Saturday, December 29, 2012

DIY Homemade Bacon

The difference between homemade bacon and store bought bacon is incredible. You just have to taste it to believe it.

When you buy a pound of bacon at the store, after it's fully cooked leaves about a quarter pound of meat to eat. That means you just cooked off over three quarters of what you bought. What you are buying is water. They inject the meat with water to increase the weight per package so they get more money and you get less product. At four dollars a pound when bought, means you are eating the finished product at sixteen dollars a pound. Now that is some expensive meat.  If you don't believe me look it up. It is all about marketing.
Same with the bag of chips you buy. The bag looks full at the store, but when you get it home and open it the bag is only half full of chips and the rest it air. But yet you still paid full price.

Homemade bacon is also a lot better tasting. I describe it as "Richer" in flavor than the store bought stuff.  Once you bite into your bacon there is no turning back. It will ruin you and regular store bought stuff will never taste good again. Kinda like farm fresh eggs compared to those nasty store bought, runny, unflavored eggs. Once you eat them right out of your nest boxes no other egg will do. 

This kind of bacon is also better for you. The feed fed to the slaughter pigs and our other meats we buy at the store has so many bad things added to it I am surprised it's not pulled off the shelves. Your own bacon can have whatever you desire in it and can have the flavor you want being fed from your own garden scraps or the plane grass fed taste. The flavor of your pork is up to you. You think I am kidding, just try it. Compare two pork chops side by side cooked the same way with one being pasture raised and the other feed lot raised and you can taste a difference. Then add in a store bought pork chop and you see and taste a really big difference.

Saying all that, I have had requests on how I did my own bacon so I thought I would post about it. This is what I did.

You need to have some pork belly to make bacon. Canadian bacon is from another part of the pig, but for this post we are talking about Real Bacon from the pigs belly. You can either raise and slaughter the pig yourself, buy a pig already processed or just buy the pork belly from the market.
My opinion is, the cost is a little more to raise one yourself, but the end results are much better and you know what's in it the meat.

After you get your pork belly you need to trim it into more manageable rectangles. I ended up with four pieces about five pounds each.
Next I washed each piece and patted them dry. Then I put them in their own two gallon zip lock bags.
In a bowl I mixed up for each bag,
3/4 cup of sugar, 3/4 cup of brown sugar, 1 heaping tablespoon of pickling salt, 1 heaping tablespoon of black strap molasses 1 heaping tsp of pink curing salt and 1 heaping tsp ground black pepper.
After it was all mixed up I put this mixture into each zip lock bag with the meat and placed in the refrigerator.
Each day you have to take each bag out, flip it and massage the curing mixture into the meat, then put them back into the refrigerator. Do this for 7 to 10 days.
Being that my pork belly was a little thinner I chose to take it out on the 7th day. If your cut of meat is thicker then you might want to go the full 10 days before you take it out.
Another way to tell if your meat is cured, it should be firm to the touch. If it still feels like raw, thawed meat then you need to add a little more salt and keep it in the curing mixture a couple days longer.

When you are done curing, take each chunk of meat out and wash it, dry it and then put in back into the refrigerator uncovered for another day so it can rest.

When it comes to cold smoking there are many different ways to do it so I will only cover the way I do it.
I use Hickory, but you can use whatever you want to flavor the meat like apple, oak, maple, plum or peach. Remember that mesquite is very strong and really does not taste that good on bacon.  I made my own cold smoker a while back and if you search the blog you will find a couple of posts about it. Being it is made out of wood I have to keep the temps down or the pine will bleed into the meat.                  
Depending on how strong you want your smoke flavor depends on how long to smoke it. Usually the rule is two to four hours so I do mine at three hours and it seems to be just right. Of course the thicker the meat the more smoke you want. If you have real thin cuts you may just want a couple hours of smoke or it will be way to smoky.

I cut the hickory into chunks and soak them in water about an hour before they go on the fire. I start my fire with oak and when I get a good bed of coals going I put on the hickory chunks. Then add the meat to the smoker. I never let the smoker get over 130 degrees with the best temperature being around 110. Remember, you don't want to cook the meat, just flavor it. 

After you are satisfied your meat has received enough smoke and flavor then its time to get it off the smoker and let it cool. Some put it in the ice box for a couple of hours to firm it up even more, but I just let it sit on the counter until I get everything out and ready for the slicing and vacuuming.

After everything is set up I take my little meat slicer and get to work. This way I can make each piece the same thickness every time. I like mine a little thicker than what you buy at the store. I would guess they are about and 1/8 inch think.
If you use a slicer you will eventually get down to where you can't slice it anymore. I take that strip of meat and cut it up into chunks, vacuum those so I can add them to a pot beans later. The other night I add a few chunks to a pot of white beans and wow, you could really taste the bacon in there with each bite.

    After all four pieces of cured and smoked pork belly was sliced up into bacon I weighed out the pieces into one pound piles and then vacuumed each one.


Thursday, December 27, 2012

Smoking Bacon And Making Water

I hope everyone had a great Christmas and I wish the same for New Years.

I have lived in North Texas for forty one years and I can now say I have seen two White Christmases. We had some really bad storms come through followed by a bunch of snow that has completely shut down this part of the country.

I finally get to go back to work tomorrow, but sitting around these last few days has been, well, boring. I have done what I could, but other than that my main job has been to keep wood in the house and the fire going.

With deep freezes on a homestead, problems can occur even with the best plan laid out. You still have to go out twice to three times a day to break ice so the animals can get water. The sewer sprinklers still freezes and you have to conserve water use. You still have to drip water in the sinks so your pipes won't freeze and break and the list goes on and on. Add in Christmas and the kids down the road get a new 4-wheeler and want to run through your yard and now you have many more problems.

 Christmas Eve I started early by cold smoking my own bacon. I have waited all summer to do this and that day was the day to do it.
The pork belly has been curing in the icebox for the past seven days and I had perfect weather to get it smoked.
I used Hickory to flavor the meat for four hours at a low temp then took the smoked pork in the house to slice up as bacon. When it was all done, the summer pig made twelve pounds of the best tasting bacon you ever had.
I can tell you this, if you haven't had home made bacon before you need too. It is so much better than that store bought crap.
Next is the hams but that takes a little longer to do.  

While the bacon was on the cold smoker I went ahead and set up the Bio Sand Filter. I know I said I would not do this until the spring, but I do not have any patience and needed to get it out of my shop anyway.   
 After 150 pounds of pee gravel and 500 pounds of sand, I had water. I ran through about 20 gallons of water and it turned pretty and clear.
I won't be able to start using it until the spring, but at least it is out of the shop.

Other than that it has been just fixing one thing after another. The solar heater in the shop had it up in the sixties while the sun was out yesterday, but today the sun has been overcast and it stayed cold in there so not much work has been done in the shop.
One a good note, the kids got me a really nice framing nail gun for Christmas that I really did need so I am excited about that. I am getting ready to get started on the little condos for them, but first I need to find the money to buy a generator so I can go down to our old house on the farm and start disassembling it so I can use that lumber to build the condos. I just can't afford one right now.

That's all I got for now. I wish you all a great new years. It looks like new years dinner is on me this time so I am sure we will have a house full.     

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

A Post To Say I Posted

I asked the wife to send me some pictures of what she took this weekend and you can see how that turned out. Yup, no pictures.
So I will just post without them. I guess I could have took them myself, but being that I am not a slave to my phone like all them others, I don't carry it with me. I do not have a separation disorder when it comes to my cell phone. I could care less if I saw my phone for days on end, so saying all that I will get along with the post.

The sawdust fire log press is, well,  pressing. I should have made several presses so it would not take as long to do one log. This new mixture should work out just fine. I will know soon enough.

The wife added three more hens to her little yard family. We are not going back into the chicken business by no means, but these new hens will supply us with the much needed eggs we are lacking. The ones we have now are getting upwards to four years old and are not laying as much as they did when they were a "spring chicken", (if you got it, that was funny right there)   
Last weekend I had to buy eggs and I don't like buying eggs.They taste awful and have no color.

The gardens are all prepped and ready for the new growing season, the greenhouse is also clean and prepared for seeds next month.
I have a new way I am going to plant the taters this February because the potato towers did not yield as much as they should have last year. I will show that when it's time. 

The Bio Sand Filter is coming along and will be set up this weekend. I won't put it in operation till the spring but at least I will get it out of my shop.

I have to re-do all the elements of the solar pump box that attaches to the rain water harvesting system and waters our gardens and animals because,
Number 1, when winterizing everything a week ago I didn't do the pump good enough and it froze and broke the housing. $89 bucks down the drain, my fault.
Number 2, my oldest girls dog thought the cord to the solar panel was a play thing and ripped it out of the back of the panel, it is unrepairable. Another $80 dollars lost in the wind, but still my fault. 

I took this Friday off work. Do you know why? No it's not because I'm afraid the end of the world is coming, I am afraid of all the ones that do. When did they say it was going to happen, I think it was around 10 or 11 in the morning? Are they taking in account daylight savings and what time zone was that?
I think after it's all over I might run down and pick up a new fire arm or two just because I still can. I bet we won't be able to say much longer.  

Can you tell I'm a little agitated today?
I think it's because I had to cancel my vacation to Bora Bora this morning. I had it all set up with reservations and then I converted the Franks over to American money and had to cancel. Did you know a week there would have cost me eighty thousand dollars? For one week! 

Other than that, everything is peachy. The bills are still coming in the mail, The dogs still bark, The pig still eats too much and I am still working way too many hours, but I am breathing and everyone is healthy. (Knock on wood)

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Over Possessive Father With Seperation Issues

My next big project was going to be a network of step down porches outback with the one closest to the house being inclosed for the wife's plants and coffee room.  I also need the cooking and entertaining areas to be a little more functional than they currently are.
The designs have been drawn out, material lists have been made and the start date was not too far off on the first phase, but....

I get a call from the oldest daughter last week and she said she is changing her major and after getting her degree at A&M she is moving back home to get her Doctorate at the local college. Of course I am all for it and before she was finished talking the little wooden wheels in my head had already started spinning.

I asked her if she was wanting to live in the house or what was she planning.

"Dad, I will be 23 years old and I really don't want to live in the house unless I have to". Is what she said.

I fully understand that and support her decision on it, but it would be a waste of money for her to rent a place in town when she is within driving distance to the college. So, the next best thing is to build her an apartment out back.

Now, by that time the middle daughter will be 21 and attending the local college as well. I do not see any reason she needs to waste money on rent or housing either. So the plans include a small condo type of building. Yesterday while at work I quickly drew up a little floor plan on two 12X12 rooms with a build in desk.   

 I know this picture is hard to see, but if you turn it sideways you get the idea. The condo will not have a bathroom in it because the bathhouse is only thirty feet from it. Plus the main house will be there for them when they need it. Momma will still do the cooking, but they will have their own refrigerator and microwave in there for quick meals.
I was thinking on putting on a small community washroom in the back they could walk into so they will have a quick place to do there makeup and brush their teeth, but I am still undecided on that one.

Here is the problem with the design. By the time all this takes effect, the youngest will be nineteen and will be graduated high school and going into her first year in college. Now I don't know if I should go a head and build three in a row or just the two and tell the youngest to stay in the house.
Ultimately it is their choice to stay or go, live there or live elsewhere, but if I was to give them a free spot to live they can call their own and could save money until they started their careers, then they might stay around for a little while and still have the freedom of living on their own, kinda.

I know this is a big build and one that is kinda possessive. No, I never want my girls to leave, but I do know eventually they are going to. I am just thinking while they are in college this would be a great way we all stay together and they save money.

What's your thoughts on this? Is this over the top and I have possessive and separation issues, or is this something that a good dad would do to help his kids out?  Would you have lived in something like this while going to college if it were an option?
I am in the middle on this one.
Thanks for your feedback.        

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Welcome New Members

Hear are some new folks I wanted to welcome to the Modern Day Redneck family.
Coffeekittie, lisa.berry01 and Rhonda

Welcome and Thank y'all for hitting the button and becoming a part of this mess. If you have any questions my email is on the right side of the blog or you can just leave a comment. I always respond.

I look forward in hearing from you and thank you again.

Monday, December 10, 2012

By The Fire

Eleven and a half hours at work on Saturday left me with little time to do anything this weekend.

After a very long and tiring week all I wanted to do was relax and sit by the fire.
While I relaxed and the wife and I sat chatted it up, I thought what a great time to see how the Pressed Sawdust Fire Loge would preform.

Even though it was fun and I enjoyed sitting out there relaxing, the fire log did not preform the way I wanted it to.
There is a happy medium in the blend of materials used and I didn't get it right.
The log refused to burn. That means I had too much sawdust in the mixture.  All the log did was smolder. I ended up having to break it up in order to get it to burn and even then it took forever.

I was thinking that if you had an unlimited supply of sawdust you could build one heck of a fire resistant room from these things. The insulation value would be through the roof. I guess you could use a mixture of water and ash as a paste for the mortar. Hu, that be something to think about.  
The next one I press will have less sawdust, more paper and more wood ash. If that don't work I might need to ease up on the down pressure and not get it so tight.

All Day Sunday was spent getting everything ready for the freeze. We have had a very warm fall and if I would have known that I would have planted more things in the gardens, but sure enough if I did it would have froze already.

That's all I got for now. Have a great week.    

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Sunday At The Stove

I told you at the beginning of the week I wanted to break down the events of last weekend so I would have something to write about.
 Being I work till dark everyday and can't get much done in the evenings besides shower, shave and eat, I have been lacking on posts. I think I made up for it this week though.

After all the little things I did on Saturday like the Bio Sand Filter and the Sawdust Log Press plus some other odds and ends, I found myself without much to do on Sunday.
The first thing I did was install a men's urinal in my shop.
Yes, that is a funnel going out the wall held on by bailing wire. 

Next, my mom calls me and tells me the local grocery has potatoes on sell for 19 cents a pound. Being I did not have that great of a potato harvest this year I jumped on the chance to put some up. So I ran up to the store and got 55 pounds of taters.

I began by pealing every one of them by hand. Great for the compost bins, hard on the hands.

 Okay, I picked up this 1960s slicer at a garage sell for a buck. Now, I am around heavy equipment all day that can kill you and in my shop I operate all kinds of saws that can dismember and hurt you. This little thing right here is the most dangerous thing I have ever operated. All I could think of is my fingers being taken off a quarter inch at a time.

Enough of all that so I went and grabbed my meat slicer and went to town on those potatoes.

After blanching the slices and soaking them in lemon water for a few minutes I put them on the dehydrator. 

The finished product is several jars nicely filled with a serving of potatoes I can use in all kinds of dishes. 
I think the shelf life for these is four years.

I also shredded some and vacuum sealed them up for hash browns.

No, that wasn't all the taters, I dehydrated twenty pounds, kept ten pounds to eat, made ten pounds of potato salad, and shredded fifteen pounds for hash browns.
I can tell you this, my feet were tired when it was all done.

That's all I got done on Sunday and it's all I got for now.  

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Bio Sand Filter

Even though I was a little bored this weekend and looking for things to do and after the sawdust log press idea was up and working I started on the Bio Sand Filter.

But first off I want to tell you about this. Remember a month or so ago I built a Solar Distiller and no matter what I did, the thing would not work? I finally gave up, excepting that it kicked my butt and it has been sitting there taunting me ever since.
You know I can't let it end like that. I refuse to let something kick me when I am down. I took the solar distiller apart weekend before last, redesigned it a little, then rebuilt it. You know what, the stupid thing works. Not enough to call momma about, but it works. Now it makes about a gallon of clean distilled water a week as long as the sun is out. Not bad for a two foot by two foot piece of glass.

The Bio Sand Filter will be a work in progress. I cannot fully set it up and get it working due to winter coming in. They don't work that well in freezing temps unless it is in an enclosed area or insulated to the max with some added source of heat. The living organisms need warm temperatures and oxygen to survive. So for the time being and since I was bored, I decided to go ahead and start building it.

The picture above is of the finished look. The five gallon bucket is mounted on the top of the 55 gallon drum. You can also see the outflow to the right.

Inside the five gallon bucket is a pipe with holes in it. This will filter out anything big and any heavy solids. Rain water will be poured into the bucket five gallons at a time or at a constant low flow.
On the underside of the lid and bucket combo a system of pipes and holes defuse the water as it's being poured into the top so the water will not disturb the living colony in the first few inches of the sand. This will let the water gradually enter the sand filter.
If more flow is needed then more perforated  pipe can be added. 

In the bottom of the barrel the collection system is made up of pipe with holes in it as well. This will be covered with pee gravel to about six inches and then sand up to two inches below the overflow.
All materials have to be washed and washed again before put into use.
A two inch layer of water will always be on top of the sand to keep the colony of bacteria eating organisms alive.

How this works is after the initial cleaning by flowing water thought it until it runs clear, three weeks or so the organisms will be alive and well. The unsafe water gets poured into to top, filters down through the sand and clean drinking water comes out the side. Fresh oxygenated water needs to be added weekly to keep everything alive and running right.
The flow on this filter will be determined after the set up and three week growth period. It should, without any problems, produce around 10 gallons of good water a day if not more.
Before I decide to drink any water this device filters, I will take samples from the source and from the outflow of the filter and take them to a lab. Even though I know this will work, I do not want to take any chances.

Around March I plan start the filter up. The idea is to have a float valve inside the top bucked and the rain water from the big tanks gravity feed the float. this will keep a constant flow of water and keep me in a constant supply of clean drinking water. This way I can increase or decrease my flow rate when needed.

I am not sure yet but I will probably still add a cap full of bleach to each gallon before storing. I will have to do some experimenting with that to see if it is needed.

That's all I got for now.  Check back and you see what my boring Sunday had in store.           

Monday, December 3, 2012

DIY Sawdust Fire Log

This weekends activities brought many adventures to the Mini Farm and instead of cramming it all in one post, I decided to share a little throughout the week. 

Believe it or not I found myself bored at one point during the two day weekend. I was sitting in my shop trying to think of something to do and coming up empty. I searched through my project list and soon found many items on the list that were still out of reach or they would have taken several days to build.
All I was looking for was a quick one hour job and I actually found it by tripping over it.

On my way out the door to stand outside, scratch my head and look around for my next great build I tripped over my sawdust bucket. I save all my sawdust in the shop for help with starting fires in the pit. The buckets were piling up getting in the way and I needed to do something with them. I also save all the shredded paper from the house for the same reason and also to put in the compost bin. I also save my wood ash from the fire place for the gardens and for the chickens to dust in. That is when it hit me. I needed something so I can get rid of this stuff and maybe combine them all together. That is when I can up with the Saw Dust Log Press.

I took some cedar 1x6 and some scrap 1x2 with a little hardware and started to build.

This picture is what I finally came up with. I didn't take the time to research this and I am sure there are many designs out there a lot better than this one but I think this design will fit my needs. 

 With the press built I was on a mission to gather all the materials and mix it up to see if this will work.
Taking a few big hand fulls of shredded paper, A two gal bucket of sifted sawdust and a couple of hand fulls of wood ash. I mixed all that with water to a soup like effect. 
 After letting the mixture sit for about an hour to soak, I took hand fulls of the mixture, squeezed out as much water as I could and then began to fill the form all the way to the top.
 Once the form was full I pushed the plunger down by hand as hard as I could to squeeze out some water and then placed a couple weights on the handle to give it some down pressure.
Whenever I thought about it I would go by and push down on the handle to expel out more water. I did this until there was no more water to push out.     

I let the form sit in the sun for a day and then disassembled it to reveal a nice pressed sawdust log.
The log will still need to dry for about a week just like an adobe brick to harden and cure. At this stage it is a little spongy, but it is stiffing up really good.
 I can't wait to see how this thing burns. 

So there you go, a quick and simple way to find another use for all that stuff you are saving. This log can be burnt all by it's self or broke off in sections and used as fire starters.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Mary "Redneck" Kay

I hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving, I know I sure did.

Having five days off without any Chili Cook Offs made it where I was able to get a lot of things done around the house. It seams like forever since the last time I was able to do some routine maintenance and cross out some of the nagging items that have been like a monkey on my back, taunting me every time I walked outside.

Even though I spent most of the time working around the house, I still found time have a little fun. The oldest daughter was up from A&M and she just started a new adventure selling Mary Kay. She is looking for a way to supplement her income and drop her hours at work so she will have more time to study and I am all for that.
The wife and I support our kids in everything they do. We give them our two cents and we go from there. If she was selling dog crap in a bag then we would do whatever we needed to help her out.

She asked if she could host a Mary Kay party here at the house while she was up. Of course I said yes and that I would help with whatever she needed to make it a success.
We decorated everything up in Pink and really put on a show. The whole house was girlyfied by the time it all done.       

Being I ain't much into all that pink stuff I decided to Redneck it up a little. I guess you could have called it a Mary "Redneck" Kay Party when it was all said and done. The guys needed a place to be while the women folk were in the house getting all prettied up so I pulled out the big smoker and went to work. Forty pounds of chicken were cooked, two gallons of beans, ten ponds of potato salad and a whole bunch of odds and ends like stuffed peppers.
It was a lot of food but having around forty friends and family show up made it all worth it.
Yup, that's me sitting by the smoker.
With Gorge Jones playing in the background, all the guys sat around outside and cooked, spited, cussed and drank.
(Good times right there)

The middle daughter came out to give ol' dad a hand at basting the chickens. You can't see it in this picture, but she was bare footed out there doing this. Bunch of hillbillies. 

 The wife did a great job in the house playing bartender and keeping all the women's Mason Jars full of margaritas. There was some hooting and hollering going on in there and I had to check and make sure they didn't hire a male stripper or something. From the sounds of it, they had a great time and I am sure the Jose Cuervo had something to do with as well. 

Thanks to all that came out in support of the Girl. I owe you all one for this,

So there you go, for you real manly men out there that are too cool or macho to do a Mary Kay party just remember, all you have to do is redneck it up a little.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Weekend Cook Off Results

For the ones who are keeping up with my Chili Cooking Career, here are the weekend results.
Saturday our team won 2nd in show. For our chili, I made final table and another team member won 8th.
Sunday our team won 1st in show and I made final final table again.

Okay, I want to get something off my chest about competing for show. At every cook off we set up a big area with all kinds of Texas props. We also interact with the crowd and have a good time. This is our second month cooking competitively and we are getting better and better every time.
I am not a sore looser by any means as long as I loose legitimately. First place show on Saturday set up one table, one cooker and that was it. Then he stuck his hand in a puppet monkey and walked around touching all the women. That won him first. If his booth would have been decked out like a jungle and if he had a Tarzan outfit on then I would have said he deserved the prize. If this is the case, then I don't need to haul around two truck loads of crap and spend hours setting up and taking down. All I have to do it stick my hand up a monkeys butt and be a perv.
I promised my team mates I would have a filter this weekend due to the fact I pist off over a dozen folks at the last cook off. I did just that, I was muzzled like an animal. But when they called out the first place winner of show, the muzzle was off. I don't know how many I offended.
Sunday I was a smart ass. I took a little scarecrow we had as a prop, ripped his butt open and shoved my hand inside and walked around with it. People were laughing because they knew what I was doing. After we won show Sunday a lady walked up to me and said, "See there, you just needed to find something to stick your hand up it's butt to win."
That's all I got to say about that.
Our next cook off will be December 1st in Irving Texas.

Friday, November 16, 2012

It's Time

As well as you know for the past couple of months I have been mainly posting about projects and chili. I wanted to do an off topic post this time to show some of the newer readers I also have a life outside of working and competitive cooking.

It's Time

Let me explain, my personality will not let me leave something unfinished. If it's a project, a goal or a promise. No matter what it is, I have to be able to close the book on whatever it is I started. If not, it will haunt me until it is done.

Twenty one years ago I was standing in city hall of the town I was working at. I had just completed a repair of a water leak and was a little dirty, but I was summon to meet my supervisor and had to go. I was standing along the wall outside his office waiting for my turn when the City's engineer walked out. He paused, looked me up and down, then asked my boss why they let the dirt people in here. He then turned and as he walked away he looked back over his shoulder and told me to get an education.
That next semester I enrolled in College just out of spite for his kind.

Being a husband, having two jobs and going to school was tough. For over two years I slept less then two hours a night. My primary job was from 7 AM to 5 PM, school was from 6 PM to 1 PM and my second job was from 1 AM to 6 AM seven days a week. Some say you can go insane if you don't get at least four hours of sleep for any length of time. Maybe that is what's wrong me? I remember the wife nudging me to wake me up when I would fall asleep at red lights when it turned green. I looked for every possible second to get some shut eye. 

The wife and I started having babies soon after and all that I had going plus being a young father was too much. My priorities were drawn in the sand so I quit college and my second job to do what I needed to do and be there for them. No regrets, it was all my choice.

I have pushed and guided my three girls from the time they came home with us from the hospital to be something I chose not be. I would sit and talk to them while they slept in their crib and tell them they will be somebody some day and that they would make a difference. I would talk about higher education while driving them to kindergarten class and even after all these years, the talks still continue. My friends would ask me what I would do if they chose not to go and I would always respond with "That is not an option" and it is still not.
 All these years I have preached the importance of a getting a degree of some sorts to my children and here I sat a college drop out. How hypocritical is that? It's not that I made a mistake and it's not that I would change anything, it's about trying to get your kids to do better then you, go further in life and not have to struggle as much. I think that is same with almost every parent. Yes, it is their decision once they are of age, but how in the world can I look at myself in the mirror every morning knowing I did not try.                   
I was 18 years old sitting on the couch with my soon to be wife when I told my parents we were getting married. The only thing my dad said was that he had higher hopes for me. I never really got that until later on in life. Now I fully understand.

Going back to the beginning of this post, after 21 years, January 14th I will be starting college again. It is not in the same degree I was in, but it's still a degree. I am not doing it for any reason other than for me. I made a promise to myself twenty one years ago that I was going to be a college graduate. That promise has haunted me for way too long and it is time to dust off that old book, add another chapter and then finally close it.
It may take me five years to complete it, but in the end I will be able to hold to that stupid little piece of paper and say I did it.

More New Folks

I know I am doing this back to back, but I am so thankful for all the new readers and members to MDR.

I want to welcome the very talented Melissa Lynn, Kironbutterfly and Donna Walker.
Thank you for becoming members of the Modern Day Redneck family. Please feel free to comment whenever you like. If you need anything else, my email is on the right side of the blog.
Thanks again,

New MDR Members

First off I want to give a big thanks to homesteadsurvival for featuring the Beer Can Heater on their blog. Welcome all who has come over and I hope you hang around. More projects are on their way. 

I also want to welcome two newest members of the MDR family. 
 April and Quixote Kid, both have great blogs that I am now a reader of.
Thank you for hitting the follow button and being a part of this mess. If there is anything I can help you with, you can leave a comment or email me at any time.

This little project has already had over 5,000 hits from being featured on different websites, I am honored. 

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Solar Beer Can Heater Results

First I want to say thanks to for linking up this project. They sent over 1300 people to MDR so far.

 I hooked up the heater using a 3" water heater flex tube. The flex was the only way to go because of the pivot motion of the heater.
You can also see the placement where I get the temp readings   

 The other end of the flex goes through the window of the shop. I made a block out for the window and sealed it off to keep the drafts out.
The out flow really needs to be higher, but I did not want to start cutting holes in my new shop until I did some testing first.

It was early in the morning and the ambient temp was around 40 when this picture was taken. The output air was already at 150 degrees.

The high readings for the day were,
Ambient = 55 degrees
Air Output = 180 degrees
 I could improve the output temperature a little by insulating the box. I really don't want it getting much hotter because I did not use high temp adhesive.
Right now I am loosing 20 degrees by the time it leaves the box and gets into the shop. The metal tubing is cooling the air back down a little. I will insulate the tubing to try and hold on to the heat a little longer during its travel into the shop.
Another step I plan to do is to attach an additional tube and bring the inflow from the shop instead of the outside. This way the air that is circulated will be from the inside and when the shop starts heating up it will be more efficient by circulating that same air.
Doing that I will have to build a filtered return air box inside and on the floor of the shop and put the outflow pipe at a higher level. The fan will also be placed inside the filtered return air box to increase the efficiency of the fan.
If I am going to go that far I might as well put the heater on a thermostat and go ahead and hook up a battery bank to it as well. That means I will need to increase the solar panel to a higher wattage to charge the batteries.
The one main problem to all this that the square foot of the heater will not heat the shop quickly or keep it at a constant temperature. The cubic foot of the shop is too massive for such a small heater. This design was made as an experiment to see if it would work. This heater would heat a well insulated room of about a 10'X8' with 8' ceilings. I originally designed this to heat the bathhouse.
This means to achieve the desired temperature in the shop at a reasonable rate, I will need to build one 2 1/3 larger than this one. That is a 230 can system. Or I could just build another one like this one and attach them together. I guess I need to call my buddy and have him start collecting cans for me.

Cost results,
Total out of pocket using junk on hand = $70.00
If I bought everything new = $200.00

I have seen some of these made using just 1/2 insulation sheets and sealed with duct tape and they work, but I wanted to build a heater that would last. The biggest cost if you have all the building material is the high temp paint and caulking.

That's all I got for now.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Solar Beer Can Heater Update

Just as I thought, I had way too much going on this weekend to complete the solar heater build 100%. I got close, but not all the way done.
Here is a little bit of what I did.

All the cans had to be drilled, cleaned and glues together. I had to make 10 rows of 10 and then painted.  At each end of the row of cans there is a board with holes in it to hold the cans in place and to let the air enter through the bottom and swirl it's way up through and out the top.
Just a note, you want to make sure to clean the cans because of the hot, sour beer smell.

 I designed the frame to have a air collector system powered by a solar fan to draw in the outside air and force it through the cans. The bottom collector chamber is pictured here.
 And another chamber for the hot air to collect and be forced out the exit and into the shop .

I could have left it at that and just leaned the heater up against the outside wall but you know that is not how I roll. I have to go above and beyond. 

I decided I did not want to man handle this heater all day to maximize it's potential by keeping it faced to the sun so I decided to build a swivel frame. With one finger I can turn the heater to face the sun all day long. 

One reason for this is because this heater is independent from any electric. I have seen some built where they use a powered fan to push the air. If I am building a solar heater then it needs to be powered by solar. The solar panel I have on this needs to face the sun to turn the fan on. You can see the cords running down the side of the frame in this picture.

And here you go. A 100% Solar Beer Can Heater. In this picture you can now see the two air collector chambers at the top and bottom and where the solar panel is mounted.

To finish this project I need to run a flex tube from the top of the heater frame to the shop window and that will be that.

If you look close you can see I installed a thermometer just below the air outlet to see how hot this get the air.  Once this is in use I will give feedback on how it works.

All I need now is some sun.   

Friday, November 9, 2012

Project Update

For those keeping up with my latest project, I wanted to give a quick update on the Beer Can Heater build.

Thanks to my friend who is a professional beer drinker, I have collected all 102 cans. It would have taken me months to have enough cans if I did it myself and it took him less than a week. You can see my small contribution to the collection in the back bottom corner. If you priced it all out, that is about $100.00 bucks in beer.

 For the glass I am using an old storm door that measures 63 1/2" tall and 27" wide. The frame is built to where the glass sits on the center of the 2x4s so I can use the hold down clips I took from the door.
If you are wondering what the wood frame is sitting on, that is my roll around work bench I built. It's kinda like a butcher block table so when the top gets all beat up I can sand it down and have a new table again. Genius hu?

Unfortunately work has kept me from doing much more to it this week, but this weekend looks promising. The next step is to drill holes in all the cans, fasten them together in columns of 10 and then paint them black. While that is drying I will finish the frame and air collecting points.
I probably will not get the heater all the way done this weekend because I have some other pressing issues I need to attend to, but I should be able to make a good showing. 

I wanted to say thank you to all the emails I receive on a daily basis. I enjoy reading and responding them.

I also wanted to welcome some new members to the Modern Day Redneck family.
Katidids, Rob68, Katlupe, Susan Ayers, Suerte and Tammy
Thank y'all for hitting the little button. If there is anything I can do for you please let me know. My email is on the right hand side of the blog and I love emails.  

Wednesday, November 7, 2012


Next month marks the third year of the Modern Day Redneck blog and I have made a point to keep politics out of my writings. There are many more blogs out there who's writers are a lot more knowledgeable and more articulate than I am to speak on that subject.

Saying all that I feel I need to at least acknowledge the most recent events so here we go.
After last night I have come to a conclusion, I am a minority. The way I think and my values are in the bottom percent of America. This nation has changed and I don't fit in anymore. This new nation believes in government hand outs, killing babies, same sex marriage and the removal of Christianity from the history books. They believe I do not have the right to protect myself, to keep what is mine or hang on to the money that I earned. My voice does not matter anymore, it is looked upon as I am a terrorist .

I am surprised and saddened by the way our media is so openly bias and the people are okay with it. The past four years with all the things that went with it seemed to have never even happen. My party would have been strung up and burnt at the stake for just half of what this current administration has done, wait, they were.
This country has changed. People used to stay busy leaving no time to get get brain washed by the media. Now days, nobody does anything except come home and sit on the couch, watching the derogation of our nation and believing every word. They take what they see and read as the truth, not ever following through and taking the time to learn more before coming to a conclusion. If it's on the news or on the internet it must be true.    

The Republican party died last night. The Overton window has shifted so much that real American values are skewed to where that party will have to follow it or stay dead. The problem with chasing the window is that you leave behind what is most important, our freedoms.

I am saddened for our nation, our people and our religions.
This is not the America so many have died for. That's all I got to say about it.                

Monday, November 5, 2012

Another Chili Post, Plus Some Other Stuff

For some reason this weekend took more out of me than was expected.
 The Whitewright Fireman's Chili Cook Off was a success. Our team had a blast and made a great haul with over $1600.00 in different prizes. As far as the chili goes, one team mate got third, the wife got tenth and apparently me and the other team mate didn't even show up.
Our booth got 2nd in show, but I expected that being we were in the lion's den so to speak. At a Fireman's Fest, with Firemen judging the booths. Go figure, First place went to a Fireman, but that's cool I guess. It's kinda like homecoming, no matter how good the underclassmen build their floats, the senior float always get first place. 
I want to say thanks to all those who came out to show their support for our team. It was good to see everyone. 

I was also able to get the trophies finished for the November 18th Chili Cook Off in Denton. This was a team effort with one half doing the staining and painting and me and the wife doing the cutting and assembling. I think they turned out amazing.
Just for the fun of it I made two more trophies not pictured here. Honorable Mention and Sexiest Cook. Those are not really ever done so I thought why not.

I never meant for this to turn into a Chili Cooking Blog, but it kinda has because that is what I'm into at the moment. So if this does not interest you in the least bit, sorry.

I was able to get some other stuff accomplished this weekend though. I had all my girls with me and you see, they have this dog. It's a dog I do not want, but they have banded together to form their own democracy to fight me on keeping this dog. This dog has tore up and broke many things outside and that is one of the reasons I don't want him. Some others are the fact he in almost a hundred pounds, still a puppy, barks all the time and the list goes on and on. So anyway, being I had them all there I had them fix some of the things their dog has tore up. One being the water line their dog ripped up and broke going to the gardens.
It was painful to watch but after a while with my instructions the lines was fixed. I had the girls also clean where the dog took my outdoor cushions and decided to tear them into little pieces along with two extension cords and water hoses. Yep, he needs to go. 

Other than that, thanks to a buddy of mine who is a professional beer drinker I have now collected more than enough cans to get the Solar Heater built.
This week I will be working on that along with fixing my weed eater, mowing and repairing more stuff the dog has destroyed.   
Y'all have a great week.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Buried In Projects Again

The break was nice, but it's time to get back to work.
Before I went on vacation I was doing research on some of the new projects that I have on the drawing board. I am excited to do them all and found myself almost starting three at one time. By doing that it will take longer to finish just one so I had to dial it back a little and do them in order.

First off I got roped into building thirteen trophies for the November 17th Chili Cook off we will be at. They saw the ones I build for my at home cook off and now the pod wants them for theirs. I have to build first through tenth for the chili and first through third for show. I will take pictures when they are done to show the detail that has gone into them. The good thing is that it's not all me, my teammates are doing the sanding, staining and painting. All I did was design them and cut all the wood. After I get them back then I will have to assemble all them.
While on vacation I took my scroll saw and cut out all the detailed pieces. Well, I didn't have nothing else to do so why not.    

I have my beer can solar heater all designed and ready to go. I am still collecting parts and materials, but I have enough to get started. The front glass will be from a storm door I kept because I thought I would need it someday. It will hold 100 cans and be on a swivel so I can turn it with the sun all day long. The air will be forced in, through the cans and out the top by the same solar fan I have in the dehydrator.
Tonight I start on the frame.

The next project I am ready to start is the Biosand filter. The water distiller did not work for me no matter what I did to it so for drinking water this sand filter will make the rain water from the storage tanks potable. Of course I will test the water before I drink it, but in the end this filter should do the trick.
I have been studying on this for about a year now and I am ready to pull the trigger.

The list goes on but these are the ones at the top. I am excited about the heater and filter and want them done as quick as possible. Now with a shop, my projects are being able to be completed rain or shine and the possibilities are endless.

This weekend we will be cooking chili in a little town about an hour and a half from here so wish us luck. Tomorrow night will be all about getting ready for that and believe me, it takes all evening to get ready.
The money will benefit the Wrightright Fire Department. 
We might stand a chance this weekend because all the big dogs are down south at the National Cook Off. Being this is our first year we were not invited because we did not have enough points yet. The good news is, we have already qualified for next year to enter in show so it may be a possibility to go except the drive is about 11 hours, but we will see.

That's all I got for now.