Friday, June 29, 2007

Urban Cider Press

Bought @ a yard sale for $40 late Summer 2006 this is a fruit press.
No maker's mark. Could be as old as 100 or as young as 30 years.
Perfect size for an urban homestead.
Good price for fugal homesteaders.

Pretty simple design just ratchet the donut shaped wooden plate down on top of the fruit. Juice flows out the bottom and out the pour lip.

DH spray painted the cast iron base red on a whim. Or to see how the iron will hold paint. Not liking the red. Doesn't match my stove.

Finished upgrade & the Handy Dandy Husband who always finds a way.

With help from my daughter here is what went into our new old fashioned press.

Sanding & painting the cast iron base with food grade black paint.

Removal, sanding, and painting of the metal hoops from the wooden basket.

New basket based on the old made from oak, varnished with a food grade product.
Pricey stuff but a bit went a long way so the rest can be used in making cheese presses.

New stainless steel hardware to replace all the old rusty nuts & bolts used to attach the hoops to the basket.

New donut shaped pressing plate made from a food grade plastic cutting board. This plate slips on to the center post followed by the ratchet thingy. The plate is actually what presses down on the fruit so I wanted a material that could be scrubbed & disinfected.

Last fall we made about a gallon & a half of fresh cider. Canned about 5 quarts of this.
Thank you Ball Blue Book 1943.
A good treat for Christmas breakfast and cold January mornings.
Would have had more but we were late gleaning apples loosing some great opportunities to heavy winds followed by hungry deer in late September.

Planning on advertising the press for cider parties in our city. Something along the lines of we will set up the cider press and supervise the pressing in your home. Not sure on what to price the "cider party" at but we are open to barter opportunities.
We also have an antique fruit grinder for the whole cider making experience, lol.
Grinding along with the washing of apples is the most labor intensive aspect of the whole process. Pressing goes by soo quickly.
Would also like to bring the press in at our Church's next family fun night this fall.

On a side note I won't let anyone drink the cider before I have a chance to pasteurize it.
Even after scrubbing the apples with nail brushes. Even after boiling the cloth pressing bag & the press it self.

This is a larger cider press I bought last spring @ a yard sale for $20.
No foundry mark.
Round wooden handle to turn the screw is gone. As is the pressing plate and most of the wooden base.
The frame is wet rotted & in pieces and when I dragged it home the center screw didn't even budge.
My blessing put some magical oil on it every day for a week.
Now the screw turns.
Every homesteading husband needs a winter project to make the cold dreary days go by faster.

~~ pelenaka ~~

Monday, June 25, 2007

Thoughly Modern Millie

Below is the pic of my 1934 Ice Box.
Unsure of the maker at this time as I still need to run a patent search on it.
If you scroll down to a previous post you can see what shape it was in when I bought it on ebay.
After much scraping, scrubbing, sanding, & careful nail removal it has been upgraded & painted.

Originally it was that '30's cream & green but I decided to go with white enamelware edged in black that I have soo much of like the milk pitcher & small wash basin. Also I have a gray & pink '50's kitchen so green & cream won't work.
Directly in front is a recent antique store find a small square enamelware container with a glass lid. Yes, we have a microwave. Also a small freezer. Just couldn't see given the power company more biz than we have to.

The ice box has a clear plastic tube connected to the drain under the ice tray. This tube feeds directly into the same plumbing as my clothes washer so no need to empty a catch basin or mop the floor when it was forgotten.
The shinny stuff under the ice box is insulation. Since my original plan was to restore a vintage '50's Hotpoint fridge figured there was no need to worry about laying tile.
That rise in the floor is an elbow of a huge plumbing pipe. My 1902 home wasn't built with indoor (upstairs) facilities. Hence some things tend to stick out or take detours.

To answer every one's question here is what's inside of my ice box.
Clockwise; ice compartment which holds 75 lbs. of ice. Since I don't have freezer space enough to generate that amount pictured is about 32 lbs which lasts for 4 1/2 days.
Compartment below is referred to as the dairy section. It is the coldest @ 36 -38 degrees. Holds eggs, cheese, homemade ranch dressing, mayo & butter.
Left compartment is broken down into 3 zones.
Bottom left; milk, juices, yogurt, anything that needs to be cold but not dairy temperature cold. Generally holds around 40 - 42 degrees.
Next shelf up temp is 42 - 44 so this holds fresh veggies, anything will will be eaten soon.
Next shelf farther up hovers around 46 degrees so this is for things like bread, commerical foods, & apparently a pint of my canned salsa.
Ice boxes work on air flow. The warm air moving in this case clockwise hits the top of the ice block cools which makes it fall to the next section. As the air warms slightly it raises passing the milk & fruits, then hitting salads, finally passing over the bread on it's way back down to the ice block. Yes when you open the dairy compartment you can feel a cold chill hit you feet.
The ice box is really two galvanized boxes one inside the other. It has a pine wood frame with sawdust wrapped in brown paper to form squares. Squares were then fitted between the two boxes.
The insulation factor varies thru out the ice box. Top & sides have the most @ R50.
Bottom around R 30.
Doors are the least @ R 12 - 20.
Reason being is that you can only unbend galvanized metal soo far before it loose it's shape.
Since I have no desire to learn how to use a sheet metal brake & my Dh's honey do list books him up to the year 2020 I made do.
The insulation was that pink foam & that foil bubble wrap stuff layered.

Learning curve was two fold.
One - make sure new ice is being made as it takes about two days to freeze.
Two - take out the food item quickly and if not completely used then return it quickly so it doesn't have a chance to heat up.

Since we eat from our pantry the majority of the food I prepare was canned either commerial or home canned. So if we have say baked chicken (frozen), carrots (home canned), peas (frozen), mashed potatoes (root cellar), salad & dressings/butter ect. (ice box).
Generally we don't cook with an eye toward leftovers.

Oh yea the beer on occasion's sits in the with dairy.

~~ pelenaka ~~

5/6/2008 The ice box is stilling going strong. Currently it's out on our unheated enclosed porch to take advantage of the cold (now cooler) weather. I still have yet to locate & buy a proper rubber gasket for all 3 doors. The foam rubber weather stripping is on it's last leg.
Great link on Crosley

~~ pelenaka ~~

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Iris, Spring is here

Originally this bed of Iris started as a few dozen dry out bulbs given to me by a neighbor down my street after I shared some strawberries from our garden.
Since then I have gorilla gardened Irises around my city, planted them on a few grave sites, traded & bartered for other plants, and even sold a few to support my gardening addiction.
~~ pelenaka ~~
side front flower bed in the front yard Spring 2007

Saturday, June 23, 2007

I am truely blessed

Alot of women would be of the mind that receiving a handmade solar dehydrator made from scavenaged parts costing less than a dollar is an insult. Labeled a birthday gift might be considered salt in the wound.
Others like myself see it in this light.
Since we both pool our incomes any money spent even if bought by one is really bought by both. Last thing we both need is to increase my outside the home work load.
Crafting me something that I would truly use, something that eases my burden, that costs nothing to use is well a stoke of genius.
I am loved by a very handy man.
My Dh made this for me out of this & that, scavenged parts & pieces based on my old Ronco dehydrator trays.
Currently there's cantaloupe rinds drying to be used as bunny treats this winter. Later this fall celery will be dehydrated for use in soups & stews.
Roses will become potpourri, green peppers for Puerto Rican Red Rice, and perhaps I'll try making sun dried tomatoes.
Here's a link to his blog writing about my birthday gift
~~ pelenaka ~~
good to be blessed

Cha-ching - canning Strawberry - Rhubarb Jam

This canning season I have promised myself that I will do the math. Since it's the beginning of canning season easy to keep this promise.
Don't hold me to it when it's the dog days of August and I am knee deep in back to school activities, gleening, foraging, and preserving our harvest.
Doing the math means figuring the cost of canning start to finish minus the cost of jars & rings. Since I have been canning for over 5 years coupled with the majority of my jars were free or dirt cheap they have long since been bought free & clear.
So the math should figure like this; ingredients such as produce, spices/flavorings, preserving agents such as vinegar/salt, pectin, any portion that we're unable to grow or obtain free, and canning lids.
The cost of my antique laundry stove $125 will be deducted @ the end of canning season along with my new canner $140. Fuel was obtained free unless you count elbow grease donated by my Husband.
The finished product will then be priced by comparison to a similar retail product. Weather I would actually pay the retail price is doubtful.
Strawberry Rhubarb Jam - 12 oz. jar @ the local farmer's market $ 4.69.
Organically grown strawberries from our farm - free (4 plants bought @ wally's in 2000 for under $10 now 3 separate raised beds cost as long been absorbed).
Rhubarb - 2 plants bought last spring - $ 10.00. First year actually utilizing it.
Sugar - 2 bags 5 lbs. each bought in Dec. as a loss leader (holiday baking sale) - .99 each.
Pectin - 2 boxes off brand (not Ball) - .99 each.
Lemon - 1/2 cup of squeezed juice (bought clearance after New Years then frozen) 27 cents.
Total cost of ingredients & 13 canning lids (.08 per lid) = $15.27 which netted 13 pints (12 oz mason jars) of jam. Didn't figure in tax or city water used so add a buck bringing it up to $16.27 for 13 pints.
Had I bought the almost two quarts of non organic strawberries @ the farmer's market then bring up the cost by another $7.00. Rhubarb no clue as couldn't find any retail to price.
13 jars of artisan jam = $ 60.97
13 jars of Mom's jam = $ 16.27 or $1.25 per jar.
Selling a 5 quarts of berries @ the going rate would offset the total cost.
Not paying retail for rhubabr plants duh. I have an addiction when it comes to gardening. I'd work my steps but well needed stepping stones by the roses.
This jam will be used on toast, bagels, and as a topping on hot oatmeal, frozen yogurt, or mixed into homemade plain yogurt.
Figure that we will eat about a jar a week so these 13 pints will help fill in half of one spot on a six month menu.
My goal is to have a pantry stocked to last our family of five for six months.
~~ pelenaka ~~
having goals provides fodder for conversations with your P.O.

This is my basic canning set up on my 1900's laundry stove. On the left is my new water bath canning pot which holds a zillion mason jars at one time and heats to boiling fast on two burners.
Added bonus is that the lid doubles as counter space. If I leave out a few jars then there is room for funnels, tongs, rings, and lids.
The right front burner is for cooking and is the only way to add wood to the fire. Cooking is done by way of direct contact as pot on stove (high flame) or using trivets of varying heights (med. to low flame).
Right back burner has my old 9 quart jar capasity water bath canner - hot soapy water, rings, and mason jars waiting on elbow grease.
The empty round wash tub generally holds produce such as apples or tomatoes that need washing. In a pinch I will place the tub over a crude but safe firepit filled with water to keep sterilzed jars hot before being filled.
Why do I can on a woodstove ?
Because my regular stove is a 1949 Hotpoint double oven electric stove that makes my electric meter spin like cheap tires on black ice.
Because we get free firewood.
Because after all is said and done I can preserve a quart of strewed tomaotoes, for around 12 cents. That includes the cost of salt, water, & canning lid. The toms were grow from saved seeds.
Jars rarely bought new were gotten by way of friends, freecycle, curb shopping, and tag sales. After 5 years of active canning all 300 + jars are paid for.
Because canning outside on the patio beats canning in a hot kitchen any day.
~~ pelenaka ~~

Putting food by 'n da 'hood

My son, urban homesteader in the making, helping his Mom out by filling the water bath canner ... k k he was promised that he could lite the stove. Promise him that he can play with fire & he's all there.
The canner he's filling was the one big new homesteading tool purchased new this year with tax $ . Pricey @ over a $130, put this under the heading of "should have had this all along".
Holds 15 quart jars, 27 pint jars, 10 half-gallon jars or 12 gallons mason jars from Lehmans.
Hopefully this will put an end to canning all nighters.
The stove is a circa 1900's four burner coal laundry stove. A real step up from canning on a fire pit & a one burner pot belly stove. Just below the ash door reads, Pennsular Stove, Detroit, Chicago, Buffalo. The biggest part of the stove would be the double walled basket where the fire is, ortherwise it breaks down into very easy but heavy cartable sections. On the back are two holes fitted with plumbing connections presumably to provide indoor hot water. Not sure if this was a retrofit. Antique find for $125 last year so after this canning season stove will be paid for.
Background is our urban farm ... k k garden but it produces like a farm.
Directly infront of that white picket fence is our heirloom Tomatoes.
Also two good producing third year Rhubarb plants.
Next to the rhubarb is celery, and some unexpected rogue heirloom Bloody Butcher toms.
Between that raised bed & the scavenaged firewood is the mixed salad greens cold frame, (top resting on the 3 cords of wood.
To the left that is one of two full size Frost variety Peach trees. A wedding gift last year to my DH. There's about 2 dozen or so peaches growing so we have high hopes.
See that corner of that white building behind the peach tree. Well my land or lot as we say in the city stops about 3 1/2 ' before that building. Hence our farm's name ... Thirtyfive by Ninety. Our lot size.
Also place a two story 1902 home, small driveway, and a 1920's garage (shed) .
Throw in western New York winter's as in Buffalo Blizzards. Zone 4 - 5.
Add a pinch of "not allowed by city code/zonning".
Mix with a good dose of limited direct sunlight due to neighbors trees.
Now you have urban homesteading in the real world.
Lock & load, were heading toward our goal of self suffiency on > 1/8 of an acre. Done on the cheap, as green as we can.
~~ pelenaka ~~

Psst, buddy got any lye ?

Seems that in the two or so years since I last made a 20 lbs. batch of soap, yeppers I go big when I soap, lye has become DEA & Homeland Security issue. Lye is used in making meth. Who knew.
We're still trying to perfect hard cider into a useable form of unleaded gasoline.
Success rate is very low but with a platter of sharp cheese and wheat crackers we press on.

No longer able to buy lye at my local mega grocery store in a pure form panic started to set in. I have no coupons for commerical soap. I've been spoiled by handcrafted homemade soap. I have this homesteading skill I yearn to nurture.
If I had only known would have saved wood ash from my outdoor stove durning canning season.
Or tagged along on a police raid on a meth house.
Or simply stocked up on Red devil lye.
A day spent visiting rural hardware and grocery stores searching for old stock of the "right" drain cleaner (100% Sodium Hydroxide) yielded no results other than filling my head with fantasies of owning Nubian goats.
Last week my husband thought he had found it. Quietly and without much fan fare he bought a bottle.
Yesterday huddled over the kitchen counter with the shades pulled and our cars parked down the street we pulled the bottle from the brown paper bag and opened it. In the background the faint sound and sents of oils such as lard, coconut, and lavender infused castor warming in the double boiler filled the kitchen.
Any moment I imagined hearing the phrase," Step away from the Lye with your hands up"!

Yup lye alright.
Lye with these funny little gray pellets scattered in amongst the white.
Lye with something, something not needed for soapmaking.
Lye for drain cleaning.

All I want is to make 20 lbs. of soap using easily aquired ingredients from the store and my backyard.
My husband leaned over, brushing my hair away from my face kissing me on the cheek.
It's alright he whispered. We'll just have to implement soap saving measures. Will be good for the water conservation too.
My husband the newlywed homesteader, I think I'll keep him.

~~ pelenaka ~~

Eccentricity, idiosyncrasy

Saturday, January 27, 2007 - Eccentricity, idiosyncrasy - means a singular trait or habit
... that is not customary from the norm.
Thinking of maybe stenciling a few tee shirts with this written on it.

Thru a gf we occassionally recieve expired food from a a local mega supermarket something like a second harvest deal. This food is often passed on by charitable organizations that have to deal with heath regs or don' have the labor and skills to deal with 5 lbs. bags of too soft apples (duh think applesauce, pie filling, cake). Today we got numerious <3 oz. packages of fresh organic herbs like basil, cilantro, and taragon.
So while having my morning coffee there i sat with a small pair of sharp scissors cutting out the portions of spolied herb leaves so i can dehydrate the rest. Thoughts of me as a senior rinsing out paper towels and hanging them to dry all around my kitchen keept floating in my head.
Never the less i have a pt. mason jar filled half way with dried cilantro waiting for salsa canning time. One less thing to grow or buy.

Yesterday both my husband and I did the weekly round of coupon shopping which I truely hate. I hate shopping, hate the crowds, hate that it has become a shopping expirence with coffee bars, international deli, french bakery, and cooking demos.
With any luck only a few more weeks of this and the family pantry will be stocked for the year. Name brand products that after couponing have to be as inexpensive as generic/off brands coupled with the rule that it has to be of value.
So far there is enough toothpaste to last a year each bought for a buck or slightly less, 3 small bottles of Dawn had for free, case of German potato salad, and cans of Chunky Chowder soup that only my husband enjoys.
Big score was getting 100 oz. of tide for 3.44 = .344 cents an oz. this week. Can't make laundry soap for that since i have yet to find coupons for boarax or washing soda. But the point is that I have the skill if I need to.
Did have a coupon for fancy salad dressing by that actor/race car driver so i looked that up. Can't believe people pay $3.79 for small bottle of dressing. I mean that is what i pay for meat.
Later today I have to go back and repeat the process using my husbands shopper's card so I can get the same great deal on Tide, along with a free bottle of apple juice, and oreos.
Durning the Thanksgiving sales name brand flour was .89 cents per 5 lbs. Should have seen the look on the cashier's face when i put 12 bags on the convayor belt. With a deadpan look I told the teenager we were reinacting the "I Love Lucy" episode where she bakes a giant loaf of bread. No reaction but the man behind me broke out laughing.
When I first moved here the YWCA had an apple tree infront of the building. When I stopped in to ask if we could collect the apples the receptionist said yes but thought they weren't edible as 6the tree wasn't sprayed (organic !). As my children pulled their red wagon home loaded with the free apples we passed neighbors sitting on their front porch. One yelled out across the street something about that we were the only people she knew who could go for a walk in the city and come back with food.
Good to have skills.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

You have a what ? Why ?

Thursday, January 25, 2007 - You have a what?
Of all the low tech methods that we use on our homestead by far the one that causes the most disbelief and curiosity is our cira 1930's low end ice box.
It all started about two years ago when my huge freezer on the bottom never had the need to fill it up-3 y.o. refridgerator blew the blower motor for the second time.
$90 + labor. As par for the course the warreny had expired. I wasn't paying Sears to fix what is a product defect.
On cleaning it out i found that we had 3 jars of fancy mustard, 2 of plain mustard, 2 bottles of ketchup, 6 jars of pickles, at least two of every type of known sald dressing opened. Not much in the way of real food. Nothing that wouldn't fit in a cooler keept in the cellar next to the freezer stocked with ice packs. Good solution to buy me time.
Since the majority of our meals are prepared from both home canned goods and commerical canned as well as fresh and frozen, we have few leftovers. Lack of refridgerator space isn't an issue. Freezer space is on occassion since we have a small 12 y.o. upright freezer in the cellar. Making ice isn't such an issue but getting the ice into the ice box requires it to be listed on the chore schedule.
By the sixth month of not having a fridge i learned that it's no big deal. My electric bill is less, and i have a bigger kitchen. That huge fridge didn't fit in my vintage cupboards.
Refridgerator was freecycled to a young couple who inaddition to buying their first house was expecting twins soon. Plenty of need for fridge space.
About a year or so ago i bought the ice box for $75. It's metal over a wood frame later painted gray inside and out. Added a rubber drain hose from the hardware store which i threaded thru the floorboards (old house) into the pipe that the washer empties in.Also did a quick gasket replacement using foam weatherstripping.
Three gallon milk jugs frozen = two days of 36 degree ice box tempature just below the section where the ice is kept. Directly next to it it is about 38 - 42.
Not very efficent but did beat the method of placing food in a bucket of water on the cellar floor. If you were lucky you had a deep well or cold creek to place food in.
Last fall i got in a mood and took apart one of the doors to see what was used for insulaton.
Resembles saw dust packaged into a square using brown wrapping paper. What is left of a yellow & green circular decal states - This cabinet insulated with (missing portion of decal) ?Wool, True Insultion, Sanitary, Ordorless, Permanent.
Plan is to strip off the paint, reinsulate using highest R factor that will fit, replace door gaskets, polish up the chrome hardware, and paint it white with black trimming like white enamel ware dishes.
Currently our ice box is a plastic tote out in the enclosed front porch since winter has finally arrived. Low tech and free.

Mom, where's the bread ?

Thursday, January 25, 2007 - Mom, where's the bread?
Monday we bought a Back to Basics dough mixer for $18 from an upscale Big Lots type store. Our free bread machine gave out a few weeks ago. Likely due to having to kneading four loaves of 50% whole wheat dough a week Gonna miss that handy little machine both due to ease of use and low electrical useage. Sure puts my 1949 electric Hotpoint stove to shame.
The dough bucket plays a part in the large scale plan to install a wood stove this spring. We already have four cords of wood split and stacked along with a stove top oven cira 1920's. Four sad irons, trivets, cast iron fry pans, pots, muffin pans, and two soap stone squares for bedwarming.
Gotta say that there is a bit of a phyiscal learning curve much as there was with the manual grain mill. My arms ache. Sometimes i am such a cityslicker.
Last fall we bought two bushels of organic grain from a local Mom & Pop heath food store costing $32 each, winter wheat and rye. Buckwheat would have been a better choice in that quanity for us. Goal is to find a less expensive local source for grains and gluten flour.
First made 100% whole wheat bread. Reality is that i made bricks good for knocking the iceles off the house.
Below is a pic of one of the three 50% whole wheat loaves i made. Slightly better.
The bucket doesn't knead exactly simular to how a upright stand mixer with dough hooks will. Also the version that clamps to the counter would be good. But for the price i'll be quiet.
Practice makes perfect and in this case stronger arms.