Monday, October 29, 2012

It Was Hard, But I Did It

Five days of doing nothing. It took some getting used to, but in the end I think I mastered it.

Doing nothing seams so pointless. To me it's a waste of life, but I guess we need it from time to time to survive.       

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Always The Odd Ball

I have noticed whenever I go somewhere I am the odd ball out. Maybe it's just me or maybe it's the places I go, but in the end I stick out like a sore thumb.

I am on vacation this week and decided to take the wife camping. I love camping this time of year because there is the smell of fall in the air, I don't have to run the AC in the camper and when I am cooking outside I am not miserably hot.
Last summer we bought into a nice camping resort and have been waiting to take full advantage of it for the past few months. Fall brings on festivities at these places and the one we are at is having a Halloween blow out this weekend.  The kids really enjoyed it last year when we came as guests.
We have been here for three days now and are really missing the kids. I thought I would welcome the time away from everything with just me and the wife, but my kids make me whole and without them I feel something is missing.

Don't get me wrong, I am really liking the whole do nothing aspect of this being we have been so busy the past few months and I am really enjoying the late night hot tub runs, the sitting outside without anything to do and all that, but it seams the noise the kids make is what sooths me the most.
All three will be here Saturday morning and I am really looking forward to it.

The reason I say I am the odd ball here is because even though we have a camper, we spend most of our time outside it. We eat outside, cook outside and even do nothing outside. The only time you will find us in the camper is when we are sleeping. The strange thing is that we are the only ones doing that. I almost feel like I'm in a zoo exhibit when people drive by. They point and stare like I'm an attraction or something. I point back and laugh.  Funny people!

All the campers around me are full of folks watching TV, cooking, eating and living just like they would at home. Me, I don't understand that. These people spend all week cooped up in their little offices, then go home to their house with neighbors less than twenty feet from them and when they go outside it's in their little fenced off back yard. Then they spend their whole vacation cooped up in their little campers.

Complain I will not because the wife and I have had the run of the place. The rec-centers, the pools, the hot tubs, the showers and the bathrooms. Nobody leaves their campers so it's like a ghost town here and we are taking full advantage of it.

I guess what is boils down to is that we do what we are comfortable with. These city folks feel like they are on vacation by doing what they do at home and the same with me. At home I cook outside, shower outside, eat outside and even just sit around outside. So I guess the camper people can say the same about me as I say about them, "Why do they go on vacation to work, they could have just done that at home".   
And I'm the odd ball.

Monday, October 22, 2012

No Filter, What So Ever


I had a preacher tell me one time, "If I spit on you all I did was make you wet, you made yourself mad."
It took a while for me to fully understand that concept, but in the end he was exactly right. It is our choice on how we want to handle the things we face every day.

Last weekend I ended up cooking at two different chili cook offs. This makes two weekends in a row we have doubled up and cooked both days and boy let me tell you, we are dog tired.
On Saturday the wife got first place and I got third, Sunday I got seventh and the wife didn't even place. I don't really understand that one, but I guess it's like the roll of the dice.

We all had a real good time, some more than others and I guess I was one of those who was having the best time. They said all together by the end of the weekend I offended or pist off at least a dozen people. Not on purpose of course, but because I don't have a filter when I talk. This could be one reason I don't like large crowds or strange people because in general folks are way too sensitive.

If you are going to call yourself fat and I agree, then why do you get mad at me? Your the one who said it first, I was just being nice and agreeing with you.

"You have no filter what so ever!" The wife says to me.

I had one nice lady criticize me because I was using meat in my chili and that I should not be killing animals to eat. Then turn right around and ask if she killed her ex-husband if I would grind him up and use that meat as well. I simply apologized for her getting old and not being able to keep her husband at home even after he bought all that plastic surgery she had and that she should not hate all men because of him. I guess it was true because I hit a nerve with her, but it was really funny.         

I also know a lot of folks that dish it out, but can't take it in return, I spoke with some this weekend. I was just playing along, but some say I crossed some sort of line when in my own mind it was funny. If you can't take it then sit there with your mouth shut and nobody will give it to ya. Good heavens, my friends all know me and if you get all swole up with your feelings hurt over something I say out of fun and sit there in the corner looking like a bull frog then you might not should have been taking the jabs when you did. I guess my problem is I don't know when to stop and then have to do some damage control later on.   

In my anger management class I found out that it's true, I am the one that makes myself mad. I try and not give that power to anyone anymore. If I want to be mad I can find a way real easy to do it and I don't need much help in it either.

So if you spit on me you do make me wet, but you better be ready to get into a spitting contest and keep in mind, I chew tobacco.

Sorry for rant here, but in the end it's all fun and games, or until someone gets their feelings hurt first. 

Friday, October 19, 2012

Solar Project Review

Last week I made a Solar Still to have for a secondary way to make the water from the rain water harvest system drinkable. I followed a plan I found on Mother Earth News almost to the letter so I could give the project a fair shake. Here is what I came up with.

The plans were clear and I made the box accordingly only changing one or two small things due to using what I had on hand and recycling used materials. I did have to buy a piece of glass because I am not a glass cutter and broke several attempts of cutting my own. I guess you have to have a light touch to do it and I don't.
 At first I was not going to put the reflective material on the back door because I didn't think it was needed, but decided to do it anyway. That way I could say it was just like the one in the plans.
I used a five gallon jug for the water collector and hooked everything up air tight to keep the moisture inside.
10/11/12 - Using a glass baking dish and two glass meatloaf dishes I added the water to the still and stood back to watch it happen. I soon found out this was going to be worse then watching water boil so I left it alone for a couple of hours. I checked on the progress again and saw this was like watching molasses flow in the winter. If you have never seen that then all I can say is that it is really, really slow. 
10/13/12 - Two days later I revisited the Still thinking I would be out of water in the containers, but low and behold I still had plenty to go. Condensation was on the upper glass and it appeared to be running off and into the pipe and down in the jug. It was doing what it was intended to do, but not very fast.
Two days and one cup of water, not a good start so far.

10/17/12 - Four days have past and now the water that was captured in the jug is gone. The only explanation is a leak somewhere. Air was getting in and the water was being lost instead of doing what the still was designed for and being caught in the jug.
After close evaluation I found where the top glass adhesive had dried and pulled away leaving a gap where outside air was getting in. A quick fix by using silicone and placing a bead all the way around the edge of the glass did the trick. So now we are back in business, I think.

 10/18/12 - A day later and with high expectations I checked the still, nothing. The condensation is there, but it is not forming heavy enough droplets to run into the jug. The water jug has condensation inside as well leading me to believe I need to cool the jug or keep it in the shade by wrapping a towel around it. Today I will do that and see what happens. I don't know if the equalizing temperatures in the box and jug have anything to do with it or not, but it's worth a try.
I also tightened up to back door because I thought maybe I was loosing some moisture from it as well, but I know I wasn't.

10/19/12 - Not everything I build has to turn out I don't guess. I am ready to pull the plug on this little project. The still has been a pain in my side for two weeks now without showing any positive results. At most I can get maybe a cup of water every couple of days.  I can't imagine I did this wrong or did not give this project a fair shake. Stick a fork in it folks, it's done.
End results:
Cost to build if bought everything new - $70.00
Distilled water made over two weeks - 1/8th Gallon
Cost for one store bought gallon of Distilled water - $0.79
Money lost  - $69.21

I will probably turn the still into a solar dehydrator or a solar cooker. I need a smaller one of both so we will see.        

The next solar project will be a heater for my shop. I am collecting beer cans right now for it. Just two more thirty packs to go, LOL

Monday, October 15, 2012

Weekend Results

This weekend was our Chili Teams first official chili cook off held on the outskirts of a small rural town only fifteen miles from the house. I could have sworn none of the big dogs would have wasted their time driving this far to cook in this little event, but boy was I wrong.

Being a seasoned cook and being around cook offs my whole life, I have always had high thoughts about my abilities to excel at whatever I am cooking. Of course most home cooks would say the same about their own abilities as well. Talk to any self taught master chef and they will say the same thing about their ribs being the best in the state or their brisket is world renowned and don't even get me started on bean cooks. Plus it seams everyone has their own secret recipe and technique that has been handed down from generation to generation and if they told you anything about them, they would have to kill you.
Chili cooks are no different. Though some offer pointers and procedures that may help you, in general they still hold their own slice of knowledge and well kept secrets to themselves. Each cook has a proven method true to their own. One team even floats a pork chop in their chili to give it a pork flavor.            

 Intimidation also plays a big part in these chili cook offs. While setting everything up for our booth this weekend we had several cooks come by to introduce themselves and hang around for some idle chit-chat.
At one point everyone got quiet and started whispering. I walked over to see what was going on and one guy told me in a low voice that the last year International Champion just showed up. I could tell it too because he walked with a strut and the arrogance about him that was unrecognizable. I noticed people started wringing their hands and moving around aimlessly trying not to make eye contact with the champ for fear of whatever. After the kind gentleman told me what the fuss was all about I simple said, "So what!". The looks I got after that comment you would have thought I just called all their mommas fat or something.  I guess you don't have to be a champ to have arrogance.    

Our team won best in show both Saturday and Sunday so I am proud of that. We now have more trophies to add to the collection. Our individual chilies did not do so well. We had some spot on chili so to be honest I don't know what these folks are looking for.
I got upset not because I didn't win, but because when I tasted the first place chili, it was not as good as mine. I am sure everyone else thought the same thing though.  
Next weekend we will at another cook off in Van Alstyne so we will see what happens. I have made a few small adjustments to my recipe just to see.  

Friday, October 12, 2012

She Can't Say No

The Wife: "Hey, do you remember that lady I worked with up at the store awhile back?"

Me: "Yup"

The Wife: "You remember she lives out near your dad's, way off back there?"

Me: "Yup"

The Wife: "The funny thing is, I saw on her facebook where someone had dumped a really sweet pot belly pig at her place and she can't feed it."

Me: "Oh God NO!!!!!", "Please tell me you didn't."

The Wife: "............"

Me: "You did didn't you?"

The Wife: "Yup"

Me: "................"

The wife: "Her name is Lady Bug"

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Next Solar Project

I have been looking for my next solar project for a while. Most what I found have to deal with expensive solar panels and some sort of costly battery bank. Being I have been down that road before with my rain water solar pumping system I knew I didn't want to go down that path again anytime soon.  

 I found this Solar Still in Mother Earth News and thought why not. I can always use distilled water and have to buy several gallons every month so why not make my own.

In kinda my own words this is what I got from reading Mother Earth about the still,  

Distilled water is not just for drinking, and it’s always worth keeping a few gallons of it on hand. Clean water free of chemicals and minerals has a number of valuable uses:
• Always refill the lead-acid batteries used for solar energy systems or automobiles with distilled water
• Water delicate plants like orchids with distilled water; minerals and additives like fluoride or chlorine that are present in most tap water can harm plants
• Distilled water mixed with antifreeze is recommended for car radiators, as it’s less corrosive
• Steam irons become clogged with mineral deposits unless you use distilled water

The idea of using the sun’s heat to separate water from dissolved minerals has been around a long time. The well water in my area leaves mineral deposits that will build up over time and corrode or clog whatever it's used for in just a few short months.  
A solar still works like a salt evaporation pond, except that the water that invisibly evaporates is extracted from the air; the minerals and other impurities are left behind and discarded. As the hot, moisture-laden air rises up to the glass, water condenses out in the form of small droplets that cling to the glass. As these droplets get heavier, they roll down the glass to the collector tube at the bottom and then out to the jug.

With the well water issues and afraid to drink the rain water without boiling it due to the pesticides and herbicides sprayed in this area, this little project is what I am looking for to expand the resources for good clean drinking water.  

 Below is a picture of the I took from Mother Earth News

When I get finished with mine I will post pictures and also give a functionality report on rate of flow.

My next solar project will be a solar heater for the shop.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Just A Phase I Guess

"When y'all get out of this phase in life, I want some of these decorations" My oldest (BEB) told me over the weekend.
Am I really that predictable? 

This weekend was our first at home chili cook off and I can say with out a doubt it was a success. It was out of the normal and completely out of the box. One of my friends that joined us told me he thought it was so cool that we do stuff like this because his family never does.

This ended up being almost a three day even with set up on Friday night, cooking and all that most of the day Saturday and then clean up Sunday.

First place went to our teammate Rhonda, I got second and my mom won third.
Even though it was windy and cold outside, we were tucked away in my dad's nice warm shop. Big thanks to him and mom for providing a spot to hold all those folks and to have a great time.

Next weekend is our first official cook off of the year. We will going up against some real tough competition and seasoned chili cooking veterans. I am looking to take home first place, but if I don't then I will use the excuse that it's about the fun and not the winning.

So anyway, the kids think this is just a new phase I am going through and it will come to an end just like all the rest. Maybe it is and maybe it isn't, I don't know yet, but I am having fun with it so far and that's all that matters. Who knows how long it will last.  

Check back in a couple of days because I am right in the middle of a new solar build. I think you might like it.      

Thursday, October 4, 2012

I Laugh At The Easy Way

Nothing I do is normal or in moderation. Some say I make it hard on myself by going to the extreme with everything I do. Well I say if your going to do it, then there ain't no reason to just get your feet wet, might as well jump on in and stay awhile.

Here's what I'm talking about,
This weekend marks the first of many chili cook offs this year. We decided to have the first one at the house and we called it our "First Annual at Home Chili Cook Off". Even though this event it is not sanctioned through CASI, it's still where a hand full of friends and family were to come over, have a little fun and test about ten different kinds of chilies our team makes. It is set up just like a real event and folks judge the best chili with the winner getting a pretty little trophy I made. If you have not seen them I have a picture in an earlier post.
However, the weather usually does not work out for the better in something like this so the weekend forcast will be cold, strong North winds and rain. By this time the hand full of people coming over has now grown into a huge mob and with no place to put all these nice people, panic almost set in.
I was almost to the point of cancellation sitting there with my head in my hands when my dad called last night and offered his facilities to hold the event. I can say he saved the chili day.

So now we have gone from about 10 judges with simple chili dogs for supper, held outside on a nice 70 degree day to around 40 folks, inside the barn with huge amount of BBQ Chicken, Ribs, Sausage, Brisket, Potato Salad, Baked Beans and a hand full of appetizers for supper.
There ain't nothing second class about this operation here now.
Along with managing my pots of chili being cooked, I will also be manning the smoker and grill.  
(I can almost bet ya I'm going to have a blast) 

If I wanted it easy, then there ain't no reason to even get out of bed.