Getting into Juicing

So, I’ve been working at this new healthy diet. I suppose diet isn’t necessarily the right word, as it’s been an effort to get rid of the last of the processed sugars, bleached flours, and other processed nastiness off our plates. In the book we’re working from it recommends juicing a number of different drinks.

Now I have to be honest, after seeing how frou frou most juice shops are, and questioning people who drink things like lemon grass and the like, I felt a little of my “I build things and get dirty” manliness going out the window. I just don’t see myself as one of those guys that runs around wearing bike shorts and drinking awful smelling green concoctions and the like. But then I realized there were kitchen power tools involved, and that made me feel a lot better.

So, I started doing my research on the juicers on the market and readily determined that there’s a “good” class of juicer in the $200+ range, and a “not good” class of juicer in the sub $100 range. While I’m all for buying the best tool on the market, whether it’s for the kitchen or my garage, I just couldn’t stomach forking over $300.00 for a tool that I didn’t know if I would use or not.

After digging about for a while, because I knew it would eventually pay off, I stumbled across an inexpensive juicer that was comparable to the high price ones.


Based on it’s excellent ratings I decided to give it a try. I have been happy with it so far. It’s a manly, sturdy and well built product, and I forsee being able to get a good return on my investment in short order. It’s a little annoying to clean, so I make my wife do that. ūüôā

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Toilet Paper Tube Cord Minders

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The cacophony of cords that I carry on a regular basis drives me completely batty! Under normal circumstances there’s a phone charger, earphones, usb cable, etc. When I go into my photography bags it gets even worse! And that’s just me, when we account for a family’s worth of technology the tangles resemble fish netting more than they do a collection of cords. The photo above is the first handful of cords dragged out of my backpack, all messed up and completely unusable. I needed to find a better way to store them that didn’t involve cord minders that can cost upwards of $5.00 a piece.

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I dove into my stash of useful things and came up with some old toilet paper rolls like the one pictured above. To use it as a cord minder I flattened the tube.

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Then I added a small diagonal slice with a pair of scissors against the grain of the cardboard. This is done at both ends of the tube on opposite sides.

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Insert one end of the cord to be organized into one of the diagonal cuts. Then begin to wrap the cord around the tube.

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Tuck the opposite end of the cord into the slit on the opposing side of the tube. Now it’s sorted! If you need extra holding power you can add a rubber band at each end.

20140416_081607Here’s that messy pile of cords all tidied up. If the toilet paper tube isn’t fancy enough for you, or you’re making these as gifts you can glue down wrapping paper or have the kids create drawings on the tube. You can also make them to length. You’ll note that the headphone minder uses only one half of a tube. If you have longer cords you can use paper towel tubes. I like to label my tubes with a sharpie, so I can identify the cord at a glance.

When the tube wears out, just toss it into the compost bin and make a new one!

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Preparing to move homesteads

So, it seems strange to me. We’ve been planning to uproot the family from Phoenix and move to the Seattle area for two years now. All the research has been done, the locations scouted, jobs lined up, and every other step we could possibly think of in preparation. Right now, with a mortgage pre-approval, we’re finally bidding on houses where we want to move.¬†And despite all of this planning I keep having momentary freak outs.

These are temporary transitional issues, and I never expected them to happen, but they do. “Is this the right idea?” “Will the kids hate the new schools?” “Will we find a house in time?” “Am I making the biggest mistake of my life?!” These moments of indecision are normally the type of thing I don’t mention to my wife. While she’s learned over the years to mostly just go with it when I get my crazy ideas, she also has enough faith in me that I’ll make sure whatever outcome we expect will happen. This situation is a natural one, everyone at one level or another, goes through this with every major decision, and the level of irrational or rational fear is generally in line with the amount of risk being taken.

This time, however, I believe that the wife was happy to know that I have these moments, as she’s been having them far more frequently than I of late. I’ve lived all over the country over the years, while she’s only ever lived in Phoenix. So I have to keep in mind that whatever fears I may have, hers are ten-fold greater.

I’m a huge fan of lists on yellow note pads. It’s something I learned from my father. He used to derive so much joy from the simple process of writing a list and then crossing items off said list. So each time I have one of these sudden, “oh my god,” moments I check my list. If the item is accounted for it’s on there. If not, I add it. Then I feel a lot better.

Looking at the list this morning, there’s more crossed off than not, and that’s reassuring. Those items still not crossed off are worrisome though. We still haven’t found a house yet, and we’re running out of time. We also have not entirely figured out what’s moving and what’s not. The “Stuff Problem” as I call it is probably what bothers me most. In my college years and into my 20’s I could fit everything I really needed into a large duffle bag. Everything else was disposable. Fast forward nearly (*cough*) 20 years (*cough*) and three kids later and we have this massive pile of stuff! Now, short of tools and cars, I’m not a fan of “stuff” but my family is.

Were we staying locally, it wouldn’t be so much of an issue. But we’re moving 1500 miles away. The cost to bring all this stuff with us is outrageous! The current fuel costs are high enough that they make me seriously question what it is that we really need. So we go through each room of the house every couple days and decide, “No, I don’t really need this thing” and it gets set aside into an ever growing pile of things to dispose of. But at the same time the existing collection of “Stuff” doesn’t seem to diminish!

I think, today, that our inability to get rid of the consumer junk we’ve acquired is probably the most stressful part of this move. I’m willing to bet that in two hours it’ll be something else entirely that’s making me crazy.

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Building a Permaculture Landscape – Episode 4

In this video series we take you through the process of setting up a complete permaculture landscape from scratch. In this episode we complete the paver bed, build the gazebo, lay sod and edging, complete the green wall planting bed and tidy up some more of the irrigation system.

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Dehydrating Asparagus

After my wife made up the batch of pickled asparagus the other day we had this whole bin of leftover asparagus stems. Now I’m a big fan of asparagus and I didn’t want it to go to waste!

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Here you can see what I’m working with.

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First step is to blanch the asparagus for about 30 seconds until it turns bright green.

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Then you immediately transfer it to an ice water bath to stop the cooking process.

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I thought I’d be cool and cut it up into little strips. It turned out to be an annoying amount of work, especially as I intend to powder it when done.

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I sliced the remainder in rounds. It took about the same amount of time to cut four trays this way as it did to cut one tray lengthwise. Sure, it doesn’t look as cool, but we’re trying to be efficient here.

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It took approximately 10 hours at 115 degrees Fahrenheit to dry the asparagus.

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I popped the dry asparagus into our magic bullet and used the flat blade. It never ceases to amaze me how much smaller of a volume you deal with when things are dehydrated.

2014-03-28 07.33.00A few zaps of the magic bullet have rendered it into powder. The reason why we opted to make it as a powder is that we use a number of “Cream of” soup recipes as marinades/covers when cooking.

Here’s the recipe to make Cream of Asparagus Soup from dehydrated ingredients.

2 cups powdered milk
3/4 cup cornstarch
1/4 cup instant chicken bouillon
2 tablespoons dried onion flakes
1 teaspoon thyme leaves
1/2 teaspoon pepper
3 T Asparagus powder
(replace the Asparagus with 3T of Mushrooms or Broccoli to make Cream of Mushroom or Cream of Broccoli)

This makes the equivalent of 9 cans of soup. Simply rehydrate to the desired consistency and either use in cooking or heat and eat!

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Canning Pickled Asparagus

Asparagus is one of our favorite veggies and we usually eat it fresh.  It recently went on sale for less than $1 per pound so I decided to try pickling it.

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Here is the roughly 4 pounds of asparagus that I started with.

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The asparagus needs to be trimmed to 3/4 inch shorter then the height of the jar.  I used pint and a half wide mouth jars in order to preserve most of the length of the asparagus and saved the bottoms for another purpose.

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The asparagus was then blanched in batches for about 30 seconds until bright green in a large pot of salted water and immediately put into ice water to chill.  It should be chilled for at least a half hour so more ice may be needed to keep the water cold.

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After chilling for a half hour, the asparagus was removed from the water and laid out to drain while the pickling liquid was prepared.

Pickling Liquid for Asparagus:

1/4 cup granulated sugar

2 Tbsp pickling or canning salt

3 1/2 cups white vinegar

2 1/2 cups water

Combine in large pot and bring to a boil for one minute over medium-high heat.

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Add asparagus and simmer until heated through.

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The asparagus will change from a bright green to a brownish green while simmering.

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In each prepared jar place 1/2 to 1 tsp of minced garlic and 1/2 tsp mustard seeds.  Pack the asparagus tips down into the jars, leaving room for the pickling liquid.  Pour in the liquid leaving 1/2 inch of headspace.  Remove any air bubbles and adjust headspace if needed.  Wipe rims and put lids/rings on.  Process for 10 minutes, adjusting for altitude.  This yielded three pint and a half jars.

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Building a Permaculture Landscape – Episode 3

In this video series we take you through the process of setting up a complete permaculture landscape from scratch. In this episode we prepare the paver bed and start laying pavers, complete most of the irrigation system, set the posts for the green wall and more!

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Permaculture landscape project: Episode 2

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New Permaculture Landscape project

I have been asked to design and help build a permaculture landscape here in Phoenix. We’ve opted to create a video series on the project. The goal is to establish a back yard landscape that will eventually provide or give the ability to provide for a single family’s food needs annually (excepting livestock bigger than a chicken).

 

 

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How to plant Bare Root Trees

We’ve been building up our orchard annually. We do this by planting inexpensive bare root fruit trees. In the following video I’ll show you how to do it!

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