will blow the whole fermentation this first time around, but since it was already all poured in I will see what happens. I think I’ve got a source for un-preserved cider but if not I will wait until next Fall’s apple season

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Filed under Cooking, fermentation, hard cider, hops, Making Stuff

Mid-winter update

Just plugging away up here in the New England cold. As usual, it has been an unusual winter. We have had warm weather, lots of rain, and then absolutely freezing cold with wind-chills, no snow at all, and just last week a blizzard worthy of two snow days. We are supposed to get hit with snow tonight again, so we may have another snow day tomorrow.

I’ve been up to a few things here and there, including on-going brewing of kombucha, fixing the dishwasher (remember which screws go where), making lots of roasted veggies (I am loving roasted cauliflower and brussel sprouts),  maintaining my cast-iron pots (coat with oil and leave upside-down in the oven for an hour at 200 degrees. Put a paper towel underneath to catch the drips).

With all the warm and rainy days earlier this winter I had been watching my mushroom logs for progress (none so far). Now they are deep under the snow.

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A walk on a clear and cold day just after the new year prompted some thinking about family, passions, and the meaning of life. My son and I came up with three guiding principles in our lives and we have them posted on the family cork board.  It is centering to look at these words when life gets a little crazy and frustrating. Mine are Love, Explore, Contribute. My 9yo’s, with explanatory commentary, are Food (“like yummy food”), Love (“like hugs and stuff”), Skill (“like video games”).

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Filed under Cooking, Family, Health, Home Repairs, kombucha, Making Stuff, mushrooms

Sealing mushroom plugs

IMG_0280After inoculating the logs with the mushroom mycelium plugs, I coated the plugs with beewax, as directed by the Fungi Perfecti instructions. I used some beeswax that I had gotten from BetterBee several years back, when I had bees and was making candles, lip balm, etc. You can also use any food-grade wax.

I found this great factsheet with video from Cornell University (my alma mater) about home-farming mushrooms. I wish I took this class when I was an undergrad!

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Filed under beeswax, Farming, Making Stuff, mushrooms, Uncategorized

Rolling Self-Watering Containers

These took some time to make, and they are working great!

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I love my house but there is very little sunny growing space; the patio right out my kitchen door gets the most sun. I decided to make some self-watering containers because 1) I travel some weekends and don’t want my plants to dry out and, 2) I am a very very lazy farmer. I like to install systems that don’t need my daily or twice daily attention. My friend Jen pointed this out to me and I am thankful for her observation! On that note, I love my chicken’s automatic door opener. It is a weekend-away life saver (literally, a chicken life saver).

So, I knew they had to roll because I also love moving furniture around and re-arranging my environment, to my family’s dismay. I also want to roll them behind the corner of the house to put them to bed for the winter. Here’s what I did.

I started with large barrels from the Home Depot. I would have gotten them at a more local store but I just couldn’t find them. The closest thing I found was at Mahoney’s and it was half the size and 2-3x the price. Then I added some wheels from Ikea that I had leftover from the store. Now, these are the weakest link in the system. I sort of consider them sacrificial zincs to this system, as they keep the barrels off the ground. It will stink to have to replace them, but I’ll go this season. If everything works the way I am hoping then I can lift them like a car in the shop and replace them with more expensive outdoor wheels.

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Next I added a plastic liner to the planters to create a waterproof reservoir in the bottom, for the self-watering reservoir. I ran the plastic high to the top of the dirt level. I used HDX 6 mil plastic sheeting. It is important that the sheeting is strong and doesn’t puncture or leave a gap, otherwise all your reservoir water will leak out of the bin. I bet heavy duty contractor bags will work, as long as the plastic reaches up the sides all the way around.If you have access to something else, like a trug or barrel bottom that you can set inside of the tank then that will be even better. I would still use the plastic sheeting, though, to keep moisture away from the walls of the barrel.

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Next were the part that keeps the soil from collapsing down into the water reservoir — you need some supportive material with holes in it plus a way to fill that reservoir. I used perforated drainage pipe cut to fit in the bottom of the barrel. I cut a large hole in one of the pipes to fit the schedule 40 pipe as a filling spout, see below. I covered the drainage pipe with a cloth made for the pipe. It was very inexpensive but you could use some other material, like old pantyhose or even an old pillowcase. As for different containers rather than the drainage pipe, I read about people using plastic bottles to create this supported space.

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The fill spout and drainage hole are next. Drill a hole in the drainage pipe to fit the diameter of your fill pipe. I pretty much love any opportunity to use a hole saw bit. Cut the pipe so it reaches all the way to the top of the barrel, above the soil level. This is where you will fill your reservoir from your garden hose ~once a week. Add an overflow spout so you don’t give your plants soggy feet in the rainy season. I stuck a little tubing through the barrel and the plastic and sealed it with some caulk.  This overflow tube sets the top level of your water reservoir, so be sure to put it just at the height of where you want to fill to. I put mine just above the height of the drainage pipes. When you fill with water, you know when to stop when water starts coming out of your overflow tube.

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Then fill gently with potting soil!  I fancied mine up a bit by spray painting my fill tubes with black spray paint and adding little caps so debris doesn’t get into the pipes. Enjoy!

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