New pressure cooker and more mulch!

May 31, 2018

I bought an electric pressure cooker from newegg.com last week and today I tried it out.  The pressure cooker is an Ewant Model BD-QJ . 7 in 1 programmable for everything from yogurt and a slow cooker to a pressure cooker for beans,  rice even sauteing in the stainless steel pot/liner.  There are 3 reasons I bought this  new pressure cooker: #1 I needed a new pressure cooker for my kitchen. #2 It was on sale for $45.00 at newegg.com, which isn’t a bad price for a large 12 cup pressure cooker. #3  I have been cooking a lot of grains (brown rice/barley) for the homemade doggy food and wanted something that cooked grains  faster and meats ‘fall apart’ tender.  I made my first batch of brown rice, chicken thighs with peas and carrots doggy food and it worked out great!

Recipe: Brown rice, chicken thighs with peas and carrots, doggy food.

3 cups of water

2 cups brown rice

4-5 chicken thighs

8 oz. frozen peas and carrots

Optional 2 tablespoons of Coconut oil

Add the 3 cups of water, 2 cups of brown rice and the coconut oil, place the small steamer grate on top of the rice and add the chicken thighs. Select Multi-grain or the Brown rice setting for 20 minutes and walk away… At the end of the 20 minutes release the pressure. While the rice and meat are still hot,  add the frozen veggies then stir so the residual heat thaws the veggies. This also helps stop the cooking process and cools the pot of dog food quickly.

The rice has a creamier consistency and the chicken thigh meat almost fell off the bone. This recipe makes cooking up a batch of dog food easier and much faster compared to cooking the brown rice on the stove top and then baking and cutting up the chicken thigh meat.

I also tried out a new white long grain rice recipe that is awesome!

White rice recipe:

2 cups of white rice

3 cups of water

1 table spoon of coconut oil (Replaces butter)

Rinse off the rice until the water runs clear. Place the water, rice and coconut oil in a large 6 quart pan and bring it to a boil.  As soon as it boils place a tight lid or tinfoil over the pot and turn the heat down to a low simmer then walk away for 12-15 minutes. When the is no standing water in the pot, set the rice off the heat, leave covered for 10 minutes and walk away again. Fluff the rice with a fork or wooden spoon and you will have great white rice.

I made good white rice before adding the coconut oil but that oil really makes a huge difference with the rice’s look and mouth feel.  The individual bits are soft and chewy without any gluey/starch affect.  I did not add any salt or stocks as these test were for doggy food but I taste test these recipes.  They are a little bland, but you could easily add herbs and spices and make a good human meal from these basic recipes.

Things I have learned so far making homemade dog food:

  • The internet is a great resource and it is also full of bad info for making dog food so check with your Vet. and always start with what you know is safe and introduce the food over time.  Also dogs have likes and dislikes so one dog may love white rice, some like beef or like chicken. Peas and carrots seem like the most popular veggie for my dogs but broccoli or green beans will do in a pinch.
  • Adding herbs for flavor,  Many herbs are safe and very beneficial to dogs such as oregano or mint.  Garlic, onions and chives are not doggy friendly flavoring so keep those away from your dog food.  White flour is very bad for dogs and wheat flour is not much better but many dog foods use wheat grains.  Think of your dog being somewhat ‘Gluten-Intolerant’ when you make the dog food.  Corn, rice, potatoes, sweet potatoes, steel cut oats can make would be a better carb. than any wheat product. Barley and I have read that corn meal are safe to feed dogs but I have not confirmed using corn meal.
  • Using coconut oil in place of butter for cooking rice is something I never considered but there is some preliminary research that coconut oil ‘might” reduce the bad bacteria that causes tooth decay/gum disease in dogs.  Since coconut oil is safe for dogs I have added it into the rice for dogs but it made the white rice so much better I have added coconut oil instead of butter to my white rice recipe as a safe fat to add to doggy food.

More mulch needs to be added to get a deep layer to kill out weeds. I went out the other day to prep the Three sisters beds and I used the D-shaped hoe to get a few weeds in the beds and around then and that tool worked very well weeding the mulch pathways.  I’m not so sure about the garden beds.  I’m not sure I’ll see more production for this year’s garden as I’m trying so many new beds and money and timing has been a bit problematic.  I think I’ll be okay if I get everything in by the weekend of June 2-3 and the latest with starts by the 9-10th of June.  That still gives me 120-150 days till harvest planting from seed.

 

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Garden beds, mulch and weed clean up

May 24, 2018

Mom came over today and helped me with clean up. She attacked the grape vines runners and a bunch of weeds in the area just past the big storage tank.  I have to get more mulch to fill in that area as there are 3 garden beds that will be mounded up for the 3 sisters garden of corn beans and squash.  The square bed will be a test of the fish compost I got from the church ladies at Trinity Lutheran.  You can see the temporary fence with the white step in poles that keeps the dogs out.  I no longer have chickens in my yard but I know the temp. fence would direct chickens if you want them scratching through your beds in the fall and winter. This fence is not protection from above or even against deer but it worked great for pekes and chickens.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

These are the new garden beds tilled and mulched in. The 2 x 4’s you see sticking up at the corners are for building up the bed  height and I will add a sitting ledge for on top for when we weed or something to stand on when we prepare the garden for next year.

I still need to build/install the PVC hoops and then attach the protective cloth on these beds and lay out the drip watering system.  I will be adding a few plants this weekend though it is a little late as I should have had the plants in the ground earlier this month.  The main thing I want to accomplish is to make an simple to care for garden that I can keep under control and minimize time needed for weeding/upkeep.

Mom got most of her remaining pots and large containers for her herbs and a few plants like celery that she wants to get started around her new home.  Her Explorer was pretty  full of pots and plants when she headed back home. She can’t really do a lot of gardening on her land until she cleans it up and has a cost effective way to irrigate the pasture.  We have a lot of ideas on how to do that task.  Sadly none of them are with in the budget.

I have to say I’m amazed by how good looking Mom’s yard is now that it got a little TLC!   The pasture is going to take more time as it huge and full of cheat grass.  We are thinking of trying to plant some clover as ground cover to start improving the soil.  Plus some holly as a “wind break” so the soil does not get so dry.  Finding away to kill the weeds without killing the soil is our goal.  While I hate cheat grass it is keeping the soil in place compared to bare dirt.  We may end up burning out the cheat grass in a section, then tilling and planting a soil building cover crop in those sections.

Cash flow is bit low right now so telling me to pay for rental equipment or a contractor is not a viable option.  We will get it done but it will take some time and sweat rather than credit/debt!


Third garden bed filled with soil

May 22, 2018

Mom and I did more garden and landscape shopping today at the local farm store.  Mom added a few herbs and veggies for her container garden.  I got the last of the soil for the third garden bed and some plant starts for a succession plantings.  I’m a little behind but getting these new raised beds done has taken a bit more time than I first thought.  Plus I’m still trying to recover from Tucker’s big vet bill.  Not a big cash flow problem but I’m trying to re-build the emergency fund (again) LOL.  Like most people at the lower end of the Economic Food Chain.  I have to balance time, money and physical energy just like other people.  The biggest difference is the scale of projects and what variables I can control.  One of my underestimated costs is adding a lot more mulch around the new garden beds. I’m hitting the sales and trying to lay down a thick enough layer of mulch will do some good rather than just look pretty for a week or two and that means a lot of mulch!

I’m very excited that the material I bought for frost protection can work as a sun shade for the more delicate plants like lettuce.  From what I have read as long as you don’t trap the heat this material is a sun shade in summer or frost protection in winter.  Using this material will be another experiment along with one of my old raised bed that I want for growing lettuce beyond the ‘normal’ growing season.  I have been moving plants around in my ‘virtual garden beds” and I am shifting how I will plant the beds so some of the plants will cast some shade on adjoining plant beds that need less direct sunlight . Of course the grape vines are going berserk with new addition of mulch so they need trimmed back again!

Once I have all of this year’s new raised garden bed changes in place I’ll post up some pics of the new lay out of the raised beds along with shots of new temp fence posts around the garden.

Great news the house is smelling much better since I got started on the carpet cleaning.  I think I broke the pattern of the piddle spots by moving the furniture and getting that part of the carpet cleaned.  I still have more rug cleaning but this was a good start heading into summer.  I’m cleaning/removing most of the DE I spread around to eliminate roaches as I have not seen a single roach since March.  The mouse problem has mostly disappeared since the siding install and Mom moving the chickens to her place.  A thing to be aware of if you get chickens.  If grain sits on the ground it will attract critters.  If you are less than pro-active those critters will get into your preps.  I got a bit lazy on getting preps stored properly and I had to deal with a vermin infestation.  Thankfully cockroaches and mice are easy to eliminate if you are willing to remove all food and nesting areas.

Mom says she feels bad that she is taking advantage of me for basic stuff and not helping with my garden. While I do miss her weeding, cutting grape vines and home clean up she is doing great getting her place set up for the future and that does not happen overnight.  With a little luck the new raise beds will produce more and take less effort. Both of our Dogs will get better socialized and we both gain skills to make stuff work properly.

 


email change over and spring cleaning

May 20, 2018

Changing email address is tedious but now I have to get rid of the 22 year old yahoo email address.  Verizon just bought yahoo and they want to give access to AOL and Huffington Post to my emails.  Nope, not going to do that, heck I have a Verizon cell phone plan with a dumb phone that I don’t share my internet/email data.  The move should be seamless as I didn’t use my yahoo address for comment moderation. Nor do I get many direct emails via this blog. Eventually I want to setup my own email server that is not beholden to the internet gatekeepers but that is a project for next winter.

Ugh! The house smells bad and no amount of scented candles can rid the house of the funky aroma.  When Mom was living here her dog Jackson and my dog Tucker seemed to engage in literal “pissing contest”.  I understand that dogs do that sort of thing but it creates a bad smell as well as bad things happening to carpets.  I got out my Hoover carpet shampooer and started cleaning the living room carpet.  Guys the Hoover carpet cleaner is on sale for $88.00 at Home depot and it crushes any Bissel type carpet cleaner for ease of cleaning the machine.  The rotating brush heads are much better scrubbers compared to a single beater bar on the Bissel and much easier to clean and replace.  If you have carpets that will need cleaning get this “cheap” Hoover carpet cleaner as it is simple, it works and so far has lasted 3 years rather than dying after a year of use.

Using a carpet cleaner:  The Hoover recommends doing 2 passes with soapy water and then a rinse/ pass using only hot water on very dirty carpets.  I’d agree, if your carpet feel a bit sticky after running the carpet cleaner 2x over the carpet. A hot water rinse may be needed to pull up any residual carpet detergent.  I was a little surprised as my cleaned carpet area did not feel sticky and dried fast after the cleaning.  If you want to clean carpets get this little Hoover on sale at Home depot for $88.00! You will get a great little carpet cleaner that has last few years (unlike bissel)  for me, cleaned rental carpets beyond our wildest expectations and the cleaner is still going strong.   I can’t tell if I have eliminated the odor long term.  Just getting 1/2 of the living room seems to have cut the funky aroma by a 1/3rd.

Huzzah! I got the font yard mowed before the thunderstorms moved in. I did the weed eating on Saturday so mowing was pretty easy.  The great elm is dying and must be taken down safely, before it falls down in a storm.  This tree is huge and could smash into my neighbor’s home and that would be very bad.  It is so sad as I tried my best to save the elm but it was to far gone.

If I’m not whimpering and whining in bed after all the work done this weekend I’m going to attack the south side garden beds.  LOL

I have major pet peeve and that is all the people say why don’t you buy….. or hire a contractor for….. I’m poor and don’t make much money.  My income is below paying many property taxes but I don’t get food stamps or energy assistance and those sort of things. Growing my own food is great. installing a wood stove has been awesome. I want to add in some more solar power in the future but tax breaks is not what is making solar attractive to me.  Being independent of the grid is what I want long-term.

Personally I think small Solar/wind system are a good idea on the block to keep things semi powered.

 

It’s crazy but many people have decided what I must do to have a garden a shop or RV.  All I have to is die and God will take care of it in his good time.  I won’t tell you how to you, grow your garden.

I’ll see you on Monday as people need an explanation of the simple raised beds.


Rain, thunderstorms and solar panels?

May 18, 2018

Spring time in Idaho is going strong with lots of storms rolling through daily or every other day this week.  Makes finishing up the garden beds tough but the yard is filled with the smells of drying firewood, lilacs, roses and the clean earthy smell of dirt ready to be planted!

While the weather has been a bit iffy this week I did get out to Mom’s place and got her bathroom towel rack, toilet roll and hand towel ring installed.  The job went great as I had my little level and took my time to make everything stayed level and properly placed each step of the way rather than trying to get the job done as quickly as possible.  Honestly by taking my time and doing it “right” was probably faster, easier and I got a much better looking end product.

I have been watching a lot of videos about restoring old boats and people building homes and measuring, testing/dry fitting, making simple models and starting over to get stuff correct is apart of the process for most DIYers that get things built correctly.  Goodness knows I have dealt with stuff in my home that so badly half-assed, even I knew the job was badly done.  I know many people have issues with vinyl/metal siding but if the job is done well the end product will not only look good but it will be good for the long term.  Perhaps people are being polite, but everyone that sees the new windows and siding asks how much it cost and who did the work, as they want to do something similar in the future.  Overall it really does not matter what other people think.  I think my home looks great and the yard and garden are getting to “looking great”.  If my house isn’t quite as pretty on the inside as others, in time I’ll install the new kitchen butcher block counter tops and appliances to fit the kitchen.  Once I can afford to get all the plumbing fixed and up to date.

Mom bought a bathroom cabinet that was supposed to go over the toilet but it was a $45.00 piece of junk! The back board was literally cardboard and it used only a thin sheet of painted particle board to attach the cabinet to the wall.  Storing anything in this cabinet could cause it to fail and crack a toilet or bonk you in the head at any time.  Mom and I will go yard sales and the Habitat for Humanity Re-Store and look for a solid bathroom cabinet to install.

Mom did get her front yard looking very good with her new tools. She trimmed up all the rose and shaped the bushes, planted some lavender and got most of her containers filled with plants.  Gosh just mowing clearing out the weeds and getting some water on the grass really made the front yard come to life in just a couple of weeks.  I may have a great score as a neighbor is installing a cedar fence and is taking down most of the old chain link fence, hardware and gates. The neighbor will let me have all of old chain link fence for free and this should help repair both my fence and Mom’s fence.  Perhaps it will give us a start on getting some new ones installed around Mom’s property.  This is a WIN/WIN for all of us. My neighbors save the cost/effort of getting rid of the old fence and Mom and I get to repair our fences.

I had a couple of guys stop by to give a quote on a solar panel install.  I told them I had just did a major home improvement so I would not be looking at an install this year.  I don’t want to waste anyone’s time but they wanted to come and talk about it so hey why not get an idea of what is needed if I get panels?  They were very nice people and even they seemed to think that any system they could install would have marginal savings at best based on payback.  A $5,000.00 tax break is not a lot of help when you are already not paying income taxes because of low yearly income.  I was correct that a 3-5 KW solar panel array would take care of most if not all of my electrical needs.  I also learned that adding the windows and new siding along with not powering Mom’s chicken house has dropped my electrical costs by at least 20-30% per month.  I think I’m going to see quite a bit of savings this summer cooling season compared to last year.

Two big cost coming up as the Kia needs a brake job. I always have a chatter with using the brakes at high speed and was assured the brakes were good,  but now it is very bad.  The Kia needs some maintenance done via Les Schwab. Just basic stuff that goes with owning a car.  For a 15 year old car I’m doing great as I don’t put a lot of mileage on a vehicle.  The other cost I need to take down the big tree in my front yard.  That will cost at least $500-1000 to remove.  It is an elm but I may get a little firewood to mitigate the cost.  The joys of home ownership!

 


Rainy day good excuse for a rest day

May 12, 2018

I thought I stopped in time but I seemed to pulled a muscle along my neck and shoulder.  I took this rainy day off to rest that area and while it is not 100% it does feel 100% better than it did yesterday so it should heal up with a couple of easy days to get it loosened  up.

Speaking for myself I find that doing little things to keep the pulled muscle area moving a little bit with light weight work helps with the healing process. So I have just been doing some puttering around the house rather than any heavy lifting jobs. I finished getting the lawns watered and then a light rain came through to help finish up the job.  I made up a big batch of dog food this time using chicken quarters, green beans and brown rice.

No rain today (Saturday), the pulled  muscle is stiff and twinges occasionally but overall it seems to be healing up quickly.  I started the day with pulling the weeds out of the front rose beds.  With the mulch that covers these beds the weeds are very easy to pull out.  Then a split the rest of the day getting the house vacuumed,  clothes washed and finish building the last garden bed.  Having the shop cleaned up made the bed go together quicker than the first two beds. Putting the supporting 2x4s end pieces of wood first made adding the 10 foot long 2x6s much easier, plus having the work space to clamp the boards together, drilling the screw holes saved much wailing and gnashing of teeth.  I did not add the soil or till the new garden bed as moving the big bags of soil are a bit to much for my shoulder muscle until it gets healed up.

One of the best things for me building these garden boxes is I have learned how to follow simple building plans, use all of my tools and that trial and error is not a bad way to learn. One of the worst aspects I have is doing ALL of the work and not getting inpatient doing all the measuring, fitting and drilling out the screw holes, because I wanted the project done quickly rather than taking the time to make sure everything is done correctly.  Even a stacked concrete brick wall can be strong using re-bar and sand as a filler in the cavities of the block wall. I don’t think I’d use it as a house foundation but for a base for fence I think it would be good enough.

Good fences make good neighbors or unless you protect your property rights no one else will protect them, via precedent or squatters rights.  We need to get up some fencing and post more signs around Mom’s property.  Mom can be as nice or nasty as she chooses but her property lines must be respected.  Even a temporary fence is better than nothing as it proves you are protecting your property.  I fought a long hard legal battle about property rights.  Not good, so it is best nip these thing in the bud.  Even a temp. fence declares your right to your own property.  No one will ever care about your property than you. Do all you can to protect that property!


Irises are blooming and lawn mowed.

May 9, 2018

Gosh,  the irises are with tall, huge purple blooms coming out in the front yard beds.   The roses are putting on buds and you can almost smell the aroma of them getting ready to burst forth this Spring. The front lawn got a bit neglected this spring what with trying to get the new garden beds built and moving Mom’s stuff.  I have been slowly pulling weeds and I got the weed eater out along with the mower to give the front yard a little TLC.  I was supposed to get the last garden bed built today but the lawn needed more time and energy than I had anticipated today.  Mom will stop by this week to help me finish up the last raised  garden bed.

I finally got the front door dead bolt to seat fully in the door frame using the new chisels (dull) and a 5/8 wood drill bit to “hog’ out the hole.  I need to add some metal re-enforcing to make the door more solid but it is one more step in making the home more secure.

Had a great chit-chat with a neighbor and got a tour of her garden and new chicken run built from old pallets.  The chicken run looked great with the re-claimed wood and was at least  12 ft. x 12 ft.

Her garden is smaller than before but as both of them work and volunteer they needed a low maintenance garden that looks good to them.  A huge garden that you can’t maintain properly is not something you want to have in your yard.  One of the things I like about the 10 ft x 30 inch beds as you can put them along sidewalks in all sorts of different configurations making L or T shapes rather than just a bunch of parallel beds. You can find room around the house for a bed very easily.   My neighbor  also loved the plastic fence  posts for making fenced chicken areas in her backyard that she could easily re-position as needed though the season.

These neighbors want to stock up on firewood this summer and may go in with me on a wood delivery.  I’d like to stack another cord and I think 2 cords would give them a good start on their ‘winter wood pile’.  The wood guys say they want to deliver larger loads if it is in a small areas as that saves them both fuel and time.  I like people that give me up front costs and deliver what they promise.  So the neighbors may get a shared load of wood that means everyone has at least a couple of cords of wood on hand to heat the house next winter.

Helping out your neighbors is not only a good thing to do it is the survival strategy of building a community/social network. If I know my neighbor has heat for his home and an alternative way to cook.  My wood stockpile will not look so tempting to them if things go bad.  The neighbors will protect the wood from outsiders as it is an energy source.  Once they buy a cord or two it’s not my wood pile it becomes their wood pile. I have a solid if not perfect plan in place for survival as one person.  But no one person has a good chance at survival.  Networking is about face time and making things happen when people have  need/ or can pay for it to happen. I’m firewood buying facilitator. I don’t get a cut of the profits, though I may save on delivery costs. I can’t imagine why a person would not buy and stack all the wood they could for next winter.  Those people do exist!