Monday, December 30, 2013

Not So Young Anymore

I hope everyone had a great Christmas, I know we sure did.

It was a busy one, that's for sure. We had another wedding this weekend, some friends of ours married off their son. We jumped in and helped them out as much as we could. I took some tools over to their house last Thursday night and we built the decorations for the reception. Then on Saturday while they were all at the reception we helped set up for the after party and had the fires going, the beer iced and the food cooking. This way when the wedding party came back to their house everything was done.

Somewhere in all that I was able to get down to the old farm and cut up about a cord of wood. I had a lot of help form the family so we were able to get it done quicker than I thought.

Even with all the help, that saw got really heavy. My old back is not as young as it once was and all that bending over just about got me. I had to force myself to get out of bed the next morning.

It's always better when my dad brings the loader down. He was able to get the trees in a good location to cut, plus loading the wood is a lot easier. Check out the homemade log splitter in the pic to the right.
That thing is over thirty years old.

Next weekend we need to go back down and split up what is left. There is about another cord to split. 
This wood will last us the rest of the winter. I was almost out of wood and the house was cold. My heater just don't heat like it should and needs to be replaced. It just runs and runs burning electricity. I think at best it will get the house up to 58 degrees. The fire place keeps the house at a comfortable 68.

I got some more materials for the fire trough yesterday. Just another piece of the outdoor kitchen. This is where the dutch ovens will hang and it is where I will make the coals for the Cajun Microwave. I should have it done by the end of the week, I hope. I will show you what I'm talking about when it's done.

Please be safe out there this week. New Years Eve is for the amateur alcoholics to be out and being they don't drink all the time, they don't know how to handle themselves.
The professionals stay at home.

Saying that, I plan to stay at home and have some family over. The plan is to sit around the fire and have a good time.

Stay safe,


Monday, December 23, 2013

I Made It Through

First off I want to say a huge thank you for all the comments, thoughts and kind words everyone sent this way. I also want to thank the ones who sent me very heartfelt and personal e-mails. I will respond as time allows. You folks mean so much to me and have been a rock when I have had nothing to stand on. I can't thank you enough.

Well, I made it through the wedding. There were a couple of bumps in the road, but in the end it turned out to be a beautiful event. Talk about being out of your comfort zone, friends let me tell you what, I left my comfort zone at home, locked away.

Some say I sighed  really loud when she said, "I Do." I don't remember doing that but they said it was really, really loud. 

Both sides of the family hugged, shook hands and got to know one another. I'm not saying we will be best buds or anything but at least we all smiled and were nice.

After the father daughter dance there was not a dry eye in the room. I don't even know what song was playing. I offered my last little bit of fatherly advise and we talked all the way through it.

Did she make a mistake, well my opinion is just that, my opinion. If she thinks this is what she is suppose do and she thinks this is the path laid out for her life then I have to respect that and support her.

Hannah knows we love her, and she knows we are here for her if and when she needs us. I made her a promise to be the best grand parent I can be. These two things are who we are and they are what we are suppose to do. 

Sunday morning I woke at peace. I thanked the good lord for the opportunity to be apart for her life, and thanked him for the blessing to have this memory with her. I know there will be many more to come.  

 Sometimes life gives us limes, I say, we need to find the folks that life gave tequella and have a party.

Thanks you all again,

Friday, December 20, 2013

The Hard Parts Of Being A Daddy

I can tell you with certainty that I have enjoyed being a daddy. My three girls, Jessie, Hannah and Kylee have been my breath, my drive and my inspiration for so many years now. I have enjoyed every memory we have created together, every moment spent and every lesson we have learned. Some not as much as others but in the end I think my maker every day for the opportunity to have been in their lives and ask for just one more day . 
The hardest parts, I think, are the ones where not only they grow and mature, but I did as well. Having to dig deep to hold back the tears of sadness, anger and joy or stopping myself from not letting them grow into who they will become because it wasn't my plan. Those are the hard parts.

I remember the first hardest thing I ever had to do as a daddy was when I watched all my girls drive off for the first time without me. The first two killed me and it did not get any easier when I watched the last one's tail lights disappear over the hill. I was a nervous wreck that I was not in the car with them, to protect them and to keep them safe.

The second hardest thing I ever had to do was when I dropped my oldest daughter Jessie off at college. It was so hard for me not to beg her to come back home with us, but I knew I could not do that. It was so hard to start the truck, put it in drive and leave her standing there crying, waving goodbye, but this was something that had to be done.

The third hardest thing I have had to do was just last week when the same daughter's boyfriend came by the house and asked to talk to me. I knew it was coming, I thought I was ready, I had already prepared what I was going to say when it did happen. Then, when he asked for her hand in marriage my mind went blank. All I could think about was her at 10 years old and telling me I was the best daddy in the world. It was so hard to say yes, but I did it because that is what she wanted.

Now, the fourth hardest thing I will have to do as a daddy is Tomorrow night. I will have to walk my middle daughter Hannah down the isle and give her away to a guy that does not deserve her. This is her choice to get married so young and so so fast. I have done everything just short of going to prison to keep this from happening, but I can't stop it. We just found out this week she is having a girl sometime in the middle of June. I didn't want it to be like this and tried everything to teach these girls to have a better and easier life than I did. I don't have to do this. I can stay at home, crack open a beer and work in the shop. But she asked me to and it's my job to. So, I will put on my suit, I will put on a smile, I will walk down the isle with her arm in mine and I will do the hardest thing I have ever had to do as a daddy and give her away to this guy.

Maybe there will be growth in all this. Maybe something will click and I will learn from this experience. As it is now I would rather take a beating than see my daughter go down this path of hard times. Even though me and her momma got married at eighteen, we waited two years to start having kids. We were so poor and those times were so hard I don't know how we made it through.  I only wished Hannah could have remembered all those hard times when she was so young, maybe then she would have waited.

I will let you know how it went.
Until then,

Rocket Stove

Here is the rocket stove I have been wanting to build. I finished it last night and fired it up. It works great and it will be used to cook on this weekend.

Before I got too excited, I set it up in my shop to see how it all fit together. It took 21 fire bricks I picked up for $5.00. It helps that I have a brother in law that works at a brick yard. The brick base was free because they came from the wife's flower garden.
In the wood chamber there is a wire mess that divides the fire from the air chamber on the bottom. I had this material left over from another project.

 I built a base for it to sit on from scrap wood I had laying around. There is no worries about the wood getting too hot through those thick base bricks.
The 21st brick is used as a damper for the air flow and heat control by sliding it across the front.
This was a easy build and a great survival tool. It takes very little wood to cook on. A couple handfuls of twigs and small pieces of scrap wood will give you enough heat to cook on for a long time.
Total project cost - $5.00, Time - 1 Hour, Benefits - Priceless   

This weekend I will be cooking about 10 pounds of potatoes on it for Potato Salad. 
The wife calls it cute, I call it a necessary survival tool, Aww, who am I kidding, it's cute. 

See Ya,

Monday, December 16, 2013

Under A Hundred

I have a book that is full of projects. Some are finished in the design stages and ready for construction and others are just a simple idea wrote down waiting to be worked through.
This book is filled with some costly projects, some cheap ones, some that will take months to complete and others that will only take a few hours. I often go to this book when I am bored and want to dream a little.

Saturday morning was just one of those days. I was in my shop tinkering around and got bored. I picked up my project book and flipped through the pages until I found one interesting enough to hold my attention. The outdoor kitchen was what I stopped at. I studied the elaborate plans I drew up many months ago and looked at the cost column and mumbled to myself, "there was no way."
I asked myself why I needed something so costly and over built just to cook on so I started scribbling on the page again. I don't need the sink right now, I don't need the built in fish fryers at the moment either. I also did not need to sink my grill in the counter top and I really didn't need to cover the whole thing with stone and tile. I also didn't need to have it wrap all the way abound the patio at the moment either. So what I ended up with was a project under $100.00 instead of one that cost $1500.00
On top of all that, this is a lot more piratical for what I need at the moment.
A friend gave me the counter top cook stove a year or so ago. All I had to do was buy a Propane regulator for it and adjust the needle valves to change it from natural gas to LP. I already had the granite for the counter tops and most of the wood. I did have to buy the plywood and a couple of boards. Total cost was $40.00.
All the wood is sealed from the weather and sure, it would look better with doors and stone wrapped around it but why? It will serve it's purpose just the way it is.
Instead of doing the whole project at once, I have broke it into sections. This one being the first and the next one being a drop down corner section that my little upright smoker will sit on. Then on to the other sections after that.

I built it yesterday and last night we had some friends over and gave it a test run, everything worked great. We had grilled chicken and pasta with home made aristocrat sauce, unbelievable on how good this food was.  
 I am so happy to have a gas stove again making where I am not so dependent on the electric one in the house or having to start a fire to use coals to cook off of.

I already have my Cajun Microwave so next on the list is the dutch oven cooking area, then the pizza oven and then maybe a rocket stove. Maybe the rocket stove first.

Thanks for reading, talk to ya later,

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Worst Yet

I can remember snow, I can also remember ice. Just two winters ago we had record breaking snow fall.

Every year we usually have a day or two of ice and that shuts most everything down for a couple of days, but we have never seen anything like this.
Five to eight inches of ice on the roads. All of North Texas is shut down and has been for three days now.
I know we are not used to seeing this stuff and we all don't know how to drive in it but it's not all us this time. The picture to the right is going through our little town.

Take a look at the picture below. This is I35 going through Sanger up to Oklahoma. There are hundreds and hundreds of trucks stranded on the road. I agree that it probably only took a couple of us dump Texas drivers to cause all this, but these guys have been there for three days now.
I'm just saying that I  have never seen anything like this before. To top it all off, this morning we had an earthquake.
The end is near my friends, LOL

The store shelves are empty at our local grocery store. They cannot get any shipments in. Thousands of folks are out of power. Just yesterday the report was up to 200,000. Food is running low in the houses that have power and folks are almost in a panic state. The only thing keeping people sane is the fact they cannot go anywhere and we will be thawed out Tuesday.
Now, all this for only three or four days of shut down. Can you imagine what would happen if this was for a month? I almost feel sorry for the folks that think I am the radical one.

Saying all that, I also found holes in my preps as well. Our time in this shutdown has not been a cake walk either. In just three days I have found out if this prolonged, I would not have enough wood to heat the house. I am already out of wood and only have enough in reserve for one day just in case our power goes out. I need more wood stored.  I am relying on our "not so good heater" to keep us warm.
My stored drinking water is not what I thought it to be. Over the past few months we have become slacked in our preps and if our well was to freeze up we would have not had enough water to get us through this week.
I don't have any deicer in the truck so we have to waste gas to thaw it out enough to leave in a hurry just in case we need to and speaking of gas, I only have a day or so stored up for the generator. Over the past few months I have used it and not replaced it.
My bug out bag are not equipped for this kind of weather. I keep hot weather items in them because that is more of what we have. I would need a complete overhaul of our bug out bags to prepare for this.

My wife was telling me some of her friends were hiking to the store just for supplies only to find the shelves almost empty. How can folks not prepare ahead of time and why do those same folks think we are the crazy ones? I didn't have to walk anywhere and I won't.

It's amazing what happens in just a short time of bad weather or a complete shutdown.
What would these same folks do if this or something worse lasted for a couple of months? I am glad I found what I am lacking on now instead of later.

Stay warm and safe,

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Cajun Microwave

Here is my latest project, it's a Cajun Microwave.
I guess you could also call it a big outdoor oven, but I like the other name better.
I made this out of cinder blocks and filled the holes with sand to retain the heat, plus it can be moved if need be. Filling them with concrete would have made it stationary and if I ever move, I want to take it with me.

 It took 52 cinder blocks to make the structure. The top is made from diamond plate. The handles are rebar and trampoline springs. It does take two people to remove the top but that is never an issue when your having a party. The coals go on top of this plate heating the inside of the oven. The bigger the pile of coals the hotter the oven. You can use charcoal or wood coals. I plan to have a large fire going beside it and shoveling the coals on it as it cooks.
 The inside meat tray is made from diamond stretch and bed frame angle iron. It sits on cinder blocks and the ground below it is dug out to make a bowl with packed sand to help with the convection.
The meat is seasoned, injected, then wrapped and set on this tray and then lowered down into the oven.

with these homemade hooks. They are just rebar and trampoline springs bent to make hooks.
A digital thermometer will be inserted into the meat and when it reaches the desired temp, the top will be removed with help and set on the ground. Then the tray with the meat on it will be removed and set on the table. The meat will be unwrapped and served just like that, as pulled pork.
I can also cook about nine turkeys in this thing at a time. Keep in mind, it's not a smoker, just a really big off the grid oven.   

It was good to get a project done, it has been so long. I was able to work some deals for most of the materials so the cost was lower than it would have been buying everything at retail. It's always nice to have a brother that works at a metal yard. That is where I got the metal at such a great deal. And it's always good to have a dad that has a metal shop. Anything you could imagine can be built there.A big thanks to both them for helping me out on the build.

My youngest girl will be turning 18 in a couple of months and she is wanting to throw a paint party. That is where you throw paint on each other. I don't get it, but it's the in thing I guess. I plan to use Cajun Microwave to cook one of those wild hogs we caught. I almost want to do it this weekend just to see how it turns out.     

This ice storm has arrived and we are stuck in the house for the next few days. We even canceled our chili cook off as well. I fear cabin fever will set in by Monday.

Until next time, keep it real.

Monday, December 2, 2013

I Hope It Was A Good One

I hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving, we sure did.
It was good to have all the family around. I think as we all get older we get along a lot better. Now the older group, which I am now a part of, watch the next generations of the family as they grow and start families of their own. It is humbling to see how large our family has become and how the branches of the tree are fanning out. Another century and there will be hundreds of us.

Friday evening the wife and I decided to cash in on some of the gift cards and certificates we have won at the chili cook offs. We like to do it all at once so it is a full night of living.
It is hard to believe by just cooking chili we can party like the rich folks do once a year. If I had to pay a dime of it then I wouldn't do it but, being it was all free, why not? There is no way I would spend twenty two dollars on a cigar or ten dollar for a drink. I'm just too cheap for that I guess. 
I can count on one hand and still have four fingers left over on the times I have sat in a cigar lounge, relaxing and listing to live music.
It's not how I would want to live 99.9% of the time, but that 0.1% sure was fun.   
 It was good to get out and do something out of our element. I bought this new hat, shaved and wore a collard shirt just to fit in with the city folks.
We had a great time. Thanks to the chili world for making it happen.

This weekend we will be cooking at West Tawakoni in East Texas benefiting Christmas for Kids.
The weatherman says there is an ice storm coming Friday so we will see if we can make it or not.

Oh, by the way, yesterday I started a new project. I will post some pictures of it later but I will tell you this, it has to do with cooking and is a part of the outdoor kitchen. 

See ya down the road,