Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Rendering Lard

We had a slim window of opportunity while the weather was 
nice, no snow, no frost and no rain, so my husband built a fire
in our court yard pit.  He added the tri pod and suspended the 
cast iron pot filled with pork fat that had been in the freezer.

I'm not certain how much it weighed when we started
but we ended up with five quarts of lard by the time
we had finished.  Last time we rendered inside
the house which I didn't care for.  Our house smelled
like pork for quite a while! Not a pork steak sort of
pork smell, but a pig sort of pork smell.

We pressure canned it a couple days later, 
taking the lard out of the refrigerator and 
reheating it so it would pour.

I was at work so he prepped the lids and kept
the jars warm in the oven.

He filled the jars

He got the pressure up 

End result, 5 quarts of lard
and more room in the freezer!

Monday, March 28, 2016

Bee Gear Arrived

We are getting ever so much closer to becoming beekeepers!
Today the gear arrived packaged in three large parcels.
We have a new smoker

and a nice gear box that is now filled with 
foundations, handles, brush and scraper and
a couple other things.  The smoker attaches to
the rear of the box so you can carry it all together.

Then there are the hats and veils, gloves and suits, all
of which look much, much bigger than I anticipated.
We followed the directions on the sizing charts
but I am afraid mine is going to be pretty 
long- I'm all of 5' 2" !

My husband got the cinder blocks to level up the hives
so we'll be working on that this week.
He gets the bees the end of April, just a few
days after our Cornish Cross chicks will arrive.

We're also adding meat birds to the mix.
We'll increase the size of their yard, segregating them
from our layers.  I've become increasingly concerned
about the cleanliness of store bought chicken.
This will be our first year to butcher but we do have
access to a whiz bang chicken plucker plus our
neighbors are going to try and coordinate butchering
days with us and set up an assembly line.

We will be pretty busy with the bees, the birds plus the garden.
And work too! 

We still have some nights where it will dip to or below freezing
which means I won't plant too early. They say our last frost is 
mid April but it's not true.  You are really never safe until May.

I have a collection of seeds ready, including this one
for the bees. They will have wild flowers and herbs in 
addition to the zucchini and other flowers that will bloom
in the garden.   I will mix in a few that I purchase from 
the nursery too so they have a head start.

Monday, March 21, 2016

100 Blocks, What a Challenge

We are 11, 6-inch blocks in to our Splendid Sampler Facebook
group challenge, hosted by Pat Sloan and Jane Davidson.
I am participating for skill building and I will tell you that
creating these tiny blocks is truly a challenge for me.

The photo above is a Quilt Shoppe which still needs
its embroidery. When it is sewn to sashing or another block
it will lose a quarter inch on all sides so the block will 
appear as if it does not line up, remove the quarter
inch in your mind and you will see the end result.

What did I learn here? Don't use polka dots if you need
to see a straight line.  This was a pre-cut fabric strip that 
I had to cut the width for, less than the standard
2 1/2 inches.  I should have been more mindful of 
the pattern, making sure the dots lined up.
I would use a very light mixed up print next time.

You can always embellish it as you want so some people
have added shrubbery with embroidery or curtains, etc. 

This is the Ohio block, or some may see it as a
"Hug and Kiss"  if you sewed the top two blocks below
the bottom two blocks you would end up with an X.
One of the Splendid Sampler participants did just this and
it looked fantastic.  Remember to lose the quarter
inch to see what this would look like finished.

One caution here was the boat pattern.  Did I put it 
on top so the bears would be upright or on the bottom
like it is here so the boats would be upright?  The consensus
was that the boats are what your eye is drawn to so they
should be upright.

The next block is embroidery and piecing but the 
embroidery will end up looking like crochet, a little doily.
At first I thought it might be actual crochet tacked to the 
block, it looks so real when you see a photo.  

With 100 blocks and working it is hard to stay up to date
so sometimes I work on it for a half hour, sometimes more
over the course of several days.  I know some cleaning is
being neglected too.  Well, it's skill building- that's educational
right?  So worth putting the cleaning aside.  At least that is
my excuse!

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Painting the Hives

A Home for the Bees

My husband will be bringing the bees home from Des Moines, IA
 sometime around mid April so we are getting into high gear,
prepping the hives and clearing the new area by the garden.

These hives used to belong to our friends who are now
concentrating on meat goats and after a very cold
winter where the bees didn't make it through,
they gave the hives to us.  We've had them stored for
the past couple of years and now refurbishing them.

My husband added some depth to their entrance.

I scraped and cleaned the inside and outsides.

He tightened up the seams.

and torched the insides to remove anything that might
still be lingering.

I was the designated painter, which is fun but I'm not
the neatest painter in the world.  I got fired from 
painting my granddaughter's room at our house,
kicked out because my cutting in was not straight.
I don't think the bees will mind!  LOL

It was a very well thought out color scheme,
we based it on the theory of FREE.

Our recycling center accepts old paint for a slight charge
and if less than a gallon will give it away free.
This was apparently Kendall's room so I thought I might
hang a sign saying Kendall's Motel up in the garden.
My husband proceeded to burst my bubble by telling me
that the recycling company likely mixed paint into this.
Well, we will see.  I'll see if the label give me any more info.

If that is not the case, Kendall's room is very bright!
but it goes well with the deep periwinkle color that 
we got FREE for the bottom boxes.

Our garage was the workshop over the rainy, misty
weekend.  I'm so glad to get my parking space
back now too.  We will concentrate on the frames
now and replace what is too damaged to clean.

We have the gear selected- suits, veils, gloves and 
all the other equipment we need to get started.
We will also have a supply of EpiPens just in case.
I don't believe we are allergic but you never know
who might come over that doesn't realize they are.

The hives will be far from the house, behind the garden so no one 
should be inadvertently walking past them but we will make
sure the kids know to keep their distance and not to 
aggravate them by jumping and swatting at them.

Hopefully next year we will have honey!

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

This is block 8 of The Splendid Sampler hosted by 
Pat Sloan and Jane Davidson.  I will say that this one
went nicely, I liked the block and I tried to choose
colors that would go well with each other.
The purple, green and orange are all in the yellow
fabric with hints of green too.  

There are 100 blocks, 2 per week except for holidays.
I will admit I am not an expert at any of this so the
skill building is welcome.

I liked the embroidery although my poor bear must 
be related to the Coneheads!  I will probably trim this
out in the 30's material so it fits in with the other blocks.

I used needle turn applique here but I sure wish I 
would have used templates for the flowers!
I am going to order Perfect Circles and may as well
throw in Perfect Ovals because you just know 
those will be arriving on a pattern within the 
coming year!

Two blocks a week doesn't sound like much, 
unless you work with a one way transit time of an hour
plus trying to take care of things around the house.
I have about 4 hours between arriving home and 
bed so I try to catch up on the weekends.
I have also  had to split my time between this 
and the bees this weekend, getting the hives
ready for the bees which will be here in April.

The tops for the hive were painted yesterday so I'll 
have some photos coming up in the next day or two.

Monday, March 7, 2016

Replacing a Three Way Lamp Switch

It could have been in a mystery novel, 
the ones that start out with 
A Dark and Stormy Night; 
however, it was just plain DARK.
Not from a storm though, it was only the result
of two of the three "ways" being out
so our lamp was stuck on the 50 watt light bulb setting.

By the way, this is one of a pair, our first lamps
purchased over 30 years ago at Central Hardware
in Creve Coeur (St Louis) MO.
They are still going strong after a little repair 
and this time it was my turn to learn
how to replace a three-way light switch.

First you have to visit the hardware store and dig
around in a bin until you find a  three-way switch.

Next you get out your "girl tools" all in the handy dandy case
that was a Christmas present one year.

Most Importantly- UNPLUG THE LAMP

Then you sweep away the cob webs and take off
the thing that holds the shade on.  Remove the shade.
Make sure you keep the screw where it won't get lost or dropped.

Then you pull up the things that help the shade holder
stay in place.  Slide these up on both sides.
They will slide right off so keep it flat and 
away from any floor heat registers!
Then squeeze the two prongs so they release.

Pull off the top part that slides around the 
twisty thing that turns on the light.

(Am I getting too technical here?)

Remove the cardboard tube as well.

There will be two wires wrapped around screws.

Pull the unit up to expose some of the wire.

Unscrew the wires.

You have to remove the piece that everything was 
sitting in.  There may be a little screw to loosen
so you can twist the base until it comes off.
If there is no screw, just twist and remove.

You may want to cut off the ends of the two 
wires and start with fresh ends.  Just clip them off.

Then you will need to remove the wire coating
so if you have a tool that does this, use it.
You will have to find the right hole to use and then
twist the tool to cut into the wire.
Then pull up really hard.

It's really important to know which wire to connect
to which screw so the power does not go the wrong 
way and shock you if you touch the body of the switch.  

The plug has two sides, one will be bigger.
The bigger is a return, which means
it goes to ground so you don't get shocked.

(Volt Ohm Milliammeter)
You can use a digital VOM to see which wire
leads back to the return side of the plug.

If you touch the bigger side of the plug
with one VOM probe and the other probe to one of the two
wires and the readout is zero  (0.00)
you have confirmed it goes to ground.

If it said OL, then you have the wrong wire attached.
If you were to plug it in and touch the metal around
the lamp switch you would get shocked.

To tell which Screw to use, touch the 
VOM probe to the metal base.
The other probe should touch the screw.

If it shows 000 then you attach the wire
from the big plug end onto the screw--
in this case, it is the big end to the screw on the left.  

This means the other wire has to go on the other screw,
the one that is centered in the vertical metal strip 
pictured above.

Once you have the wires screwed in you can 
attach the new cardboard and metal jacket.

Put the new base on the lamp

Slide the top into the base

Pull the wire down so the new switch fits.

Reattach the lamp shade holder, 
screw and shade.

Plug in lamp and hope for the best!!

Disclaimer:  This was my experience, if unsure how to properly change out a lamp switch contact your local electrician.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Four Meals Total Cost $6.50

Our dinners this week will total $6.50 for a nice
crockpot dinner of pork loin, carrots, onions, green beans and potatoes.
We shop the sales, watching for those $0.50 cans of vegetables that 
we purchase in cases and stack in the basement.  Couple that
with fresh vegetable sales and drastically reduced meats that
we vacuum seal and freeze, and we can make a meal that
costs pennies per serving for the two of us.
You don't see much meat in the photo but it started out
about 1 1/2 pounds of meat that has become so tender
that it fell apart, which is  how I like it.

Every day we do added something to the basic meat and 
vegetable mixture, for instance adding flavored vinegar and herbs
or spices to give it a fresh taste.  

We just purchased about 6-7 lbs of hamburger for $12 the other
day at our local grocery (that raises and processes their own cattle).
We weighed it out in one pound increments, vacuum sealed them
and popped them into the freezer.  We now have hamburger for 
around $2.29 per pound as opposed to $4-5 per pound regularly.

My husband is hearing more and more people mention that they are 
starting to shop the sales and stocking it in the basement since prices
are going higher every day.  

So, grow your gardens plus watch for those great sales!
Remember, the expiration dates are Best By dates.  They don't
mean that anything is spoiled as long as the can is in good shape
(don't go past the expiration for infant products though).
I have discussed this with many reverse logistics managers for
very large companies and they all agree, it just tastes better
in year one or two than in year five or six.

We'll be finished with this crock pot dinner by tomorrow which 
is good because, being Catholic, we don't eat meat on Friday, 
in fact we will probably be at the church enjoying the fish fry!
They have catfish, cod, tilapia (one of them is baked) plus shrimp !
And homemade desserts, YUM.