All posts by homest56_wp

Baking some artisan bread, cast iron style

I figured if I was going to become more self sufficient I should be better at making things we need every day, and bread should be an easy way to get started.  I actually found this recipe on Pinterest and it is a no knead recipe.

The Ingredients

  • 6 cups flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon instant or active dry yeast
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 2/3 cups cool water

Combine the flour yeast and salt in a large bowl, I have found that glass works better than plastic for some reason, your results may vary.  Add the water until the dough is sticky, cover with plastic wrap and let it rest for 12-18 hours.

Lightly flour your hands and the surface you are going to be working on so the dough doesn’t stick.  Fold the dough over on itself a couple times creating a ball with the smooth side up.  Flour a tea towel, or similar, and put the dough ball on it, covering it with the other half of the towel.  If you use too little dough here things will get sticky later.  Let it rise another two hours.

When the dough is 30 minutes from being ready to bake, put the dutch oven you plan to use in your conventional oven and pre-heat it to 425 degrees.

When the dough is ready (after rising for 2 hours) take the dutch oven out and carefully remove the lid.  Take the towel and kind of flip the dough ball into the dutch oven so the seam side is up.  Place the lid back on the dutch oven and bake for 40 minutes.  Remove the lid and bake for another 10-15 minutes.  I have left the lid on for the whole 50 minutes and everything was still as good.

Remove the bread from the pot and let cool completely on a rack.  You will hear the break cracking as it cools.

Enjoy.  It makes a nice loaf of artisan type bread.  I have used both all purpose and bread flour with good success, but I probably prefer the bread flour better.

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The dutch oven that I have been using was one I got on clearance from Meijer for $10.  It is obviously enameled cast iron.  I plan on using my plain cast iron dutch oven and even my cast iron loaf pan soon.

I finally got a chance to use my loaf pan, so I split the dough into that and my smaller cast iron dutch oven.  They both worked well.  I think I will try to cover the loaf pan with aluminum foil next time to see if I can get the crust a little softer.

Fenix E11 Flashlight review

I only recently purchased the Fenix E11 from Amazon.  The reason I purchased it was because the 4sevens mini quark I had been carrying was not the most conducive to one handed use.  Having to twist on the light with the 4sevens meant that you either needed two hands or that you needed to situate the light in your hand such that you could hold the bottom part of the light with the palm of your hand while manipulating the top part with your fingers.  To get to the high output function you had to do this three times.  My new Fenix light has a tailcap switch which makes it a snap to use one handed.  The sacrifice is in length and lumens out the front.  The Fenix E11 is 3.8 inches long while the 4sevens mini quark is 2 inches with both having a diameter of .75 inches.  The Quark has 180 lumens out the front while the Fenix has 105 and a low setting of 32.  To access the low setting on the Fenix you give the top of the light a slight twist, turning it back to get back to the high output mode.

To me the lumens aren’t that big of a deal.  While the Quark has more overall lumens on high output, they aren’t quite as focused and there is definitely more spill.  If that is important to you, take that into consideration.  I prefer the more focused beam of the Fenix, and it is still plenty bright enough to blind someone in a low light situation.  You will also be able to get the light into action faster with the tailcap switch.

I am sure many of you have heard the suggestion of wrapping duct tape around your light. This made so much sense to me.  You are able to get a couple wraps around the handle so you always have some tape on you if you should need it.  The added benefit is that when you end up with the light in your mouth, and you know you will, you don’t have your teeth on bare metal.  The duct tape gives you a little bit of padding making it much easier to hold the light in your mouth, definitely worth it.

The photo of the light beams is the quark on the left and the fenix on the right, it is taken against a wall at about two feet of distance.  I will try to take a distance picture if the opportunity arises.

4sevens Mini Quark cr2

I bought the 4sevens Mini Quark cr2 a couple years ago from http://www.the-led-warehouse.com/  If I recall correctly it was between $35 and $40.  I bought one for my dad as well.  This light packs a lot of punch for a very small package.  It has 180 lumens out the front on the high setting, 40 on medium, and 3 on low.  It also has strobe and beacon settings.  You turn the light on by twisting the two parts of the light.  Twisting it once turns it on low, if you rapidly turn it off and on again it goes to medium, off and on again for high, continue the process to get to strobe and beacon as well.  I was so impressed with the output of this light I was constantly blinding people by showing off it’s luminosity.  This light easily slips into a pocket without adding too much bulk.  If there are any negatives about this light it could only be it’s size.  I lost it a few times (luckily to be found again) and when grasping the light it could sometimes be awkward to find a good way hold it.  Ultimately this isn’t the light that I carry daily anymore, but it is still a great light.

Chicken Coop in the suburb

A few years back, at our old house, we were allowed three chickens per city ordinances.  So I decided to build a coop and have chickens.  This is what I came up with.  I have no idea why I came up with the design I came up with, but it worked for us for that time.  I knew I wanted a small footprint coop, something that could ideally be put into the back of a pickup truck if necessary to move it.  I wanted it to be tall enough for me to walk into comfortably,  and I am 6’3″.  If I remember correctly the low side was 6′ and the high side was 7′, so I was able to walk into the coop/run without hitting my head inside of it.  I used pressure treated lumber for the frame on the ground, and looking back I should have used pressure treated on the uprights as well, since they end up coming into contact with grass, wood chips, and chicken stuff.

After getting the initial frame built, I attached hardware mesh around the side, I just used a pneumatic staple gun to attach it.  Then it was on to the roof.  I used 2x’s here as well, and covered it with a roof panel from one of the big box hardware stores over top of more hardware mesh.  I also made a door of 2x’s and flat brackets.  I used outdoor hinges, slide action bolts to close the top and bottom, and a clasp for a padlock in the middle of the door to keep kids out.

Next up was creating my flooring “joists”.  2x’s here again.  I felt comfortable that if it would hold my weight without problem, it would hold the weight of chickens and their paraphernalia.

I then used some scrap 1x wood to make three sides of the coop.  I used spray foam to fill in the gaps.  The floor was made of plywood.

I used more 2x’s for the interior door and I found a couple windows on craigslist, so I put one in the door.  I had intended on putting one on the opposite wall but I never got around to it.  After the window was installed, the door received spray foam insulation as well.  I cut a whole out of the door and created a wind barrier with two layers of shelf liner cut into strips, it worked well.  I created a little ramp system for the hens to be able to get up and down easily, but so that I could remove it when I needed to clean out the run.

When I was convinced that the coop was safe, but before I was done building it, I had the chickens start staying out there.  It worked pretty well for what I needed.  The hens had 32 square feet of run and 16 in the coop which for the three of them was enough.  When we moved and I sold it I was able to help the two guys who bought it, lift it up into the back of their pickup.  The lower frame of 2×8 pressure treated lumber bowed a little between the wheel wells but it worked out just fine.

Home made firestarters

I got this idea off of Pinterest and was more than happy with the results.

What you need:

  1. Cotton make-up pads
  2. Candles, the bigger the better
  3. A pan you don’t mind melting wax in
  4. Wax paper to put the fire starters on to cool
  5. Tongs or tweezers to remove the fire starters from the pan (I used tweezers)

I got all my supplies at the dollar store and used two candles and about 3/4s of the cotton pads so total investment was $3 and tax.  If you didn’t have a pan or tweezers you could find those at the dollar or discount store as well.  The only prep is to take the packaging off of the candles and take the cotton pads out of the packaging and place some wax paper on the counter near the stove for the cooling process.  Put the candles in the pan at low to medium heat.  As the wax starts melting add a cotton pad at a time and let it soak up the wax.  When the pad is full, use your tongs or tweezers to move the pad from the pan to the wax paper.  I used two of the chunkier candles I could find and was able to make about 65 fire starters with two candles.  Be careful in moving the pads from the pan to the wax paper as drips are likely.  Also, be aware that if you use scented candles, your house is going to smell.  I used cinnamon apple and the whole house reeked for the rest of the evening, driving my wife(whose sense of smell is much better than mine) a little crazy.  It was a cold fall day so our windows were closed and I am sure that didn’t help either.  After they are done cooling peel them off the wax paper and put them in a zip top bag for storage.

I wanted to test them to see how long they would last and what kind of flame they would produce.  I made a small tear in the pad to make it easier to light.  The flame itself lasted 6 minutes almost to the second, but even after that, the pad still had embers that could probably have been used to start some good tinder.  It gave a good high flame that should easily start any kindling.  I used a regular long handled lighter to light the pad, but I need to try a flint and steel to see how easily it takes a spark.

The images above are as follows;

  1. The finished fire starters
  2. The fire starter after 1.5 minutes
  3. After 2.5 minutes
  4. After 4 minutes
  5. After 5 minutes

I can see how these would be helpful if you were out camping, if you had a fire pit in the backyard, for throwing in a go bag, or a bunch of other uses.  Go out and make a couple, they are easy and cheap.