Alder Burns

pollinator
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since Feb 25, 2012
northern California
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Recent posts by Alder Burns

So a few weeks ago I dropped the lid of my old Presto on a concrete floor and it hit and smashed the gauge...and more importantly, cracked the aluminum around where it screws in!  Ugh!  The thing is probably seventy years old....and had been with me for twenty!  So I go shopping on EBay for something similar, and found an "Old National #7" circa 1953, which looked similar, and at a decent price.  It arrives, looks good, rubber gasket looks new, intact, and tight.  So I put some water in it, otherwise empty, and bring it on up to 15 pounds by the old gauge as a test, just to be sure the seal was good, etc.  (I was originally planning to probably replace the gauge, which looks like the original, or possibly exchange it for a weighted gauge like I have on my larger "All American")  So I let the pot cool down and then go on to other things and come back to it next morning and the lid is stuck fast!   When my other canner does this I give it a tap or two on the lid with a block of wood and usually it comes loose....not so this time.  Eventually I take a hammer to the lid handles, trying to force it to unlock...no go....ended up cracking (and replacing) one of the wooden lid handles!  Ugh!  So I hit the internet....and so far here is what I've tried...heating the pot back up and then trying to undo the lid as soon as the pressure reads zero;  pouring boiling water all over just the lid, not the pot; setting the whole pot out in the sun, and even in my larger solar cooker, for a few hours....; leaving it outside on a frosty night and trying first thing in the morning; taking an old syringe and injecting vegetable oil all along the rim, thinking to lubricate the joint and the gasket.  Only one thing in my research have I found...there is a little metal pin just to one side of the marks on the lid that say "open" and "closed"...apparently this is some sort of lock pin that pushes up into the gasket from the pot base? and prevent the lid from being unscrewed at pressure...it is supposed to withdraw as the pot depressurizes?  Slipping a feeler gauge in there won't make it move, either towards the lid or the pot.  Looking at my old, broken lid and pot I see the remnants of a similar pin on the pot base, bent over to one side and apparently nonfunctional for a long time...and I had canned many a batch in that pot.  
    My last resort, which I will try when all else fails....my narrowest hacksaw blade will fit in there....I could possibly simply cut that pin off.  It doesn't seem particularly essential, given that my other pot apparently functioned for years without it.  Ideas?
9 hours ago
If you are going to use it as a flavoring in other foods, simply be sure the stuff is heated to boiling for twenty minutes or so in an open container.  The botulism toxin, if there is any, will degrade and offgas.  Numerous old canning resources advise this re-cooking for things like canned fish that were at all suspect.
9 hours ago
Photography is a bit difficult for me, but my incubator is basically a cardboard box about 30" long by 20" wide and high, opening at the top.  The brooder heater sits down in the bottom on a piece of metal.  Six sections of cardboard tube are taped in the corners of the box and in the middle of each long side...these end about three inches from the top and hold up a couple of old refrigerator or grill racks, on which the bags or containers of tempeh sit, along with a thermometer.  Since the heater has a thermostat it just maintains the right temp. once set, although I do put a blanket over the whole box if the weather is cold just so it doesn't have to run so much.  When the outside temperature gets into the 80's I put the tempeh in the box without the heater on, and then bring the racks out and just set them somewhere in the shade once the tempeh starts producing it's own heat.  If I'm making a batch when it's very hot....our summer regularly goes over 100, then I'll look for a cool place for it to finish, like under the house where I keep my wine.
1 day ago
I've been making tempeh for over 30 years, and it's so yummy that it's a daily item in my diet (and I'm not even vegetarian)  Once you get the hang of it, it's really no more difficult than something like homemade bread or wine or sauerkraut or any other ferment.  Getting the right temperature is critical.  When I was off-grid I was always moving it multiple time a day further or closer to the woodstove or sunny window (kept covered) or indoors/outdoors.  Now I have a small chick brooder heater in a large cardboard box, which can keep it right between 85-90 consistently no matter the outside temp or the heat produced by the tempeh itself (which is significant as it finishes and is often the cause of overheating failure).  A few tweaks to the general process I now use are prefermenting the beans...this is simply soaking them after the first boil and dehulling for 24-48 hours in a warm place.  I add a bit of inoculant like yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut juice, kombucha, homemade wine....basically an acidifying microbe of some sort.  This acidifies the beans and eliminates the need to add vinegar.  Another thing I do is make my own starter...basically you let some tempeh (made in a container like a tupperware with holes punched in it, rather than a plastic bag---this can be re-used many times also, so better than bags anyway)go over-ripe till it gets dark and powdery on top....then let dry out till it's hard and then break up and stir around in a wire strainer....or just grind up to powder in a blender, and the powder is the new starter.  I've done up to ten or twenty generations before going back to bought starter.  I get my starter direct from Indonesia (tempehstarter.com)   My other cutting edge is making tempeh from other legumes besides soybeans, since they must be bought....they aren't well adapted to my Mediterranean climate.  I've had some luck with favas...they need an elaborate, manual dehulling and only a brief boiling, or they get too mushy.  Going to try lupin beans soon!  Oh....and for dehulling soybeans, the classic method in Indonesia is to trample on them in a bamboo basket with bare feet.....I do this in a shallow bucket.  Much much quicker than by hand, and since there are two boilings between them and food, it's okay clean-wise!
1 day ago
As a dumpster diver I sometimes have the experience of grabbing something because it just looks so useful even if I don't have any immediate plans for it.  Two of these things proved immensely useful years later.....one a big, stout net, such as is used at a golf or baseball range to catch foul balls, and the other a rubberized truck tarp.  The net has been useful for many years as a quick cover for poultry pens, and the tarp as a quick rain shelter for poultry, rigged up between trees for a quick tent to store tools and materials in, or cut pieces to throw over outdoor equipment like generator in wet weather.  
3 weeks ago
I have lived in a logged over site once, for 8 years.  My basic conclusion from a lot of trial and error is that almost nothing I did made much of a difference and that the forest recovered on its own more or less anyway.  I brought in and scattered pounds of covercrop and nurse tree seeds....hardly any appeared.  I tried to plant out small plants of selected trees, with a view to food and biodiversity....these proved by and large a challenge due to competition with the abundant root sprouts, blackberries and other regeneration.  One thing that probably did do some good was to move some logs and brush around into rough windrows more or less on contour, especially where I noticed erosion beginning to occur.  Mulch and soil would then pile up against these on the uphill side, and provide a good starting place for seedlings whether wild or introduced.  This was in central Georgia, and several of the summers concerned were droughty....a big challenge for starting anything at scale.  If I had done my seeding and planting in a rainier summer or two, there might have been a lot more quick impact.  If you value the success of new plants, be sure you can provide reliable irrigation and fencing against deer for the first few years until the trees are established and get above browsing height.  Eventually I learned to think, and to work, in patches...where I would set out to "improve" a spot that might eventually hold several mature trees....fence this, sheet-mulch it, and plant garden in it for a few years while the young trees establish...they will benefit hugely from the additional water and attention mainly focused on the annuals. Eventually when the shade fills in and makes annuals difficult, move the patch to another spot.  
1 month ago
I agree with the idea of tackling an area this size with cardboard plus a cover mulch, but would add two more suggestions...1. Flatten or press to the ground, rather than cut, as much of the stuff as you can.  I have done this with a 55 gallon barrel, either empty or partially filled with something for extra weight.  This is because the new sprouts that will come up from the roots of some things will have sharp spiky points that can poke up through the layers.  The coarse grasses are particularly likely to do this.  But if you press the stuff down the old growing points will often continue to grow along sideways under there till they die out.  If you can gather the materials on site and can accomplish the flattening/cutting and layering it on fairly quickly, I would actually wait till during the growing season when everything is growing actively and you will get better control.  Provided you handle the barrel with gloves, this should give you less contact with the poison ivy than any kind of hand-chopping.  2.  For the areas with the worst stump, especially those not flush with the ground or stuff that won't flatten easily, consider getting some big pieces of scrap carpet and lay these down on it, in overlapping layers.  Leave them for a year or two, and then move on to the next section.  This stuff won't break down nearly as fast as cardboard and so will continue to smother the stuff for as long as you leave it there.
1 month ago
Based on my 25 years living in Georgia, most magnolias are by nature wetland trees. Especially sweetbay and southern magnolia (M. grandiflora).  They can survive when planted on uplands but there is always a risk that in a drought they will get stressed and unhappy.  So I would be prepared to irrigate if you try this, especially for the first few years.  The other deciduous species, like cucumber tree, as well as the early-blooming Asian magnolias, are more native to upland soils.  But only sweetbay is aromatic as you say.  I've never heard of any of them being repellent to insects.  Also, I'm not sure this can happen with sweetbay, but it definitely happens with southern magnolia....they dry fallen leaves are very resistant to decay and hang around a long time.  I have seen them breeding mosquitoes from rainwater puddled up in them!
1 month ago
We're cleaning out and decluttering in comtemplation of eventually living in a smaller space, and so some good things just have to go.  Offering our old collection of PC Activists...a complete run from winter 2004-summer 2017, a total of 49 issues. Additional14 miscellaneous issues going back as far as 1992.  Plus 6 miscellaneous issues of Permaculture magazine (UK)   Then a set of Communities magazine, complete from winter 2006-summer 2010 plus 5 miscellaneous issues (total of 21).  Asking $20 for ALL, most of which will be for shipping (within USA only).  PM me for details.
2 months ago
There are at least two species of lupin that produce seeds large and abundant enough for use as food.  One is from the Mediterranean and the other from the Andes, I believe.  They are popular crops in some parts of the world (Australia comes to mind first). Apparently the seeds need fairly extensive processing to render them edible....a leaching process, or fermentation into tempeh.  But they are very high in protein and might be a good crop in the right climate.  I have planted some with a view to their being a winter/early spring crop for me, comparable to peas or fava beans; but they are not up yet
2 months ago