Hickory Nuts

Autumn is getting very close. Mid September. Beautiful days in the 60s and low 70s. Nights in the high 40s and 50s.

I noticed several deer always hanging out in the same area when I walked through the woods. So I finally went over to investigate.

I found a nice Hickory tree. Still producing many nuts on the ground. Some fresh, some ovee a few weeks old. There are still quite a few still on the tree but it is almost past the normal harvesting for Hickory nuts. I gathered a basket to test which ones are better. The hulls are very easy to remove. I’m told the easiest way to tell the good ones from the bad are to put them in water. The bad ones will float.

Most are floating. And yes that is a Halloween candy dish.

I’m not sure I buy that. Almost all of these floated. But then I gathered a lot of overripe black ones so maybe many are bad. About half of the black hulled ones were already rotting inside. We’ll see how they turn out.

Next they need to dry in a well ventilated, rarely warm but not hot, area.

Tomorrow I plan on gathering just fresh ones for eating.

Don’t worry. I’ll leave some for the deer.

Cedar Shakes

I learned something about staining the cheap Eastern White Cedar shakes I got at Home Depot. The stain is supposed to age the wood and give it a gray and reddish look. The procedure I found for making the stain is to put steel wool in vinegar (white, although cider vinegar will work) and let it rust for a day or two. Well after a week the steel wool had barely rusted. Then I figured out to just wet the steel wool with water, and vinegar, then let it sit outside the liquid. Here is what it looked like barely rusted after days in vinegar. The only parts that rusted we’re sticking out of the vinegar.

And here it is just hours after wetting it and setting it out.

Then I simply add it back to the vinegar. I also add some black tea bags. The combination of these affects the tannins in the wood. Here are some before and after.

It only takes a few minutes to age. Really looks nice and rustic, like an old barn.

Here are some on the roof.

So if you find instructions online to age wood be sure not to leave the steel wool in the liquid. Get it wet and then leave it out.

And the tea bags help to give a little redder tint while just the steel wool will be more gray.

More windows!

The shed is very close to being buttoned up for the winter. Today I added 3 more windows. I think that is enough. A few more small end boards, the gables and finally the doors and it is sealed.

The shed is becoming much more solid than I had planned. It will basically be a tiny house when I’m done. But I should have used the level and square a little more. Many crooked corners.

The Shed Roof

Time to replace the tarp on the roof with some tarpaper and cedar shakes.

First I had to do a lot of leveling and trimming. Then I put on rolls of tarpaper.

Now I am going to put on cheap white cedar shakes. Here’s a sample.

I will either paint or stain them. This is what the same shakes look like on the front of the cabin.

I got five bundles of them. Since I use a very narrow overlap this should be enough. They are really just for a rustic look so full coverage isn’t important. But I’m done for today. I’ll continue tomorrow.

The Neverending Shed

I did some more on the shed. New siding. I used new fence pickets. I like the look. And they are cheap. This in addition to extending the front two feet. But notice there are still no doors, or gable ends. And I plan on putting cheap cedar shakes on the roof, like I did on the front of the cabin.

The Gathering

My cabin is located in the middle of mushroom paradise. Good for mushroom lovers but also means mold grows fast in the summer. This time of the year is great for gathering mushrooms. Here is about 15 minutes work.

Some of these I don’t yet know so I won’t eat them, but most of them are edible, even if they don’t taste good. The ones on the left of the basket are delicious. They are Chicken of the Wood and Black Trumpets.

Chicken of the Wood (Sulfur Shelf) and Black Trumpet mushrooms

I fried them a little bit in coconut oil and then mixed them in cream of chicken soup. It is delicious.

Chicken of the Wood actually has the taste and texture of chicken strips. Really. Black Trumpets have a smoky, woodsy taste.

A Dehydrator

Here’s something I have been thinking about for some time.

Solar Dehydrator

A dehydrator. The picture says solar but it can actually be used over a wood stove by just using the upper box. The lower sloping box is just an air duct with a glass top. The inside will be painted black and the absorbed sun rays will heat the air. The heated air will rise up to the upper food rack box. Then the air and moisture will vent out the top at the back. To use it over a wood stove I will put a small fan to keep the air moving.

In the photo the dehydrator is not quite finished.

The End of an Era

I haven’t posted in some time. I haven’t felt much like it. Well, last week on August 23rd my Dad died. He was ready to go. I was not quite ready for him to go. He was 87. I already miss him a lot. If it wasn’t for him showing me the wonders of nature, taking me hunting, camping or just laying out under the stars, I would never have developed my love of the forest. And so many other things.

Off-grid Refrigeration – a cheap and effective way

Okay. I have finally decided to develop an improved refrigeration system. Here’s what I’ve been using up until now.

Basically, it’s just a stock pot with a wet t-shirt thrown over it for evaporative cooling. And filled with well water, which is actually between 48 – 50 degrees. So it keeps it pretty decent for vegetables but it’s not good enough for long-term storage of perishables. I need to get the temperature down to about 40. Or lower

Since I want it to be off grid I’m going to have to make it 12 volts so I don’t have to run my inverter.

And using a regular compressor driven refrigeration unit just uses too much power for the solar panels I have .

So I’m going to use thermoelectric cooling devices. Peltier chips. What they do is when you apply voltage one side gets hot and the other side gets cold. They can lower the ambient temperature by anywhere from 15 to 30 degrees. So since I’m only needing to go 10 to 20 degrees, I should be able to accomplish this. I could buy thermoelectric coolers pre-made but they won’t fit what I want to do. Because they only lower the ambient temperature, if it’s 90 degrees out it will only go down to maybe 60 degrees. But if I can submerse it in my well water, and change the well water regularly, the ambient temperature would effectively be 50 degrees. Which means I could get down to 40 with no problem anytime of the year. And also during the winter I could still use the storage system and just use the temperature outside to refrigerate like I have been doing. So I have two peltier chips on order. They’re not that expensive. About six bucks a piece. One is just for backup. I’m only going to use one and I’m going to put it on top of that stock pot so the cold is on the inside and the heat dissipation is on the outside and then a fan blows the cold around inside and I will insulate the pot outside.

The basic parts. An old peltier chips is shown on the right.

I could have used just a store bought cooler and cut holes in it to put the peltier unit inside but I like the idea of the metal container. I think that it will hold the cold longer when it’s not running if it’s insulated from the outside. And also I will submerse the bottom into the cold water. I may just get a round cooler and put put the pot inside the round cooler. And have the benefits of both.

In addition I plan on something that almost all of the inexpensive thermoelectric coolers for sale, don’t do. I ordered a cheap $5 temperature control module, that runs on 12 volts and very low power usage, that can sense the temperature inside and turn on the thermoelectric unit when it needs to be and turn it off when it doesn’t need to be on.

Most of the $50 – $70 thermoelectric coolers don’t have thermostat control. They just get cold or if your reverse the voltage they get hot to warm things up. They don’t get real hot, but you can keep food warm in them too. So my unit will actually be able to do that too if I want to heat it up, but I can’t imagine why I want to do that. But here’s the unit that I ordered.

Temperature Control Module

It’ll be here tomorrow. So I’ll update this post as I complete it. I have to cut a small square hole in the top of the lid of my stock pot. Mount the heat sinks on either side of the chip. Mount fans on top of that.

The fan on the bottom is to circulate the cold air. The fan on the top is to dissipate the heat and if it works out, I may just develop a way to circulate water through the heat part. So I don’t have to run the fan and just use a gravity-fed water to circulate through and cool the top heat sink. The better the heat is is disappated the colder the other side gets.

I always have to try to limit the amount of electricity I use, otherwise I’m going to have to go buy more batteries and more solar panels.

Because of my years doing computer repair, I have plenty of heat sinks and fans from old computers. So I don’t have to purchase those.

The drawback? Peltier chips are not very efficient. (ie. power in for result produced). But since they use such little power the amount of power lost doesn’t matter. And a large compressor does much more than I need, so I wouldn’t be saving anything.

Oh, and by the way. Those peltier chips that take electricity and make heat and cold? They also work the other way around. If you make one side hot and the other side cold they produce electricity. Not very efficient but they make a product which is a pot with a peltier chip mounted on the bottom. When you put cool water into the pot and put it on a campfire it can charge a cell phone. I think the ones I saw were called PowerPots.

UPDATE:. He is the nearly complete refrigerator with the insulation out side. The insulation is not permanently attached yet. A little more testing but so far it works pretty good.

Indian Cucumber

Just a couple hundred yards away I found a nice, big patch of Indian Cucumbers.

The tiny roots are edible and taste somewhat like a cucumber. Or I compare it to the white part of a Day Lily or Cattail shoot.

Living On The Land